Wednesday, October 11, 2006

No Faculty Left Behind

There's a bizarre op-ed essay in the New York Times today. Eugene Hickok, from the Heritage Foundation (and a former Bushee), thinks that universities and colleges need to be more accountable for the performance of their students. I would hope that if he really wanted to make a strong case for this point of view, rather than writing the typical conservative rant, he would use facts instead of delusional myths. For example:

"Faculty members decide what they want to teach and when they want to teach it, if, indeed, they teach at all."
On what planet is this true? Should I inform my university, which seems to be unaware of this 'fact'?

".. undergraduate instruction, which is something of an afterthought on many campuses."
OK, I get it -- he's not just on another planet, he's in another century. This statement has not been true for a while at even the most research-oriented universities.

"Faculty members typically spend fewer than 200 hours in the classroom. That amounts to just five 40-hour weeks."
He can do math! Unfortunately, he does not seem to have spent any time in a real college or university -- that is, in the kind of place where professors spend time preparing for classes before actually walking into the classroom (not to mention grading), and where faculty do research, not to mention enriching service activities. At my university, the mandated time split between teaching-research-service is 40-40-20.

"And there needs to be a greater emphasis on teaching students what they need to know, rather than what faculty want to talk about."
Maybe he and his all-knowing colleagues can give us scripts to read so that we don't stray from the appropriate and relevant topics? That would eliminate the need to prepare for classes, and since he's not counting that time anyway, why not?

And then there's: "(the academy) is a culture seriously out of touch with much of America".
I suppose that's his unoriginal way of saying that we are liberals and most real people aren't. In any case, I don't feel particularly out of touch with my students at my large state university (other than of course the usual professorial phenomenon of getting older while our students stay the same age). There are exceptions: I do not feel 'in touch' when I have student who think God uses natural disasters to punish sinners and anyone else who happens to be around, nor am I in touch with students who don't believe in evolution but who make sure to get the latest flu shot. However, Eugene Hickok would no doubt be relieved to know that I feel very much in touch with sexism and discrimination, and that parts of the Academy are very much in tune with the rest of society with respect to how it treats women.


Reviewer A said...

Where do they dig up these clowns?
I have worked in the 'real world' and have worked as a professor, and the real world is a lot easier. I did not take my work home with me. I let go of it when I left the office, went home, and relaxed. I went to movies! I had friends! I had free weekends most of the time, all year round. I went skiing!

Thank you for the alert. I will be sure not to read the article.

Anonymous said...

ha ha ha. Don't you find "Bushies" who talk about accountability hilarious??

Anonymous said...

ummmm... well, I find it hilarious in the "laugh to avoid crying" sense.

Sadder still, they don't have to dig up those clowns. Have you noticed how many of the those foundations exist primarily as clown schools? They overflow with noise-makers, perpetually frothing at the mouth, ready to provide dogmatic hyperbole to every microphone, TV camera, or steno pad within range.

Thanks, Science Professor Woman, for taking the time to help dismantle this circus.

Ms.PhD said...

Sadly, much of what Eugene says applies very well to graduate education at private research institutions. No accountability there at all.

Leslie M-B said...

I just love it when people who have no interest or experience in working in the academy try to tell us how to do our jobs.

Get a Ph.D., teach at my institution for a few years, and then let's talk.

Anonymous said...

40:40:20 is an institutional fact of life, at least in the Australian system. Despite fourty years of attempts to bias this one way or another, 40:40:20 survives as a rule of thumb for time dedication.