Sheep dip from Baa Ram U.

Someone's going to take a bath, alright!

I’ve got a question for all of you proffies out there, in any and all disciplines:  do any of your departments give credit from your university to high school students taking “approved” courses for college credit in their high schools?  As in, they’ll take an advanced class taught by a high school teacher (like perhaps an AP or IB class, or maybe not), and it will show up on their transcripts as a course taken at your university. (And they’ll get this credit without having taken the AP exam, for which usually students need to get a 4 or a 5 in order to have it accepted for college credit.)  This apparently is the Colorado legislature’s brilliant scheme for “saving money”–as in, the money of parents of high school students who would otherwise need to be accepted into and enrolled at a university (or at least pay for an AP exam) and pay tuition in order to receive college credit for the course. 

Is it really in our best interests to send the message that college is a tedious hassle that should be gotten over with as soon as possible?  Do we agree that there’s little difference between high school and college classes, and anyone can teach them?  How does this not turn us into Wal-Mart in the long run?  I’m not saying we’re Barney’s here, but I think we hold our own as a dependable Sears or J.C. Penny of higher education.

Apparently, the muckity-mucks at my uni are all for this.  My department and others in our college are being “encouraged” to consider “partnering” with local school districts and to consider a variety of different models for “collaboration” to provide professional “oversight” for these high-school classes.  We were told there’s another university in my state–call it Satellite Campus of Flagship U.–that has already approved over 500 high school courses around the state for college credit at their university, and somehow this is an arms race (to the bottom?) we simply must get into, otherwise those students will all attend SC of FU, rather than Baa Ram U.  (And we’re hardly hurting for enrollment here–that continues to grow every year, and it strains our resources as it is.)  The incentive for BRU to do this is that the university would get some tuition dollars for these classes, paid by the local school districts.  There is no plan so far to share any of this dough with cooperating departments or faculty–this is apparently something we need to consider doing out of the goodness of our hearts, in solidarity with teachers and students in our community, for free, and in a year in which our salaries will likely be frozen yet again at our 2008-09 level.  (Are the football and men’s basketball coaches being “encouraged” to “volunteer” their time and expertise in developing student-athletes by working closely with high school coaches?  Or is this an expectation we don’t have for people who make more than $300,000 a year at Baa Ram U.?) 

It appears that my colleagues are mostly in agreement that this is crazzy, every which way we look at it (lack of incentives, lack of compensation, unfairness, lack of quality control.  Why bother hiring only people with Ph.D.s in my department if local teachers with B.A.s or M.A.s are qualified to teach college courses now?  All of our adjunct faculty have Ph.D.s now.)  But, we hear that work speed-ups and demands that people get something for nothing are on the rise everywhere.  For example, go read Clio Bluestocking on the true reason on-line education is so attractive to universities:  they think they can expand student enrollment infinitely without compensating faculty or eroding the quality of teaching, because they don’t understand at a fundamental level that what we do is work.

But, as many of my colleagues have pointed out, this is just part of the long and rapid decline of support for education by our citizenry.  It’s clear that the state legislature and the Governor–all Democrat controlled, by the way–don’t have the stones to make the argument that funding higher education is important.  (And absent political leadership, the people of Colorado won’t jump up and vote for higher taxes on their own.)  I’m starting to think that privatization might not be such a bad thing in the long run.  Besides:  the auctioning off of the naming rights should be fun to watch.  Why should Colorado get its name on my uni when it’s contributing nothing to the work we do?  Cargill U. or Archer Daniels Midland U., here we come.

0 thoughts on “Sheep dip from Baa Ram U.

  1. I’ve seen “college in the HS” plans in which college faculty actually teach the courses. Sometimes those faculty are full-time high school teachers and adjuncts at the local CC.

    We have a program that permits students to take regular college courses, and their school districts pay tuition/fees and books. Oddly, they have to return the books to the school — where they sit in boxes while they pay for identical books the next semester.

    I’ve never seen “let’s call a high level high school class a college class, even though it’s taught by high school faculty.”


  2. It is my campus’ policy to count AP courses where the student gets a 3 or better on the exam, so they have to take the exam. None of us think that an AP course equals a history course, and would boot the policy from the books if we were in charge, which is no doubt why we aren’t.


  3. I also don’t understand where the HS districts are getting this money. They slashed district budgets across Colorado, and in some places laid off large numbers of teachers as a result. It would seem to me that the money they are planning on sending to BRU would be better spent on keeping teachers in their classrooms, especially for the kids who don’t plan on going to college (which is still the majority in Colorado, no?)


