Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Is College the AAA League Preparing Students for Jobs?

First a quick apology for not publishing anything last week. I have been busy working to finish another editing of my new book The Power of Retention which is to be published by The Administrator's Bookshelf in July. I always find editing to be a tough thing to do since I not only cut things out but end up adding whole new sections of thoughts and ideas. That creates an entirely new section to edit! As a result, I keep rewriting the book. So I decided to share a new section with you.

Any and all thoughts on this are welcome. In fact, I believe strongly in collective wisdom so anyone who wishes to get involved in editing the new book, I would love you help. I can share a copy of the finished book and an acknowledgments for your help too. Just let me know.

“Ahhh but, we in academia know that attending college just to get a job to make a lot of money is a crass, unintelligent motive for attending says my colleague the humanities professor. To get a job! That’s not what we are here for! Not why I went to school. The corporatization of colleges and universities is demeaning the role and value of education. If we were to agree to that as acceptable we would be lowering the value of higher education to become just a minor league for business, corporations and the economy.

We believe that higher education has been corrupted enough by the business-like attitudes of administrators and trustees. Trustees we can understand somewhat. They are from outside the academic community. In private colleges and universities they are usually business people, social and corporate big shots who can buy their way onto the boards. Why I am not exactly sure but they do. In not-for-profits, trustees are drawn from the same areas plus community and political activists who other bring their or their sponsor’s agendas onto the board. And the presidents have suck up to them and what they want done if they wish to keep the job.

We know that the models presidents and chancellors use and the way they make decisions are too often straight from the latest business best seller. The fad of the day. We’ve had them all from TQM to whatever is overshadowing a particular campus right now. This leads to hearing statements like the following from faculty They are trying to run the institution like it is a business and money and budgets are the most important thing around here. Much of that can be contributed to the outrageous salaries senior administrators pull down. No wonder they think of themselves as CEO’s and not college presidents. They are the ones who make this place feel so corporate as they suck up to corporations and business for donations. Administrators care more about bringing in money than the faculty or students. They seem to put their own interests before students and teaching.

And maybe a few science professors who spend their time looking for breakthroughs they can patent and make a fortune on. But…Oh yes, and athletics. Nothing but a big business with coaches making huge salaries and sponsorship deals. Maybe some TV and radio too. And well, the athletes are just interested in getting into the pros and making fortunes. But they do bring us school pride when they win. But the rest of us, NO! Well okay, maybe some biochemistry and genetic biology folks who do research paid for by big pharmaceuticals to find what they need to sell some pills and stuff. And yes, I guess some tech folks who write programs, widgets, invent stuff and processes and run their own companies when not in the classroom. The law and med profs need to stay abreast of the real field so I suppose when they have their own practices and work as expert consultants, they are expanding their expertise and should be paid for it. The psychology, sociology and anthropology people who do that too. Not for the money or reputation of course. The business folks too. They use their real world consulting and businesses to strengthen their students’ understanding of the real world of business.

But let’s realize they do not take time away from students either since their classes are covered by T.A’s of adjuncts. Granted the T.A’s and adjuncts may not be as good as the experts but at least we are able to get them some work teaching courses for the name and faculty whose names and pictures in the brochures attracted students to the school. So they play an important role that way too. By bringing students to the school where they will be taught by others…. They are sort of the marketing bait to hook the students. They still get good education from the T.A’s and adjuncts that are switched in there. Granted, if the administration would just spend more money on more full-time faculty and salaries, this would not happen. But they have this business model that just hurts the institution.

Those who teach in other areas like engineering, business, criminal justice, technology and what we call the applied studies, do have another point of view. Here is where some of the CS Lewis divide comes in higher education. Sure they teach theories and ideas but they believe the students should be able to do something with the learning. That should not be what college is for. To focus on preparing students for careers and jobs is anti-intellectual. Simply because students are in college to get jobs and because society has supported education since it helps the economy, society and culture demeans the role of higher education to open students to new ideas and improve their ability to think, to reflect, enrich the culture and humankind. That’s why students should come to college. Not for a job.

As an ex-English teacher I know that I was not teaching people so they could get jobs when I assigned works such as Shakespeare, Faulkner, Dickinson, Plato. My colleagues in many humanities areas such as philosophy, art, creative writing, theology and so on never taught to get students ready to get jobs after graduation. We were not concerned with business want ads such as philosopher wanted – entry level position in growing firm needs philosopher; metaphysical background preferred. That was not our job. Our job was to teach students all branches of philosophical endeavor and help them to get ready for graduate school. Maybe one of them would make it to the PhD and become a philosophy teacher. Which some might construe as is a job I guess.

So if they did become a university professor, I guess reading Plato was preparation for a job. But that would never be why I or my colleagues would have taught it. Not as job prep but as part of our own jobs…To work against job-oriented learning. That’s a reason I went on to get a PhD after all. So I could work against the idea of college as career-prep. Except when I taught Technical Writing I guess.

But to do what the technologists suggest is more training than learning. And training as we know is much more limited. This is stimulus A. When you see it, you are to do B. A yields B. Training. But is training the realm of higher education. Oh sure, maybe in community colleges and career schools but not universities. Community colleges and career colleges are there to train people to get a job. But in universities, there is a higher, non-career related mission. Training is for lower-level functions. For those who just want to get a job from their degrees. People like… well, doctors. Yes, they should be trained. That’s good training. Stimulus A blood flowing from a wound should lead immediately to B to stop bleeding out. But then, people go to med school to become…..Well, to become a doctor which is a career, not a job.

Like I went to grad school and studied English to become a composition teacher in which I trained students to write which they did not want to do until they realized it applied directly to their future jobs. Once I could link it to their future work they had an interest. They finally became involved because writing could have an effect on their obtaining a good job. So they learned because…

Well, maybe there is some connection between college and work after all. In the students’ minds at

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