I fear that the standards of American higher education generally are eroding as we increasingly apply to it an inefficient corporate model.
More and more of our monies are being transferred into administrative departments which in turn divert more and more of the time of students and faculty away from the learning processes.
The need to economize has introduced the phenomenon of the part-time teacher tripping from college to college or to side jobs in order to make ends meet.Â These are former students being cheated out of the prospect of serious full time jobs following upon years of academic training.Â They put forth their best efforts in the classroom, but there is almost a conspiracy of silence as less and less is asked of students beyond parroting back bits of information presented in texts and classrooms on midterm and final exams.
I know from my own teaching experience that it is almost a shock to most students to be asked to do what my generation did semester by semester in most of our courses — a term paper running from 20 to 30 pages which explored in depth some subject related to a course.Â Only by in depth exploration did we learn that there was more to learning than collected factlets to be discarded once a final exam had been completed.
I have been teaching first rate students from all parts of the world.Â Those most recently arrived are generally better educated than the typical American student — in the various European models of secondary education spread around the globe with the colonial expansions.Â Generally they can read and assimilate on their own and write clear prose — sometimes shaped by the grammars of their native language, but clearly thought out.Â Among my students have been the winners of most of the prestigious fellowships — Rhodes, Beinecke, Truman.Â These particular students have risen above the usual level of mediocrity asked of most students these days in our all too typical university contexts.
There is some serious learning still going on in some of our institutions — where full time faculty dominate.Â It is the trend towards doing things on the cheap and cluttering learning with irrelevancies that bothers me.
We are diverting our best minds to more secure types of careers in such professions as law, medicine, or business administration.Â It is rough on students with massive accumulated loans to undertake service professions.
We are becoming a massive national corporation rather than a nation with all the diversity that any democracy built upon a solid foundation of its civil society requires.Â As I flip the dial and see the stuff programed to appeal to the coming generation I worry.Â Knowing all the celebs and their ups and downs seems to be the game being played with the generation next.Â But I know from teaching experience that few are aware of the critical dates and events of past history, let alone the relative positions of Syria, Jordan, Israel/Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan which place their futures at risk.
No, it is not only on-line learning that is eroding the quality of American education.Â Our overpaid university CEOs are in this picture doing their things, too.Â How many now take away an annual package of $670,000 plus perks?Â At Oxford when I was there we had in our college a principal who called us together for meetings and a bursar who collected tuition and paid college bills — and tutored me mornings in Greek.
Enlarge the Heading for this NY Times article on Phoenix.Â All of U.S. higher education is now at risk as the money games are played out.
“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)
Ed KentÂ 718-951-5324 (voice mail only) [blind copies]