A story from the Chicago Tribune tells of an enterprising mother named Kris Swanberg, who runs a wildly successful ice cream business. Of course, where food is concerned, the State will sooner or later insert itself because you could get…
By KC Johnson
Of the criticisms directed toward the contemporary academy, the charge of “indoctrination” strikes me as the most overhyped. The phenomenon certainly occurs; the most obvious recent example came in the “dispositions” controversy, when education students around the country could choose between agreeing with their professors’ political opinions and finding another career path. But it’s relatively rare to see professors browbeating students, in class, regarding overtly political matters.
Far more common—and pernicious—is the attempt (especially in the humanities and social sciences) to exclude topics on grounds of their “traditional” approach. Or the efforts, documented by FIRE, to restrict freedom of speech, freedom of association, and due process on campus. Or the financial impact of sprawling college bureaucracies, most notably those devoted to student life or to promoting certain types of “diversity.”
By Jan Blits
(This is the text of a speech delivered July 16 to the College Freedom Network conference at Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, Pa.)
Not many years ago, just about every college student loved liberty. Except for some die-hard Marxists (who opposed not only liberty of speech, but liberty as such), it was hard to find any students (or faculty) who would defend the suppression of speech on campus. Freedom was the clear rule; suppression the rare exception. Today, unfortunately, as I’m sure all of you know, the reverse seems true. Having been raised at least since kindergarten (or perhaps from birth) on the moral imperative of political correctness, many—I fear, most—college students, without a moment’s thought, accept—and even demand—censorship, including, perhaps most of all, self-censorship. A closed mind is a good mind, in their view.
Over the past twenty-five years, I’ve witnessed one threat after another to freedom at my university. Some threats tried to curtail politically unpopular research. Others tried to restrict what students could say. The aim was always the same—to advance the censors’ political agenda by stifling their critics. The goal was to turn the university into a one-party institution.
By Richard Vedder
A huge brouhaha has erupted over the release and interpretation of data about the faculty of the University of Texas, centering on whether a relatively few individuals are doing most of the teaching at the system’s flagship institution, UT-Austin. Two reports drew most of the fire, one by my organization, the Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP), the other by Rick O’Donnell, a recently fired aide to the system.
The CCAP bottom line: it seems like a relatively small portion of the over 4,000 persons teaching on the Austin campus shoulder a huge percent of teaching burden (especially in relation to the costs they incur to the University) and an even smaller group garners the bulk of the outside research funds viewed as critical to the maintenance of the research mission. This means a large group of faculty members do moderate amounts of teaching and not much funded-research.
Our report said preliminary data “strongly suggest that the state of Texas could move towards making college more affordable by moderately increasing faculty emphasis on teaching. Looking only at the UT Austin campus, if the 80 percent of the faculty with the lowest teaching loads were to teach just half as much as the 20 percent with the highest loads, and if the savings were dedicated to tuition reduction, tuition could be cut by more than half ….”
Gina Barreca on a conference that celebrated the cool mists of Victorian London in the warm mists of coastal California.
By J.M. Anderson
For yet another glimpse of what’s wrong with higher education, read “Teaching Them How To Think,” the story of George Plopper, associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. After attending a conference on teaching and learning in 2004, Plopper had an epiphany of sorts, and now uses Bloom’s Taxonomy to assess student learning in his two upper-level courses at RPI. According to the article, this “has dramatically changed his approach to teaching and to determining what his students learn. No longer content to lecture from the front of the room and convey a series of complicated facts about cancer biology and extracellular matrix interactions, Plopper now makes the process and expectations of learning an explicit part of the syllabus.” All this “has changed his teaching, and made assessment part of the learning process—for both himself and his students.”
If he has found a technique that has made him a better teacher, bully for him, but modern academe’s tacit and unquestioning acceptance of pseudo-scientific techniques like Bloom’s Taxonomy to “measure” and “assess” appropriate “student learning outcomes” is very bad news indeed. Such techniques have already choked the K-12 system and have now begun to put a stranglehold on higher education, stifling the autonomy of college teachers and subverting the aims of liberal education.
According to the article, Plopper now “asks his students to sort through the subject matter, digest it, and teach it to one another, and he puts students in real-world scenarios they might encounter as scientists.” Such exercises “force students to harness and analyze information in ways they never truly had to do when he asked them to attend his lectures, deliver a presentation of their own, and take a final exam.” An A in his class “is a very different A than it used to be. . . . An A carries a much higher expectation of your ability to think.” That’s what assessment is all about, says Pat Hutchings of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. “Assessment means asking if students are learning what I think I’m teaching.”
by Amy A. Kass and Leon R. Kass - 07/05/11