  4. As an undergrad with all-too-recent memories of high school AP courses, I can attest that they’re not in the least comparable to college classes. The material is more basic, encouraging you to memorize facts rather than learn the process of doing work in a given discipline; moreover, there is no institutional structure that connects AP teachers to each other to ensure that what they’re teaching is up-to-date. My AP US history class may or may not be a representative example, but it consisted of force-feeding us names and dates with a Cold War spin that I’m guessing didn’t deviate too dramatically from how my older and somewhat out-of-touch teacher learned history when he was in college (dead white men, capitalism is AWESOME, and all that jazz). Now that I’m majoring in history in college, however, I’m learning how real historians work, and my professors–who are aware of things like colonialism, gender and sexuality, labor history, etc.–spend more time teaching me *how* to read and learn and interpret for myself than they do telling me “what happened.” AP classes are high school classes, and there’s a place for gaining some general knowledge about names and dates–but that only takes you so far as someone with a good understanding of what history means. The College Board’s agenda to convince the public that AP courses do anything more than any other high school course is just marketing and, at $85/exam, a great way to make money. For a college or university to buy into the College Board’s rhetoric is to exhibit its own basic lack of faith in the quality of its faculty, their graduate education, and their present scholarship and involvement in the most recent developments in their discipline.


  5. Our students can get college credit for taking the AP exam and receiving a 3, 4, or 5. They can also use this to fulfill certain GE requirements. (For instance, passing the AP US history exam can satisfy some units in the “American culture and traditions” requirement. Or whatever it’s called. It seems like we’re always revising GE requirements.)

    I agree with Katherine that an AP class is certainly not the same as taking our lower division surveys and wish that it didn’t transfer. But at the same time, I also know with 100% certainty that most of the students I encounter who’ve taken the US lower div requirements at community colleges haven’t gotten the background they need for our upper div classes. (In fact, I’d wager to say that the students with a good AP experience are better prepared than many with community college experience.)

    But students getting college credit for taking high school classes without any kind of AP or community college oversight? It’s hard to imagine a clearer statement about the relative value of academics in the eyes of administrators. (Relative meaning–not very high.)


  6. Our public U students can receive general ed credit for some AP courses, but cannot use AP as a substitute for any credits in their history major. The move towards “counting” AP courses sounds like the same speed-up mentality shaping administrative views towards graduate education: if it can be done more quickly, it should, because quicker is better than, well, better.


  7. Is that even, uhhhh, truthful? If the college transcript is outright misrepresenting where courses were taken and how they were taught, doesn’t it forfeit all claims on being an accurate official record? And in that case, don’t all the students’ transcripts come under suspicion? “It says here you took technical writing and got an A, but where? Who taught it?”


  8. Students where I teach can “validate” core courses (i.e. skip them) with high AP/IB scores or college credits, but they receive no credit hours for the work – it simply frees up their schedules a bit.

    this is a very peculiar institutional context, though, in which the core curriculum is 32/40 required courses.


  9. I wish we didn’t give AP credit, because our program outcomes are mostly skills-based, and they are things the students DO NOT LEARN in AP (I know this for a fact, being an AP grader and all). We give transfer credits, so they go towards graduation, but not towards the GPA. In Washington State, we had dual enrollment where students took Actual College Courses at a CC, and they counted towards both High School and College (and upset lots of parents who didn’t want FERPA to apply to their 16 year olds). I’m fine with those. The students are enrolled as college students and graded as such. What I don’t like is that these should be limited to students with really high GPAs or at least test scores, and they are not in practical terms limited.

    But AP is becoming more and more of a gimmick as the funding structure for AP classes means that a lot of students who don’t have the skills are pushed into them.


  10. I went to a university that only accepted 2 or 3 AP course substitutions, making it impossible to shorten your time to degree because you took thirteen AP classes.

    I agree with Emily, Katherine, and John S. that AP classes are not of the same quality as college level courses, especially in the humanities. But my experience (and it was just my experience) was that it made sense to replace AP science and math classes for the across-the-board woeful nature of intro math/science classes in college. I can say without question that my high school calculus teacher was fabulous and my college calculus teacher (a recent PhD) was so bad that I learned less than I’d already known.


  11. Hmm. Lots to say here.

    First, I’m not prepared to say that good high school teachers can’t provide students with instruction equal (or superior) to what one would receive in a survey level class at the university. As a senior, I took a honors pre-calculus course taught by a high school teacher and received credit for it through one of Baa Ram U’s sister schools. My teacher had an MA in mathematics and our class met every other day for 90 minutes all year. If I were to have taken the same course at Baa Ram U, I would have enrolled in an online course with no instructor, and I would have had to pass a series of online exams with an 80 percent or higher. I think that I learned far more in my high school class than I would have if I enrolled in Baa Ram U’s “math mods” class. Moreover, I think I learned far more in my high school class than I did in the Calculus class I took at Baa Ram U. That class was taught by a stressed out graduate student who had difficulty controlling the class.

    Second, I have to agree with John S.’s point about some classes vs. some courses taught at the community college. The two AP history courses were extremely difficult and I scored very high on both exams. My teacher also took the time to teach us critical thinking skills and introduce us to primary sources. I think that I very much deserved the credit I received for both AP US and AP Euro. Still, this was not true of every AP course I took. I also took courses in AP German and AP Physics. The instruction was poor in both cases and, unsurprisingly, I scored a 1 on both exams. So in my experience, my AP system is one that works because the exams are very difficult to pass.

