n.b. Allthough it is not exactly its subject, this post is somewhat inspired by the following extremely inspiring speech by psychologist Jordan Peterson, which I would urge you to watch before reading this post:
Some people wonder about what a degree really is. What is the magic formula is that makes a degree anything more than any other course? Does such a “magic formula” even exist, or is it just a bribe to get us to spend time and money chasing a false dream?
I would also like to note that I have not read John Henry Newman’s book on this subject, nor much literature at all for that matter. So if anything I’ve written seems in any way untrue or incomplete, I would appreciate any corrections from the reader.
The effect of a good degree
I assert that an effect of a good degree should be twofold:
Firstly to actually teach the student something true and meaningful from the best of the subject’s authors. This may or may not, force the student fill a lot of ideological ground in a short space of time, but if the subject is indeed wholesome, then this will be well worth the student’s time.
Secondarily to teach the student good form: How to think, reason, and argue correctly. If the first goal is achieved well, this effect should come naturally. However, this may be missed. So I urge any of you intent on University, as does Jordan Peterson in the above video, to do your best to use your time well to accomplish this aim. It is an art that will prove useful in any future serious analysis of complex or subtle ideas (of which there are many).
What a degree is therefore not
In terms of the more practical arts, I tend to agree with Jordan Peterson on this issue. I do not think that the form of a degree (long periods of reading and writing) caters to any practical art. To try and fit such an art will therefore either crush the art into insignificant abstractions, or reduce the form of the degree to arbitrariness.
Examples of false degree
There do of course exist false universities: Confused misrepresentations of the idea of a University. These teach ideas shallowly in the pretense of substance, or have tutors who cater to such ideas.
I do not deny that this is a widespread problem, and I suggest that anybody in search of a degree discern and avoid such wolves in sheeps clothing at all cost: They are simply waste of ones time and money.
Therefore, if the reader aspires to such lofty aims, know that the true purpose is not the grade: a quantifier that many wrongly treat as a qualifier; but rather the understanding of the matter of truths learned, and form gleaned in the art of thinking well.