Category Archives: Pedagogy

Disruption of Higher Education

Dr Shai L. Butler, and here.

“I don’t know about you, but in my recent experiences, college tours, admissions open houses, and accepted student days are starting to make me feel more like a car salesperson than a college administrator. “Excuse me, ma’am, does this education come equipped with all of the latest features or would you describe your campus as offering more of the base model?” Because I have some experience negotiating great deals in car lots throughout the Northeast, I feel better prepared for the shrewd skill of negotiations required when discussing financial aid packages with families. It appears that students today not only get to “build their luxury vehicle,” colleges get to create an options package for the newest generation to come to campus, Generation Z (Gen Z), also known as IGen, a term coined by Dr. Jean Twenge, notable author, researcher, and psychologist.

According to Twenge, IGen or Gen Z were “born after 1995, socialize in completely new ways, reject once sacred social taboos, and want different things from their lives and careers.” What kind of different things you ask? Jeff Selingo, in his recent article titled “The New Generation of Students: How Colleges Can Recruit, Teach and Serve Gen Z,” says “this generation of students is interested in practical subjects with clear paths to careers.” Born during the Great Recession, these students have witnessed and experienced parents losing jobs and siblings being saddled with large amounts of student loan debt and lackluster careers to show for the high debt and expensive degree. In sum, they are give me what I need (tell me why I need it), at the lowest price, in the shortest time for the largest payoff customers. Thankfully, readers, we are not selling cars, but are instead offering an education and experience that will lead to lifelong benefits for Gen Z-ers, but you’d better talk fast because if the luxury vehicle isn’t going for the price of a hand-me-down mini-van, there’s a fancy dealer up the street that they simply must check out before they head out of town. Because today’s students are purchasing a college experience in an analytical way, let’s talk options, which in the words of Selingo, translates to “customization.”

This generation has a need to know. They need to know the particulars, the whys, and the relevancy for not just the degree but for the course they have been advised to take, the first year experience they are required to “experience,” the program that they have been invited to attend, and the litany of other choices we place before them as traditional incoming college students. Once you’ve finished explaining the value, to make it make sense, it must be customized: the course, experience, program, and most importantly, the degree if you plan to retain your Gen Z student.

While annoying, I can’t say that this is a huge surprise. How else do you hold the attention of a person who was born in the smartphone era? Their lives and their choices are customized in ways that previous generations would have never imagined. It started with “Build-a-Bear” and has now progressed to how they select an Avatar. They create and customize it, selecting traits, attire, and identities to their liking. Customization on steroids continues, as E-Gaming comes to a college near you. Student gamers buy Gaming PCs with Monitor Bundles and customized optimization packages that include such things as “Case Fans, Motherboards, Graphics Cards, Operating Systems” that they purchase, build themselves, and personalize. Days of Xbox Live and the PlayStation 4 with groups gathering over Madden or Grand Theft Auto in the student lounge are quickly fading and a new era is upon us.

So what does customization look like in the classroom? I mean, some of us are still debating whether to offer a course online, forget about a degree. Before you panic, there’s good news. Gen Z students are not just interested in a full tech experience, but instead, recognize the need for the social interaction, even if they don’t enjoy it (remember, they are practical). Twenge and Selingo both agree that what is required are “more flexible learning opportunities including face-to-face, virtual and most of all, experiential.” It will be important to connect the student’s need for a customized curriculum and varying modalities of instructional delivery to the Gen Z wish to connect course content to career. There exists a need to be explicit, descriptive, and intentional about communicating Student Learning Outcomes in a manner that addresses both the learning and skill development. School and departmental activities such as curricular and content mapping might need to replace the day one icebreaker/team builder and be brought to class as “show and tell” or professors may need to add skill outcomes to the syllabus at a minimum.

From the co-curricular vantage, how well equipped are we to customize a living learning experience beyond themed housing and course clusters? Student development theory asserts and affirms the value of learning that happens outside of the classroom, so what new high-impact practices can be designed for this latest generation? To achieve this, we will need to bring stakeholders from Academic Affairs, Facilities, Student Affairs, Student Success, and the Finance and Advancement units together to help us build and fund targeted initiatives. Whatever is built must provide opportunities for collaboration and creativity. Consider the model of business incubators and tailor it to an academic experience that can be better defined as innovation incubators. This can be where students and faculty come together to engage in experiential education activities outside of the classroom. The benefits of business incubators include startups with opportunities for mentorship, expertise, and networking. These are all things students can benefit from as well, including the mentorship of a peer or professional advisor, the expertise of a faculty member, and the social integration that can be described as networking as we seek to build stronger student connections to campus and to the college community.

