Higher Education’s Problem

If you want to understand what are the problems in higher education read this by Peter Augustine Lawler in NRO’s The Corner.  It appears that the quip that conservatives want to bring back the 1950s is sometimes true.  Here is a quote on higher education:

Here’s my model process of accreditation: A team of evaluators swarms the campus unannounced, checking the books, syllabi, and faculty qualifications and visiting some classes and observing the facilities. All the books and records would have to be accurate and up to date, but the college wouldn’t have to do anything different from it would ordinarily do just to please the accreditors. If everything checks out as “good enough,” they split, leaving behind a certificate of approval. If not, the school is put on notice. You might say this isn’t much different from the process by which hotels and restaurants are certified as good enough to serve customers. Well, that’s the point. It isn’t.

Peter’s proposal is entirely different from hotels and restaurants.  The certificate of approval does not check that they intend to serve food that is palatable but that they actually do serve food that is palatable.  Peter’s solution would check the chef’s recipes and credentials and then certify the restaurant as good enough to serve customers.  It wouldn’t matter if the ingredients were rotten or if the recipes were not followed.

It is a challenge to define and measure outcomes, especially educational ones.  Our ability to do that will determine how higher education survives in America.  If we take Peter’s route then it is likely we will end up with everything online.


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