Tuesday, January 16, 2018

"Higher Education is drowning in BS, and it’s morally corrosive to society" by Christian Smith




“…BS is the university’s loss of capacity to grapple with life’s Big Questions, because of our crisis of faith in truth, reality, reason, evidence, argument, civility, and our common humanity.
“BS is the farce of what are actually ‘fragmentversities’ claiming to be universities, of hyper-specialization and academic disciplines unable to talk with each other about obvious shared concerns.
“BS is the expectation that a good education can be provided by institutions modeled organizationally on factories, state bureaucracies, and shopping malls — that is, by enormous universities processing hordes of students as if they were livestock, numbers waiting in line, and shopping consumers.
“BS is universities hijacked by the relentless pursuit of money and prestige, including chasing rankings that they know are deeply flawed, at the expense of genuine educational excellence (to be distinguished from the vacuous ‘excellence’ peddled by recruitment and ‘advancement’ offices in every run-of-the-mill university).
“BS is the ideologically infused jargon deployed by various fields to stake out in-group self-importance and insulate them from accountability to those not fluent in such solipsistic language games.
“BS is a tenure system that provides guaranteed lifetime employment to faculty who are lousy teachers and inactive scholars, not because they espouse unpopular viewpoints that need the protection of ‘academic freedom,’ but only because years ago they somehow were granted tenure.
“BS is the shifting of the ‘burden’ of teaching undergraduate courses from traditional tenure-track faculty to miscellaneous, often-underpaid adjunct faculty and graduate students.
“BS is states pounding their chests over their great public universities even while their legislatures cut higher-education budgets year after year after year.
“BS is the fantasy that education worthy of the name can be accomplished online through ‘distance learning.’
“BS is the institutional reward system that coerces graduate students and faculty to ‘get published’ as soon and as much as possible, rather than to take the time to mature intellectually and produce scholarship of real importance — leading to a raft of books and articles that contribute little to our knowledge about human concerns that matter.
“BS is third-tier universities offering mediocre graduate programs to train second-rate Ph.D. students for jobs that do not exist, whose real function is to provide faculty with graduate RAs and to justify the title of ‘university.’
“BS is undergraduate ‘core’ curricula that are actually not core course systems but loose sets of distribution requirements, representing uneasy truces between turf-protecting divisions and departments intent on keeping their classes full, which students typically then come to view as impositions to ‘get out of the way.’
“BS is the grossly lopsided political ideology of the faculty of many disciplines, especially in the humanities and social sciences, creating a homogeneity of worldview to which those faculties are themselves oblivious, despite claiming to champion difference, diversity, and tolerance.
“BS is hyper-commercialized college athletics and administrations sucking the teats of big money, often in the process exploiting and discarding rather than educating student athletes, and recurrently corrupting recruitment programs, tutoring services, and grading systems.
“BS is second- and third-tier universities running expensive sports programs that do little but drain money away from academics, when some of their ordinary students cannot find the time to prepare for classes because they work two and three part-time jobs to pay their school bills.
“BS is the ascendant ‘culture of offense’ that shuts down the open exchange of ideas and mutual accountability to reason and argument. It is university leaders’ confused and fearful capitulation to that secular neo-fundamentalist speech-policing.
“BS is the invisible self-censorship that results among some students and faculty, and the subtle corrective training aimed at those who occasionally do not self-censor.
“BS is the only semi-intelligible outbursts of antagonism from enraged outsiders incited by academe’s suppression of open argument, which primarily work to validate and reinforce the self-assured superiority of the suppressors, and sometimes to silence other legitimate voices.
“BS is the anxiety that haunts some faculty at public universities in very conservative states about expressing their well-considered but unorthodox beliefs, for fear of being hounded by closed-minded students and parents or targeted by grandstanding politicians.

“BS is the standard undergraduate student mentality, fostered by our entire culture that sees college as essentially about credentials and careers (money), on the one hand, and partying oneself into stupefaction on the other.
“BS is the failure of leaders in higher education to champion the liberal-arts ideal — that college should challenge, develop, and transform students’ minds and hearts so they can lead good, flourishing, and socially productive lives — and their stampeding into the ‘practical’ enterprise of producing specialized workers to feed The Economy.
“BS is administrators’ delusion that what is important in higher education can be evaluated by quantitative ‘metrics,’ the use of which will (supposedly) enable universities to be run more like corporations, thus requiring faculty and staff to spend more time and energy providing data for metrics, which they, too, know are BS…”

Christian Smith is a professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame.
For the entire article, click here.

No comments:

Post a Comment