More Stuff To Read

Looks like they’re getting close to the end of this strike–which is good because I have a still huge and growing backlog of reading to share with you people. Here’s some:

~I have been pained every time I read in an article or a comment about that “Chicago teachers make $71,000, on average” because standing alone that number means nothing. ‘What’s the median? What’s the mode? Is the value set skewed and which way? Who is included in the list? Is that salary or income (i.e., does it include summer school, coaching, etc.?” I shout at my screen. Makes me crazy. Probably because I remember when they used a similar number against us in 2004. Anyway, I’ve been hoping for and waiting for and finally found someone willing to give a little attention to all of that. Here you go:

That aside, there are typically two ways one might choose to compare teacher salaries to determine how they fit into their competitive context. One is to compare teacher salaries to non-teachers of similar age and education level. The overall competitiveness of teacher salaries tends to influence the quality of entrants to the profession. The other is to compare teacher salaries – for similar teachers – across districts within the same labor market…

So, here’s a quick run-down on salaries and student populations – and funding equity (or lack thereof) – in pictures and tables.

~CTU is reminding people why we have unions (included is news about their high levels of support among both parents of CPS students and likely voters, putting the lie to some of the things we’ve heard about the toxicity of the current environment for all unions and Wisconsin, Wisconsin, Wisconsin–boogedy, boogedy, boogedy):

The strike by Chicago teachers is reminding all of us of the reason we have unions, and the reason why they are so feared and hated by those who are in command. The ability of these 29,000 teachers to act as one, to withhold their labor, gives them a power far mightier than the sum of their parts. So long as they stay unified, and have the support of parents in their community and others across the nation, they will prevail.

And in other news, if you’re in line somewhere to get the new iphone (or even if you’ve never had one) this article describing how Apple invented it is fun to read and fascinating:

Put it all together and you get remarkable story about a device that, under the normal rules of business, should not have been invented. Given the popularity of the iPod and its centrality to Apple’s bottom line, Apple should have been the last company on the planet to try to build something whose explicit purpose was to kill music players. Yet Apple’s inner circle knew that one day, a phone maker would solve the interface problem, creating a universal device that could make calls, play music and videos, and do everything else, too—a device that would eat the iPod’s lunch. Apple’s only chance at staving off that future was to invent the iPod killer itself. More than this simple business calculation, though, Apple’s brass saw the phone as an opportunity for real innovation.

Finally, just in case you’ve managed to stay focused on your teaching through all of the strike and GradesFirst and copy code and new ids and assorted hub-bub, there’s been some good stuff over at Truman’s Center for Teaching and Learning, for example this suggestion on how to get students doing their reading. I do some similar kinds of things and have found them to be very helpful for the class of the day and the course as a whole. Good stuff.

Updates over the weekend or next week on Faculty Council news from our meeting on Tuesday, GradesFirst language and updates, Reinvention stuff, and more.

In the meantime, remember that your Day 10 list is DUE TODAY and you (and your students) need to have your new ID by Wednesday or you’ll be standing in line waiting for a pass to get in…Have a great weekend. Mine is off to a spectacular start!

Over the Transom

I haven’t been able to talk her into becoming an official contributor, yet, but I’m wearing her down. In the meantime, Adriana sent along this  from the NY Times on the recent denial of tenure to nearly half of New York’s High School teachers (it’s a different thing at K-12 than with us, but still, it’s a trend to watch) and and this from the same source on the medication of children for schooling (rather than health) purposes.

Check ’em.

h/t to Adriana for the pointers

Have you read your Chronicle this week?

I’ve been working on it and saw this commentary which I thought interesting. For those who don’t like to click on links I’ve included the article here. For those who love links click here Chronicle article. As always the comments on the Chronicle site are interesting!