    Now, I have not found this to be the case as an instructor at the local community college. Many of my students have told me that the enrolled in history because their friends told them US History I or II was an easy course and all they needed to do to pass exams was go to lecture. This is not true of my course and many of my students are frustrated in my course because they must actually study for exams (I don’t give multiple choice exams). I also feel that it is unethical for me to pass a student how would fail one of historiann’s (or any instructor at CSU) course. Still, some of my colleagues are more or less forced to give easier exams and pay less attention to students because they teach more courses than I do. Instructors at the institution where I work make a little less than 2,000 a class. Many are forced to teach 5 classes a semester. I have the luxury of teaching fewer classes because my partner makes a good living.

    Basically, I guess my point is twofold. First, that if a quality system of instruction is in place at one’s high school, than I think good students should be given the opportunity to take courses in order to save money. I graduated in three years, and went on to be a successful graduate student. And second, I think there exists problems with the quality of instruction at all places of education be it at high school, Baa Ram U, or the local community college.


  12. Hmm–so the credit appears as if it comes from Baa Ram U when actually it’s an AP exam? Isn’t it worried about academic integrity? It sounds to me like the old “buying indulgences” to get out of purgatory (university as purgatory?) in the Middle Ages; someone might want to check with the Catholic Church about how well that turned out.

    I like what you said about partnering and the football coach. Can’t you just tell the powers that be that you’ll be right behind the coach when it comes to signing up for these, uh, “voluntary” partnerships?


  13. I should clarify. I credit I received for my math course was through a partnership between my high school and the local state school (which wasn’t Baa Ram U, but much like the proposed courses that Historiann was posting about).

    I did, however, also receive AP credit, but that is clearly marked on by Baa Ram U transcript. As far as I know, all AP credits are clearly marked as AP credit.

    Sorry to create confusion.


  14. Where to start? “encouraged” to consider “partnering,” or “encouraged” to *”consider”* “partnering?” When this kind of synergy-stuff comes up, most adminispherians see these as decisions that have to be made at the Provost’s staff conference level, if not higher. So it quickly becomes “directed” to “implement” “partnering.”

    That “college is the new high school” has been the tacit ideology for a decade or more, so this just sounds like a delivery mode. They also always love to use the rhetoric about “this other branch will eat our lunch” if we don’t do it when pushing such initiatives. The feds could usefully step in and force states to start de-proliferating overlapping higher ed systems. We have a state flagship school that they don’t make any pretense is “owned” by the state; rather it’s state “related.” It has a statewide network of two and four year satelite campuses. Then we have two other state-related unis, in the twin metropolises at either end of the state, that each have branch campus systems. Then the fourteen-school system that actually IS owned by the state has various sets of capillary enterprises fanning out into essentially depopulated counties more or less contiguous with the one housing the host institution. It ends up being like so many stripper wells, competing for the same finite pools of ignorance.

    Why don’t we agree on this: high schools can apply to give college credit for particularly challenging course work, per some regulatory scheme. Unis can give high school credit for some of our bottom-feeding offerings that exist for the sake of the intramural struggle over “seats” that sustain “lines” that feed programs? Or we could just require people to apply for bachelors’ degrees when they get a social security card, with both of those documents in turn being required to get a birth certificate!

    Don’t get me going on Barneys. You used to be able to walk in there and buy a tie and still have enough money to stop at a Needicks or a Wimpy’s for dinner on the way home! How did they muscle in on the high-end?


  15. Barney’s: it’s the store that manages to make me feel fat and poor. (And I am neither compared to the vast vast vast vast vast majority of Americans.)

    I think the question of AP courses has bled into the “concurrent enrollment” scheme I describe in the post. I’m not wild about AP courses, but they usually get students out of only a few intro courses, and they don’t get credit for them nor is the grade added into their college G.P.A. Students still have to take 120 credits at Baa Ram U.–they just can skip a few 100-level classes and take higher-level courses, which is A-OK with me. They still have to have 120 college credits to graduate.

    The scheme I describe above would award students in certain high school classes the grade and the credit just the same as if they registered for and passed my class or that of my colleagues at Baa Ram U. No admissions to the university, no need to take an AP exam (which, like it or not, is a hurdle). So to answer Undine’s question above, it’s college credit without even the bother of an AP exam.

    Mary’s comment raises the important question of the quality of instruction across different institutions–universities, CCs, and high schools. She is correct that people (like her) teaching in CCs in our state need only an M.A. to teach history. (And in my department, we until recently had one adjunct with just an M.A., and we also have permitted ABDs to teach even upper-division courses for us.) I think she makes a good point that there are good and bad teachers everywhere. But, I’m not talking about everywhere here–I’m just talking about my department permitting high school teachers to offer credit for courses in our names. And we require the research credential and an ongoing research agenda from our faculty not just because we think research is fun or we’re keeping up with the Joneses in other unis. We require this because we believe that our research makes us better teachers.

