22.12.09

REVEALED PREFERENCES? Two articles recommended by Minding The Campus suggest that producing a new generation of thinkers who, if called upon to do so, could reconstruct their civilization from scratch, is no longer higher education's mission. First up, linked without commentary, is Mark Yost in The Wall Street Journal.
At the University of Oregon, academics has taken a backseat to athletics. Despite the generosity of Nike founder Phil Knight, who has given hundreds of millions of dollars to the school, Oregon has gone on such an athletics building spree that it has had to postpone a long-term project to renovate student housing. That's because the university has hit its debt limit of $200 million.

"We literally can't go out and ask for more bonding authority for the academic side of the campus," said Nathan Tublitz, an Oregon biology professor and the co-chair of the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics, a reform group that's often critical of the culture of college athletics. "The mission of the university is to educate students and perform cutting-edge research," said Prof. Tublitz. "To be spending so much money on an auxiliary enterprise is not only scandalous, it's criminal."

Maybe so, but Prof. Tublitz and other critics are mostly howling into the wind. According to [Tom] Gabbard, Virginia Tech's associate director of athletics, this trend toward ever more lavish sports facilities is expected to expand to so-called nonrevenue sports such as soccer, lacrosse and baseball. In fact, this year the University of South Carolina opened a new baseball stadium.
Next up, a lament by Babson College's Kara Miller in the Boston Globe.
Success is all about time management, and in a globalizing economy, Americans’ inability to stay focused and work hard could prove to be a serious problem.
John Leo revises and extends.
Why the lackadaisical approach to college? Many point to a sense of entitlement, the impact of the self-esteem movement and the generally inept curricula of the public schools, which increasingly stress diversity, equality and feelings rather than actual learning. Then too, many colleges are gearing courses to the declining level of student readiness and energy---not just all the courses that end in the words "studies," but also impossible-to-fail courses about American entertainment that seem like rainy-day activities at summer camp.
Yes, that's the rubric of access-assessment-remediation-retention, and perhaps that works in a business model that requires sufficiently many students paying fees to service the debt on the athletic facilities.
A common argument in defense of slackers is that they understand that college is a time for fun, drugs and sex, and the time to get going doesn't arrive until graduation. A sophisticated version of this explanation--that softness and indulgence peel away as Americans leave their school years behind, is found in Michael Barone's book, Hard America, Soft America.
Perhaps so, although the evidence of growing income polarization suggests something different is at work.

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