The Worrisome Ascendance of Business in Higher Education

By William W. Keep

Recently the Board of Visitors—not a particularly apt name given their actions—at the University of Virginia forced the ouster of President Teresa A. Sullivan after two years in office. Since then we have learned that the rector and vice rector of the board, Helen E. Dragas and Mark J. Kington, who has since resigned, have M.B.A.’s from UVa’s Darden School of Business. Peter D. Kiernan, a powerful alumnus who evidently weighed in on the decision, is also a Darden graduate and, before he resigned in the midst of the furor, was chairman of the Darden School Foundation Board.

The trio, having made their chops in real estate, construction, and investing, apparently saw an opportunity to transfer their knowledge to higher education. Though colleges can learn many things from the ways businesses operate, treating a college strictly like a business would be a mistake.

In an e-mail to Darden board members justifying Ms. Sullivan’s ouster, Mr. Kiernan uses the business term du jour “strategic dynamism” to describe the ever-reactive leadership style he prefers, which is opposed to the older, more static “strategic planning” style employed by Ms. Sullivan. (Apparently engaging in “strategic dynamism” means excluding faculty, students, and most alumni.) In truth, when challenges arise quickly, successful businesses have always responded accordingly­—i.e., dynamically. Strategic dynamism at UVa is nothing more than a euphemism for Thomas Paine’s adage, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”

To be sure, higher education faces unprecedented challenges: growing competition for new populations of students at home and abroad; the opportunities, costs, and uncertainties of new technology; declining state support for public institutions; rising tuition; increasing student debt. All demand a careful look at budgets. Stagnant or declining incomes and uncertain employment prospects sharpen pressure to demonstrate what a college degree offers.

In response, some critics have called for a more businesslike approach to higher education. Why? Because colleges face the same fundamental challenges of any business: securing steady revenue streams, covering expenses, using resources well, and planning for an uncertain future.

Over recent decades, we have heard about students as customers, learned to “manage” enrollments, shared and decentralized budgets with the goal of increasing accountability, identified per-student costs per major, and generally dissected the “service” of higher education. We have learned that programs in art and music are not cost effective. Engineering and equipment-intensive courses are expensive. Even as students and parents in the United States rail against the lack of low-cost public education, those in other countries that have such systems face unprecedented tuition increases.

So what have we learned? First, the student-as-customer model fits poorly. Certainly some educational experiences are better than others, and information about quality differences needs to be readily available. However, anyone who has listened to students and parents demand results not earned or special privileges at special prices knows the customer model has flaws. Of course that does not prevent some institutions from using customer satisfaction to determine the price of a dorm room. I remember the well-heeled student who told me that the university could gain revenue by “selling” preferred parking places to those willing to pay.

Second, discussions among faculty and administrators about multiple revenue streams, costs per student, program efficiency, budget accountability, and the like can be difficult. As an institution, academe has much more experience resisting change than embracing it.

Third, even as some people resist change, there is an increasing awareness that the future will be different. We will not go backward. Budgets present real constraints, public support will not return to previous levels, domestic and international competition to offer new educational options will continue, as will calls for increased accountability.

What we need is to learn the discipline of business without the short-term orientation. Markets are amoral. A competitive market will determine a fair price—whether for cocaine or cocoa—but not necessarily the enduring social value. A one-year increase of 25 percent in the price of a house does not reveal the underlying forces causing the price increase, or its real value. Markets do not know the worth of a mature forest three generations hence. Nor can a market accurately determine the lifetime value of thoughtful exposure to the classics or art or music. Enduring acts of civility are not bought and sold. The qualities that professional educators worry about often do not lend themselves to short-term market valuation.

We can learn from business to allocate resources responsibly, have transparent and disciplined budgets, and plan for a more secure financial future. At the same time, we need to avoid the hubris of business “success.” Too many successful business leaders espouse the benefits of a free-market system while accepting that some sellers can be too big to fail and must be protected from market forces. Too many successful business leaders hypocritically accept money from the government while at the same time decrying the intrusion of government in the economy. And what happens when money is at risk? Manhattan prosecutors recently opened an investigation into grades in M.B.A. courses at the City University of New York’s Baruch College, some of which were apparently falsified for the purpose of maintaining revenue.