    There are a lot of reasons I object to this, but even leaving aside the many moral and ethical problems I see, I think we need to make a stand for why we think we’re offering something that the vast majority of high school teachers can’t. Recall Stanley Fish’s advice in Save the World on Your Own Time? “[d]o your job, don’t try to do someone else’s job and don’t let anyone else do your job.” This scheme would appear to violate all three of those rules to live by.


  16. We do it too. Different terms, same result — “dual credit courses,” “articulation agreements,” etc. A group of us are part of a de facto committee that oversees all the HS syllabi and approve them as well as the teachers (we get their resumes) to run these courses. Am I happy with it? No. But it’s shoveling sand to hold back the tide. The shirts downstairs love it.


  17. I can speak directly to this. For several years now, students in local HS history AP courses have been able to earn college credits (identified as from Small Urban U.) in 100-level history courses without taking the AP exam. They can also earn credits in almost any other subject for which an AP course is offered.

    The AP teacher must have a master’s degree, but until recently, the degree DID NOT HAVE TO BE IN HISTORY. When I became department chair, I was stunned to discover that several of these AP teachers had master’s degrees in athletic administration or PE, and some had only six undergraduate hours of history (they were certified in “social studies”). It took two years of fighting to insist on a graduate degree in history (and I didn’t win my whole point).

    HS students pay tuition for these “college credit” courses, but it is lower than the actual in-state tuition at SUU, so parents love this. Apparently, not every college will accept these courses as transfer credits, but that just funnels these students into SUU and its sister State Unis, so our administrators love this.

    Some of the tuition money comes into a fund which our department can sometimes tap into. Other departments were smarter about giving themselves access, I’ve learned to my chagrin. (Most of the money funnels back to the high schools, so they love this.)

    When I became aware of the program, it was already a done deal, and a big deal. Fighting to ensure the relatively modest standards I insisted on (training in the content area) was the most stressful thing I experienced as chair, and took up more of my time than any other task besides advising. It has also led me to be deeply skeptical of the so-called “standards” embraced by K-12 educators (and my administration, for that matter).

    My advice: if you can’t beat it, insist on a minimum of an M.A. in HISTORY for teachers, and insist on using some of the tuition funds to make life better for your faculty on campus (think travel money, technology–whatever makes you happy). It is entirely appropriate; your chair will earn every dollar of it in premature aging.

    Sorry for the long post. You got me where I live.


  18. Somehow, I’m not surprised to read Mamie’s report. I had high school teachers in the 90s who did not have even a BA in the subject they were teaching. Even my AP calculus teacher (who had a BA or BS in math) hadn’t taken a math course more advanced than calculus (as in no multivariable); she happened to be exceptional but I think she was just that, an exception to the rule.

    It looks like this is a losing battle, per Mamie’s post, but why is it too much to ask that the moment teachers start teaching specialized subjects, even if it’s just the math/science or english/social studies combo, we require that they’ve majored in the subject they’re teaching?


  19. Oh and I guess the obvious corollary to Historiann’s post is that if these courses are going to be standing in as college-level courses on transcripts, shouldn’t they at least be taught by people with BAs (to aim low) in the subject? It’s clear nobody cares about the professors here but shouldn’t someone be concerned about what the students are missing?


  20. Well, on the flip side. Schools like mine are gunning for you all. I teach at an independent K-12. Everybody in the Upper School has at least an MA and half of us have more. We’ve developed some pretty interesting courses in our history curriculum American Environmental History, Constructing Race and Gender (from a World History perspective), AP World was developed, in part, out of our 11th grade Honors World History course. While we don’t particularly have research agendas, our upper level courses compare pretty favorably with a fair number of college courses. In these classes we read monographs; we have JSTOR access. And we’re very, very tech savvy. My senior honors history class, The 60s: Between History and Memory will be building an interactive oral history database that will allow students and researchers to link, comment on, and tag previously collected and new oral histories thus overcoming one of the central problems of oral history work, poor indexing. And they’ll read Allesandro Portelli because we’ll be taking a critical look at methodology as well as content. We teach skills. And we’re looking to increase our incomes so we can get paid commensurate with our abilities. If you don’t make an alliance with us, somebody else will. Yes, you professor folks do things we can’t (honestly, trying to keep up with just the US part of history is exhausting, much less keep up with both halves of the world survey, thank god for blogs!) Yes, there are a lot of idiots teaching HS history, even AP which is why AP started auditing. But the reality is that folks like me are gunning for a piece of the higher ed dollar and you can either work with us or get run over by us.


  21. @Western Dave: I really don’t understand your post. Why would K-12 teachers “gun for” higher ed dollars? I can understand going for more K-12 funding, but why would you want your students to then get less well-funded educations when they leave your schools? What is the good?


