Monthly Archives: January 2013

The ‘Country Club’ College Works

Scott Carlson (“What’s the Payoff for the ‘Country Club’ College? – Buildings & Grounds) discusses a recent study that found that some colleges benefit more from spending on “consumption amenities” than instruction.

Leaving Teaching History to Historians

Jerimi Suri recently defended  the teaching of History at UT and A&M (“Defending Democracy by Teaching History | RealClearPolitics“). Some think tanks consider the inclusion of readings on race, gender, class, etc to be some kind of bias in higher education.

There are several problems with taking these issues out of history. First, you can’t talk about American history or American politics without talking about freedom and equality. Those issues define the nation and our changing definition of those terms is at the heart of our nation’s history. Second, we talk disproportionately about slavery, gender inequality, and those kinds of issues because those kinds of conflicts make good stories and teach us a great deal. It’s similar to the reason why we spend a lot of time talking about wars. The clash or perspectives and the tests of wills brings many things into focus. Finally, we know that we have to deal with our failings as well as our triumphs. For a variety of reasons, these tragedies do not get much coverage in K-12 and it’s time to play a little catch-up when we get to college. I think everyone understands this at some fundamental level but that doesn’t make the process pleasant.

Hearing different perspectives is part of an education. I could barely stand the Marxist I had for microeconomics at UT. However, I spend a lot of time fussing about what he said and trying to figure out all the ways he was wrong. In the end, I learned much more from him than from the economics professor I had the semester before. Sometimes, listening to someone you agree with is the worst thing you can do.

Ultimately, we can not have the political powers in the state bullying educators to whitewash history. That’s too much like the old Soviet Union or the Communist Chinese and their “re-education” camps.

Not every college professor is unbiased. Every politician is. And, it’s not like those politicians don’t have a platform to make their views clear if they disagree with what others say. I think the nation is safe even if the government isn’t writing our history curriculum for our universities.

New sources of bad news

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education (“Near-Term Outlook Is Bleak for All of Higher Education“) Moody’s Investors Service issued a negative short-term outlook for all of higher education.

They tried to sound somewhat optimistic by saying that it’s not “doomsville.” I didn’t take that much comfort from the lack of doom.

Bad news budgets

The news coming out of Austin (“State budgets call for cuts despite sunnier revenue picture“) is not good news for higher education.  Higher education in the state would see additional cuts on top of those passed two years ago. The cuts are small (1 to 2%) but rising enrollment and rising costs will not make these cuts easy.

The fate of higher education budgets are grim for the foreseeable future. The Texas Legislature has greeted the improving revenue estimates and seen an opportunity for tax cuts rather than restoring funding for public schools, higher education, and most everything else in the budget. Compounding the legislative obsession over offering tax cuts, conservatives continue to view higher education as wasteful and out of touch (despite the fact that state schools have been under the management of Bush and Perry appointees for almost two decades).

The financial squeeze will create additional pressure to teach online courses to large numbers of students and make other changes that will transform higher education in the state’s schools. The next decade is going to be filled with challenges and faculty need to be prepared for an uncertain future.

What, me work?

Today’s Doonesbury Strip reminded me of the kind of magical thinking some of  my students engage in. They don’t work at their education because they don’t think it will be needed when they have that brilliant idea that catapults them ahead of all their classmates. I hear similar complaints from employers.

I don’t know what to say to convince them that even the brightest ideas take a lot of work to refine and implement. It’s good to have Doonesbury on your side. Still, I doubt the message will get through in a comic strip that take so long to read.


More training

I completed my mandatory security awareness training just a couple of days ago. Is the data of Texas a safer, more secure place?


We’ll see.

Another fig leaf falls

A new study reveals how foolish it is to hold schools responsible for tests given to student who feel no responsibility (“Study raises questions about common tools to assess learning in college“).

What a surprise. Standardized tests had done such a great job improving K-12 education.