While we are busy creating Google office prototypes for students, might I also recommend that we think about ways that we can create space for university employees to come together and innovate. We will have Gen Z with us for just another 10-15 years and then we will see a new breed of students join our hallowed halls. We simply can’t afford with Gen Z to spend all of the time it took us to research millennials, skill up with professional development, invest in expensive capital projects and create all of the “fun” programming they sought, only to implement it and see them leave three years after we finally figured it all out. Carpe Diem people, while there’s still time.”

An Engineering Dean’s Response to Bryan Caplan’s “The Case Against Education”

“Each year as we suit up for college commencement, donning our regalia of fanciful robes, velvet berets and silk tassels, I make a point to interject to my colleagues the John Steinbeck quote from the Sea of Cortez, “it is a rule in paleontology that ornamentation… precedes extinction.” We certainly have major issues within our higher-ed organizations and ever growing threats in the education market. And in that light, I welcome provocative assessments of the current state of higher education. But in reading Bryan Caplan’s recent essay, What’s College Good For? (The Atlantic Jan/Feb 2018) previewing his pending book, “The Case Against Education,” I can honestly say that Caplan’s views will only metastasize our ills and accelerate any institution’s demise.

Caplan’s main thesis is that our higher ed system teaches only a minimal level of useful job skills, and as such, the value of a college degree, for the most part, comes from signaling one’s “pre-existing” traits to the job market. He estimates the mix of value at about 20% job skills and 80% traits. The pre-existing traits Caplan says one signals by attaining a college degree include: the ability to learn quickly and deeply, the commitment to working on something until it is finished, and the ability to adapt to new systems of management and work with others on teams. Caplan concludes that since higher education isn’t really responsible for the development of what would be viewed by most as highly desirable traits, and in the absence of any significant job skills training, that college “is a big waste of time and money.”

Completely missing from Caplan’s seemingly new revelation about poor job-skill training in college is the fact that the world renowned 4 year higher educational system that we have built in the U.S., from its dawn, has never endeavored to promote “job skill training.” Caplan’s estimate of 20 % job skills is about right (even for degrees as practical as engineering I would target about 30%), but the minimal influence that he claims education plays on the balance of the other critical traits is woefully inaccurate. Even with the 100 year plus tradition of teaching what Caplan describes as irrelevant subjects, there is little doubt about the role that U.S. higher-ed has played in inspiring our workforce to advance America’s political, cultural, technological and economic dominance over the past century. Higher-ed has thrived in discovery, fostered the synthesis of new ideas, and advanced both technological, medical, and social innovation at almost every level. And in the process, demanded of its students through its inherent pedagogical structure the repeated and rapid mastery of new subjects. And, yes, even mastery of subjects that Caplan finds “useless” and “irrelevant” like rhetoric, economics, history, and literature.

In the long term, employers care far less about the specific factual knowledge that a 22-year-old graduate brings to their company’s collective knowledge-base. But they do care about whether they have the humility and confidence to quickly learn something new and adapt to the incredible array of forces that are changing the landscape of their business at increasingly faster rates. And for outstanding employees, there is the expectation that they should be able to repeat this process of learning something new at a high level again, and again, throughout their careers. To me, this seems very much like the well-tested expectations of a college educational experience. It might be called the “knowledge” economy, but the reality is, it is the “ability to attain knowledge” economy.

During the course of a 4-year degree, a college student will engage-in and repeat the process of going from little-to-no knowledge in some subject and advance to some measureable level of mastery about 30 to 40 times. And by design, with each new course, the student has had to learn from someone new, in the midst of different groups of people, while needing to access different types of resources, under different sets of rules, and with increasingly difficult expectations of performance. The higher-ed calendar also provides ample time for meaningful internships and extra-curricular activities, like sports, student government, volunteerism, and study abroad, that bring real-world balance to an education.