  22. @Western Dave: I’m not sure about the “paid commensurate with our abilities” — it’s not like high school teachers are missing out on the riches to be obtained at second-tier state schools. Where I live, a high school teacher with comparable qualifications (Ph.D. +8 years experience) makes just $57 less than I do annually; MAs make about $3,000 less, which is something, but not a ton. And except for superstar publishers or senior people wooed from elsewhere, salaries seem to top out about the same.


  23. That’s not to argue that excellent high school teachers shouldn’t be better compensated, just that pitching it as a battle against or contest with university faculty seems somewhat misdirected.


  24. @Western Dave: How, exactly, would an independent K-12 school “gun for” public higher ed dollars? Are you suggesting that towns, counties, or states will begin funding independent schools? I’m not sure what you mean by independent, but if you mean a private school, funded by a mix of tuition and endowment and with competitive admissions, then I am not sure that I see that happening. (If I misunderstand your terminology here then I apologize; that is the usage that I have been most familiar with from my time working as an employee with different “independent schools” on the east coast, west coast, and in the south.) And do you envision graduates of public K-12 institutions going to a K-12 independent school such as yours to receive higher education (i.e., college/university) credits? If not, what would the incentive be to shunt public monies towards independent schools?

    I don’t mean to sound antagonistic here, really. And I certainly welcome thinking outside the box, as it were. Here in the Golden State, our public higher education compact is broken, and I welcome any kind of creative thinking or solutions to deal with our problems. But in point of fact, it is completely and utterly unrealistic (to say the least) to think that turning to independent schools here will provide any kind of large scale solution. There are a total of 190 elementary, middle, and secondary independent schools in my state, with (according to the CAIS) 2,000 teachers and administrators.

    Meanwhile, the state as a whole has 112 community colleges, over 30 regional state universities, and 9 statewide universities. My own statewide university has more than 1,000 faculty and 25,000 undergraduates. Addressing problems we have with chronic underfunding and massive fee increases need need statewide solutions; independent schools “gunning for” us doesn’t seem to be a constructive way to approach the problem.


  25. “Gunning for you all…” “…run over by us.” Mysterious other allies, waiting in the wings. MAs + JSTOR + cool tech = a looming juggernaut. Very Napoleonic, but. Not serious.


  26. Just remembered that we had this come up at one of the CCs where I taught. Our (i.e., Faculty Senate’s) answer was a categorical NO, unless the faculty member had at least an MA in the field, interviewed with the department in question and underwent the same observation and review process that all adjunct faculty went through.

    @WesternDave: srsly? No offense, but what Indyanna said plus a whole lot more. I hear this from high school faculty fairly often — especially those at independent schools. If the faculty member in question has actually been a PhD and tenure-track or tenured faculty at a SLAC or university or CC, I might buy it. And it’s nice you get to teach lots of cool courses. But really? Unlikely.

    Mary: perhaps you took AP long enough ago that the courses and exams were different. But I can guarantee you that the highest scoring AP History exams I’ve seen in several years of reading them pretty much equal a C in a university (or good CC) level course. So yes, students get credit for passing, but passing is not doing well enough to handle an upper-division class.


  27. This pattern is something that the registrars and admissions people out here are very worried about: colleges and CCs are contracting with various outfits to provide courses (especially online courses) and they will come with a course code from the college and no indication that it was an online course offered by whomever. There’s a lot of pressure for truth in advertising, so that if it says you took a course from CC X, you actually took the course there, and not through some other supplier of educational services.

    Just the language makes me cringe.

    @Western Dave: Its great that an independent school can offer this great set of courses. No one doubts your abilities or the rigor of the courses offered at your school. But there’s a difference between your world and that of your colleagues in the public sector; and it’s the public schools Historiann is being asked to partner with.


  28. I’ve worked in schools like Western Dave’s (as a tradesman). They are public and may be the first to offer college-HS partnerships because of their highly educated faculty and motivated administration.

    But I would be much more concerned about what Susan discussed – that innovations in on-line content delivery will soon make it possible to outsource much of the lower-division general education curriculum.


  29. Great point, Geoff. I think the on-line course scam is a bigger problem.

    I meant no disrespect to high school teachers in writing this post. My point was that we have different jobs, and we should each stick to what we know best and not “collaborate” in these programs that would appear to be of dubious real value to anyone (and would entail a lot of hassle, much of it uncompensated, for all of the faculty involved, both H.S. and uni people.)

    My colleagues have made several comments about what a pain in the butt this kind of course would be for the H.S. teachers. If the same course were “approved” by several different unis/CCs, that would mean that that teacher would need to cooperate not just with one uni, but with all of them, and (presumably) stay in touch with faculty at all of them. On top of having to help prepare students for The Test each year, plus all of the other million things H.S. teachers have to worry about that most uni faculty don’t. So, were I a high school teacher, I’d be just as (un)enthusiastic about this concurrent enrollment scheme as I am as a uni professor.