If Rector Dragas, former Vice Rector Kington, and Mr. Kiernan know all of this, the evidence is lacking. Ms. Dragas and Mr. Kington also serve on the board of the parent firm of Dominion Power, a business whose code of ethics calls for “the highest level of ethical standards,” with board members expected “to behave with respect, honesty and decency toward everyone affected by our business.” We in academe need to choose carefully between those aspects of business that serve us well and those that do not.

William W. Keep is dean of the School of Business at the College of New Jersey.

For Metoyer

In just a few short weeks John Metoyer will be leaving Harold Washington College. Let’s take a few moments to identify ways that Metoyer has positively influenced faculty, staff and students in his roles as President of Faculty Council, Associate Dean, Dean of Instruction, President and Vice President of HWC.

If anyone would like to post verse in iambic pentameter, musical numbers, odes or Haiku – that would be awesome!

Bonne chance mon ami.

Hailing a cab to nowhere

When is a cab not a cab? When it doesn’t take you to your destination.

I just read the news from CCC’s website about the Taxi Program leaving HW to set up shop at OC. Good news. That makes more space on the 10th floor for academics. Ya know, credit classes.

As I continued to read the story, I had to go over to one of the reinvention web sites while I asked myself, “What does the Taxi Program have to do with reinvention?”. I’ll save you having to click on the link. Here are the goals of reinvention:

  • Increase the number of students earning college credentials of economic value
  • Increase the rate of transfer to Bachelor’s degree programs following CCC graduation
  • Drastically improve outcomes for students needing remediation
  • Increase number and share of ABE/GED/ESL students who advance to and succeed in college-level courses

Where does the taxi program fit into any of these goals? Need an answer, meter’s running.

When an individual completes the Taxi program, (and I don’t know how many classes it takes) they don’t leave CCC with anything close to an Associates degree or an Advanced or Basic Certificate, do they? Last I checked I didn’t register a student for a taxi class. I’ve not seen transcripts with taxi courses. I’ve not advised students on transfer options with a taxi certificate (if that’s what it’s called?).

Yes, as the Chancellor state in the news flash, “This is part of City Colleges’ mission: to offer relevant education and skills training that drives Chicago’s economic growth.” What she’s referring to is the loose change in the seat cushion about efforts to focus on six areas, one of them having to do with occupation and the “College to Careers initiative including targeted pathways, industry partners and feeder bridge programs.” And a taxi has air conditioning if you just roll down the window.

This move has little to do with graduating, transferring, or getting students to succeed in college-level courses and quite a bit to do with generating revenue. The Taxi Program is not a college credit program, yet it’s being used to put CCC in the spotlight. Spin city at it’s finest.

The attention is on the owner of the cab company and the driver of the cab while the academic elephant in the back seat gets taken for a ride to nowhere.

The Final Tuesday Teaching Talk (TTT) of Spring 2012

Tuesday Teaching Talk is a regular feature which, as the name implies, is an opportunity to talk explicitly about teaching (and learning) in the practical and philosophical sense that happens on, you guessed it, Tuesday. Hold on to your hats.  The CAST coordinators (yes there are 2 of us) are tasked with supplying TTTs to you.  Look for questions, videos, tips, etc.  Enjoy!

Though not the most animated speaker, what he has to say is very interesting.  This is a somewhat selfish post on my part given my admiration for Noam Chomsky.  It’s rather long and I don’t expect you to be able to watch this in its entirety this week.  But for a nice little snippet, fast forward to 1:20:30 for some interesting discussion about open courseware, online education  (and student engagement0) in general.  See you all Thursday at 4 at Emerald.

May Day Reading

It’s a shame that it took him dying late last year for me to go back to the essays of Vaclev Havel, but it did, and I’ve been carrying the book around with me in my backpack for months now with plans to write up this post.

