"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Right-Wing Fear Factor and Higher Education

The same morally-bankrupt toadies that ginned up the big nation-at-risk fear in 1983 are at it again. Now instead of working for control of K-12 schools to turn them into job prep factories, the focus is our university system, which has thus far remained the envy of the world. Fortunately, their con game based on economic fears and lies is taken from the same playbook that was used in the Reagan heyday. No one is buying this time, except for those who prefer their own ignorance for either financial or psychical reasons.

Here is a clip from a great piece by David Paris that appears in Inside Higher Ed:

We’ve heard this before. Our schools are failing. International competitors are gaining on us. Our economic future is in jeopardy. This time, however, the educational institutions examined and found wanting are our colleges and universities.

In 1983, the National Commission on Excellence and Education declared that we were “A Nation at Risk.” The report asserted that a “rising tide of mediocrity” in K-12 education was putting America at an economic disadvantage in global competition. Now the Commission on the Future of Higher Education (the Spellings Commission) has delivered a similar message.

While acknowledging that “higher education in the United States is one of our greatest success stories,” the commission claims that “a lot of other countries have followed our lead and are “passing us by at a time when education is more important to our prosperity than ever.” The report warns that “[h]istory is littered with industries that, at their peril, failed to respond to — or even to notice — changes in the world around them ... institutions of higher education risk falling into the same trap.” Apparently, we are at risk again. . .

Would anyone really want the direction of American universities determined by the hacks and whores who have hijacked the U. S. Department of Education?

Paris closes with this:

. . . the best education — for the academy, the economy, and society — aims at more than creating productive workers. It also should produce good citizens and individuals capable of living full and meaningful lives. The best education for the economy is a broad education, one that emphasizes the full range of skills and knowledge. Liberal education outcomes such as critical thinking, quantitative literacy, communication skills, ethical reasoning, and civic engagement translate into workplace competencies in the broadest sense — an ability to understand and work with people and problems. These are the skills that business leaders most want.

The great achievement and ongoing project of higher education in the United States is giving all our citizens an opportunity for a full life in all its dimensions. That should be the aim of real, long-term reform in higher education.

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