Higher Education in Crisis

007Higher Education in Crisis

College and University eduction is under attack while at the same time beset by internal crises. The dramatic changes in society over the last decades have changed our class makeups. The economic changes have made colleges more expensive while state and federal aid has declined. And most bizarrely, we are engaged in a debate on whether or not liberal arts education is worthwhile.

Below are two different points of view. Please visit their web sites and read their posts in full.

James Pilant

Leadership From the Ranks


Higher education also is in the midst of a crisis. Both citizenry and a growing number of work environments require the skills to navigate an increasingly rhetorical- and statistics-based world. But the social insistence on more college has expanded the number of student bodies with different needs, as well as redirected higher education’s focus to student retention and graduation rates. On one side, faculty now struggle not merely to deliver course content for diverse learning habits, but also to ensure diverse student engagement and in-depth content assimilation for an improved likelihood of continued student success. On the other side, academic professionals struggle to identify and resolve bottlenecks in the system and reach-out to previously ignored populations who could benefit from more education.

This re-imagining of higher education coincides with an economic crisis in which people need jobs and employers want higher-quality job candidates. In the face of rising student debt, students and their parents, legislators, and potential employers now question the value of higher education. Meanwhile, our computer-infused work environment demands greater technological and critical-thinking skills for even entry-level jobs — yes, even the jobs that can’t pay back the resulting debt. This conflict has resulted in new entrants in the market who then compete with at least the public colleges and universities, which have had to raise tuition to replace diminishing state funds.

From Around the Web.

From the web site, subtext2.


Higher Education has, over the last year, been steadily and increasingly heading toward utter crisis. It is clear that this point has now been reached. Total cuts to university budgets will be over £1.5 billion. It is clear that the disaster set in motion by New Labour is being accelerated by the Conservative Coalition.

The Effects:

These are all stories reported by the BBC during the last five days:

Due to underfunding by Government, it is estimated that at least 250,000 university applicants will be refused a place for economic reasons. Spending cuts have reduced extra university places at a time when there has been a huge surge in demand. The number of applicants not getting a place will have doubled in two years.

Meanwhile, Colleges across Britain are suffering from the huge cuts to funding, from decreased student numbers (due in part to cuts), and from competition from new academies. Why the Conservative Coalition are investing in new buildings and new school colleges and not in exisiting facilities is certainly a cause for bafflement.

In response the Government has suggested (as did New Lab before them), condensing courses into two years. This from the party that, in recent memory, bemoaned “mickey mouse courses”. It seems, when the choice is between HE and big business, the Tories are happy to make fools of us all. UCU has emphatically voted against these “sweatshop” courses, but unfortunately that won’t stop a host of related trends, such as the move toward “distance learning”, “part-time” courses and other such thrift measures, which speak loudly of a lack of Government funding for Universities and of a lack of financial support for increasingly beleaguered students.*

As a result primarily of the financial meltdown, but also of other smaller factors – increased competition, for example – the Golden Promise that HE guarantees better employment has dissolved. At the same time that tuition fees have massively increased (and are set to increase more this year), students are finding that they are unable to find jobs. …


Ants and Lions in Entrepreneurship

Ants and Lions in Entrepreneurship

What They Don’t Teach in Business School about Entrepreneurship – YouTube

This is from the Stanford School of Business, a panel discussion from the 2010 Conference on Entrepreneurship. This video is deliciously titled “What they don’t teach you in Business School about Entrepreneurship.”
The discussion about “ants and lions” comes along about thirty minutes in. Don’t miss it. It’s perceptive. The panelists are Mike Cassidy, Chuck Holloway, and Nazila Alasti.
James Pilant
From around the web –
The Lion?
The Lion?

From the web site, Center for Entrepreneurship:

The previous blog  introduced two important questions any time-management process starts with. Here are a few tricks I found useful when aligning our time investments to our core objectives and principal goals.

But, the challenge of an entrepreneur and change leader is she is pulled in all different directions at the same time, which makes it extremely difficult to continually create success. Instead of racing and gaining, the entrepreneur lies on her back and is trampled by ants.  Every day is filled with tens and hundreds of actions and activities all of which seem important somehow, but together nearly immobilize her. Like with so many, the passion slowly drains out of the entrepreneur, and her goals start fading. Instead of looking to the big goals, moving forward, the small things in life take over.

From the web site, Arnonuemann – Thought Leadership: (I highlighted the text beneath the pretty graph and the graph came with it. It looks nice, so I’m keeping it but if there is a problem, let me know and I’ll pull it immediately. jp)

Lessons from the ants : all for one ( mission ) and one is there for all ….

