Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Education is not a joke…or a joker.




 

By Professor Doom

 

Remedial student, at mid-term: “Hey, how come the homework in this class don’t look like nothing in my book, and how come every student in this class has a different book than me?”

 

--Administration accidentally scheduled a college class and a remedial class in the same room. The error was fixed on the first day, but this student had missed the first day. This student will be paying a student loan debt for this course for the rest of his life, and is it really his fault? Remedial students are often invulnerable to input, and not just with regards to academic topics.

    These last few essays I’ve reinforced how ending the remediation scam requires so much, and is necessary to restoring credibility to higher education. Until faculty can regain control of what is college coursework, there can be no change.

“…the institution as a whole is phenomenally weird, following a North Korean governance model without the transparency…Jerry Sandusky found a welcoming and protective environment at Penn State not out of luck, but rather as an all-but-inevitable consequence of the institutional culture…all of the reference material I need…is free on the Web. Despite the library being literally next door to my campus office, I rarely set foot in it. Those 46% indirect costs go for what???... the proliferation of pointless administrative positions whose sole purpose is to make the institution more expensive and less efficient…There is almost certainly a small fortune to be made in Federal whistle-blower suits here.”

--another faculty member explains why he’s getting out of academia. It’s a good read, and I point out I’m not the only one who’s realizing the immense fraud of higher education.

 

     Preventing the redefinition of a remedial student is why faculty need to control the definition of a remedial student at the accrediting level. Accreditation crosses state lines, so that the education industry can’t be easily subverted by any particular state changing its laws. “Accredited institutions will not try to qualify loan money to college students that cannot perform at the high school graduate level,” is integrity, nothing more. Institutions can still be open admission, any student that wants to come and take a course still can…but the “I am a degree seeking student so gimme that loan money” box needs to be just a little bit harder to check off.

     Administration can still subvert this by forcing faculty to pass all remedial students, turning the above into a procedure that is only one or two semesters slower than what we have now. As said before, the issues are interrelated, which is why so many things need to be changed and removed simultaneously.

 

Administrator 1, at a meeting: “We will be at full capacity the very first day we move into the new facility. We won’t have a single office to spare.”

Administrator 2, at a different meeting: “Our plan is, once we move into the new facility, to expand our student base as quickly possible, hopefully doubling it in a few years.”

--Yes, these administrators talk to each other, and are both discussing the same facility. All those graduate courses in vision and leadership, but administrators still can’t see when they’re leading an institution to a brick wall.

 

      Radical plans like “get rid of cheaters” and “stop taking advantage of people” might well cost me my job simply by reducing the number of souls in the system, and I can accept that. I have no faith in administrators, who can’t see the big picture of what their erratic behavior and questionable schemes are doing to higher education. I’ll lose my job when higher education collapses do their lack of vision anyway, and I’d rather lose it by doing the right thing as opposed to cravenly standing by like so many others and letting these mercenaries plunder the system.

     But enough of how to end the remediation scam, it’s time to move on to another topic: Education as a degree field, used as  “joker” to cover any other college topic. That needs to stop.

 

“Once I have my Education degree, I’ll be qualified to teach anything, even what you teach!”

--Student comment I’ve heard the like many a time, and administrators, with their own Education degrees, seem to feel the same way. Unfortunately, it’s true, but “qualified” and “competent” don’t mean the same thing. Of course, I spent a month, and failed, trying to convince administrators and educationists that “consensus” and “average” don’t mean the same thing, either.

 

     My degree is in mathematics. I can address most any undergraduate topic in mathematics and closely related concepts, like symbolic logic or arithmetic. Physics has mathematics in it, Philosophy has courses in logic, Accounting has lots of arithmetic. I don’t teach these courses, although when a professor is ill, I might cover a class or two. I wouldn’t dream of teaching these courses, as I don’t feel I could offer the same insights as someone who truly understands the subject and has devoted his life to it. This strikes me as perfectly sensible, and respectful of other people’s areas of specialization.

Educationist e-mail: “For my research, can you identify the parts of your course that students have trouble with? We want to focus on those parts to provide better education in future courses.”

My reply: “Sure. Systems of linear equations in three vaiables (sic). Inverses of non-linear functions. The difference quotient. Oh, and applications of exponential and logarithmic functions.”

Educationist: “Thanks! This will really help.”

Next semester:

Administration: “To improve retention, you need to remove the following from your course:

  1. systems of linear equations in three vaiables (sic).
  2.  Inverses of non-linear functions.
  3. The difference quotient.
  4. Applications of exponential and logarithmic functions.”
    --We really need to get rid of these guys. I’m pretty sure the reason my typo was preserved was because these guys with graduate Administration/Education degrees still didn’t know I was referring to “variables.” Anyway, removing this material means the students have no way to progress beyond the high school level…what kind of college work will they be able to do?
     
         This is a respect that Educationists do not have. That’s fine, I don’t need their respect, but if a college degree is to no longer be a joke, we need to go back to hiring people that know the material, and not, theoretically, “know how to teach the material” (more accurately, “know how to remove the hard material”) but not necessarily know the material. Another “brilliant” idea to fix higher education: hire specialists to teach specialist topics. I’ll explain further next time.