Now, how much time we take to complete this transformation from high school graduate to adaptable learner, how much it costs, who we are serving, what teaching methods to employ, or how technology could improve this process are front-and-center of strategic planning at most universities. There is nothing sacred about the current 4-year college degree or structure. A four-year degree, as it stands today, with 130 credit hours and 40 different courses of high level learning involves about 4,000 to 5,000 hours of study. What various students do with that “practice” time is what brings distinction. But even with 5,000 hours of study, a college grad has merely walked along the shore of a great ocean of knowledge that humans have discovered in any subject. Some, like Caplan, would say “that they haven’t learned anything,” but others, like those that I work with, would say “that they know that they have a lot more to learn.” Students will benefit just as much from understanding the limits of their knowledge, as they will in drawing from the core.

As one might expect, everyone involved in Caplan’s higher-ed storyline is just in it for themselves. The big ruse called college he describes couldn’t be sustained without it. He is cynical about everyone around him. He is cynical about students (“the vast majority are philistines”), he is cynical about his fellow teachers (“the vast majority are uninspiring”), and he is cynical about the administration, “the deciders – the school officials who control what students study.” If I sensed the same level of self-interest that Caplan feels hanging over his academic environment, I would be equally disillusioned with higher-ed. But I don’t, so I am not.

Despite what some think, even in degree tracks viewed as practical as engineering, we do not engage in “job skill training.” In the St. Thomas School of Engineering, we promote and celebrate a 30% job skills / 70% traits balance that Caplan finds wasteful. I tell our students that there are no “Mechanical Engineer” jobs. However, there are incredible careers that can begin for those who have had the experience of learning the array of new subjects, from Philosophy to Thermodynamics, in our Mechanical Engineering curriculum. The products, the markets, the science, the customers, the designs, the finance, the regulations, the equipment, the timing, the documentation, the history, the communications, the manufacturability, the software, the laws, the cultures are so different for each company in each product sector, that we could not possibly “train” you for any specific job, because training you for one, would ill-prepare you for the vast majority of other possibilities. Let alone those that will emerge 4 years from now.

As engineering educators, the worse thing we could do for our students is to have them be surprised by what little they know as they walk through the door to their first job. Or, even worse, be over confident in what they think they know when they walk through the door of their first customer. And, in that light, the best thing we can do is to prepare them to walk into any new environment, fully knowing that you must first deeply listen, learn, question, understand, and as quickly as possible move to mastery. And then, plan on repeating that process again, and again, throughout their career. Much like they successfully demonstrated during their college education, regardless of the subject.

There are plenty of angles to constructively criticize and dramatically improve the current state of higher education, but the views in Caplan’s “What’s College Good For?” essay are no place to start.”

K12 is a racket – 2

Education Is A Racket
Published on October 24, 2016

Dahn Shaulis
Higher Education Analyst at GlobalWonks

‘Without understanding the cutthroat business of education, and all of the financial and political players, it’s difficult to see the enormity of corruption in the system–and how it devalues the nation as a whole.

The more I learn about US education, the more I understand how much of a racket K-12 and higher education have become. If students (and their families) are serious enough about their studies, they can still learn valuable skills in college. But college teaching and learning have become secondary to business, bureaucracy, and dealing with the “savage inequalities” of K-12 that feed into higher education “degrees of inequality.”

In the US, education at all levels increasingly reinforces a social system of “winners” and “losers” based less on potential and hard work and more on family position in the existing class structure.

In my previous articles on the US College Meltdown and America’s Most Endangered Colleges, I mentioned some of the “winners” and “losers” in American higher education. The list on both sides is long and growing as the US College Meltdown becomes more apparent.

Big losers: About 10 million Americans are in deferment, forbearance or default with their student loans

Even Bigger Losers: Young (and even middle-aged) adjuncts may be the biggest losers, if they have large grad school debt and rely financially on dead end teaching jobs. According to Peter Cappelli, 1/4 of all colleges offer a negative rate of return.

The “savage inequalities” we see in K-12 schools are inextricably linked to the “degrees of inequality” we see in America’s colleges. In this analysis, it’s important to examine powerful private, non-profit, and public players as well as for-profit operations.