    But, as most of the comments here suggest, this is all just a big part of everyone trying to get something for nothing, or more for less in any case. It’s all a big cheat around what we know works in education: well-trained teachers with reasonable teacher-student ratios. I don’t know if any of you have clicked over to Clio Bluestocking’s post about her on-line classes, but it’s a great example of how a school admin has clearly given up on quality in favor of quantity, because more students = more money, and they don’t care that more students = proportionally less teacher/professor time and attention for each student which also = a totally different kind of educational experience (and not a better one for the vast majority of students.)

    What disturbs me even more about the on-line stuff is (ahem) accountability. How can the regular faculty know what’s going on in on-line teaching, let alone evaluate it fairly? Are unis really happy to trash their brands for the sake of a few more tuition dollars for people enrolling in lower-divison classes, a larger number of whom may be doomed to fail because of the lack of faculty contact *by design*? This seems at least as morally dubious as the for-profit unis.


  30. p.s. on the brand-trashing: I’ll get on board when I hear that highly selective unis are going this route (on-line courses, “concurrent enrollment,” whatever.) But somehow, I don’t think that’s their business plan.

    I think that not-so-selective unis should consider what going the Wall-Mart route will do for them in the long run. Universities are the product of years or even centuries of investments in capital: money, time, infrastructure, human talent, etc. It takes years to build an institution with a recognized mission and unique collection of strengths and emphases. I don’t think it will take quite as long to sell all that out for the proverbial mess of (on-line) pottage.

    Grr. As wini said a while back: stabby, stabby, crabby, and stabby. (I added in the crabby part.)


  31. It is worth pointing out that there are many private universities with long-standing highly respected brands. I get that what you mean by “privitization” in this context is different than that, but anyhoo.


  32. It gets much worse than what I wrote about in that post. A few months back I wrote about something called the “common course.” Not only can they expand class sizes in online courses, they can also expand the number of courses. Since online courses require training and greater amounts of preparation (always with the stated assumption — or myth — that “once you create the class materials, you will never have to do it again!”), and they don’t want to pay anyone for that training and preparation, they have decided to develop a single, unchangeable class, into which they can plug anyone at a moment’s notice.

    Whereas I like the idea of having a bank of assignments and so forth to assist instructors new to the medium since it means that I won’t be stuck with the online load all year round while I wait for someone else to get off their butts and get trained, that’s not the plan and they won’t let us treat it as such. They want everything to be exactly the same, and the instructor cannot change a word without a series of meetings with everyone else teaching the class. They say that this ensure good teaching, uniform teaching, that everyone who goes through these courses learns the same thing.

    This boils my blood because it simply turns the instructors into graders, and removes any creativity and individuality from the class. Then, I read about that school that outsourced its grading (in the Chronicle of Higher Ed — can’t find the link at the moment). So, are we going to end up like all of those tech people and find our jobs sent overseas? I can see some number-crunching administrator thinking that, if high school teachers and overseas graders can do our jobs, what is the point of the college faculty?

    Whoops! Went on a rant there didn’t I? Online wasn’t the point of the post, was it? As far as high schools, I’m not sure that we have the same sorts of partnerships. We do have some h.s. students take college courses, but our goal in that direction seems to be to convince h.s. students that college should be part of their future. Not that they are remotely prepared for college when they arrive; and, isn’t that the point of h.s.? To prepare students for college. Not to replace college, and not to turn colleges like mine into grade 13 or worse.


  33. Clio–on-line education is very much a part of this whole question. Both concurrent enrollment and on-line ed move “college” away from our campuses, and away from faculty oversight and expertise. As your recent post suggested, they also spread faculty resources thinner–by design.

    I saw that article about the overseas graders. I was going to do a post on that, but then it slipped past. No one seems to have appreciated all of the ironies about that class: It was a course in business ethics that was being taught to 700 students at a time, which is why the proffie was looking for help with the grading. Most of the people who commented on the story focused on her decision to outsource the grading–and never questioned the “business ethics” of asking a prof to teach any course–let alone a business ethics course with writing assignments–to 700 people at a time. (I think she’s dubious, but the uni is the original bad actor in all of this.)


  34. ADM: I graduated six years ago, so really not very long ago. But my instructor had been teaching AP courses for 25+ years. She had an incredibly high placement record, and I believe I worked harder in her course than I would have in a similar course at Baa Ram U. The first history course I took in college was Historiann’s US Women’s History course to 1800 and (as she can attest) I did quite well. However, it may be simply that I lucked out with my instructor. Emily certainly appears to have had a different experience. Still, AP course benefited me tremendously.

