5.5 The watershed

As a widely supported goal for university or college (and why not all?) education it is laudable to aim for students who are:

  • curious about new intellectual questions,
  • open to alternative ways of viewing a situation or problem,
  • disciplined to follow intellectual methods to conclusions,
  • capable of accepting criticism from others,
  • tolerant of ambiguity,
  • respectful of others with different views, and
  • understanding and accepting the imperative of academic (intellectual) honesty.

Achieving it would entail a crossing of the watershed in the intellectual development of students: the transition from “all opinions are valid” to “one opinion is better (supported) than another” (van Rossum & Hamer, 2010), which van Rossum and Hamer, identified as of key importance for the development of truly autonomous individuals. In fact this site has addressed many properties particular to pre and post watershed cognition. Table Pre and post watershed properties organized by author lists a number of these.

Pre and post watershed properties organized by author
Author Pre watershed Post watershed
Woodrow Wilson Not privileged Privileged
Snedden Producer of utilities User of utilities
Dewey No master of own industrial fate Master of own industrial fate
Labaree Useful idiot Nuanced and deep thinker
Connor Unsuitable for democracy Suitable for democracy
AAC&U Fragmented and incoherent Integrated understanding
Maslow Pawns to be moved by others Self-movers, self-deciders, self- choosers
Stenner Authoritarians Libertarians
Stenner Cognitive incapacity Cognitive capacity
Meadows Cannot control environment Can control environment
Van Rossum and Hamer All opinions are valid Some opinions are better supported