AAUP President Rudy Fichtenbaum just called my attention to what he called “the best opinion piece I have read in the Chronicle [of Higher Education] in years.” Written by Douglas Anderson, professor of philosophy at Southern Illinois University, “Clear the Way for More Good Teachers” is indeed essential reading. But the modest but brilliant proposal at its heart may be found in these key paragraphs:
Higher education has become an industry of meeting-holders whose task is to “solve” problems — real or imagined. And in my tenure as a teacher at three different colleges, the actual problems in educating our young people and older students have deepened, while the number of people hired — not to teach but to hold meetings to solve problems — has increased significantly. Every new problem creates a new job for an administrative fixer. Take our Center for Teaching Excellence: Contrary to its title, the center is a clearing house for using technology in classrooms and in online courses. It’s an administrative sham of the kind that has proliferated over the last 30 years.
I offer a simple hypothesis in response: Many of our problems — retention, class attendance, educational success, student happiness and well-being, faculty morale — might be ameliorated by ratcheting down the bureaucratic mechanisms and meetings and hiring an army of good teachers. If we replaced half of our administrative staff with classroom teachers, we might actually get a majority of our classes back to 20 or fewer students per teacher. This would be an environment in which teachers and students actually knew each other.
The teachers in this experiment must be free to teach in their own way — the curriculum should be generic enough so that they can use their individual talents to achieve the goals of the course. Additionally, they should be allowed to teach, and be rewarded for doing it well.
And then, once more, in the essay’s conclusion:
Just one college should cut its administrative staff in half and hire an army of good teachers and see what 10 years of such an experiment might yield. The teachers are available — the so-called business model of education has been a disaster and has left us with more qualified teachers than jobs. It is time to see what serious, hard-core teaching can do for a college — and its students.
What a great idea!
Once again, to read the entire piece go to http://chronicle.com/article/Clear-the-Way-for-More-Good/234773