28.12.16

PROFSCAM REDUX.

Milwaukee's Charlie Sykes might have emerged on the national pundit scene (or perhaps declared his split with Conventional Liberalism) over a quarter-century ago with Profscam, which, while it makes good points about intellectual monocultures and minimal publishable units, loses credibility by simultaneously denouncing graduate assistants whose English is rudimentary taking over from professors avoiding teaching in order to rack up those publishable units.  (It has occurred to you, dear reader, that if college professors were as overpaid and underworked as these polemics suggest, the graduate programs would be swamped with lazy careerist local kids.  Have I just described MBA programs at lesser-known institutions?  Sorry.)

He recently followed up with Fail U.: The False Promises of Higher Education, today's Book Review No. 31.  His gripe is that the help he thought was on the way for conscientious professors back in the day never materialized, and much of what he saw as wrong then is no better, and often worse, now.  But perhaps what has gone wrong has gone wrong because higher education, in attempting to be more like a business, has doubled down on consumer satisfaction, whether the consumers are students (thus, gut courses and safe spaces), alumni and sports bettors (thus, cheating scandals in athletics), or corporations (thus, sponsored research produces lucrative contracts for some, but the originality of the research, even if under governmental auspices, isn't that spectacular.)  And yet, his focus on the expense of attending the U. S. News top institutions, while it produces the colorful metaphor of buying a new Bimmer each year and driving it off the cliff, doesn't really focus on the ways the institutions serving the great mass of collegians (community colleges, regional comprehensives and mid-majors, land grants) might be doing things differently; indeed, doing things that Mr Sykes would like to see in order for real reform to take place.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

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