end the university as we know it - U2 Feedback

Go Back   U2 Feedback > Lypton Village > Free Your Mind
Click Here to Login
Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
 
Old 04-29-2009, 02:54 PM   #1
Blue Crack Supplier
 
Irvine511's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Washington, DC
Posts: 30,486
Local Time: 02:42 PM
end the university as we know it

though this was a fascinating op-ed.


Quote:
End the University as We Know It
By MARK C. TAYLOR

GRADUATE education is the Detroit of higher learning. Most graduate programs in American universities produce a product for which there is no market (candidates for teaching positions that do not exist) and develop skills for which there is diminishing demand (research in subfields within subfields and publication in journals read by no one other than a few like-minded colleagues), all at a rapidly rising cost (sometimes well over $100,000 in student loans).

Widespread hiring freezes and layoffs have brought these problems into sharp relief now. But our graduate system has been in crisis for decades, and the seeds of this crisis go as far back as the formation of modern universities. Kant, in his 1798 work “The Conflict of the Faculties,” wrote that universities should “handle the entire content of learning by mass production, so to speak, by a division of labor, so that for every branch of the sciences there would be a public teacher or professor appointed as its trustee.”

Unfortunately this mass-production university model has led to separation where there ought to be collaboration and to ever-increasing specialization. In my own religion department, for example, we have 10 faculty members, working in eight subfields, with little overlap. And as departments fragment, research and publication become more and more about less and less. Each academic becomes the trustee not of a branch of the sciences, but of limited knowledge that all too often is irrelevant for genuinely important problems. A colleague recently boasted to me that his best student was doing his dissertation on how the medieval theologian Duns Scotus used citations.

The emphasis on narrow scholarship also encourages an educational system that has become a process of cloning. Faculty members cultivate those students whose futures they envision as identical to their own pasts, even though their tenures will stand in the way of these students having futures as full professors.

The dirty secret of higher education is that without underpaid graduate students to help in laboratories and with teaching, universities couldn’t conduct research or even instruct their growing undergraduate populations. That’s one of the main reasons we still encourage people to enroll in doctoral programs. It is simply cheaper to provide graduate students with modest stipends and adjuncts with as little as $5,000 a course — with no benefits — than it is to hire full-time professors.

In other words, young people enroll in graduate programs, work hard for subsistence pay and assume huge debt burdens, all because of the illusory promise of faculty appointments. But their economical presence, coupled with the intransigence of tenure, ensures that there will always be too many candidates for too few openings.

The other obstacle to change is that colleges and universities are self-regulating or, in academic parlance, governed by peer review. While trustees and administrations theoretically have some oversight responsibility, in practice, departments operate independently. To complicate matters further, once a faculty member has been granted tenure he is functionally autonomous. Many academics who cry out for the regulation of financial markets vehemently oppose it in their own departments.

If American higher education is to thrive in the 21st century, colleges and universities, like Wall Street and Detroit, must be rigorously regulated and completely restructured. The long process to make higher learning more agile, adaptive and imaginative can begin with six major steps:

1. Restructure the curriculum, beginning with graduate programs and proceeding as quickly as possible to undergraduate programs. The division-of-labor model of separate departments is obsolete and must be replaced with a curriculum structured like a web or complex adaptive network. Responsible teaching and scholarship must become cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural.

Just a few weeks ago, I attended a meeting of political scientists who had gathered to discuss why international relations theory had never considered the role of religion in society. Given the state of the world today, this is a significant oversight. There can be no adequate understanding of the most important issues we face when disciplines are cloistered from one another and operate on their own premises.

It would be far more effective to bring together people working on questions of religion, politics, history, economics, anthropology, sociology, literature, art, religion and philosophy to engage in comparative analysis of common problems. As the curriculum is restructured, fields of inquiry and methods of investigation will be transformed.

2. Abolish permanent departments, even for undergraduate education, and create problem-focused programs. These constantly evolving programs would have sunset clauses, and every seven years each one should be evaluated and either abolished, continued or significantly changed. It is possible to imagine a broad range of topics around which such zones of inquiry could be organized: Mind, Body, Law, Information, Networks, Language, Space, Time, Media, Money, Life and Water.

