Sunday, February 06, 2011

the failure of higher education

Video - Young Turks interview of Claudia Dreifus

NPR | Professor Andrew Hacker says that higher education in the U.S. is broken.

He argues that too many undergraduate courses are taught by graduate assistants or professors who have no interest in teaching.

Hacker proposes numerous changes, including an end to the tenure system, in his book, Higher Education?

"Tenure is lifetime employment security, in fact, into the grave" Hacker tells NPR's Tony Cox. The problem, as he sees it, is that the system "works havoc on young people," who must be incredibly cautious throughout their years in school as graduate students and young professors, "if they hope to get that gold ring."

That's too high a cost, Hacker and his co-author, Claudia Dreifus, conclude. "Regretfully," Hacker says, "tenure is more of a liability than an asset."


nanakwame said...

For Hacker to say it, you know it is bad

CNu said...

EVERYBODY is subject to critical assessment, but as you say Nana, when Hacker talks, it's skrate up E.F. Hutton time...,

Uglyblackjohn said...

There is too much money involved.
Look at the NFL.
Back in the day quarterbacks had to be able to call plays and take hits.
These days they just plug a guy into a system and hope they can execute a preset list of actions.
The same could be said of tenured profs. - most are too secure in their jobs to take risks.
Their level of comfort takes priority over actually doing their jobs.

CNu said...

The administration and the professoriate became the academy's primary constituency, rather than students. The same is true of the medical industrial complex.

Whatever became of the maxim that "the customer always comes first?"

ProfGeo said...

How many of your colleagues would you estimate are adept...

Adept? Not many! "Can survive" with smart boards or other interactive, student-friendly tech (e.g. in a classroom/lecture hall, student response systems; outside, equipment used by students & faculty in field work)... lemme guess ~1 or 2% if you squeezed every bit of knowledge and adaptive skill out of the faculty. If you want to include middling instructional tech that may fall on the spectrum above chalkboard/PowerPoint, but still amounts to a formal lecture environment-- then add several percent.

Taken that way, it looks quite hopeless, but there is a great unwashed middle of faculty who will get with it only when made aware their jobs depend on it. They're waiting for orders from on high. There are a few (mostly) older tenured who will ride it out a few years. And keep in mind, there are scholars such as artists in certain media, and old-fashioned lit profs, some of whom will use this type/level of tech and some of whom won't and it may work out for them either way.

I have to admit, watching faculty gyrations with sliding chalkboards is entertaining. Back in the day, one of my students pre-loaded certain imagery on one of the hidden boards in my room. Hilarity ensued and I had to let it go.

The other day, I added a couple of items to my own homework list. Not to distract from this thread, but so the links are around later:

This next one, I skipped the video, but I think I should get familiar with the report because it'll get some play with, to put it bluntly, funders and such.

CNu said...

there is a great unwashed middle of faculty who will get with it only when made aware their jobs depend on it. They're waiting for orders from on high.

of course you realize that what you describe right'chere is EXACTLY why these institutions cannot and will not adapt to the evolutionary forces about to hit them. It'll only take a handful of masterful, adept, and ruthlessly self-interested instructors to absolutely decimate traditional instructional modus operandi once the process gets going, think Little Richard meets Pat Boone.

Thanks for the additional homework ProfGeo, I think I'll print these reports so's I can fully marinate with them offline.

ProfGeo said...

these institutions cannot and will not adapt to the evolutionary forces about to hit them

Forces that have already hit them-- they're still in denial. There's a small core, a few folks at every campus who are aware that something's already happening and we are talking to each other-- say, maybe that is an iceberg out there... I think certain campuses here and there (San Diego State, Carnegie Mellon, definitely Stanford) have a chance in terms of the "disrupting college" theory because they either openly encourage/nurture or don't frown on innovation. I include SDSU as a public university example because in terms of the theory, it matters a lot whether an institution is private or part of a state system.

The below short blog article, directly on topic, is also titled "Disrupting College," and its comments seem to share my concern with the very "business-y" thrust of the whole thing.