    And I absolutely think that Historiann is right to fight to keep high standards at Baa Ram U (and the history dept remains one of the only depts on campus that does not let graduate students teach courses). I just think that it should be acknowledged that not all classes taught at the university are superior to classes taught in high school, particularly when so many courses have 120+ students or are taught online. Like Historiann said “classes are best with well trained teachers and reasonable teacher student ratios.” I guess I think that college courses offered in high schools with small student-teacher ratios are potentially useful alternatives to large survey or online classes, but that may be because I had a generally positive experience with such courses. And I think that these courses will always be inferior to smaller courses taught by faculty members at the university.


  35. Utah has had concurrent enrollment for a while. It’s quite popular with parents, who pay for fewer college classes, and with students, who come in acting cocky and self-entitled (in many cases already holding associate degrees, at least on paper) until they discover that they aren’t as well prepared for actual college coursework as they thought they were. They also can’t understand down the road why they don’t get into graduate/professional school based on only two years of actual college coursework on their transcripts–and that’s the real test, isn’t it?


  36. Shane (and Eduardo & Mamie, way upthread)–I really appreciate your testimony from experience. What you report here, Shane, is totally predictable.

    All of your comments are really, really helpful as I think this through.


  37. Historiann, I think in that business ethics class instance, the problem was that “business” modifier. You see, there are ethics, in which people try to live life correctly, and then you go through the looking glass and find business ethics.

    It seemed rather fitting that the business class had an overburdened teacher (700 students! That’s beyond mass production!) in order to maximize profits, and that the teacher outsourced an overwhelming chunk of her work — I can’t remember if she took on the cost of that herself, but if she did, then all the better for the school. That seems to be what businesses do these days, and since business is the all-knowing, always correct model to follow (that’s sarcasm there), I wouldn’t be surprised if some administrator somewhere thought, “hey, that’s pretty smart! How can we do it? You know that the market demands it, and it’s the wave of the future, and it’s here to stay, and we can’t stop it, and blahblahblah.”

    I”m in a cynical Chicken Little mood today, so some of what I’m seeing in some of the comments here is the potential for an attitude of “how can I get around going to college while still getting credit for college.” In a less cynical mood, I might also see that the greatest problem from K-college graduation is that teacher-student ratio, which ties into the second problem of providing an actual education in order to create a thinking population, which seems at odds with what the decision-makers at the top seem to want or are able to facilitate.


  38. I see your cynicism and I’ll raise you two, or three. I don’t think it’s a Chicken Little attitude. This is the logical end of thirty years of adjunctifying the faculty and thinning out the ranks and “doing more with less.”

    Ain’t it?

    It seems like the status quo is happy to prevent the “actual education in order to create a thinking population.” Years ago, it was racial and sex exclusion from secondary ed, then higher ed. Nowadays education is open to all, but it isn’t the same thing that’s being offered to the masses compared to the elites who attend private secondary schools and elite private colleges. It would turn American society on its head if we offered a Choate-Amherst style education to each and every American child–which is why it doesn’t happen.


  39. I think the B.P. chief said it best earlier today about the situation down in the Gulf. Not our rig, not our problem. We off-platform the actual petroleum acquisition process. We’re actually more of an accounting firm.

    Ze didn’t actually say all of the latter things, but that was pretty much the burden or drift.


  40. All this — online classes, college credit in high school — could be done to improve education, give people more routes to learning. It could be done right. Then it would take more time and money.

    So…. It’s done on the cheap, which produces some kind of cheap, “just-as-good” substitute for the education we thought we were buying.

    The core issue, as was said upthread, is the devaluation of education. It’s nowhere near as important as holding on to a couple of extra dollars.

    Every time I’m reminded of this, I think of a report I heard about Sudan when they were having one of their famines there. Oxfam asked the villagers what their most pressing needs were. Schools for the children, they said.


  41. First, my apologies for not responding more promptly, my laptop took a tumble and I’m now on a loaner. I also want to contextualize my remarks some.

    K-12 education has been turned upside-down in the last few years by home schooling, charter schools, and a whole series of innovations. Some of these are well done, some of these are crap. I really believe that the same spirit of innovation (to put a positive spin on it) is coming to higher ed and it is coming sooner rather than later. I believe the choice is not whether or not deal with this but how best to control change. We can bitch and moan all we want about losing the discursive war over whether education is worth the dollars but if we are not going out and proving it, we are not going to convince anybody. My colleagues in my history department and I are fighting our battles to hold our place in the curriculum as math and science expand their offerings. But that’s the subject of a different post.

    Online learning or more particularly blended learning (a mix of on-line and classroom work) can be a really good tool for expanding course offerings and reaching wider audiences. There is a blended learning cooperative of public, independent, and parochial schools that offers a wide array of courses. As part of the condition of joining the coop a school has to offer a course and agree that a teacher will be available to monitor the classroom piece of the course (ie: a student is logged in for a live chat, spending a certain amount of time working on the class, doing any in-class work such as a test or in-class essay under appropriate conditions and so on). A teacher who offers a course as part of the coop has to have it count towards his/her teaching load. (btw, where do I find the dictionary of gender neutral pronouns?) Enrollments are capped (20, I think).