Consider, for example, a Water program. In the coming decades, water will become a more pressing problem than oil, and the quantity, quality and distribution of water will pose significant scientific, technological and ecological difficulties as well as serious political and economic challenges. These vexing practical problems cannot be adequately addressed without also considering important philosophical, religious and ethical issues. After all, beliefs shape practices as much as practices shape beliefs.

A Water program would bring together people in the humanities, arts, social and natural sciences with representatives from professional schools like medicine, law, business, engineering, social work, theology and architecture. Through the intersection of multiple perspectives and approaches, new theoretical insights will develop and unexpected practical solutions will emerge.

3. Increase collaboration among institutions. All institutions do not need to do all things and technology makes it possible for schools to form partnerships to share students and faculty. Institutions will be able to expand while contracting. Let one college have a strong department in French, for example, and the other a strong department in German; through teleconferencing and the Internet both subjects can be taught at both places with half the staff. With these tools, I have already team-taught semester-long seminars in real time at the Universities of Helsinki and Melbourne.

4. Transform the traditional dissertation. In the arts and humanities, where looming cutbacks will be most devastating, there is no longer a market for books modeled on the medieval dissertation, with more footnotes than text. As financial pressures on university presses continue to mount, publication of dissertations, and with it scholarly certification, is almost impossible. (The average university press print run of a dissertation that has been converted into a book is less than 500, and sales are usually considerably lower.) For many years, I have taught undergraduate courses in which students do not write traditional papers but develop analytic treatments in formats from hypertext and Web sites to films and video games. Graduate students should likewise be encouraged to produce “theses” in alternative formats.

5. Expand the range of professional options for graduate students. Most graduate students will never hold the kind of job for which they are being trained. It is, therefore, necessary to help them prepare for work in fields other than higher education. The exposure to new approaches and different cultures and the consideration of real-life issues will prepare students for jobs at businesses and nonprofit organizations. Moreover, the knowledge and skills they will cultivate in the new universities will enable them to adapt to a constantly changing world.

6. Impose mandatory retirement and abolish tenure. Initially intended to protect academic freedom, tenure has resulted in institutions with little turnover and professors impervious to change. After all, once tenure has been granted, there is no leverage to encourage a professor to continue to develop professionally or to require him or her to assume responsibilities like administration and student advising. Tenure should be replaced with seven-year contracts, which, like the programs in which faculty teach, can be terminated or renewed. This policy would enable colleges and universities to reward researchers, scholars and teachers who continue to evolve and remain productive while also making room for young people with new ideas and skills.

For many years, I have told students, “Do not do what I do; rather, take whatever I have to offer and do with it what I could never imagine doing and then come back and tell me about it.” My hope is that colleges and universities will be shaken out of their complacency and will open academia to a future we cannot conceive.


there's been some fascinating discussion on this in various internet sites i frequent. it seems a bit of a "if i ruled the world" kind of thought piece, and it's filled with Taylor-esque high drama and sense of apocalypse, and i doubt the practicality of much of the suggestions, but are these good suggestions?
__________________

__________________
Irvine511 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-29-2009, 03:00 PM   #2
Blue Crack Distributor
 
LarryMullen's POPAngel's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: I'll be up with the sun, I'm not coming down...
Posts: 53,698
Local Time: 02:42 PM
Quote:
GRADUATE education is the Detroit of higher learning.
I have issue with the above statement. Way to rip on Detroit again, people.

My only other statement in regards to the article is, I'm glad I aimed low when I decided to return to school 2 years ago.
__________________

__________________
LarryMullen's POPAngel is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-29-2009, 03:14 PM   #3
BVS
Blue Crack Supplier
 
BVS's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: between my head and heart
Posts: 40,673
Local Time: 01:42 PM
Quote:
The dirty secret of higher education is that without underpaid graduate students to help in laboratories and with teaching, universities couldn’t conduct research or even instruct their growing undergraduate populations.
I thought the dirty little secret was that it's really just a factory to force liberal thought and create group thinking liberal robots...
__________________
BVS is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 04-29-2009, 03:21 PM   #4
Blue Crack Supplier
 
Irvine511's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Washington, DC
Posts: 30,486
Local Time: 02:42 PM
with teach passing year, i am more and more glad that i didn't pursue a PhD in the humanities.
__________________
Irvine511 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-29-2009, 03:23 PM   #5
Blue Crack Distributor
 