“But ants aren’t nature’s only high-functioning teams. Packs of wolfs, pods of dolphins, and prides of lions all share remarkable strategies in terms of leadership, connectivity, execution and organization. For nature’s teams, mission matters most. Bioteams are the physical manifestation of a mission. They organize on the fly, adjust strategies in real-time and redefine membership based on environmental demands. Just Google “unicoloniality” to learn more about how some of nature’s teams inherently understand what many human teams essentially do not: membership is a function of achieving the mission and not the other way around.”

And finally from the web site, IllimunationZZ:
There is so much confusion in the air. A lot of people do not even know what they want in Nigeria and you can’t really blame them! Do people have ambitions any longer or they just want to work and get salaries on pay day? Are there counselors aiding, guiding, and moulding the interests of young students in primary and secondary schools; and in Universities? Are parents interested in, and supportive of their children’s ambitions or they just want to bask in the vicarious “glory” of those big names (Engr, Esq, Dr, Pharm, Arch…) for their own ego fulfillment? Are there still career fairs in our secondary schools and tertiary institutions? The system is so dysfunctional that we are busy struggling to accept anything slapped on us simply because there is a salary. Each time I watch National Geographic Channel, the question I keep asking myself is: “how is it that a human being dedicate his / her life time to studying butterflies, ants, birds, lions etc if not passion?” Let s/he who has a passion to bake cakes go on to become a brand; let s/he who loves flowers go on to become a brand florist; let s/he who loves to bake bread go on to become a household baker; let s/he who wants to be a great restaurateur go on to cook great meals; let s/he who sees a niche in mobile toilets go on to fill the void, let s/he who wants to be a great photographer go on to capture the memories etc. That will be Entrepreneurship and it won’t matter if you have chains of degrees or not. Passion would be the catalyst but certainly not running to grab a steering out of frustration from not getting relevant jobs.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Online Education Maxed?

Have we maxed out on online education? « Kay Steiger

A new survey from Eduventures (the terrible punny name is not my fault) comes via Inside Higher Ed and finds that though the number of adults entering into higher education as non-traditional students continues to increase, the percentage interested in taking all or most classes online has roughly stayed stagnent. The survey found 38 percent were interested in taking all or most of their classes online compared with 37 percent in 2006.

“We feel this is the watershed moment,” said Richard Garrett, vice president and principal analyst for Eduventures and the report’s author told IHE. “After years of endless growth, we’re definitely coming to more of a plateau situation.”

Have we maxed out on online education? « Kay Steiger

This is from Kay Steiger, who has a web site that deals in a thoroughly intelligent manner with education and other issues. She’s clever and often eloquent. I recommend you visit the site.

I find the findings quite interesting. You would think from reading the web and the news that online education is spreading across the nation like some Medieval plague. If the phenomenon has maxed out; if online education maxed, then we have arrived at a balance between online and in-class teaching. This is important to me, for one thing, because I teach both traditional  classes and online. But I have another issue, I love the whole idea of self improvement and higher education. I am delighted by spacious campuses, earnest undergraduates talking about major issues, people trying to think, and, above all, teaching. I like the environment and I believe for many people, it is their opportunity to think new thoughts and become different people, different than the expectation imposed on them by family and high school. Online education has many advantages but it cannot create an environment of hundreds, often thousands of fellow learners trying to understand what is important.

So it would appear from the study that physical campuses still make sense and have a future.

I am very pleased.

James Pilant

Enhanced by Zemanta

What Do Our College Students Learn?

I wrote a three part series (part 1) (part 2) (part 3) on the latest study showing that college students are not learning critical thinking skills. I pointed out that the study was another in a series of little publicized media events. In truth, the public, the colleges and the business world have little desire for critical thinking.

But what do students learn in college?

A faculty member once had a class of students who were not wealthy, not even close. Not all of the students in his class were able to afford textbooks. So, given a choice of textbooks for the next year’s class, he chose one that cost about seventy dollars. The next year, all of his students had the textbook. The very next semester the price of the textbook rose to one hundred and ten dollars. And then two more years slid by and it went up to one hundred and fifty dollars.

This is not an unusual situation with textbook prices. It is, in fact, the common, everyday experience of teachers and students in colleges and universities all over the United States.

Students may not be learning as much critical thinking as some would like, they may not get that much cultural literacy, and they may have only the vaguest concept of the term “civic duty”, but they do know about pricing. I get it in class essays, “You charge as much as you can get.” To them, it is an ethical rule – You must pursue the highest return possible under any circumstance. The students don’t know any other rule. The deeper philosophical concepts of just price and two thousand years of contrary philosophy are not factors here.

I believe I am a good teacher but there is no amount of teaching skill that can equal the cutting edge of another textbook price increase every year. They may not grasp the “statute of frauds” in my business law class but they understand the phrase, “what the market will bear” with perfect clarity.

