Background and Goals

Scholarium Background and Goals

Higher education is one of the great gifts of modern life. Colleges and universities serve as both repositories of knowledge and engines of advancement, concentrating scholars and experts in dedicated institutions where learning can thrive. But higher education in America has entered a period of change and flux, even crisis. As tuitions skyrocket and administrators come to outnumber professors at many universities, the ranks of new students are declining, and will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, a culture of “credentialism” has distorted the mission of many colleges and universities, shifting the emphasis away from sheer learning for its own sake, toward a consumerist model. Students in credentialing-focused institutions often miss out on the richness of a true education, which depends on life-changing encounters with challenging ideas, texts, and traditions of inquiry on their own terms, led by experts who love what they do.

In the midst of these challenges, research universities continue to produce tens of thousands of new PhDs each year, even as the number of traditional academic jobs shrinks. Partly as a result of this imbalance, the majority of instructors in colleges and universities around the country are no longer tenured or tenure-track, but are instead contingent faculty on short-term contracts. Finding an academic job is becoming increasingly difficult, even forbidding, for growing numbers of talented, passionate, and inquisitive young PhD holders.

This is where Scholarium enters the picture. Scholarium is a collaborative venture that provides an alternative venue for the sharing and conveyance of expert academic knowledge beyond the formal university setting. We take advantage of a fantastic resource: the growing reserve in the United States of highly trained experts with PhDs who are eager to teach and passionate about their subjects. Our teachers may be professors or postdocs, independent scholars or recent graduates. Regardless of their position in the academic hierarchy, they come equipped with deep reservoirs of knowledge, a love for teaching, and an eagerness for the opportunity to teach classes on the subjects that move them. 

At Scholarium, students study the subjects that excite them, with experts who are keen to guide the explorations of self-motivated students. While rooted firmly in the 21st century and its unique contingencies, we also look to the example of many earlier universities, whose origins were often simple, organic, informal gatherings of independent scholars and groups of motivated students.  

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