LarryMullen's POPAngel's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: I'll be up with the sun, I'm not coming down...
Posts: 53,698
Local Time: 02:42 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Irvine511 View Post
with teach passing year, i am more and more glad that i didn't pursue a PhD in the humanities.
Freudian slip?
__________________
LarryMullen's POPAngel is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-29-2009, 03:29 PM   #6
ONE
love, blood, life
 
melon's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Toronto, Ontario
Posts: 11,781
Local Time: 02:42 PM
How funny. I had no idea that this editorial existed in the slightest, but I was thinking about this exact subject this morning (and recurring over the past month or two, as well). It's a topic I could probably talk about ad infinitum, but I think that this pervasive institutional stagnancy exists in far more places than in just universities.
__________________
melon is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-29-2009, 03:36 PM   #7
Blue Crack Addict
 
Liesje's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: In the dog house
Posts: 19,557
Local Time: 02:42 PM
Glad I didn't go on to grad school!

I think for a few it is a must. For example my good friend and my little sister are/want to be social workers. You can't actually BE a social worker with a BA in sociology. My good friend got a decent job as soon as she finished her MSW. My sister just changed majors and enrolled in a 5 year program (total) that includes the MSW.

For others who need a PhD, just get right into a PhD program. My boss' son wants to be a college professor of physics and he has already been accepted and given fellowship and stipend offers for both physics and computer science at various universities.

For some I do agree it's a waste of time or even detrimental. I've heard unless one wants to eventually teach at the college level, getting a master's in education right away means no one wants to hire you because you are worth too much and someone who just got their teaching degree and maybe doesn't even have a certificate yet will do that job for way less money.

It doesn't matter to me personally, because in the field I'm in right now you make more based on technical training and certifications, not stuff that is really part of a master's program. For example to get my current leve I had to pass the CompTIA A+ (both parts) and the HDI SCA-level. To move up again I have to add responsibilities at work (having nothing to do with my education) and pass the MCDST (a technical text) and the next level of HDI (a customer support and best practices test). When I pass certain tests that prove my proficiency in more areas of expertise, I get my raise (right now I'm not eligible because there are time requirements). Luckily my current employer is all about staff development so they pay for my training and the tests.
__________________
Liesje is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-29-2009, 04:00 PM   #8
Blue Crack Supplier
 
Irvine511's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Washington, DC
Posts: 30,486
Local Time: 02:42 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by LarryMullen's POPAngel View Post
Freudian slip?


oh, wow.

__________________
Irvine511 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-29-2009, 04:41 PM   #9
Refugee
 
AliEnvy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Toronto, Canada
Posts: 2,320
Local Time: 07:42 PM
Quote:
Most graduate programs in American universities produce a product for which there is no market (candidates for teaching positions that do not exist) and develop skills for which there is diminishing demand (research in subfields within subfields and publication in journals read by no one other than a few like-minded colleagues), all at a rapidly rising cost (sometimes well over $100,000 in student loans).
In the cases where these programs exist, wouldn't they naturally weed themselves out? They'll have no choice pretty soon.

Pressure from the struggling economy means undergrad enrollment may go down significantly, lending institutions (including parents )and students will be much more focused on employability and return on investment.

Taylor makes excellent points on inter-university/departmental collaboration and practical, problem-solving learning experiences.

Also, with technology, distance learning continues to grow, grow, grow.
__________________
AliEnvy is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-29-2009, 04:53 PM   #10
ONE
love, blood, life
 
melon's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Toronto, Ontario
Posts: 11,781
Local Time: 02:42 PM
The most problematic reality, however, is that, regardless as to the increasing irrelevance of the university, not having a degree basically means that you're unemployable, regardless of how knowledgeable you are. For that reason alone, people will continue to feed the machine.
__________________
melon is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-29-2009, 05:06 PM   #11
Refugee
 
AliEnvy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Toronto, Canada
Posts: 2,320
Local Time: 07:42 PM
Absolutely...that may be the reality in a prolonged recession.

If you've got unemployed parents and banks are no longer lending for degrees (perceived to be) on the road to nowhere, choices will be limited.

