Saturday, July 17, 2010

Coping Around the Problem

Bizarre: The magazine is now Readers Anyway, in the August 2010 issue, pages 10 and 11, we find the article Extreme Makeover: College Edition by Dawn Raffel. Subtitle:
With tuition sky-high and the job market bottoming out, one professor suggests major changes

Okay, I'm thinking, This is about the economy. What does the guy have to say?

The professor is Mark C. Taylor of Columbia University. These are the economic problems he identifies:

  • the high price and low yield of a college education
  • our higher education system fails to prepare people to thrive
  • our higher education system is headed for a financial meltdown
  • costs are only going up
  • second mortgages to pay for college no longer viable
  • students are going deeper into debt
  • "we're training people for whom there are no jobs"
  • "It's incumbent on us to find new ways of financing what we do."

Note that these are economic problems, not strictly educational problems.

These are solutions that Taylor proposes:

  • require students to collaborate across majors to improve "creativity"
  • schools should specialize and students should take courses at multiple schools
  • "wealthier schools... have a moral obligation to share with the have-nots"
  • schools should partner with corporations
  • kill tenure
  • emphasize teaching rather than research and writing
  • "Why are all courses the same length?"
  • "Why are they worth the same credits?"
  • "Why is college four years?"

As Dawn Raffel writes, Taylor wants to "question everything." Taylor's proposals strike at the foundation of the education system because "Schools are built on an old model" that isn't working in this economy.

Mark Taylor surveys the damage and provides a statement of economic problems. The problems he identifies are generally the same in schools and homes and businesses and governments, across the country and around the world: problems of cost, and of jobs, and of debt, and of "financial meltdown." Economic problems.

But Taylor's solutions are not solutions to economic problems. Rather, they are ideas that would undermine the standard educational environment. Given that our higher education system fails to prepare people to thrive, in an economy where no one is thriving, one must ask: Is the problem in the education system, or in the economy?

Taylor's ideas are only a way for colleges to cope with their economic problems. They are not a way to solve those problems, for colleges or for anyone else. If the problems remain unsolved, coping is necessary. But Taylor has no solutions.


Anonymous said...

There are too many private colleges and universities who are "not'for-profit" making millions at the expense of enrollees who DO NOT qualify or have the quality of mind for a higher level of education but DO HAVE the final aid requirements. When these students fail after gaining probational entrance, they are straddled by debt, but OH Yes, they can say they went to college!

The Arthurian said...

Oh, heheh, I thought you were gonna say And some of them go on to be President!!

If I have this right, the difference between "For profit" and "Not for profit" is that the "Nots" don't pay taxes on their profit.