If you haven’t read any of Havel’s work, you ought to give a glance at “The Power of the Powerless.” Here’s a bit of it:

The profound crisis of human identity brought on by living within a lie, a crisis which in turn makes such a life possible, certainly possesses a moral dimension as well; it appears, among other things, as a deep moral crisis in society. A person who has been seduced by the consumer value system, whose identity is dissolved in an amalgam of the accoutrements of mass civilization, and who has no roots in the order of being, no sense of responsibility for anything higher than his or her own personal survival, is a demoralized person. the system depends on this demoralization, deepens it, is in fact a projection of it into society.

Living within the truth, as humanity’s revolt against an enforced position, is, on the contrary, an attempt to regain control over one’s own sense of responsibility. In other words, it is clearly a moral act, not only because one must pay so dearly for it, but principally because it is not self-serving: the risk may bring rewards in the form of a general amelioration in the situation, or it may not. In this regard, as I stated previously, it is an all or nothing gamble, and it is difficult to imagine a reasonable person embarking on such a course merely because he or she reckons that sacrifice today will bring rewards tomorrow…

Another of my favorites is his letter to Dr. Gustav Husak, then General Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. A small section:

Just as the constant increase of entropy is the basic law of the universe, so it is the basic law of life to be ever more highly structured and to struggle against entropy.

Life rebels against all uniformity and leveling; its aim is not sameness, but variety, the restlessness of transcendence, the adventure of novelty and rebellion against the status quo. An essential condition for its enhancement is the secret constantly made manifest.

On the other hand, the essence of authority (whose aim is reduced to protecting its own permanence by forcibly imposing the uniformity of perpetual consent) consists basically in a distrust of all variety, uniqueness, and transcendence; in an aversion to everything unknown, impalpable, and currently obscure; in a proclivity for the uniform, the identical, and the inert; in deep affection for the status quo. In it, the mechanical spirit prevails over the vital. The order it strives for is no frank quest for ever higher forms of social self-organization, equivalent to its evolving complexity of structure, but, on the contrary, a decline toward that “state of maximum probability” representing the climax of entropy. Following the direction of entropy, it goes against the direction of life.

In a person’s life, as we know, there is a moment when the complexity of structure begins suddenly to decline and his path turns in the direction of entropy. This is the moment when he, too, succumbs to the general law of the universe: the moment of death.

Somewhere at the bottom of every political authority which has chosen the path to entropy (and would like to treat the individual as a computer into which any program can be fed with the assurance that he will carry it out), there lies hidden the death principle. There is an odor of death even in the notion of “order” which such an authority puts into practice and which sees every manifestation of genuine life, every ex~ ceptional deed, individual expression, thought, every unusual idea or wish, as a red light signaling confusion, chaos, and anarchy.

The entire political practice of the present regime, as I have tried to outline it here step by step, confirms that those concepts which were always crucial for its program-order, calm, consolidation, “guiding the nation out of its crisis,” “halting disruption,” “assuaging hot tempers” and so on-have finally acquired the same lethal meaning that they have for every regime committed to entropy.

True enough, order prevails: a bureaucratic order of gray monotony that stifles all individuality; of mechanical precision that suppresses everything of unique quality; of musty inertia that excludes the transcendent. What prevails is order without life.

True enough, the country is calm. Calm as a morgue or a grave, would you not say?

In a society which is really alive, something is always happen ing. The interplay of current activities and events, of overt and concealed movement, produces a constant succession of unique situations which provoke further and fresh move~ ment. The mysterious, vital polarity of the continuous and the changing, the regular and the random, the foreseen and the unexpected, has its effect in the time dimension and is borne out in the flow of events. The more highly structured the life of a society, the more highly structured its time dimension, and the more prominent the element of uniqueness and unrepeatability within the time flow. This, in turn, of course, makes it easier to reflect its sequential character, to represent it, that is, as an irreversible stream of noninterchangeable situations, and so, in retrospect, to understand better whatever is governed by regular laws in society. The richer the life society lives, then, the better it perceives the dimension of social time, the dimension of history.

In other words, wherever there is room for social activity, room is created for a social memory as well. Any society that is alive is a society with a history.

Smokin’ hot, right? And there’s more where that came from.  Do yourself a favor and check him out.

