Students are Not the Customers – Or the Product – But Our Partners

Are our students the customers, the product, or something else?

by Leonard Schlesinger (Babson)

Schools that identify students as customers are missing the essential reciprocal nature of the educational relationship. As someone who has spent most of his adult life running service enterprises that were truly taking care of customers, the use of that word for what is essentially a partnership relationship demeans the work that faculty do. You would not “flunk” your customer because you don’t want to make him or her unhappy.

The customer mode generally implies a transactional encounter. So, when they’re in line at the dining hall or bookstore or engaging in the administrative functions on campus, then, absolutely, students are customers.

However, what goes on in the classroom is not transactional. When they’re in the classroom, each student is a PILE—a Partner in the Learning Enterprise. A Partner in the Learning Enterprise recognizes that each of us has a set of Continue reading “Students are Not the Customers – Or the Product – But Our Partners”

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Passion – You Can’t Know You’ve Found it Until You Fail

What is your passion?

by Pamela Haag

It’s true that “passion” and “mission” get tossed around a lot these days. They sound like things that any college freshman can pick up at the salad bar.

How will you even recognize your passion when you encounter it? Perhaps unwisely, I’m going to propose a practical rather than a gauzy, ponderous answer to that question:  A passion is something that you love so much that you want to keep doing it even when you’re failing at it, you need to work hard to do it, and the doing of it occasionally is no fun at all.

That comes as close to a mission in life as I can imagine. I love writing in almost any genre or permutation, even when it’s a nightmare.

Too often, what we’re good at gets Continue reading “Passion – You Can’t Know You’ve Found it Until You Fail”

Too Much Higher Education

Are too many students going to college?

by Walter E. Williams

Too much of anything is just as much a misallocation of resources as it is too little, and that applies to higher education just as it applies to everything else. A recent study from The Center for College Affordability and Productivity titled “From Wall Street to Wal-Mart,” by Richard Vedder, Christopher Denhart, Matthew Denhart, Christopher Matgouranis and Jonathan Robe, explains that college education for many is a waste of time and money. More than one-third of currently working college graduates are in jobs that do not require a degree. An essay by Vedder that complements the CCAP study reports that there are “one-third of a million waiters and waitresses with college degrees.” The study says Vedder — distinguished professor of economics at Ohio University, an adjunct scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and director of CCAP — “was startled a year ago when the person he hired to cut down a tree had a master’s degree in history, the fellow who fixed his furnace was a mathematics graduate, and, more recently, a TSA airport inspector (whose job it was to ensure that we took our shoes off while going through security) was a recent college graduate.”

The nation’s college problem is far deeper than Continue reading “Too Much Higher Education”

The Narrowing of the American Mind

Are we preparing students for the professional world?

By Carol Geary Schneider (AAC&U)

Envision this: You’re an employer, interviewing a candidate for an entry-level position in your unit. The applicant is very direct.

“I’m in it for the money,” she explains. “I make all my choices on the basis of how much I can expect to earn. I chose my major based on earnings reports. I applied for this particular position because you pay more than any other company in the region. Actually, I’m a bit sorry that I didn’t stop with a two-year degree, since I read in the newspaper last week that I could have made almost as much in my first job with half the time spent on college. I hate thinking about all the time I wasted.”

You have no difficulty deciding not to hire this new graduate. The job applicant who arrives talking money first, money only, lacks common sense, and career sense, too.

And yet our candid candidate did Continue reading “The Narrowing of the American Mind”

Why It’s OK to Rat On Other Students

How do you teach people to do the right thing?

by Warren Goldstein

Like many people in the academy, I have found myself uneasily stewing over the murders at Virginia Tech. My students and I have spent far too much time glancing over at our classroom door, wondering whether we would have been able to hold it shut if a gunman had wanted in; would I have had the courage of Liviu Librescu, who students said died protecting them?

I was lucky; I didn’t have to deal with Seung-Hui Cho, unlike my poor colleagues in the Virginia Tech English department, who had formed a departmental task force to discuss him. At least they tried. They resisted the Continue reading “Why It’s OK to Rat On Other Students”

You’ve Got Mail. And Better Things to Do.

How can we communicate more effectively?

By Jason B. Jones (Central Connecticut State)

Midway through his career, my father moved from the faculty of his community college into administration, where he has remained for some 20 years now. In those decades, his only real regret has been that he must use his college-issued cellphone. That phone means his attention is always potentially divided because he is, in principle, always available to his campus.

What for my father is a college-imposed shackle has become for many of us a self-chosen cage: Continue reading “You’ve Got Mail. And Better Things to Do.”

To Encourage Civic Engagement, Start in Elementary School

by Judith Pace (U of San Francisco)

The Educational Testing Service report on the correlation between income and education and levels of political and civic engagement (“Education and Income Levels Are Key Predictors of Civic Involvement, Report Says,” The Chronicle, May 23) is not news. Educational researchers call this the civic empowerment gap, or democracy divide, and trace it not only to sociological factors but also to unequal democratic learning opportunities in secondary schools. Students in higher-track classes, who are disproportionately European- or Asian-American from middle-class or affluent families, enjoy more discussions of important public issues and experiential curricular activities than do students in lower-track classes, who are disproportionately Continue reading “To Encourage Civic Engagement, Start in Elementary School”