In the comments to one of the posts on this blog, someone wrote:
in my opinion, faculty absolutely should not be governing a university. We need broadly trained academic professionals who understand the business of higher education making decisions, not narrowly-focused/educated faculty members who are likely privileged, entitled, and completely out of touch with the average students of the modern public university. Faculty barely understand modern universities and education beyond their little classrooms anymore.
This person followed with another comment:
I work at a school that is run essentially as a business and where faculty have no tenure or say in governance and it’s wonderful. Faculty know nothing about how the modern university should and must be run. Thy are speed bumps to progress, really and it’s time they are finally being help accountable.
So far, this person has not identified the school, which makes me wonder how it could be so wonderful if its employees cannot name it. And one might point out that speed bumps are actually placed for a reason: they save lives.
Unfortunately, as we know, the attitude of these comments is the attitude of much of the American public these days. It results from a long-term attempt to vilify teachers of all sorts and to present the idea that education can be based on corporate-style structures and standardized assessment instead of on human interaction and teacher judgment. It stems from an attempt to move education out of public control and into the private domain of “free enterprise,” where there’s much money to be made.
And there has been fortunes made, though the schools themselves have rarely benefitted. People have stripped charter schools of millions, and for-profit colleges and universities gave great returns—at least, until recently. One of the means to profit has been reduction of the power and influence of teachers—to the point where, today, there are many, like the poster of those comments above seems to, who believe in schools without teachers.
This is something akin to Hazel Motes’ Holy Church of Christ Without Christ” in Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood. It also brings to mind Nobel Laureate I.I. Rabi’s comment to Dwight Eisenhower (recounted on this blog earlier today), “the faculty are not employees of the University-they are the University.” Automation may work in some venues, but it kills real learning. Without teachers, nothing is left but administrators and “process” dedicated to “outcomes” (whatever they are).
Which is ridiculous.
Education is not simply mastery of an extant body of quantifiable knowledge. It cannot be reduced to test results—not if we want a society of growth and not gradual implosion. Creativity and innovation, therefore, can never come from education run entirely by administrators.
But that’s what we are getting.
More and more, that’s what we are getting.
This week, the Iowa Board of Regents hired a businessman to run the University of Iowa, one of the nation’s great universities (I’m biased: I earned my MA and my PhD there). Steve Kuusisto and Hank Reichman posted about that today. This is just the latest example of a movement away from traditional educational structures and toward that business model of education that sees students as raw material shapeable through automatic processes.
That has not worked at the K-12 level, though the United States has been trying to make it do so for fifteen years, now. Even by the standards of the education “reformers,” there has been no improvement. In fact, SAT scores have fallen slightly since the start of the century. One would think that the politicians with responsibility for so much of American education policy would be pulling back a bit, re-examining the impact of blind adherence to neoliberal visions of top-down structural change.
Yet the push for a corporate paradigm for education continues.
It is time that we on the faculty start on a path of effective resistance rather than simply complaining (like I am doing now). I don’t know what that may be, but a start could be a faculty vote of no confidence in the new Chancellor at Iowa.
The rest of us need to be talking and working out plans for rescuing our universities.