Over the Transom

People have sent me this stuff for posting, and I’m most happy to oblige because it’s all good stuff:

Adriana Tapanes-Inojosa sent:

~One for the Tenure Track and Adjunct people about service to the college and that balance between too much so that you can’t do your work and too little so that you are not a contributor to the college life.

~One on common core standards and their assessment (and how both challenge American educational “intuitions”

~A link to this report from the Department of Education on Arts Education (hint: it’s dismal out there), which also led me to this blog that has a lot of great stuff and to finding out that tomorrow, in addition to being tax day, is also Arts Advocacy Day.

Michael Heathfield sent:

~This look at a new book on the pay and purchasing power of the professoriate as compared globally.

~And this one on the (since suspended) proposal in California to have multi-tiered tuition, charging more for high demand classes. Michael writes, “One aspect of the business model in education==that we need to avoid like the plague! From what I see of our new registration process, we still believe in equality of access – just more sensibly geared to our newer completion agenda…

And my dad sent this one about the wild and wooly world of college chess.

Solution to SURS

Yep. Leave it up to non-politicos for some good ideas on how to solve the SURS problem. I ran across this article (or did this article run across me, I don’t know anymore) over the weekend titled Two U of I Profs Suggest Overhaul of SURS. That’s right they’re faculty and they have some ideas they’d like to share. From the article:

Brown said the plan got good marks when discussed with legislators, labor groups, and U of I faculty. Those include University Economist Fred Giertz, who also sits on the Board of Directors of the State Universities Retirement System. He said Brown and Rich’s plan takes the time to fund pensions in a way the state hasn’t done in decades.

There’s a link at the bottom of the article to the full proposal which has a link to read the full paper. Check it out.

PEARL Weighs In

On “College to Careers;” check it out:

Emanuel minces no words in making it clear that he is talking about a two-tier higher education system. One for the children of the elite, plus a minority of working class students made up of those lucky enough to sneak in, who will be able to secure a bachelors degree or more. Then there is the rest of our children who will be led down a cattle chute into the lower rungs of the work universe…
During his ECC speech Emanuel conflated the role of community colleges after WWII with what he is proposing as his new scheme.
“Community colleges were the catapult for the World War II generation coming home from the battlefield, the generation of Americans who became the most productive and economically expansive in American history. They can serve that same function in the 21st century.
Tonight, we charge our community colleges with a new mission: to train the workforce of today for the jobs of tomorrow; to give our students the ability to achieve a middle class standard of living; to provide our companies with the skilled workers they need.”
This is misleading at the least, dishonest at its worst. After WWII, communities colleges, under a President Truman directive, became the democratizing bridges for working class students to secure bachelors degrees and join the ranks of the many teachers, engineers, etc. required to build the U.S. economy through the longest economic boom this country has ever had. Under Emanuel’s plan that bridge is destroyed, and a diverging road is being built into a vocational training cul-de-sac. In this highly racially segregated city, the neighborhoods where the Olive-Harvey and Daley Colleges reside are overwhelmingly African American and Latino, respectively. The turning of these two colleges into strictly vocational schools severs the path for these students to go on to obtain a bachelors degree or a profession. Even if not consciously intended, the outcome will be a racist tracking of Black and Latino young men and women away from a genuine higher education degree.

There’s more. Go HERE for the whole thing.

The Profits of Knowledge

Speaking of Michael Heathfield, Assessment Chair extraordinaire, he’s also sent me some other interesting items of note, such as:

1) This story by a New York teen about how his English class was “hijacked” by DeVry.

2) He also sent this article about a bunch of chaplains in the U.K. who are dissatisfied with the government’s explanation for their Higher Education reforms. Why, you might ask?

“University education is said to bring economic benefits, equip individuals for work and raise their expected income. Whilst these aims are good in themselves, in our understanding higher education includes much more,” the letter states.

“Universities also serve the common good – they help to build societies where there is greater mutual respect, understanding and tolerance, they deepen understanding and question commonly held assumptions. The university experience is about self discovery and personal formation as much as it is about improving employment prospects.”