Community colleges will get a boost (especially if they collaborate with universities) and maybe there will end up being more pressure on public high school systems to step up.
__________________
AliEnvy is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-29-2009, 05:23 PM   #12
Refugee
 
AliEnvy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Toronto, Canada
Posts: 2,320
Local Time: 07:42 PM
Ha, yeah, Obama's national manditory service program for everyone 18-25 will fix the employability problem. Forgot about that - is it still on the table?
__________________
AliEnvy is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-29-2009, 06:04 PM   #13
Forum Moderator
 
yolland's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 7,471
Local Time: 08:42 PM
Yes, enrollments generally go up when the economy goes down, for better and for worse.



What were some of the other websites where this op-ed was being discussed? I did read it in the Times yesterday, and basically my reaction to it was that it's a totally schizoid piece, one which starts out promisingly enough with a no-nonsense overview of some of the most common problems--too many PhDs for too few jobs, especially in the humanities; spiraling tuition costs; excessive specialization and resulting insularity, particularly at elite research universities--but then it spins off into the ether with these visions of temporary designer 'majors' (who exactly does he think would plan and coordinate such extreme curricular overhauls? what are these students going to wind up with 'degrees' in, and how are we going to get a next generation of academics out of that?); teleconferencing as a one-size-fits-all solution to shrinking major offerings (do you really want to get your degree in Chinese exclusively through teleconferencing?); and the supposed potential savings of nonconventional dissertation formats (those already exist, which is great, but they don't generally save time, money or resources). It simply isn't necessary nor desirable to go to these kinds of castle-in-the-clouds lengths to cultivate more interdisciplinary collaboration and to cost-effectively enhance the depth of academic resources available to your students.

There are also a couple characterizations he makes that might apply well to larger private elite universities such as Columbia (where he teaches), but really don't much elsewhere in my experience. Professors as advisors don't encourage students to enroll in grad programs so that "we" can benefit from their cheap labor; they're generally not going to enroll at the same school they attended for undergrad anyway, so what would be the point? As for the "functionally autonomous" professor, that too is far more characteristic of elite research universities than it is of non-elite big state schools, let alone branch campuses of state universities; there simply aren't enough tenured and tenure-track faculty (nor enough money) at such schools to allow individual professors to duck the service responsibilities (advising, steering committees, search committees, curriculum planning, chairing etc. etc.) that keep you on the same page with your colleagues about where your program is headed and what its goals are.

And if you were going to abolish tenure, what would be the point in doing that by extending its standard 7-year-milestone contract indefinitely? Why not just treat it like most other professions, where once you've made the initial clearance, you can be easily fired for inadequate performance at any time? (Not that I advocate this--particularly given universities' track records of eating their own by delegating an ever-expanding share of the teaching to lecturers and adjuncts making <$5K per course; what makes him think this wouldn't accelerate that trend even more?--but, if you're going to do it...)

Frankly, it's also rather ironic that someone whose scholarly output is as abstract and theoretical as Taylor's should be holding forth on the need to restructure all academic programs to be strictly defined by "real-life issues" and "practical solutions."
__________________
yolland [at] interference.com


μελετώ αποτυγχάνειν. -- Διογένης της Σινώπης
yolland is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-29-2009, 06:10 PM   #14
BVS
Blue Crack Supplier
 
BVS's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: between my head and heart
Posts: 40,673
Local Time: 01:42 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by AliEnvy View Post
Ha, yeah, Obama's national manditory service program for everyone 18-25 will fix the employability problem. Forgot about that - is it still on the table?
It was removed fairly quickly from what I remember...
__________________
BVS is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 04-29-2009, 06:37 PM   #15
ONE
love, blood, life
 
melon's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Toronto, Ontario
Posts: 11,781
Local Time: 02:42 PM
My personal view on what the university should become, on an academic level, is to have a core curriculum that is well-rounded and encourages critical thinking and a spirit of self-learning that goes beyond graduation. Right now, I can think of very few people who think highly of what they learned in their core curriculum before taking major-related coursework. It should stop being a place for watered down classes that often become little more than politically correct gimmicks for mediocre professors with a political ax to grind.

And, frankly, the major coursework should generally get more down to business, with fewer useless detour courses and more hands-on opportunities, including a stronger emphasis on internships and how to navigate the creative cesspool that is the corporate world. If the task of the university is to create the leaders and innovators of tomorrow, I'm quite concerned about our future!
__________________

__________________
melon is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off



All times are GMT -5. The time now is 02:42 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
Design, images and all things inclusive copyright © Interference.com