Friday, April 13, 2012

The failure of US higher education

In games, we've gone from the traditional view, of games (other than family games) being about earning something, to gamers being rewarded for participation, and games being about unearned rewards.  In the same way, in college we've gone from students earning something to students being rewarded for participation (an, like any other consumer, paying for a degree).

I highly recommend that you read the following essay about the poor state of higher education.  {Click on the title of this article.)

Here are the first two paragraphs:

"America faces a crisis in higher learning. Too many college graduates are not prepared to think critically and creatively, speak and write cogently and clearly, solve problems, comprehend complex issues, accept responsibility and accountability, take the perspective of others, or meet the expectations of employers. In a metaphorical sense, we are losing our minds. How can this be if American higher education is supposed to be the best in the world?"

[The last sentence is almost amusing.  Anyone who knows much about American higher education would never believe it is the best in the world, or anywhere near it.]

"The core explanation is this: the academy lacks a serious culture of teaching and learning. When students do not learn enough, we must question whether institutions of higher education deliver enough value to justify their costs. Resolving the learning crisis will therefore require fundamental, thoroughgoing changes in our colleges and universities. There must be real change -- change beyond simplistic answers such as reducing costs and improving efficiency -- to improve value."

More excerpts:

"The academy has adopted an increasingly consumer-based ethic that has produced costly and dangerous effects: the expectations and standards of a rigorous liberal education have been displaced by thinly disguised professional or job training curriculums; teaching and learning have been devalued, deprioritized, and replaced by an emphasis on magazine rankings; and increased enrollment, winning teams, bigger and better facilities, more revenue from sideline businesses, and more research grants have replaced learning as the primary touchstone for decision-making."

"Expectations for hard work in college have fallen victim to smorgasbord-style curriculums, large lecture classes, and institutional needs to retain students in order to make the budget. Minimal student effort is rewarded with inflated grades. . . Degrees have become deliverables because we are no longer willing to make students work hard against high standards to earn them."

[Instead we have the idea that the student paid for the education and consequently deserves the degree.  It doesn't help that accreditation bodies emphasize degrees in teachers while absolutely and explicitly ignoring teaching experience, and discounting practical experience.  A successful novelist can be regarded as not qualified to teach creative writing because he doesn't have a creative writing degree, while someone with a masters in creative writing, even if he's never earned a cent in writing, is automatically qualified.]

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