Only in America

Posted: 22 February 2016 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,


I often tell students that, if they don’t change their major five times before they settle on one, they’re not really taking advantage of what college has to offer. They need to try out different ideas and areas and see where it takes them. It’s my attempt to push back against pressure from many sources for students to choose a major quickly and stick with it, and to focus only on how much they’ll earn after graduating based on what they study.

As it turns out, performance-based funding [ht: mfa] is going to ramp up that pressure and shut down alternatives for many college students, especially in the humanities.

When the Kentucky governor, Matt Bevin, suggested last month that students majoring in French literature should not receive state funding for their college education, he joined a growing number of elected officials who want to nudge students away from the humanities and toward more job-friendly subjects like electrical engineering.

Frustrated by soaring tuition costs, crushing student loan debt and a lack of skilled workers, particularly in science and technology, more and more states have adopted the idea of rewarding public colleges and universities for churning out students educated in fields seen as important to the economy.

Most of the push toward performance-based funding in public education is coming from Republican governors and state legislatures. But it’s also coming from inside the academy itself. One example is Anthony Carnevale, a Georgetown University professor who apparently runs the Center on Education and the Workforce. Here’s his gem of an idea:

“You can’t be a lifelong learner if you’re not a lifelong earner.”

And, yes, that is an example of sarcasm.

  1. mjlovas says:

    I have been slow in commenting because I’ve been thinking about what you said, and was caught up in an especially busy start to the semester. I was very glad to read that you encourage students to change their course of study, and allow themselves that room for trying things out. There is an interesting version of that here in the Czech Republic. A year or so ago, a distinguished scientist now at the end of his successful career was awarded a prize for lifetime achievement. In talking about his life, he mentioned how he began with a degree in one field, and (I seem to recall) worked for a while there, but then went back to school in the science he then pursued until the current day.–A very different subject than his original course of study.
    That was possible for him because university education in the Czech Republic is mostly free. And, one argument given by those who want to change this is that it is an overly expensive and wasteful system in part because students change too often.
    But, thus far, fortunately, the system stays in place. And I have at least one friend who is planning to change her course of study from Economics to the Arts because she has realized that the arts are better suited to her.
    Originally I began to write, wanting to add a related but different thought. Last week, as I was introducing myself to my new students, and speaking in a general way, I found myself speaking about the fact that education is not a commodity, that when I shared my knowledge with my students, I did not lose. On the contrary, it helps what I know if I can explain it. It helps me to know it. And, I confess, I was very glad that I had managed to squeeze that thought in. Now, we can begin to ask whether there might not be other goods like education…..

    When I am able to actually find something truthful to say (and it’s hard insofar as I teach “Business English”) I am very glad, just as I am always glad when you post your thoughts about education’s true nature…..which is so very different from what students are encouraged to believe……. Thanks.

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