What are we teaching our students?  Is there any lesson more naked about the nature of the American idea of free enterprise than what students endure each year at the bookstore?

James Pilant

Enhanced by Zemanta

One-Third of Students Don’t Learn Much in College!! (Part 3-Our Society, Business and the Liberal Arts)

Part 3 of my series on American Higher Education. (Part 1 is here.) (Part 2 is here.)

For those of you who are new to these postings, I include the brief recap below.

From CBS Money Watch –

A new study suggests more than one third of parents aren’t necessarily getting a great return on their investment in their kids’ college education. Two college professors tracked more than 2,300 college students at 24 colleges and universities from their freshman year in 2005 through senior year, testing them along the way to gauge their critical and analytical thinking. According to the authors of a new book based on the study, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, 36 percent of college students did not learn much in the way of those cognitive skills.

But at least that was an improvement over the learning curve through sophomore year: In the first two years of school, 45 percent of college students had no significant improvement in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing.

Part 3 –

We live in a time where thinking “from the gut” is popular. Where the President of the United States (President Bush) can brag about his low grades and get laughs rather than looks of disapproval. This is a country where a likely presidential candidate’s favored means of communicating with her followers are twitter postings seldom more than one sentence long. Does this encourage students to believe that there success is based on the skills acquired in college? Or does it clearly indicate to them that success is based on personality and a fast quip?

There is no more obvious place to find the American contempt for education than the field of science. We live in an era where the government has been censoring scientific data and findings from public web sites and official documents. What’s the message here? If you are learned and you say the wrong things, your writings disappear. What message does that sent to young people entering college? Don’t disagree. Don’t think.

If you want to be on the front lines of the culture wars, indicate a belief in global warming or evolution.  One of the most disgusting public spectacles I have to endure is some person telling another “Look at all the global warming.” whenever it gets cold. If there is anything more indicative of sloppy mindless thinking, there it is. By the time, you can feel global warming in the temperate zones, most of human life has perished. If the most plebian mundane mindless joke preempts years of careful research, does that inspire students to rigorous study?

But the business world wants critical thinkers, don’t they?

Don’t be silly. They want people with a “practical” education. That means business school. Business schools have several functions as far as the business world is concerned. The first is an education in the philosophical doctrines friendly to business operations and profit. The second is what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior in the world of financial endeavor. The third is critical thinking into carefully designated zones: markets, government regulations, banking practices etc.

And we’re not talking about a lot of critical thinking. This is critical thinking in specified areas. Businesses do not encourage thinking outside these areas. It is troublesome to them.

Let me give you an example. I teach business ethics. I was given a variety of business ethics text books to examine for possible use in my class. I went through them, tossed them and wrote my own class. Why? The books offered a pathway to ethical thinking carefully designed to limit choices. There was only a very limited discussion of ethical systems. By avoiding this, the textbooks avoided giving the students ethical choices outside of a few limited ones acceptable to the business world. My introduction of Christian and other moral systems as subjects of discussion in the realm of business ethics was almost revolutionary but long needed.

How do you get critical thinking?

We know how. It’s been embedded in Western culture for six hundred years. It is the kind of education that the founding fathers had. It is the kind of education that has inspired and ennobled human development. It is the kind of education that is the basis of the idea that humans are not limited in station to that of their fathers and that kings do not rule based on authority given by God.

That type of education is called the liberal arts.

There are seven liberal arts, the quadrivium: arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy and the trivium: grammar, logic and rhetoric.

Over time, these have evolved into the study of a separate subjects, philosophy, literature, art, music, English, etc.

These “impractical” subjects are the basis of learning critical thinking skills and living life as a whole human being capable of fulfilling the duties of citizen.

My son’s school gives students money awards for success in early college classes just as long as the classes are in practical subjects not the liberal arts.

I think that illustration sums up business thinking about education in the United States.

So there you have it. Critical thinking. Society despises it. Businesses don’t want it save in small inoffensive pieces and we are no longer interested in teaching the subjects that develop it.

This society wants uneducated, highly emotional bloviators to dominate television commentary. This society wants science as long as it is producing an amusing new game. Once science says something about the beginnings of humanity or the dangers of our country’s addiction to fossil fuels, the Attorney General of Virginia is talking law suit. Business want smooth operations unhindered by dissent and are willing to finance college success only in areas not inclined toward critical thinking.

And what are many of those commenting on these findings saying, “These students are lazy.”

We live in a time and place of such blatant hypocrisy the we can blame the students for the failures of No Child Left Behind, the way undergraduates are taught in universities and colleges, the business community’s preference for vocational teaching and our society’s disdain for learning.

James Pilant