Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Inside Higher Ed's Obam-Education

I like to read Inside Higher Ed (IHE) though at this point I have no idea why. I suppose it's because I spent so much time in higher education, languishing in a doctoral program in linguistics, teaching as an adjunct at various colleges and then actually holding a full-time job in a real university. (The university was real, but the job, director of an academic skills center, was a dismal sort of joke.) Not surprisingly, IHE is left-leaning in nature, but their articles are very often informative and usually tolerable.

However, ever since Obama's presidential campaign, IHE has given readers an unrelenting slog of tedious pieces about Obama's support for community colleges and his plans for higher education. Today's article, one more in the onslaught, I found to be more readable, maybe because Obama's agenda is now out in the open. The writer tries hard to present Obama's heavy boot as pressing down on college leaders in an enlightened and lofty way, but it's pretty clear that Obama cares as much about quality and excellence in education as he does about quality and excellence in health care, that is, not at all.

Obama wants government-regulated education just as he wants government-regulated health care, a government-mandated-European-style military and government-regulated banks and business. He wants to run everything, and some in higher education are recognizing that. As the president of the American Council on Education said at this week's Higher Learning Commission meeting,
"To the extent that federal policy makers are now willing to bail out banks and other financial institutions, and to take major equity positions in our auto makers, because those companies are too big to fail, then I believe it’s wise for us to assume they will have little reservation about regulating higher education now that they know it is too important to fail."
Yes, too important to fail because, like health care, it's another part of the fiber of American life that Obama knows he must control in order to fully accomplish his version of transformative change in our culture. The writer goes ahead though and promotes the fiction that Obama merely longs for the elixir of education to unlock the doors to opportunity for all. As the writer tells us, Obama is going to be demanding accountability from institutions of higher learning. Is he ever! It's not hard to imagine what those demands will be--more diversity requirements, less religion, more departments of African-American studies, fewer courses on Western Civilization, more trumped-up and padded majors leading to jobs in Obama's new world of medical care, fewer entrance and exit requirements, and more and more and more four-year degrees that will reveal very little learning or intellectual development of any kind took place in Obama's education factories.

The article cites "pressure to measure student learning" as an idea being touted by Obama's advisers. In my experience "pressure to measure student learning" combined with an enjoinder to show progress and not lower quality means that standardized testing procedures are tossed out and students are evaluated according to different learning styles. Teachers are trained to use methods and projects that will appeal to a diverse learning community with careful attention given to the visual learner and the experiential learner. The old methods are eschewed as cumbersome and limiting and teachers are encouraged (well, Obama will just pass a law) to dispense with memorization, listening to lectures, reading entire books and writing in grammatical English. The quality and direction of government-regulated Obam-education looks murky indeed.

The worst part of the article is the author's thinly-disguised and peevish Bush-bashing. He interprets for us readers that college leaders see the Obama administration as valuing higher education more than Bush who didn't "like" higher education, and the writer notes that Obama is expecting "more" from higher education than did the Bush administration. What a crock.

Would that we could pass this all off lightly, but unfortunately, as with health care, the long arms of Obama and his comrades continue to boldly move their steamroller over us. Therefore, all hands on deck! Man your battlestations! And do so winsomely!

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