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29 October 2013 @ 05:14 pm
The Deadly Embrace of Reform  
Lately it seems as though I am being told to EMBRACE REFORM. I thought that perhaps I was ascribing a wrong definition to the verb embrace, so I went to the good old dictionary to check. Here are the most used definitions:

hold (someone) closely in one's arms, esp. as a sign of affection.
"Aunt Sophie embraced her warmly". synonyms:hug, take/hold in one's arms, hold, cuddle, clasp to one's bosom, clasp, squeeze, clutch; accept or support (a belief, theory, or change) willingly and enthusiastically."besides traditional methods, artists are embracing new technology". synonyms:welcome, welcome with open arms, accept, take up, take to one's heart, adopt.


Why do so many folks want me to EMBRACE things I do not hold in my affections let alone things I hold in any esteem? One of the latest calls for reform is former Senator Bob Kerry calling for reform of higher education (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bob-kerrey/higher-education-reform_b_3983723.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003&ir=Education). I read that he had served as president of a university, so I read the piece with some interest wondering what Kerry’s background was for administration in higher education. After all, he is writing about making sure a college degree does not slip out of the reach of our kids. As someone who has now helped two granddaughters pay tuition and who herself has spent a life in education, I did a close reading of the article from The Huffington Post. Here, then, are the key points:

Colleges need curriculum reform.

Access and affordability is essential.

We need to use new technologies to help lower costs.

Studying abroad needs to be more integrated into a college education.

We need to research so we can improve.

On the surface, these seem reasonable. What, though I wondered, was there to embrace? Our department, college, and university conducts annual curriculum review and reform. When I first entered into the Department of Library Science, we taught students how to run the mimeograph and laminating machines, how to turn on a computer. We have come a long way: Dewey designations continue to evolve (one of my former colleagues completed her work on Spanish Dewey designations), audio and eBooks are part of our literature studies. Just this month, I spent hours preparing a new course to be offered on preschoolers in the library. So, we do this already. And I do not think our department, college, and university is unique here.

Affordability is and always will be an issue. I put myself through school (with some assistance from the BH) by working almost full time for my tuition. Not ideal, but I graduated debt-free. The same is true for the grandkids. We are working hard so that they can graduate without significant debt. Here is the fly in the ointment for Texas universities (and perhaps others): the state has DEFUNDED us considerably over the years I have been on the faculty. We were told bluntly to raise tuition to cover their defunding. Now we are being pointed out as the problem. Well played, politicians. Let me add here this about Kerrey’s tenure at a university: “In December 2012, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that in 2010, the year of his anticipated departure, his salary was more than $600,000, and his total take-home pay, including bonuses, deferred compensation and nontaxable benefits, was $3,047,703, making Kerrey the highest-paid private college president in the United States.”

Studying abroad is something I wish I had the chance to do, but it was just not feasible from a cost perspective. And I wonder if there is a need for everyone to study abroad or for every subject to offer something. The university does encourage us to do so. We have for years. Our former chair took groups to England and Ireland and , more recently, to New York and other destinations in the US. But costs are creeping up (airfare for one) and regulations are as well. We now offer what we call a Texas Study that is cost effective and yet, I think, offers students a chance to see different perspectives in library education.


Finally, there is a call to research so we might improve our teaching. Gee, where to begin? Since I am in a College of Education, most of the faculty has spent considerable amounts of time teaching in the PK-12 levels as well. Our teaching scores (as measured by college students) are the highest in the university, And we do spend time seeking ways to improve teaching, especially as many of us are teaching in an online forum now. We talk to one another in the department, share syllabi, work on projects together to improve teaching.

So, why is there a call for me to embrace reform? Why is there a call for reform? Okay, I am sure there must be some universities out there committing atrocities. Go talk to them. Leave the rest of us alone, please. This latest series of attacks on education reminds me of a former principal. Rules were instituted because a few folks were taking advantage. Instead of going to the offenders, there was a blanket condemnation of us all. This is no way to create camaraderie. I see it happening at the university as well. And it grates sometimes because I do tend to be a rule follower. I chafe, though, at the unnecessary rules and regulations.

Let me teach. Talk to me if I am doing something wrong. Otherwise, let me be the professional I am and will continue to be. And forget about the embrace, guys. I would rather hug this guy.

Scout
 
 
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