There’s more, too. Check out the rest HERE.

And thanks to the second article (which he actually sent first), I was led to a post on the Leiter Reports about U.K. reforms (and the white paper mentioned by the chaplains) called “The Triumph of ‘Management Speak’ in British Higher Education” which shows a great quote from a work by Stefan Collini of Cambridge. That, in turn, led me to read the original piece by Stefan Collini. First I carried it around for about three weeks because it’s kind of long and dense, but when I finally read it, even though there were lots of bits that I couldn’t make heads or tails of, I was entirely delighted by some dazzling chunks of prose.

Stuff like this:

Another feature of the current BIS-speak that pervades the White Paper is the replacement of analysis of desirable goals by the pseudo-measurement of ‘consumer satisfaction’. The central concept here is ‘the student experience’, part of the individualist subjectivism by means of which market transactions hollow out human relations. The model is that of, say, a hotel guest, filling in the feedback questionnaire on the morning of departure. Was ‘the guest experience’ a good one? Did you find the fluffy towels fluffy enough? Sometimes, the use of such language is just a meaningless reflex, as when a perfectly sensible proposal to amalgamate the separate processes of applying for university and applying for loans to pay for university is said to ‘provide a seamless customer experience’. In other contexts, the same terminology serves as sales-speak. Magna Carta College in North Oxford, ‘an independent Business School offering high-quality affordable degree programmes’, promises potential applicants ‘the Oxford experience’. Of course, universities marketing ‘the student experience’ don’t need to worry that anyone will take them to be offering a simulacrum of the real thing.

Where all this talk about ‘the student experience’ starts to betray the purposes of education is in its focus on a narrow form of short-term box-ticking satisfaction. This is spelled out in one of those phrases that can easily delude the busy politician into believing that he is saying something, perhaps even what he intends to be saying. The proposals, we are told, are ‘crucial to ensuring that students experience the higher education they want’. On graduation (‘exiting the student experience’, we should say), it’s easy to imagine respondents ticking all the boxes to indicate that the goods and services they received corresponded to those promised, and yet being left with the uneasy feeling that they haven’t been – as we used to call it – educated. Not that practical things are unimportant or students’ views irrelevant or future employment an unworthy consideration: suggesting that critics of the proposals despise such things, as David Willetts did when discussing my LRB piece on the Browne Report (4 November 2010) in a speech at the British Academy, is just a way of setting up easily knocked-down straw opponents. It is, rather, that the model of the student as consumer is inimical to the purposes of education. The paradox of real learning is that you don’t get what you ‘want’ – and you certainly can’t buy it. The really vital aspects of the experience of studying something (a condition very different from ‘the student experience’) are bafflement and effort. Hacking your way through the jungle of unintelligibility to a few small clearings of partial intelligibility is a demanding and not always enjoyable process. It isn’t much like wallowing in fluffy towels. And it helps if you trust your guides rather than assuming they will skimp on the job unless they’re kept up to the mark by constant monitoring of their performance indicators.

It also has to be said that, even on the proposals’ own cockeyed premises, the system will not actually be driven by ‘student choice’ but by the decisions of schoolchildren and their parents. All the paraphernalia of marketing is brought to bear on the moment when sixth-formers choose the courses and universities they hope to get into. But even if one tries to elevate these anxious 17-year-olds to the full majesty of ‘consumers’, the analogy doesn’t hold: the ‘producers’ choose the ‘consumers’ at least as much as the other way round, and applicants mostly don’t get the chance to modify their behaviour as a result of their experience of the satisfactions yielded by rival products. For most school-leavers, applying to university is a one-off event: it is more like getting married than like buying soap powder. It cannot primarily be price-sensitive, adaptive, feedback-governed consumer behaviour.

