Could there be a new model for the public university?

One of the occasional themes of this blog is this question: what is a ‘public university’, and assuming that it is a desirable institution, how can it be secured and preserved? As I have noted previously, much of the public commentary on this question assumes that a ‘public’ university has that status when it is funded largely by public money; though I have also pointed out that, in my view at least, that is an unsatisfactory approach. What a public university does is much more interesting than how it is funded.

Another approach by some commentators is to argue that a ‘public university’ is one that advances the idea of education as a ‘public good’, or sometimes the idea that education should be pursued ‘for its own sake’. I regard the latter suggestion as rather meaningless: if education should only be offered for ‘its own sake’ – in other words, if we can think of no other reason – then it shouldn’t be offered at all. There are thousands of reasons why people should be educated to the highest levels that their intellectual ability can support, and it is quite unnecessary for us to suggest something as vacuous as education ‘for its own sake’.

My fear has been for some time that the arguments advanced in support of public education have become almost banal, just as the actual issues around education have become increasingly complex. Higher education in particular is now recognised as a key requirement for an advanced economy, for a stable society, for high value research that addresses some of society’s most urgent problems, for a tolerant and cultured population, and so forth. These needs sit uncomfortably alongside an educational theory that suggests that educational institutions should steer clear of direct economic and social involvement.

There is an alternative view of the public university, which suggests that education needs to connect with the world and its problems and arrange its teaching and research to ‘focus on global and local outcomes’. The key advocate of this approach has been Michael Crow, President of Arizona State University. Michael Crow has been recognised as one of the most influential US university presidents, and under his strategy to develop ASU as a ‘new American university’ it has shot up the rankings and attracted a lot of attention. Arguing that the American academy is often surprisingly unable or unwilling to influence decision-makers and society more generally to adopt better ways of solving problems, he has suggested that the university’s teaching and research should be ‘use-inspired’.

While there has been a debate on this side of the Atlantic about public universities and universities as a public good, this has often stopped short of suggesting what any of this means in a practical sense (apart from issues of funding). Whether or not we think that Michael Crow’s ‘new American university’ provides a model that could be used here, it should at least inject an interesting dimension into the debate.

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36 Comments on “Could there be a new model for the public university?”

  1. Roderick Smith Says:

    For me education ‘for its own sake’ has never been meaningless or vacuous, it has attempted (perhaps not too well on reflection) to express the fact that those willing to engage critically with, in my case, a subject like history are then able to apply this ‘training’ meaningfully elsewhere in practice for the good of the economy or society. More focused vocational or professional higher education needs to blend this into their programmes in order to ensure that we have challengers and innovators rather than replicators. It’s through the former that the real value of higher education for the economy and society lies.


    • But Riderick, that means it clearly isn’t ‘for its own sake’.

      • Roderick Smith Says:

        True, but we can overplay how directly we link HE with practice. The link is more indirect where we value education for its own sake. Recognising the value of resisting making this a more direct link supports the unique characteristic of HE that is, admittedly, clumsily embedded in ‘for its own sake’. Sustaining a more indirect link, in my view, has more value for practice!


        • Saying that we value higher education ‘for its own sake’ doesn’t mean we don’t want to link it with practice, it means we don’t want to declare its value at all. In essence we appear to be saying that education has no value. However that’s clearly nonsense.

          We don’t (or shouldn’t) recognize education for its own sake, rather we recognize its social, cultural and personal value – and even its economic value. Talking about education ‘for its own sake’ is like a parent refusing to answer a child when asked why the child is being told to do something. It’s the ‘because I say so’ answer, and it’s not satisfactory.

          • Ernie Ball Says:

            Saying that we value beauty “for its own sake” . . . appears to be saying that beauty has no value.

            It’s no more preposterous (on its face) than your straw man argument here, Ferdinand. You apparently don’t recognise that there are intrinsic goods: things that are good regardless of whether they are good “for something (else).” You seem to think that this can only mean that they are good for nothing. It’s a dopey argument that is utterly uncharitable to the opposing view (which, it bears pointing out, has a long history to which you blithely lay waste with a wave of your hand).

