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09 February 2016 @ 11:51 am
Due Process  
In many ways, I have the perfect job. I mentioned this at the YAK Fest a few weeks ago to the kids in the audience. Basically, I told them that a large part of my job is to read and to talk about books. And it is. A couple of kids visited with me after the author panels to talk about how they could get a job like mine. I spent some time with each of them outlining what was required. They seemed to leave happily thinking about a career in higher ed.

And then today, I read this on Facebook: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/02/09/mount-st-marys-president-fires-two-faculty-members-one-tenure?utm_source=Inside+Higher+Ed&utm_campaign=8bca58981a-DNU20160209&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1fcbc04421-8bca58981a-197667913. The President fired two professors, one of them tenured, for disagreeing with his new policy on student retention. He is quoted as saying, "As an employee of Mount St. Mary's University, you owe a duty of loyalty to this university and to act in a manner consistent with that duty."

Yes, I do owe loyalty to my university. But if my President were to put into place a retention policy that does not so much aim to retain students as to make it easier to dismiss them from the university, I think I would stand up and speak. If you read this blog, you see me question things all the time. It is not that I am disloyal, it is more that I want to have a more complete discussion before we implement some new plan (yep, it's all about that change, bout that change, no changes).

Part of the problem in this piece is that the new President does not come from academia but from the world of business. Have we not learned our lessons yet, folks? Education is NOT a business. Kids are not widgets or unassembled products. Teaching is not assembly line pieces being fit together so that the product that rolls off the line is no different from the product before and after it. Terms like college and career ready have at their core some misconception that this means the same thing for all kids. And for all colleges. And for all careers. It also turns K-12 schools into those assembly lines. College readiness looks like this, I hear some teachers say. I tend to disagree. The 5 paragraph essay, the research paper, the prohibition against first person in writing, the canon of old or dead white men: some of these things no longer exist at the university or they have shifted somewhat. Career ready seems almost an Herculean task as the careers our school aged kids will have to select from might not even exist today. How do we prepare kids then?

Simple: make sure they are readers and writers. Not that they know HOW to read and write: the simple mechanics are not sufficient (though necessary). They must BE and self-identify as readers and writers. Connie Epstein wrote decades ago that if schools sent them kids who loved to read, kids who were graded for the weight of their reading rather than the titles, etc., then college English departments could take care of the rest.

I know I have gone rather far afield from the purpose of this blog post, but such is the nature of writing. One thing I know from being a writer: let the "story" take you where it needs to go!
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