professornana (professornana) wrote,
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Duck and Cover

In the ongoing attack on education, there is this review of Bill Bennett's IS COLLEGE WORTH IT? http://p.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/may/14/book-review-is-college-worth-it/.

Once again, there is so much here that needs to be addressed, that it is tough to know where to begin, But let's start with what the reviewer calls the Bennett Hypothesis:

What killed it is explained by the “Bennett Hypothesis,” which by now should be elevated to the status of a theory or a law: “College tuition will rise as long as the amount of money available through federal student aid continues to increase with little or no accountability.”

In one short sentence are so many flaws of logic. How to begin? Okay, tuition has risen. So has the cost of EVERYTHING, I think. I can speak from the vantage point of one of those elitist folks with a doctorate in education (NRO criticizes us for using what is essentially not an honorific we should use. It is pretentious.). State funding of colleges and universities has dropped precipitously in the past couple of decades. We were told by the politicians to increase tuition to make up the cost of running the university and the funds they stole from us (so they could boast about balanced budgets AND so they could begin to control who could afford a college education). When there was a hue and cry about tuition increases, these same politicians threw blame on us and our high salaries and apparent lack of running on a budget (do jnot get my started on those high salaries when the highest paid state employee is a football coach and not a teacher at any level).

But back to the hypothesis (the one this reviewer thinks should be elevated to a law; how objective is this review do ya think?). Federal student aid, in case no one has been paying attention, has also been cut in recent years. How do you take that into accont then? And student aid is one way kids from less than affluent backgrounds have any sort of chance to attend college. It is not the only way; there are many students who take loans, work 2-3 jobs, lay out a semester to save up for tuition, etc. And is college dead? Hardly if one is to accept latest enrollment numbers.

But moving on in this "review," we have more. There is a call to return vocational education to schools. It might be interesting to see when those courses were cut. I can tell you why they are not present now: they are not about scoring well on the tests.

And more: liberal arts is pointless if one wants get a job that will pay money. Better to do STEM classes. Never mind the research that suggests we do not need nearly the number of STEM folks as some politicians would have you believe.

More: college kids live in luxury. I do not know where these guys visited of late, but I can assure you luxury is not the term I would use at all. Zagat worthy dining? Really?

Still more: the "real" teachers are doing the research whole courses are being taught by grad assistants. I never once had a grad assistant for anything other than a Poli Sci lab. My college sophomore says the same thing is true for her. This painting with too broad a brush is part and parcel of those who are currently calling for reform.

Want even more: college presidents' salaries. I saw the map recently that indicated that in all but a handful of states, the highest paid employee was a coach, not a university president. Let's try yo get facts straight, shall we? And how much does former Secretary Bennett get for one speech? There is something about living in glass houses....

Now, go back to the article and see if you can spot the racism, sexism, and anti-elitism. It should not take you very long.

I am not saying there is not a need for us to change at the university level. Change we have in the 20 some odd years I have been among the elite who do not teach (sarcastic font, folks). Our classes are online. Before that, though, we traveled to where our students lived, often an 8 hour drive, to take courses and materials to them instead of vice versa. We find monies to assist students in completing graduate degrees. We have graduated 60 students on full scholarships, many of them Hispanic.

But we need to do more. We recognize that this is about more than the bottom line. We keep our eyes on the prize: graduating students to go out into schools and become school librarians. We talk the talk, but we also walk the walk. It is simple to sit in a studio or at a writing desk and call for "reform" and decry the state of affairs. What we need is more Noah Principle that Bennett Hypothesis: no prizes for predicting rain; prizes for building arks. You want to "fix" something? Come on and join us. Help us explore ways to make college affordable to ALL who have, in the words of the reviewer, the requisite gray matter.

As for me, I will go back to writing, reading, and teaching.
Tags: books, college, opinions, racism, reform, reviews, sexism
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