  2. anna notaro Says:

    Ferdinand, ‘What a public university does is much more interesting than how it is funded.’
    in truth for advocates of the public university the concept of its ‘public-ness’ has to do with the ontological status of the institution, with the fact that being funded by the public reflects the interest of the whole community/nation to educate the young generations for the ‘common good’ of that same nation, in this sense how a university is funded is *as* interesting I would argue as what it does.
    Interestingly, in the second paragraph of your post you omit adressing the idea of educaton as a ‘public good’ to object instead to the idea that eduation should be pursued ‘for its own sake’, on the latter point your reading appears to miss the crucial argument behind the ‘for its own sake’ expression (which I would concede is misleading and lends itself to oversimplification) which is that education has a ‘use-value’ which cannot always be easily identified, this is particularly the case for some subjects (the often mentioned classics, philosophy etc.) and has also caused problems with regards to the question of the research ‘impact’ of such subjects in the context of the REF in the UK.
    As for the Michael Crow’s example, as valuable as his initiatives might be – particularly the practice to pull professors out of departmental silos and assembled them in multidisciplinary institutes- the fundamental question remains for me as to how to define what is useful with regards to the muti-faceted concept of education whose implications go well beyond the immediate and the pratical.
    To my mind the whole idea of the public university has to embrace not only the key question of its funding but also needs to grasp as soon as possible how the Web has the potential to radically transform Higher Education, I’m referring in particular to the ‘edupunk’, the growing movement toward high-tech do-it-yourself education.(http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/138/who-needs-harvard.html) The question we’ll soon be faced with is whether to be gate keepers or rather whether our role as educators is to keep the gates open in the firm belief that education is a public good with the potential to transform people’s lives and our social spaces.
    Recently, I have come across Condorcet’s ‘Cinq mémoires sur l’instruction publique’ (1791) in which he identifes the goals of public instruction and the benefits of a nation made up of a population able to think autonomously and critically. These goals still remain revolutionary today as they were in 1791.


  3. My key points from reading further on the interview http://www.slate.com/id/2300778/ with Michael Crow:
    – measure outcomes not inputs.
    – if you can’t justify a tradition throw it out.
    – that includes tenure as we know it.

    All good, but how did he get away with it?


    • The point that jumped out at me from the extended interview was this one: “Why is a class 50 minutes long? Why is a semester 15 weeks long? Why does it take four years to get a college degree? People don’t learn in regimented time sequences. So we’ve worked to become more flexible with people who operate at different speeds. Let them learn at their own rate, demonstrate their mastery, and then move on to the next thing, so we can intensify and broaden the learning process and take away the artificiality of arbitrary time constraints. ”

      Those of us who work in public universities would probably have our hands on the buzzer before the idea even settled, as we can immediately list all of the multiple logistical constraints on this vision without even looking them up.

      So yes, thinking about how anyone might get away with this is really interesting. Michael Crow is looking to technology to do the trick, and from my reading of the generic LMS roadmap at the moment, that’s also the shift what both enterprise LMS designers and their publishing friends are planning to service.


  4. The concept of education as a public good is in direct contradiction with the actual practice of universities which is to exclude – and indeed typically to take pride in the number of applicants they are able to exclude.

    A university which was going to operate for the public good would have to be very radically different to almost all actual existing universities, and I have my doubts that such a university would even be possible in the UK. Certainly it could never be in receipt of public funding.

  5. Ernie Ball Says:

    There’s nothing “vacuous” or “meaningless” about the claim that university education should be “for its own sake.” All that this claim means is that education is a good in itself, that it is good to know things about the world and to learn things even where there is no practical application for the knowledge.

    That university presidents cannot understand this simple idea and persist in waving it away as “vacuous” betokens a lack of education, in my view. Asked whether anything is an intrinsic good, the modern university president seemingly has but one answer: “money.”


    • Ernie, I confess that I find the argument that something – anything – is a good in itself to be irritating. It’s intellectually lazy. We value things for a reason. We value beauty for its aesthetic qualities. We value tolerance because it creates a more caring society. We value justice because it rights wrongs. We value education because it equips people intellectually to be the best they can be.

      I’m afraid I’ll stand by what I said: saying that we value something ‘for its own sake’ is vacuous. When we say that, we almost certainly don’t even mean it. Saying that we value education ‘for its own sake’ is saying that we have some hazy notion that it’s good but that we don’t understand why. And that’s just silly.

  6. Ernie Ball Says:

    My argument is not intellectually lazy and however irritating you may find it, I can assure you that your contemporary instrumental reason cum nihilism is infinitely more irritating.

