… I reach for my emollient.
I get occasional emails from the professors’ trade journal Inside Higher Education (which really ought to be called Higher Education: On The Inside. A prison movie, y’know.)
The experience is a lot like getting Tweets from people on the deck of the Titanic: the whole elephantine sector seems to be eating itself alive.
I was delighted the other day to see an item in this dismal journal calling for more rigor — and ‘intentionality’, a very dated corporate buzzword — in study-abroad programs. Now this seems to me a lot like calling for ‘rigor’ and ‘intentionality’ in frat-row toga parties.
There seem to be two reasons why people go to college: to get their ticket punched for a career, and to have a good time. Take away the good time, and it’s a bit like McDonald’s not using salt on the French fries. People will go to Burger King.
The article, to its credit, recognizes the problem, up to a point, anyway. Some academical burger-flipper is quoted:
Our aspirations are weighed down by deeply rooted consumer values, tacit agreements, let’s call them, which are abundantly visible throughout the wider American educational system, but which arguably do not serve desirable learning outcomes in study abroad.
Well, desirable for whom, exactly? The kids go on these jaunts for the same reasons that the English gentry used to go on the Grand Tour: first, to say they’d been there, and second, to get laid by somebody who speaks a different language, uses a different perfume, might have slightly different manners in the sack. From what I’ve heard, by these standards, the ‘outcomes’ are generally pretty good(*).
Professor Burgerflip, according to the article, went on deplore “the field’s emphases on student satisfaction as opposed to measurable learning and growth, on inclusive access versus selectivity and merit.”
Very divided in mind, these people. They want to market their product to anybody and everybody; but not only do they want to go easy on the salt, they want to give you a spanky every time you walk in the door.
How do you combine these two goals? Conscription?
(*) For the record: I myself did not do a ‘year abroad’ as an undergraduate; too poor. In grad school I finally got a fellowship that took me out of the country — to Ireland, a place where in those days nobody got laid. I must have some huge karmic debt to pay from a previous life.