Sunday, February 15, 2009

university vs. college or trade schools

Ivory Tower Blues: A University System in Crisis
The authors are working on another book. Their blog is here. The table of contents is on the publisher's website.

I own, and have read, the aforementioned book. It presents a series of interesting points about a university degree. It has received some great press, and the authors have appeared on The Agenda, The Sunday Edition, as well as other places. Most, with not vested interest in the issues, only confirm the author's findings.

Some of the issues in the book, and ones that concern me, are:
  • The dumbing down of a university education
  • The sense of entitlement students feel
  • Disengagement of learners
  • Accessibility vs. suitable student material
  • Student attitudes towards their rights and/or responsibilities (i.e., "It's not my fault!")
  • The expectations of high marks for low quality, low quantity of work
  • The lack of a work ethic: wait'll you hit the real world!
  • The criminal number of part-time instructors, rather than the hiring of full-time (and more costly) Ph.D.s
  • Large class sizes held in small rooms, especially in Faculties of Education when hands-on learning and exemplary curriculum practices should be modelled, but it is not
  • A curriculum that does not meet the needs of learners, i.e., student teachers get little on classroom management, at least when I taught them in 2005
  • The complicity of university powers-that-be who demand that professors pacify students to keep enrollment high
  • You won't be certain of a free ride (or a $50,000 starting salary) upon graduation
  • Teachers, especially WASP high school guidance counsellors, who are university snobs (universityism?) and believe it is the only way to go (sort of a reverse, theoretically unbiased -ism)
  • Policies (adopted from elementary schools) of no-fail, with every student passing
  • Grads of on-line courses who really haven't mastered their course material, but faked it!
  • Getting bang for your buck
  • Misplaced parental influences: parents push and do not listen, they expect their 'gifted' son/daughter to sail through
  • A university education in the current climate and job market (Some people should NOT be getting a university education: they are much better suited, and will find more success in college or trade schools but the myth is perpetuated. A university degree is not the only avenue for success.)
There has been an upturn in private, for-profit universities, I am not sure that they are as valid and valued as the non-profits. I believe, according to my experiences, that the issues there are worse than in the non-profit, government subsidized university. Profs have no vested interest in ensuring that students with inappropriate attitudes, or behaviours, are cut from a program.

On-line courses, run by Americans, in Canadian universities. They are over worked and do not have the student's interests in mind. Some rely on undergrads to mark and/or monitor course folders, but they are not the profs for whom students have paid.

For more information see:

Listen to the interview with Michael Enright on CBC Radio - The Sunday Edition:

Featured on The Agenda with Steve Paikin:

Read an article in the National Post:

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