    Your examples actually make my point: that there are intrinsic goods (and that education is one of them). Striving to show that we always value something “for a reason” you are reduced to tautologies. For when you write that “we value beauty for its aesthetic qualities,” your claim amounts to saying that “we value beauty for its beauty,” since “aesthetic quality” is nothing but a stand-in for “beauty.” The same can be said for the justice example: “righting wrongs” is a synonym for “justice” so your claim amounts to “we value justice because it is just.” In each case the “reason” we value the thing turns out to be the thing itself, suggesting that each is an intrinsic good, contrary to what you think you’re arguing.

    Is pleasure only valuable for some other reason, Ferdinand? How about people’s needs being satisfied? Is that good only for some other purpose or is it good in itself? Your view, that nothing is good in itself and things are only derivatively good, leads ultimately to nihilism, the view that nothing is good. If every good is derived from something else and the good of that something else is also derived, ultimately nothing is good for the chain is infinite.

    I maintain that knowledge and education are goods in themselves, that knowledge is better than ignorance regardless of the consequences. Your view commits you to the view that any knowledge that cannot be applied (for which there is “no reason”) is worthless.

    As for whether my view is “silly,” I guess a good number of philosophers–indeed almost the entirety of philosophy, beginning with Plato–turn out to be equally silly. Given your view, I suppose it’s not surprising that you think this.


    • Jeepers, Ernie, nihilism? Really? I can only hope that you’re just pulling my leg. In fact, I swear you must be. Of course all things are connected somewhere. If education were not so connected, or if we didn’t recognise it, we would only be educating very few people.

      Education isn’t something we just gaze at and admire, for no particular reason. If that were all, why would we bother? Why would we have a curriculum for anything? Why would we assess or examine students, or rather, on what basis would we do so? Why for that matters would people be willing to pay taxes to fund it?

      Education is probably the most important good that society can offer. It really matters. It means everything. And it is connected to everything.

      • Ernie Ball Says:

        Missing the point, Ferdinand. If you want to claim that things are only ever valuable “for a reason” then they only have derivative value. Their value derives from something else. Since you’re denying that anything can have intrinsic value, the value of that something else must also be derivative. But can everything have derivative value? If the value of everything derives from something else and the value of that something else derives from something else again and so on and none of them are valuable in themselves (or “for their own sake”), then, ultimately, the entire edifice rests on nothing. Worse, the value of anything leads one into an infinite regress.

        “Nihilism” is as good a name as any for this view, that claims that nothing is really of value. The fact that you don’t consider yourself a nihilist is beside the point.

        The solution–one tacitly admitted by your examples–is that some things are intrinsically valuable. Since you came forward with the examples that demonstrate this, I suspect that you actually believe this and your belief that you are not a nihilist rests on the (secret, hidden) belief that some things are valuable in themselves.

        It’s one more small step to acknowledge that education is one of them. Shouldn’t be too hard for a university president…

      • Ernie Ball Says:

        Why would we bother learning if it weren’t for something else? Why are we homo sapiens and not monkeys?


        • Precisely because we understand not only *that* education is valuable, but also *why*.

          • Ernie Ball Says:

            Now you’re just being obtuse. OK, let’s say we do know why we value education and the reason we value it is that it increases prosperity both for individuals and the society as a whole. Is prosperity an intrinsic value, one that doesn’t derive its value from something itself (i.e., valuable “for its own sake”)? By your lights, there are no such intrinsic value, so the value of prosperity must derive from something else. Or, as you put it, we have to know why we value prosperity, otherwise it has no value. OK, so why do we value prosperity? Well, you say, because it leads to greater comfort. And why do we value comfort? At some point you must reach a value that “just is”: an intrinsic good, something that is good in itself and not because of some other thing.

            Once you’ve understood that, then it’s not a big leap to understand that knowledge and education are such intrinsic goods. Why? Because even if they lead to discomfort or don’t have immediate practical applications, we still feel it is better to know than to be ignorant. In other words, even where there is no apparent reason for us to value the knowledge we have, we still prefer to have it rather than remain ignorant.


  7. ASU’s use-centred practice is focuses on being useable/useful in specific contexts. So one of their initiatives is about the contribution ASU makes in shaping the state of Arizona.

    I think this is an acknowledgement that public funding of itself doesn’t amount to genuine investment by the public. Funding derived through taxation doesn’t automatically generate the positive state that Anna describes: “being funded by the public reflects the interest of the whole community/nation to educate the young generations for the ‘common good’ of that same nation”. This formula only holds at the abstract level of the national, so the real problem for public universities within their local contexts is the fact that a remote third party (whether state or federal) has determined that X is in the public interest, and your taxes will be spent on this whether you personally like the idea or not.