    A second piece of context, AP is struggling. Many independent schools have dropped AP and a lot of the prestigious public school districts look like they are going to follow suit. Some have replaced with IB. Many are looking to go their own way.

    So you have a bunch of bright teenagers, many who have finished the high school curriculum of 20 or 30 years ago who need challenging courses, you have a technology that can connect them to college campuses. Why not a blended learning scenario?

    Imagine your US survey TAed not by green grad students but by experienced teachers. Imagine if you spent two weeks over the summer giving those teachers workshops in doing history skills while hammering away at how these translate into important habits of mind. Maybe you required that only those with an MA in history could participate and made it a prestige thing. I can think of a whole bunch of teachers who would love to have anything with the word certified in it (“Baa-Ram certified U.S. History instructor”)

    Let’s face it, a lecture is a lecture – does it matter if it’s live or skyped? And a discussion section is a discussion section. There will need to be certain adjustments for high school students (more frequent graded items, graded by “TeAchers” or some other snazzy title). If we are going to assume that this will remain the model for surveys, then there is no good reason to not embrace some sort of dual credit arrangement with high schools. To the extent that you get on board with this, you will control how good it is.

    If you don’t get on board, somebody else is going to control it and it’s likely to bad. I don’t know what the future is going to look like for this stuff, but I do know a lot of motivated people are working on it. Some are motivated by altruism, some are motivated by greed, and some are motivated by the thrill of inventing something new. I’m working from all three.

    The change is coming. I don’t say it to scare you. I say it because I’m living through it right now.


  42. Western Dave: thanks for coming back to add more to the conversation. I see where you’re coming from. But, I’m not convinced that uni faculty *need* to collaborate with this. In fact, I think our role (those of us who enjoy tenure, anyway) is to fight this erosion not just of our role but of yours as well. There’s a good commentary over at Inside Higher Ed today that questions this speed-up mentality about education: the assumption that a 3-year B.A. or B.S. is desirable or equivalent to a 4-year degree; the agitation about the “fact” that 12th grade is “useless,” etc. This for me was the money quote:

    Americans have always felt pride in their Americanism, in the “can do” spirit driven by hard work, honor, and creativity. We love the images of the cowboy and the pioneer, the early astronauts landing on the moon, the “greatest generation” storming the beaches at Normandy. But as we have become richer, more reliant on technology, and more populist in our relationship to intellect, we have rushed to produce more graduates and forgotten to help those graduates learn to honestly value their achievement. One often-unacknowledged irony regarding this trend is that many of its exponents — that is, those same policy experts who push for speedier graduation and more degrees — seem to have little hesitation in spending upwards of $50,000 per year to send their own children to America’s elite institutions, where traditional educational values remain a significant element of the core mission.

    I’ll climb on board happily with these schemes when I hear that Sasha and Malia Obama–and their tony Sidwell Friends school–are doing “concurrent enrollment” courses at Montgomery County Community College. But until then, I’ll remain quite skeptical. This looks and smells like a work speed-up for both H.S. and college faculty that will only hurt us all.


  43. Pingback: Class notes : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present

  44. A lot of those astronauts would *still* be on the moon if they (or the ground teams that designed the systems and managed the flights) had been sporting three-year civil engineering or avionics degrees. Of course nobody seems to be saying that we should be migrating serious subjects to the speed belt; just the fluffy basics like humanities and literature. The doctrine of embracing “change-agent” models of change or transformation because it’s inevitable anyway and if you embrace it you can control it has been continually embraced where I am, to our continuous detriment. You don’t end up controlling it, or anything else, and the change-agents roll around on the lunchroom floor laughing.

    Apropos of not quite anything: shouldn’t you have to be degreed and certified in change-agency to swoop in somewhere and proclaim yourself a “change-agent?” That’s the keyword that gets *me* repairing to the Molotov factory…


  45. It might have been said, above, but AP courses get funded because it keeps affluent students in the district, in the district. Sad, but true — those students make the stats look good, as well as keeping affluent parents involved in the extracurricular fund drives schools now permanently need.

    It’s all about the Benjamins, as ever….

    And, as for this:
    “It seems like the status quo is happy to prevent the “actual education in order to create a thinking population.” Years ago, it was racial and sex exclusion from secondary ed, then higher ed. Nowadays education is open to all, but it isn’t the same thing that’s being offered to the masses compared to the elites who attend private secondary schools and elite private colleges. It would turn American society on its head if we offered a Choate-Amherst style education to each and every American child–which is why it doesn’t happen.”

    That, and outsourcing of the measurement of knowledge — not the knowledge itself, which you can have if you can find it, but those who are the experts — is the plan.

    (rem “At least Cambodia was honest and did it with guns” rant)


  46. Pingback: Spring: the season for dumba$$ ideas? (Or are they like little black dresses and never out of fashion?) : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present

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