By Professor Doom
Admin: “Be sure to pass out your syllabus on the first day of class…”
Every college course must have a syllabus, a summary of the course material. It isn’t just mindless paperwork, the syllabus is important when the student tries to transfer his course to another institution, which is entitled to know what, exactly, the student knows. At least, that’s the theory.
Admin: “Be sure to include the course number, course name, section number, room number, and times the class meets on the syllabus…”
Every year, admin adds another requirement to the syllabus. I try very hard to keep my syllabus down to one page—it’s not so much about the environment/saving paper, I just see no need to flood the students with information that they generally don’t care much about.
Admin: “Be sure to include our statement regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act…”
Every year, another line or two was added to satisfy administrator requirements…and I removed more actual class information from my syllabus to keep it to a page.
Admin: “Be sure to put in writing what you consider cheating, and what the penalty for cheating will be…”
Another line here, another line there, it all adds up.
Admin: “Be sure to have an outline of what assignments are graded in your course, especially tests, and what will be on those tests…”
It was tough to have everything on the syllabus I wanted, also comply with administrative requests…and keep that syllabus down to one page. Finally, a request came down from the Masters of the Universe making it impossible to keep it all on one page:
Admin: “Be sure to include the required learning outcomes and associated assessments matrix on your syllabus…”
What, pray tell, is the “required learning outcomes and associated assessments matrix”? Well, it’s another foolish thing from Educationists. Educationists have a creepy powerful influence over education, and it doesn’t matter how unproven, how demonstrably ineffective their ideas are. Even when we know Educationist ideas are harmful, we’re still forced to use them. I’ve mentioned before the idiotic Bloom’s Taxonomy theory which influences higher education, but a recent event brought back memories of that “matrix” I was required to put on my syllabus, when I was at a bogus community college:
You really do have to pick your battles in higher education, and compared to the near constant fraud, incompetence, and corruption I was already dealing with there, I wasn’t about to challenge community college administration over these new matrix things. The professor suing was actually removed from teaching; this is what comes of resisting Educationists nowadays.
The college has maintained that the requirement is linked to accreditation requirements.
Yeah, that’s crap, and it’s what I was told as well. The gentle reader is welcome to read accreditation requirements in detail and see this is a lie (there is an institutional requirement, but that’s an administrative chore, not a faculty one). Those requirements incidentally, list absolutely no penalties whatsoever for violation of those requirements, which is why so many of our schools violate accreditation with open impunity. What matters is subservience to administration, but I digress.
So, what exactly is that matrix? Administration at the community college helpfully gave us an example, and it looked something like this:
Admin: “Here’s an example of a Student Outcome and Assessment Matrix for Speech 101:”
Learner will be able to speak clearly
In class participation, class presentation
Learner will be able to analyze and evaluate discussion
Tests, peer review
Learner will be collaborate and identify multiple perspectives
Group project, group presentation
I’m simplifying the above chart a little, but it was a whole page of stuff like the above. Admin passed out the example chart to all faculty. I picked my battles at this place, and as much as I wanted to keep my syllabus to one page, I admitted that was now impossible. I went back to my office, and typed up a matrix for my courses, adapting the example to fit each course (eg, for algebra, I would have “learner will be able to solve a system of equations” as an outcome, with “tests, homework” as assessments--we don't have students, incidentally, we have "learners," because changing words around is about all Educationists know how to do when it comes to improving education).
I keep referring to that school, where I worked to change its status from “unaccredited” to “accredited,” as bogus, and I honestly don’t do so lightly, so allow me to relate the ultimate effect of including those student outcome matrices on our syllabi (beyond doubling the amount of paper we wasted on syllabi).
So, three years later, we have an accreditation review. These things are mostly a joke. All accreditation does is ask administration to self-assess how good a job administration thinks the school is doing (I’m serious, this is all accreditation is, which is why we can have schools everyone knows are fake, stay in business for decades), and ask for some documentation of what goes on in our classes. “Some documentation” is a bit of an exaggeration, all they really ask for is our syllabi…more accurately, the syllabus of one of the classes taught at the institution.
Accreditation asks for a syllabus, and admin provides the pseudo-chemistry professor’s syllabus. Our accreditor notes that the Chemistry 101 syllabus, for some idiotic reason, has a Student Outcome and Assessment Matrix for Speech 101 attached to it. To clarify: the chemistry teacher, like a good little automaton (he was an extraordinary sycophant) simply stuck the “sample matrix” admin had told him to stick onto his syllabus, and nothing more.
Accreditation rightfully thought that a Chemistry syllabus with Speech outcomes was invalid, and so asked for another. Admin dutifully pulled out another syllabus, from a social studies course. Sure enough, it too had the same Student Outcome and Assessment Matrix for Speech 101 as the last page as well.
As did the next syllabus. As did the next syllabus. Finally admin thought to submit my syllabus, their 5th choice.
Admin: “We had to submit a syllabus five times. The accreditor found your syllabus satisfactory.”
--I asked why it took so many tries to get a valid syllabus, and that’s how I got the story I’m relating here.
Now, the gentle reader should understand, the reason why so many community college faculty had that Speech matrix appended on the end wasn’t a protest; these guys had no clue what was going on (at the community college level, competence is neither sought nor encouraged by admin), and just followed the instructions from admin as best they could. I’ve discussed before that higher education is mostly a sycophantocracy now, and I assure the gentle reader it’s at its worst at the community college level. So many faculty there were so clueless, they would tell me “you should just follow orders” with no understanding of the potential for evil in doing so. They, of course, always followed orders from admin.
I’ve mentioned before how at community colleges, the syllabus is a complete fraud, that faculty have no intention of following what’s on the syllabus. Studies, of course, back me up, detailing how many of our community colleges are simply unhinged, filled with exactly the fraud I’d seen many times with my own eyes.
To further emphasize what a joke these places are, at my school these syllabi, with a page of essentially complete gibberish stuck on the end, were passed out thousands of times, in dozens of classes, over the course of years. Not only did no faculty go “You know, it seems kind of stupid for me to have Speech outcomes on my Biology syllabus,” but not a single student looked at that syllabus and said “Yo teach, why do we have these stupid outcomes for a different course on our syllabus? Are we really going to learn this here? Why do I get these identical weird looking box things in other courses?”
I trust the gentle reader now understands why I have such a grim opinion of many community colleges: even at an accredited school, I know with certainty that many of the faculty and most of the students have not the slightest idea what’s supposed to go on in a college course. I don’t blame the students, for what it’s worth.
He's going too far, but the fact that we're pressured to use the almost Orwellian phrase "learning outcomes" instead of "results" or "goals" or "aims" indicates how dumb and irritating some of this ed-speak gets. Education departments, people look down on you for good reasons.
--a comment from a news piece on the lawsuit.
I totally respect the professor bringing the lawsuit for not wanting to put this stuff on his syllabus; it’s very clear that it’s just an administrative make-work project of no relevance. It’s not a fight I want to have, but I wish him the best with his lawsuit all the same.