    This means public universities have to face both ways when accounting for themselves, both justifying to government their centralised sources of funding, while demonstrably creating value for the local communities on which they impose themselves (especially in regional contexts). ASU’s use-centredness is an interesting approach to what is essentially a public communication issue.

  8. anna notaro Says:

    @Music your analysis above is quite accurate, however I have to stress that I do not see a simple automatism between public funding and a positive state of the community, that would be naive, rather a more symbolic, but equally significant political choice which made at state level perculates positively at the local one as well. One could of course speculate as to why the state is perceived as a remote/abstract entity and I suspect that this has to do, at least partially, with the constant erosion of that sense of public-ness which expresses itself in a variety of ways in contemporary Western societies, from the madness of the Tea Party movement in the US calling for an end of the Federal State as such, to extreme forms of localism/independentism in Europe, to the call for the ‘big society’ in the Uk, as opposed to the ‘big state’, as if the state itself was not already some form of ‘big society’ made up of (responsible) individuals. Redefining what is it that keeps us together as a community, locally, nationally, globally and last but not least virtually (in its digital versions), and the sort of values we wish to privilege in this context(s) is the exciticing challenge we are faced with.

  9. anna notaro Says:

    @Ernie/Ferdinand, having read your interesting exchange I’m convinced that the contrasting ideas that something is ‘intrinsically valuable’ and valuable ‘for a reason’ are not necessarily mutually exclusive. The expression ‘education for its own sake’ echoes the more famous one ‘Art for art’s sake”, the English rendering of a French slogan from the early 19th century ‘l’art pour l’art’ expressing a philosophy that the only ‘true’ art is divorced from any didactic, moral or utilitarian function. It would be too long to detail the impact that such a concept has had from the aesthetic movement in the Uk onwards (Ernie hints at the significant phiosophical tradition behind the idea of intrinsic value above), one can of course disagree with such a view and be in good company (George Sand and Walter Benjamin among others) however defining it as meaningless or vacuous does not do justice to its established philosophical pedigree. Criticism of the ‘for its own sake’ expression is not nihilistic, rather it stems from a utilitarian philosophical tradition (Bentham/Mill) where the moral value of an action is determined by its resulting outcomes. I find this type of utilitarian pragmatism useful (no pun intended), however it is worth remembering that occasionally we do something ‘crazy’ for reasons which are difficult to identify and still we appreciate its ‘instrinsic’ value, pleasure, again mentioned above, is one category which finds the utilitarian perspective most constrictive.
    On the specific issue of education for its own sake it might be worth mentioning one of its most strenuous advocates, the sociologist Frank Furedi who in 2004 published ‘Where Have All the Intellectuals Gone?’ http://www.frankfuredi.com/intellectualreviews.shtml a good read even if one does not fully agree with his thesis.


    • @anna I think your comment that “we do something ‘crazy’ for reasons which are difficult to identify” would indicate that even these actions are explainable from a utilitarian point of view. Saying that the reasons are difficult to identify is admitting that there are reasons.


  10. If you tell me that something is valuable for its own sake, I will ask you “Why?”. If you answer by saying “It just is!”, I doubt you will persuade any of the listeners. It is more likely that you will at least try to give a reason.

    To be honest, once you make any claim whatsoever, rational polite listeners will ask you how you came to form that opinion so that they can make some sort of a judgement on whether your claim is likely to be true.

    So, why is it again that education is valuable for its own sake?

    • Ernie Ball Says:

      OK, Brian. Why is comfort valuable? Why is pleasure valuable? Why is life valuable? Please be sure to give answers such that the value of these things derives from something else.

      Like the child’s game of asking “why?” to everything, this game has to have an endpoint. Explanations have to come to an end somewhere. The alternative view, that nothing is good in itself, is nihilistic. That’s a respectable philosophical viewpoint, but at least the people here should admit that that’s what they are.

      It is not the case that “rational listeners” will ask in all cases how you came to form an opinion. I judge that one should not drink poisoned water. Are you going to ask me why I think that? OK, I answer, because I want to live. Are you then going to ask me why I want to live and not accept my answer that “I just do”?

      Again, my claim is that, even if there are no consequences to one’s knowledge and it leads nowhere, it is better to know than remain ignorant. And that is all I need establish that education is a value in itself or “for its own sake.”


