Satire worthy of Jonathan Swift on the future of higher education op-ed generating machines over at The Tattooed Prof (Kevin Gannon) Go read:
Cutting-edge overgeneralizations culled from evolutionary science tells us that we’re hardwired to meet these existential threats via a combination of fight-or-flight response and provocative thinkpieces. American Higher Education stands at such a moment now, a disruptive juncture to end all disruptive junctures. At the end of the day, it will be the Innovators who preside over the College of the Future. And they will be joined by the Humanities professors who are brave enough to ignore the nattering nabobs of pedagogy and cling tenaciously to What Made Us Great. Both groups will win, or neither will. That’s the nature of Disruption.
I want especially to pick up on Gannon’s last paragraph, which underlies if not is featured in any breast-beating and wailing and gnashing of teeth about What’s Wrong with Higher Ed today, namely, the nostalgia most of us feel for our college days (mostly because we were young), and the false memory we sometimes have of our own seriousness and studiousness back in the day:
I may be some years removed from my own undergraduate experience, but that won’t stop me from extrapolating from it to make boundless decrees about what today’s undergraduates need. I distinctly recall some of the lectures I attended as a Neophyte Humanist yearning for mentorship and guidance for my delicate, impressionable mind. There was the impressive vastness of the auditorium, the distinct smell of old books and mildewed ceiling tiles, the smooth boards of the front stage, worn down by the tread of many a Demosthenes imparting–nay, entrusting–the Western Tradition to a new generation. And now I was one link in that chain, stretching from the Agora to the Quad, which is where I hung out when I was skipping lectures. I remember everything that happened as if it were unfolding right now–the overhead projector and fuzzy transparencies, the lapel mic fading in and out, the sweet bliss of dozing off just enough where I could still hear the professor’s voice in my dreams.
Exactly! But these pompous pronouncements never remember college the way they actually experienced it, do they?
I’m mostly embarrassed by my behavior and class attendance record in college. I remember regularly falling asleep in my 9 a.m. Art History class, which I liked but which put me in a dark, dark room shortly after I had woken up. I remember skipping just about every single lecture in my two-semester Western Civ sequence Freshman Year. You could say I was a slow learner, or at least a very slow developer of a prefrontal cortex. In short, I was your average above-average idiot with below-average late-teenage decision-making skills until I was probably in my mid-twenties.
But here’s the big difference between me and those op-ed writers: I’ve been to college nearly every day of my working life since then, too! And my attendance record and my staying-awake-through-class abilities have improved remarkably. Of course, as we all know from the discourse on K-12 “reform” that education is too important to be left to the educators.