The main proposal in the White Paper intended to ensure that university applicants act as fully informed consumers – when did you last meet one of those? – is to force all universities to publish a Key Information Set, which will include information about courses and their requirements, much of which is already available, plus statistics about student satisfaction, employment prospects and so on. The KIS, we are told (in another example of the dogmatic future tense), ‘will enable higher education institutions to illustrate the quality of the experience that they offer’. But of course ‘quality’ is just what such crude data cannot illustrate. Learning, for example, the ‘salary for that subject across all institutions 40 months after graduating’ will tell you nothing about the quality of teaching or education at a given institution, and the data will be hopelessly flawed unless the government adopts more draconian methods to identify named individuals’ salaries in the private sector. (One might almost be persuaded there was some merit to this particular proposal if it meant that the exact income of young bond traders and investment bankers would be made public.) As with so much in this document, measures which may in themselves have some merit – who could be against fuller provision of information? – are devalued by being turned into the premises of a tendentious set of claims about ‘markets’.

Critics of the current policy need to acknowledge that it is designed to tap into the anger of middle-class parents about the conditions their children encounter at many universities, principally very high student-staff ratios and a consequently low level of contact hours. But in so far as there is a problem here, it is due to two factors: first, the deliberate underfunding of the huge expansion in student numbers that has taken place in recent decades, especially in the late 1980s and early 1990s; and, second, the distorting emphasis on ‘research productivity’ caused by the Research Assessment Exercise. Since the White Paper’s proposals do not address either of these problems, it seems a trifle optimistic to claim (in yet another example of the dogmatic future tense) that they ‘will put excellent teaching back at the heart of every student’s university experience’. ‘Back’ refers here, as so often in public discussion of universities, to some unspecified moment in the past when everything was so much better, but since the proposals say nothing about how the present average student-staff ratio of somewhere around 21:1 will be returned to its early 1960s level of around 8:1, and contain no suggestion that the exactions of the research assessment process will be reduced or eliminated, the claim that the policy is about improving students’ contact hours is bogus.

Further along there is this, which is my favorite part:

The White Paper twice quotes a celebrated phrase from the Robbins Report: ‘Courses of higher education should be available for all those who are qualified by ability and attainment to pursue them and who wish to do so.’ The implicit claim is that the government’s radically new policies are in some sense a continuation of those inaugurated by Robbins. But it may have been unwise for the drafting team at BIS to remind their readers of the cadence of Robbins’s prose, since it seems bound to provoke some thinking about how far we have travelled from the assumptions expressed by that prose, how that has happened, and whether something valuable may not have been lost along the way. We might, for example, be reminded of the following passage from Robbins:

It is the essence of higher education that it introduces students to a world of intellectual responsibility and intellectual discovery in which they are to play their part … The element of partnership between teacher and taught in a common pursuit of knowledge and understanding, present to some extent in all education, should become the dominant element as the pupil matures and as the intellectual level of work done rises … The student needs from the beginning to be made aware of the scope of his subject and to realise that he is not being presented with a mass of information but initiated into a realm of free inquiry … Most discussion of this subject clouds the issue by setting teaching and research over against each other as antithetical and supposing an opposition that exists only at extreme points, as if teaching were nothing but patient recapitulation and explanation of the known and all research were a solitary voyage to discover something that will be intelligible to a mere handful of persons.

Or, before our minds are utterly numbed by the boardroom language of the White Paper, we might remind ourselves of the deeper understanding of universities evident in the following:

Universities have an obligation to preserve and advance knowledge and to serve the intellectual needs of the nation. University teachers must keep abreast of new developments in their subjects and need time for reflection and personal study. Many also want to make their own contribution to such developments and this desire must not be frustrated if they are to remain intellectually alive. In addition, the influence and authority of those who have become acknowledged experts in their own fields of study radiate out far beyond the walls of the university in which they teach. Such persons are rightly required to undertake many duties in the cause of learning and in the interest of the country and indeed of the world, for learning is international. These compete for time with duties within the university. Again, it is the duty of universities to foster the study of new subjects and to ensure that subjects that are important but that do not attract great numbers of students are adequately studied. The ratio of teachers to students in the universities thus needs to be more favourable than the ratio in other institutions of higher education that do not have in the same measure the duty to preserve and advance knowledge.

