Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Teaching to the test
As posted in the wonderfully snarky academics_anon community on livejournal, witness this op-ed piece on higher education, written by Bush's former deputy secretary of education.
Thrill to memorable lines, such as the following:
Institutions of higher education need to report an academic bottom line.What on earth is an "academic bottom line", especially in higher education? How on earth would this be measured? I'm reminded of those graphs that the Nortel people used to show us in high school, about job rates for folks with computer science vs. humanities degrees. They showed the first five years after graduation, in which, yes, the comp sci people had better luck finding jobs. They left out the research on how the groups are doing 10-20 years later, which shows humanities folk as doing pretty well, thankyouverymuch.
While they’re at it, colleges and universities must make it a priority that their students graduate. While most tuition payers assume a baccalaureate degree takes four years to complete, the truth is it takes typically more than six years. In 2003, only 34 percent of graduating students had completed their degree in four years or less.Is the four years a priority? Given the reduced amount of federal funding for student loans & grants in the US, doesn't it make sense that more folk might be going part-time, so they can work on the side? Or coming back to school with a family, which will also cause the baccalaureate to take longer? Why should 4 years be a priority?
The academy responds to the demands of disciplines and faculty. It is a culture that cherishes independence and freedom. And it is a culture seriously out of touch with much of America.I'm not sure this one even needs a comment. ;)
Faculty members decide what they want to teach and when they want to teach, if, indeed, they teach at all. Yes, since deans and chairs have no say over this at all. Riiiiight.
Faculty members typically spend fewer than 200 hours a year in the classroom. That amounts to just five 40-hour weeks.As I sit in my office hours, preparing my lesson, and having students come in to ask me questions on their upcoming papers (sometimes they even ask me questions over Gmail chat, while I'm relaxing), I look at this statement and kind of go, "what?" Yes, faculty are all lazy. Of course.
Take a look at what passes for subjects of scholarly and instructional focus on campuses. Should taxpayer dollars really go to underwrite courses in such things as the history of comic book art?As someone currently in the midst of putting together a syllabus on philosophical themes in comic books, I think, "yes," actually. (As someone in the academics_anon forum pointed out, "Is he aware that only one hundred years ago, spending your precious academic years studying NOVELS was considered, if not the height of frivolity, at least a very lightweight major?"
And there needs to be a greater emphasis on teaching students what they need to know, rather than what faculty want to talk about.Again, since deans and chairs never worry about this as it is.
The various college rating systems and publications are entertaining and interesting to read, but they don’t provide the sort of objective data tuition payers need to make informed decisions.Since students (I refuse to say parents. But that's a separate issue. I hate the infantilization of students here at Fordham, which apparently is a problem all over the place. But I digress)... students = consumers. Obviously.
For generations, a college education has been a big part of the American dream. Much of the world has come to America to get a higher education. But nothing guarantees that this will be the case in the future. Indeed, for more and more American citizens, that dream is coming into question.And the fault lies on faculty teaching about comic book art, not affordability or anything ilke that. Obviously. Of course. Yee-haw.
jane 3:14 PM [+]