  11. @ernie Can I take it that you are not a student of philosophy? Your question is good, but relatively easy to answer. As an engineer I am more naturally drawn to Bentham’s utilitarian view of maximising happiness in society. To me, philosophy is a purposeful activity that allows us to examine our existence in a way that can help us to improve our lives. Human existence in the universe is quite recent and will probably be short lived. As a human I think it is best that I try to spend these few years as pleasantly as possible and to agree with others to collaborate so that we can all live as pleasantly as possible. This is quite a boring philosophy to many, particularly the more recent post-modernists, (who like to think that it is only a matter of opinion that stepping from the fourth floor of a building will result in a dangerous fall), but I consider it a very sensible approach.

    Now, if someone accepts this as an axiom, this does provide the end-point for the “why” questions. “Comfort” is too narrow a word. It all leads back to maximising happiness in society. Education leads to prosperity and prosperity has been shown to increase levels of happiness. There exists lots of research to support this but I usually just ask people if they would prefer to be living back in the middle ages (Strangely a few people say they would).

    But education is fun also. I have often been accused of being a dilettante and indeed I am curious about things and like the idea of just knowing about things either by reading about the evidence or maybe even conducting my own experiments. But that is not learning for its own sake. It is learning for the sake of my happiness. Such learning may even throw up some useful information that can be used to increase prosperity.

    Now my answer above is based on the theory of maximising happiness. Whatever you think of it, at least it is consistent in its logic and practically applicable. It is presented in a way that people can point out flaws in my logic and may lead me to abandon it or improve it. This to me seems a lot more plausible than your approach which seems to say, there is no point in asking a reason because the search will be never-ending.

    By the way, if you do not agree that maximising happiness in society is at the core of all our striving for change, then nothing else I can say is of any use. That may be the source of our disagreement.


  12. As i said, this is a pragmatic axiom. An axiom is a agreed assumption which is deemed to be self-evident so that you can work from that to form further conclusions. You may have come across this in Euclidian geometry (eg. a straight line is the shortest distance between 2 points – not provable but extremely useful). A large minority of people do not agree that maximising happiness is a worthwhile objective for people. If you don’t agree with this axiom, none of my further arguments will influence you. So, do you think happiness is worth striving for or not.

    By the way, I am wondering if have studied philosophy as logic is one of the cornerstones. I studied logic as part of mathematics but I have taken the time to read Bertrand Russell on logic in philosophy.

    Strangely logic does not seem to have had much influence on the post-modern philosophers. Still you have to make a living out of publishing and when there is not much new to say..

  13. Ernie Ball Says:

    Brian, you’re now arguing against yourself. A minute ago, you said:

    once you make any claim whatsoever, rational polite listeners will ask you how you came to form that opinion so that they can make some sort of a judgement on whether your claim is likely to be true

    Now, when asked why happiness is a value, you claim it’s an “axiom”:

    An axiom is a agreed assumption which is deemed to be self-evident so that you can work from that to form further conclusions.

    So it turns out that there is a class of “claims” that are “self-evident” (or, “just are” in my vocabulary) and therefore in no need of being supported by further reasons. There is no difference between these “axioms” and what I’ve been calling “intrinsic values” or “values in themselves.”

    I conclude that your view either really boils down to mine or it’s incoherent.

    Colour me impressed that you’ve read Bertrand Russell. As for postmodern philosophy, I have no idea why you’re banging on about it. The view I’ve expressed here comes directly from Plato (The Protagoras 353e and following, among other places), who hardly qualifies as modern, let alone postmodern.

  14. anna notaro Says:

    @Brian re your comment above *’we do something ‘crazy’ for reasons which are difficult to identify’ would indicate that even these actions are explainable from a utilitarian point of view. Saying that the reasons are difficult to identify is admitting that there are reasons*, this is not necessarily the case, the difficulty/incapacity in identifying such reasons makes it for them being merely a ‘working hypothesis* which does not endorse a truth claim, besides if they cannot be identified they are ‘useless’…
    As for your negative representation of postmodernism, almost a cliche’ in itself, there is much more to it than what you give it credit for, not least for the impact it has had on a variety of disciplines from architecture (where it first originated) to sociology, art, history and literature, to name a few…in the end it is difficult to pin down all the various theoretical approaches that go under such label (that is in itself postmodern), I’ll tell you however what I personally value: in problematizing history and absolute truths, refuting axiomatic methodologies, celebrating hybridity, paradox and juissance it has certainly contributed to refresh our critical awareness …