In neither of these passages is the language slack or indulgent: they sternly talk of the ‘obligation’ of universities, and of how university teachers are ‘rightly required’ to undertake ‘duties’, and so on. But what such passages display, and what the White Paper so lamentably lacks, is a considered understanding of the character of intellectual inquiry and of the conditions needed to sustain it successfully across a wide range of subjects and across many generations. Universities cannot be glibly said to exist ‘to serve students’: that neglects precisely ‘the element of partnership between teacher and taught in a common pursuit of knowledge and understanding’ which Robbins identifies. The language of these passages is well informed and accurate: teaching at this level is not simply the ‘patient recapitulation and explanation of the known’; university teachers ‘need time for reflection and personal study’ if they are to ‘keep abreast of new developments in their subjects’, and so on. Such phrases would stick out in current HiEdspeak precisely because they are modest yet confident, not all outer bluster and inner defensiveness.

And then, finally, there is this utterly spectacular ending:

Lionel Robbins, it should be remembered, was a neoclassical economic theorist and no admirer of socialism or left-wing ideas more generally. The case against the White Paper, and against the shift in public discourse that it both reflects and tries to push further, does not involve the repudiation of economic reasoning any more than it involves some supposedly utopian disregard for the financial cost of public services, education included. Similarly, pointing to the damage likely to be done to universities by the application of business-school models of ‘competing producers’ and ‘demanding consumers’ is not to indulge a nostalgic desire to return to the far smaller and more selective higher education system of 30 or 40 years ago. The expansion of the proportion of the age-cohort entering higher education from 6 per cent to 44 per cent is a great democratic gain that this society should not wish to retreat from. To the contrary, we should be seeking to ensure that those now entering universities in still increasing numbers are not cheated of their entitlement to an education, not palmed off, in the name of ‘meeting the needs of employers’, with a narrow training that is thought by right-wing policy-formers to be ‘good enough for the likes of them’, while the children of the privileged classes continue to attend properly resourced universities that can continue to boast of their standing in global league tables. There is nothing fanciful or irresponsible in believing that this great public good of expanded education can and should be largely publicly funded. This White Paper and the legislation already enacted are not about finding ‘fairer’ ways to pay for higher education or, in any meaningful sense, about putting ‘students at the heart of the system’. Rather, they represent the latest instalment in the campaign to replace the assumptions of Robbins’s world with those of McKinsey’s.

Read the whole thing. It’s worth it.

Chicago Public Library Survey

Help out the Chicago Public Library–don’t forget that they have the KPI heat coming down on them, too.

I’m told they have a survey that we can take to “help them better meet patron needs” and that it takes about five minutes and that it’s open through the end of the month.

If you love our libraries as much as I (and my kids) do, then help ’em out a bit. Click HERE to complete the survey.

h/t to Erica McCormack for the pointer!

Concerned about FC voting

With all due respect to our current faculty council, I know the ballots have been distributed, and I know I need to cast my vote by Monday. However, I am concerned about the process because…  IF I am one of the new 10 faculty members and I am being asked to cast a vote for a faculty representative AND I do not know any of these candidates (’cause they ain’t on my floor and I just started workin’ here 7 weeks ago), how do I vote? I am either making an educated guess about a candidate OR I’m thinking “eenie, meenie, minie, mo, if that’s the way it’s got to go.”

Ditto if I’m a recently tenured faculty member; three portfolios later and I may still not know a single candidate.

Ditto if I’m a full tenured faculty member; one, or two DEC reviews later and I may not know all the candidates.

Seriously, I do not fault our current faculty council members for following the norm when it comes to distributing ballots; but given that we have this blog, I invite all of the nominated candidates to share a few words over the weekend so that ALL faculty members can make an informed decision (if you have not done so already).
I’ll even throw out a question for all our nominees (kinda like the political debates on TV-just call me the moderator):

What thoughts ran through your head when you accepted the nomination to serve on our faculty council?

You can answer the question or use it as a starting point. You have the floor, candidates…