Saturday, September 3, 2016

Make Education Great Again?

By Professor Doom

     LinkedIn is a network for professionals to communicate and, well, link up with each other. It’s harmless and free, and often has articles and columns worth reading.

      One recent article does a phenomenal job of highlighting the source of the disaster of most higher education in America today, although the authors don’t even realize what they’ve done:

     The article begins by discussing how they came up with these great ideas for fixing higher education:

     Hey, what’s missing from the incredible group of leaders mentioned there?

    The educators. 

     This is such a great indicator of the real problem in higher education: the educators have absolutely no influence over education now. Instead of talking to the people who see firsthand what’s going on, the “leaders” who never set foot in a classroom are going to come up with ideas for fixing higher education. How could this go right?

      Our “leaders” in education are so stratospherically out of touch that, over the course of eight months of thinking about how to improve education, it still didn’t occur to any of them to even include educators on this conversation, much less consider any ideas that might come from educators.

      It’s hard to come up with a metaphor that sufficiently captures the extraordinary arrogance, the colossal incompetence of what passes for leadership in higher education. The best I can come up with for comparison is trying to figure out how to build a great house in a lot near many great houses, and never asking anyone who’s actually built a house.

     Naturally, the ideas here are extreme idiocy at best, but I’ll highlight a few.

First, admit this is a new era for higher education.

Until recently, colleges and universities had enjoyed the benefits of two lengthy and successive expansion periods in the history of higher education. The first, which lasted from 1968 to 1990, witnessed the Cold War and Baby Boomers usher in unprecedented growth in spending and enrollments. The second era, from 1991 to 2010, saw technology transform teaching, learning, and research as well as increased demand for a degree from students of all ages.

     Hey, absolutely the internet has completely changed the distribution of knowledge, and there have been many amazing changes to human civilization in the last 50 years…but there is more to education than access to knowledge. Seriously, libraries, very substantial libraries, have been commonly around several centuries now. These guys don’t have a clue. We’ve had access to huge amounts of knowledge for a long time, all that’s changed is the access is now nearly instantaneous.

     Truth be told, since around 1800, every 50 year period has seen revolutionary changes. 1800-1850 saw steam engines revolutionize industry—long distance overland travel became safe and reliable with goods being moved many tons at a time. The telegraph meant you could exchange communication across the country in a day (!) instead of months, revolutionizing knowledge transfer. 1850-1900 saw improvements to infrastructure and the telephone, re-revolutionizing communication. 1900-1950 saw the internal combustion engine; cars and airplanes, inconceivable 50 years earlier, became commonplace. Television/radio re-re-revolutionized communication and knowledge transfer. 1950-2000 saw computers and the beginnings of the internet, re-re-re-revolutionizing communication and knowledge transfer yet again.

      But our leaders in education have such a minimal education they know nothing of history. So as far as they’re concerned, history began when they were born (most Poo Bahs are around age 60)…they can’t conceive of a time before their existence.

      It’s a new era for knowledge…but not a new era for education, which was around before the rise of the Poo Bahs. As a people, we’ve lost track of teaching our children, and thus have mostly forgotten how humans learn.  I can only consider how we teach our children from birth to 4 years old…before public government school takes it over.

     Keys to learning are repetition and emulation. Every day you talk to your infant/toddler, you repeat over and over the words he should know. You educate your small child primarily through repetition, not just in knowledge, but also in behavior. While this ideal education is greatly disrupted by the public school system, the fact still remains: education isn’t about access to knowledge at all, it’s about learning how to use knowledge. Every word you use on your child is available somewhere on the internet, I promise you, as is every behavior…but this is irrelevant to teaching your child. 

      Demonstrating to your child how to act with integrity, how to speak with clarity, will do far more to educate the child than “look it up on Google.”

     But, after 8 months of deliberations, our leadership, rather than consider what education actually is and how to improve it, figure it’s time to admit technology has improved. The average Poo Bah makes a half million bucks a year…and this is the wisdom your tax dollars are buying.

Higher education is now firmly situated in a third era. It is marked by diminished state and federal spending…

     Again, these guys are clueless, thinking education is actually about spending money. And, of course, they are wrong. Federal spending on education has increased, as I’ve documented many times in this blog, and happily do so again, or even better, the reader should consider this chart of money flowing into higher education. It took me all of 30 seconds to find yet another link on this…these guys have been crying about “no money” for so long they just don’t know any other tune, so they keep crying about lack of money even as they’re drowning in it.

      What other revelations did 8 months of thinking by these yahoos reveal?

Higher education needs a North Star and leaders to take them there.

--let that sink in a bit how these guys want the leaders to become followers, and not in an ironic way.

     This is just pathetic. These guys honestly think “leadership” is the whole point of higher education. This is actually understandable, because the rulers of higher education actually take (bogus) graduate courses in “Leadership.” Because educators are shut out of influencing education, we’re stuck with these clowns who literally don’t have a clue, and I’ve quoted many of them embarrassing themselves grunting about how leadership is the point of higher education. Higher education’s purpose has nothing to do with leadership, I promise you.

      Any other brilliant ideas? Sure:

A new financial model is necessary.

      The whole problem with socialism is you eventually run out of other people’s money to spend. Our campuses have been turned into socialist utopias: the leaders at the top get fabulous wealth and power, while everyone else starves. Our students are starving. Our faculty are starving. Our leaders in higher education get personal high end restaurants to support their culinary needs.

      Our leaders have bloated out the administration caste to ridiculous levels, with commensurately ridiculous pay, transferring huge amounts of student loan money into their own pockets. Trouble is, with these numbers and at this pay level, there isn’t enough money coming in.

      The brilliant plan of the Ph.Ds after 8 months of deliberation? “We need to find someone else’s money to spend.”

      Real leaders with integrity would have long since realized that ripping off kids for personal profit is not an honorable way to live. Our leaders have decided they need to figure out how to rip off more people for larger amounts. Where do they find people like this?

       Anyway, the reader can quickly get an idea how terrible these guys are, but what’s interesting is the comments section, hundreds of comments, primarily blasting how this article is pure nonsense, and providing simple, straightforward ideas on how to make our higher education system great again.

      The best ideas, of course, come from educators. I know, I sound a little self-serving in saying this, but honestly the people that do the work really do know the work better than people that know nothing, and repeatedly demonstrate they know nothing.

     A few highlights from educators’ comments:

Stop For Profit online universities from lowering standards and illegally stealing govt. tuition money, while they threaten and dismiss ethical faculty. Who regulates the accreditation groups, or are they getting a financial kickback?

     Few educators deal with accreditation, and so don’t know what a sham it is. On the other hand, most everyone, including our Federal government, knows full well about the for profits. If accreditation were legitimate instead of a kickback scheme, or we got rid of the student loan scam, the for profits would go away quickly.

It would be good to involve active faculty in this conversation. Administrators (presidents, deans and provosts) typically left the classroom so long ago that they are no longer in touch with either the real issues students face nor the current educational processes nor the real objectives and formidable constraints on today's educators.

     Yeah, it would be good to include faculty in this conversation. It won’t happen,  because faculty always say the same thing:

You have an 'academy', made up of vice presidents, deans, and associate provosts. The foxes in charge of the hen house! These are the very people who keep me from doing my job as a teaching and research faculty, by having me write memos and reports; sit on task forces; fill in tick-boxes for accreditors; etc. In short, generating paper work that justifies their existence,

      Everyone in higher education knows that these fools are the problem, and you’ll never get a solution from them. The good thing about this LinkedIn article is it puts their woeful cluelessness on display for all to see.

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