  15. Good point, Ernie, and my mistake for not saying this earlier. This is a standard necessary technique in mathematics and logic. As you rightly point out, a child (or an adult) can always ask why to every reason that you propose ad infinitum. In normal life as in academic argument this can lead to us not being able to draw any agreed conclusions at all. So in real life as in academic argument, the only way to make progress is for the participants to ask each other “is there anything at all we can agree on”. Let’s find that and work from there. These might be considered axioms in conversation except that if you moved beyond that group you might find others who did not agree with these. I suppose a strict definition of an axiom is one that everyone agrees can be taken to be true, but cannot prove.

    In our particular argument, I am proposing that maximisation of happiness should be taken as an axiom. If you don’t agree then it is pointless for us to engage any further as we are unlikely to persuade each other of anything (If you can show me errors in my logic, I will happily change my point of view). If you do not agree to using the idea of an axiom at all then I’m afraid that you will not be able to agree with anyone at all as anyone can say anything and if asked why, say that they do not need to provide a reason as that will only lead to endless need for reasons.

    Sorry for name dropping my friend Bertrand Russell but I was afraid that you were a post-modernist and i wanted to make a stand for logic. The post-modernists think that all viewpoints are equally valid which makes it impossible to argue with them (one exception: the viewpoint that all viewpoints are not equally valid is an invalid viewpoint – if you get what I mean)

    So, forgetting the word axiom, if we cannot agree that happiness is at the core of our human objectives, we cannot take this further. Just like the american constitution, I take this truth to be self-evident (if anyone has a proof that is based on a more basic idea i’d like to hear it). If we agree to disagree on this then at least we will have identified the point of our disagreement which i believe is progress.


  16. @anna I’m not sure if I understand you. Are you saying that if we can’t identify reasons we should work as if there are no reasons. I would have suggested that we have to find out what these reasons are, or we can make no progress. I’m particularly lost as to how we can apply this to the claim that “education is of value in itself”. If this has mysterious reasons that we cannot find, do we just say, we have to just take this as being true.

    In regards to all the wonderful fields of postmodernism I’m sure that all some of them have in common is the term. As an engineer I see little in common between post-modern architecture and the little I have been able to endure of post-modern philosophy. As an amateur in the area of philosophy, i do find it relatively easy to follow until I reach post-modernism. At one time, I would just have thought it is just too difficult, but the Sokal hoax (where a physicist submitted a jargon laden load of nonsense to a post-modernist publication -Social Text, I think – and had it published) provided very strong evidence that much of the field is vacuous. This along with the fact that it ignores the basic tenets of the scientific method would indicate that it is not worth my while looking into it any further.

    • anna notaro Says:

      the fact that it ignores the scientific method you are familiar with being an engineer might be precisely the right reason to engage with it, or at least to be open minded enough to consider it in a non-prejudicial dismissive way..as for the other point, it did not relate specifically to the ‘education for its own sake issue’, it was if you like tangential to it..what I’m saying is that if reasons are difficult to identify no utilitarian claim regarding them can be made, besides we should just acknowledge, from a deconstructivist perspective (often mistakenly conflated with the postmodernist one) that somes we reach aporias, logical blindspots or as Derrida would have it, ‘the limit of truth’


  17. Anna, i have taken a little time to read on methodologies other than the scientific method but have found little of practical use there to make it worth looking too much further. If you can point me to some persuasive ideas, i’ll have another go when i get the chance. You see the scientific method has proved to be the best method for formulating approximations or models of reality that can be used to reliably predict the effect of human interventions. That is how i measure the value of a methodology. As regards being open-minded, again this is central to the scientific method. Theories are strengthened by constantly trying to disprove them. In regards to methodology, it is important that I regularly check out any alternatives. However, if the evidence of usefulness is not there, I generally have to limit the time I can give to this. If you have any alternative methodologies for determining most likely truths or approximations that can be used for decision making, please let me know.

    As for not being able to identify reasons for a phenomenon, this is easily handled from a scientific viewpoint by taking an empirical approach and using observation to determine cause and effect.
    I’m still not sure how this can be applied claiming something is of value except insofar as it is agreed by everyone. In the case of the value of education for its own sake, if one person disagrees with this we cannot proceed any further in debate until this is resolved.


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