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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Way Too Much To Post & More on Our Rapidly Declining Education System

Too Much To Post

I've been trying to get myself to write another post, but there's just so much, I've been feeling overwhelmed with too much information.

From now on, I'm going to try and write more frequent, shorter posts...

And now...

More on Our Rapidly Declining Education System

Obviously Education is an increasingly interesting topic for me.
I've come to believe many of the country's problems stem from an education system that is failing the nation on almost all fronts. From the economy to political gridlock to social issues, were citizens not so ignorant to facts, we would be in a much better position than we are today.

I'd like to dissect each of these articles, but in the interest of time, I'm simply going to post them with a couple thoughts.
Obviously, you should follow the source links and read the full articles for context and additional information.

"The American higher education system is the envy of the world, or so the cliché goes. The sons and daughters of foreign potentates flock to our shores, while kids raised on apple pie and Sesame Street claw each others’ eyes out for the chance to attend a top university. With more than 18 million current undergraduates—who pay average annual tuition of $32,000 each—the market for higher education seems to be going gangbusters.

Expanding post-secondary education is a government priority, too. In his 2009 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama declared that “every American will need to get more than a high school diploma.” He sounded a similar note three years later, saying that “higher education can’t be a luxury, it is an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.”

But despite—or because of—this attention, there is trouble in paradise. Enrollment may be skyrocketing, but so are student debt levels and default rates. Tuition costs are increasing many times faster than income, or than prices in any other sector. This is in large part thanks to the gusher of federal money pouring into American colleges in the form of Pell Grants, subsidized loans, and research dollars, totaling nearly $200 billion a year. While the dream is to make college accessible to all, the reality is that subsidies contribute to skyrocketing prices, making college an increasingly expensive and risky undertaking.

Students arrive on campus underqualified, courtesy of an American public school system that has flatlined in quality while tripling its per-student cost. They do less academic work yet receive better grades than their parents did. And their post-college job prospects are dim, with unemployment rates for recent grads hovering at 12 percent.
" (Reason)
This quite a bit of the article, but I thought it was short enough to copy/paste the majority of it.
It also succinctly expresses my general view of the educational system; i.e. that it is a massive problem spanning all aspects, from elementary school to higher education.

Another factor is our teachers. Detailed analysis of our teaching force is needed, from how we pay to how we evaluate teachers.
Two of the biggest obstacles to change are the Teacher's Union and the practice of tenure...

"At no other time in history has the American higher education system been in greater need of radical change. The place to start: abolishing tenure.

Originally established in the late 1700s to protect academic freedom at religious schools (which are less than a fifth of the 4,703 U.S. colleges today), tenure has morphed into a guaranteed "job for life," a benefit no longer enjoyed by any other segment of the U.S. workforce. Even the United Kingdom did away with tenure in the late 1980s when then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher implored the nation's colleges to become more productive. (Tenure does exist in some form in other European universities, as well as Chinese and Indian schools.) While not all of academia's problems can be laid at tenure's doorstep, tenure has hamstrung colleges' ability to fulfill their two fundamental missions of advancing knowledge and disseminating it. Here's why.
"The impact on knowledge

U.S. colleges' once-undisputed superiority is under siege. Fifty-one of 76 U.S. universities lost ground in the UK magazine Times Higher Education 2012 list of the world's top 200 universities. The country's bragging rights in science and engineering are especially in doubt.
"In the U.S., research is a primary prerequisite for tenure, meaning that professors of all disciplines feel pressured to research — even if their subject area is static and less critical. Without tenure, it would be easier to shift research efforts toward emerging, fast-changing, and vital fields."
"The impact on teaching

Tenure locks in big costs and makes it difficult for universities to explore more productive teaching techniques. Mark C. Taylor, chair of Columbia University's Department of Religion and author of a book critical of tenure, estimates that a college ties up between $10 million and $12 million of its endowment to support a single tenured professor for a 35-year career."

"Tenure also limits how nimble colleges can be in deploying their staff to subject areas that will better equip students for employment.
"While tenure's proponents argue that it can always be revoked, in fact only 50 to 75 professors out of 280,000 lose it annually, said a study published in 1994 in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The number has likely not changed, according to Harvard University researcher Cathy A. Trower."
"From tenure to contracts

Tenure could be replaced with contracts similar to those in the business world. Merit-worthy professors could be offered multiyear contracts that give them time to prove themselves; full professors could enjoy rolling contracts that provide reasonable amounts of job security. As in business, the contract can be bought out if the professor does not perform.
"To make such changes possible, colleges need to make use of the same tools used in the business world such as employment contracts instead of jobs for life, process innovation, better allocation of resources, and more careful scrutiny of how research gets funded. Every college's business school has taught how restrictive work rules and high labor costs for many years made American automotive, electronics, and other industries less competitive. Now universities need to adopt their own teachings and end tenure." (Harvard Business Review)
Guaranteeing any job will result in a degradation of productivity. While some people may have a constant drive to work hard regardless, if you were not afraid of losing your job, would you work as hard as you possible could each and every day, year after year?

Tenure was previously established to enable college professors to pursue academic studies and research on whatever topic they chose without repercussion from the school administration.
These days, the threat of politically-fueled dismissals are more rare and all employees are better protected by the law against discriminatory behavior.

Obviously there are many more factors contributing to the failings of education in this country, but these were two articles recently published and I like to always have sources to back up any claims.
As additional stories/reports/studies come out, I will be sure to post them.

Your thoughts on any of these pieces or related topics?

1 comment:

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