Monthly Archives: April 2013

Coverage of Online Education

National Journal (widely read within DC) has a story on “How Online Education Saves Everyone Money.” If it’s in National Journal, it’s on the minds of members of Congress.

 


Concealed handguns on campus

Media sources are beginning to conclude that legislation allowing concealed weapons on campus will not pass this session (“College handgun bill likely dead this legislative session“).

I have never been as worried about this bill as many of my colleagues. Very few people would ever make use of this law. I understand the concerns on both sides but I think the issue is largely symbolic.

I think the bill consistently fails for a couple of reasons.

  1. Most legislators understand that allowing concealed weapons is complicated because a college campus is actually a diverse set of facilities. A college campus is not just college classrooms and administrative buildings. Today’s campus often includes housing for students, facilities for athletic competitions, entertainment venues, and teaching facilities for K-12 education. Many legislators likely understand the virtues of leaving campus decisions to campus officials and boards of regents (who, after all, are appointed by Rick Perry).
  2. The gun lobby needs to lose a fight in the Texas Legislature. It’s hard to raise money when you’re getting everything you want and they need something to fill those fundraising letters. They can now go out and rail against “liberal faculty” (as if faculty actually had much influence on such campus policies). Everyone I’ve talked to around the legislature has been amazed that this legislation fails every session and some have commented that the lobbying hasn’t seemed that intense. The Republicans had over 100 member of the House last session. If you can’t pass a gun bill with 2/3 of the House…

Whatever the case, the issue lives to be fought another day. And, that may be best outcome.


Calvin says it all

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I think this Calvin and Hobbs strip effectively summarizes the anxieties that professors and public school teachers have about seeing their salaries tied to standardized test scores or student course evaluations.


Still Feeling that Higher Ed Anxiety

Faculty members have more reasons that ever to feel that higher ed anxiety. Getting students to read is harder than ever. Respect for faculty and education is dropping. Online course offer both new opportunities to reach students and new problems about who is on the other end and exactly what they’re learning. More of the university is being transformed in a bureaucracy serving rituals of assessments driven by political credit claiming.

The political dynamics surrounding higher education in Texas is making its own contribution. Frank Bruni, in a Op-Ed piece in the New York Times (“Questioning the Mission of College‘). Sums it up pretty well:

“I’d sound yet another alarm. Scratch the surface of some of the efforts to reform state universities and you find more than just legitimate qualms about efficiency and demands for accountability. You find the kind of indiscriminate anti-intellectualism and anti-elitism popular among more than a few right-wing conservatives…

In other words there’s some crude, petty politics in all of this. And as we tackle the very real, very important challenge of giving young Americans the best and most useful education possible in an era of dwindling resources, that’s the last thing we need.”

My biggest worry today is not that another generation of students will come along and present new challenges. My fear is that the state will strip us of the resources we need to meet those challenges and that the politicians of the state will be working against us. Getting students to read and explore new ideas will be even harder when their  lack of respect for education finds comfort in the political rhetoric of the state’s leaders. Our state leaders  ask only for superficial measures of success (lower tuition bills, higher diploma counts) without asking whether or not graduate or employers are better served. The irony is that while these politicians want to invest only in diplomas and job-related skills, they have no idea what jobs or skills will actually be needed in the future.

Young Texans get the wrong messages from the state: “Don’t learn the subjects in K-12, just passed the standardized tests. Don’t embrace the broad-based education offered by your college, just get the diploma as cheaply as possible. If you fail, the responsibility rests with the school.”

Some employers are already suffering through the consequences  and pushing back. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait for the private sector to unite and lead the rebellion against the decline in learning. The anti-intellectualism and anti-elitism built into the current political regime guarantees that teachers and professors will be the last people to be given a voice in education policy.


Change

Maybe this is about university politics… maybe it isn’t.

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I have noticed that everyone seems to be for change but against any plan that changes what they do.


Oops!

It turns out that faculty workloads are not responsible for rising tuition (“Report That Blamed Shrinking Faculty Workloads for Rising College Costs Is Retracted“). It appears that the geniuses behind the original report didn’t bother to see what the variables meant before using them.

The exoneration of faculty will not come as a surprise to anyone in Texas who watched tuition skyrocket after tuition deregulation even as faculty workloads changed very little.

Don’t expect the finger-pointing at faculty to end. Politicians blaming faculty for rising tuition reminds me of watching O.J. Simpson look for the real killer. Somehow they keep on overlooking the most obvious suspect.


Refining Regents’ Roles

It looks like the Legislature is pushing back after UT Regents have been accused of attempting to micromanage UT (“Senate Passes Bill to Refine Regents’ Role“). That’s an interesting development given the efforts by the Coordinating Board and the rest of the state government to micromanage higher education.


Survey finds that business executives aren’t focused on the majors of those they hire | Inside Higher Ed

A study reported in Inside Higher Ed (“Survey finds that business executives aren’t focused on the majors of those they hire“) finds that employers highly value skills. The report finds that “nearly all those surveyed (93 percent) say that ‘a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than [a candidate’s] undergraduate major.’”