America has always prided itself on having the finest universities in the world. Of course, that reputation is built almost completely on their research, not the quality of education provided, especially to undergraduates. Indeed, as I've documented in previous posts and articles, the quality of teaching is, on average, abominable, and the feeble student growth is evidence of that.
I recently bought two audio courses offered by The Teaching Company, which claims to comb America's most prestigious universities to find its very finest instructors. Both courses were horrible. The first was on Beethoven sonatas. The course leeched the life out of every note. Each bar was intellectually analyzed until all pleasure had been excised. In the course on argumentation, the instructor attempted to reduce argumentation to an elaborate model of principles, which I am certain will not improve my argumentation skills, nor could I imagine they'd improve anyone else's, certainly not enough to justify the 12 hours of listening time.
At the same time as American universities continue their atavistic, abstruse ways, Chinese, Indian, and other Asian universities are improving, balancing their traditional emphasis on students mastering copious material and acquiring high-level skills with a new focus on enhancing students' creativity and problem solving ability. Those improved Asian universities will both better educate their already capable, hard-working people, and encourage their best and brightest to not come to the U.S but to stay in their homeland. Meanwhile a new study reported in USA Today finds the number of American students taking classes abroad has tripled in the last decade.
The U.S. desperately needs to convert most of its universities from arcana research factories to undergraduate-centered colleges in which immersive simulations and not lectures are the norm, in which courses' primary goal is to improve students' reasoning, writing, speaking, and mathematical reasoning skills, and in which faculty is hired and promoted based on how well they can educate and inspire, not how many useless, self-indulgent, often outre research articles they can crank out.