Paul's Perambulations a personal blog

April 5, 2010

Whither higher education?

Filed under: Education — admin @ 6:29 pm

I’ve spend the last three hours reading education articles in the NYTimes, Chronicle of Higher Education, and related links.  Let me relate this to my own institution. We are tuition driven, and without sufficient paying students, Villanova as you know it would not exist. Villanova has some excellent humanities programs. If you can afford them, and you love learning, they are wonderful and worth every penny. If you have limited funds and expect this education (BA, MA, PhD) to be financially productive and/or think that you will be employable in your area of interest, in some cases you have been misinformed. Keep in mind that academic institutions are big business and have some of the same ethical slipperiness of any other business when it comes to financial issues.

 At the start of my academic career four decades ago, I would have been viewed as being much stronger in my profession (getting my Ph.D. from Princeton at age 23) than I was later on. However, academic specialties require a lot of time, and as a result I was much less knowledgeable about the larger issues of the world at that time than I am today. I appreciate that I later had the opportunity to more fully educate myself and thereby to also better educate my students. More recently (before my retirement to adjunct status), the increased pressures and work load that I experienced in academe served  to work aganst my efforts to broaden my education. Now working part time, my mind feels freed again, and I appreciate the opportunity to interact on line (and at times in person) with some of the best educated and brightest people in the country. I feel that I am holding my own with them, although it can be a lot of work and take a lot of time.  Often, I’d rather be outside. So why?


  1. I posted the following Comment on a NYTimes article on higher education:

    At my institution it used to be that the brightest students were in A&S and the business students were so-so. That trend has now reversed itself. My stepson graduated last month from a smallish University where the College of Business was larger than the College of A&S and the University’s largest groups of majors were in marketing and accounting. This seems neither wise nor sustainable.

    Comment by admin — June 13, 2010 @ 7:51 am

  2. I posted the following Comment (#339)on a NYTimes article by Stanley Fish regarding student teaching evaluations:

    My institution regularly distributes publications with teaching hints and advices (a good idea) that at times have included articles with “research” data to confirm the validity of teacher evaluations (not so good idea, because the bias in the selection makes me question the validity of the whole package they are distributing). In my memory, all of these articles have been highly supportive of the effectiveness and validity of teacher evaluations. This apparent one-sidedness led me to search for other articles that might present contradictory “research” data. Indeed, there often seems to be a disconnect among various “research” findings in this field. Pardon my use of quotation marks, but a lot of this material does not meet my standards for research. But I did read some things that I found to be interesting, provocative, and sometimes helpful or persuasive.

    I am saying this because neither of your two articles recognizes the large amount of published research in this area. Likewise, the comments are mainly anecdotal. Can you speak to this?

    Original article:

    Incidentally, a concern of mine is that University administrators, via these evaluations, encourage and read anonymous student comments about faculty, and thus an anonymous unsubstantiated written complaint may have an unknown effect on a faculty member’s career.

    Comment by admin — June 30, 2010 @ 5:20 pm

  3. From a post I made elsewhere:

    Select educational institutions are perhaps the most self-congratulatory places on earth. Certainly they contain some very capable young people. But that’s not the point – for many students (not all, of course) the point is to feel good about oneself and to get on a trajectory for “success” and “leadership.” And so there is this institutional massaging of student ego to justify the goal of being the 1%. Generating genuine/serious service to the wider world? They claim to, mightily and loudly. But they rarely go beyond the superficial in this regard, because if they did, students might be changed in a way that would threaten individuals and institutions currently wielding power.

    Comment by admin — March 10, 2012 @ 7:25 pm

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