It’s also important to look at money and favors changing hands at the state, county, and local levels. So who makes big money in US education? The list of participants at BMO Capital Markets gives us a Who’s Who in the business of education.

But there are many more people making money from the US education racket: in K-12 education management, higher education management, online and software services and other forms of outsourcing, publishing and curriculum, real estate, construction, accreditation, advertising and marketing, banking and finance, and political lobbying.

Two-thirds of the officials responsible for policing the quality of the nation’s colleges and universities are employed by schools their agencies oversee, highlighting potential conflicts of interest in a system that faces reform efforts in Washington.

It’s believed that hundreds of billions of dollars are held in college slush funds and endowments, with limited transparency and oversight.

Private Student Loan Lenders include Sallie Mae, Wells Fargo, Discover, and SoFi.

Student Loan Servicers: ECMC, Navient.

Navient makes billions of dollars by buying and selling student loans, and coercing students to repay their student loans.

The big educational spenders on K Street are mostly elite schools, with a few subprime colleges.”

K12 is a racket

Bruce Deitrick Price image

By  —— Bio and ArchivesApril 25, 2015

“Some sites I write for want a lot of links and the appearance of journalism. Why is that a plus? Journalists lie every day.

In any case, I want this to be a more personal piece. I think it will be more honest than any journalism you’ll read. I’m going to tell you what I believe I’ve figured out from writing about K-12 education for more than 30 years. (Spoiler alert: K-12 education is a huge, well-organized racket that’s gunning for you and your kids.)

My first big essay was titled “English and Education.” It appeared in the Princeton Alumni Weekly in 1983 and got a lot of fan mail. (It’s still on the internet and still a good read.)

The goal of the article was to show that when an entire field, such as education, starts to use jargon and deceitful language, you know the field has lost its way. I tried to prove that education had gone off the rails and was in serious trouble.

Later, however, I realized that I was like a Roman doctor who could study symptoms and predict correctly that a patient was soon to die. But the doctor cannot explain why. The Romans didn’t know about germs.

Decline of American public education

I knew I had to construct a “germ theory” to explain the decline of American public education. Years later, I became comfortable with the conclusion that the germs making us sick are busybody social engineers with bad blueprints. That would be John Dewey and his gang.

Five years ago I was communicating with a very rich and successful man who said, “I agree with a lot of what you say, Bruce. But I can’t accept the conspiracy angle.”

I was surprised. He was engineer-smart. How could he not see the conspiracy? It’s the size of Texas.

If you rule out intention, you have to argue that our Education Establishment has been clumsy for a century. Nobody is that clumsy. It’s more logical to assume the education elite were making exactly the decisions they thought would lead them to the goal they wanted.

That goal is well known. John Dewey and all of his associates were Progressives (or probably the more accurate term is “Fabian Socialists”). They wanted a socialist America (not that different from what Obama seems to want). John Dewey was the chief strategist for how to accomplish this goal without resort to legislation or elections. He came up with the ingenious tactic of taking over the schools of education, brainwashing the young teachers, and sending them out into the countryside to brainwash American kids. Americans for the most part didn’t want any of Dewey’s kool-aid. So Dewey and his cult had to operate in a furtive manner. But operate they did. And still do.

Here’s the essential detail: every time John Dewey and friends had a conference, exchanged letters, or chatted at lunch, they were typically plotting to take control of the country via the ed schools. That’s been the fundamental reality since about 1910. The conspirators, of course, believed in their own supreme virtue. But so did Lenin and the Bolsheviks. So did Pol Pot. If they had to lie to the public about their real intentions, that was not a problem.

For people not in education, it’s always a shock when they first realize that something very bizarre and counterintuitive is going on. Suppose you’re walking down a street, glance over a fence and see workers building a crooked house. You are sure this house is going to cause a lot of misery. You try to tell the carpenters that their house is crooked. They answer, “We know what we’re doing. Mind your own business.” At this point you become doubly intrigued. You know these people are engaged in some strange crime, or they have escaped from a lunatic asylum.

Almost all the people who write about saving K-12 education come from outside the field. One day, they see that crooked house; their minds are never the same. My favorite example is Albert Lynd, a Harvard-educated businessman with young children in the schools. He ended up joining the school board. Once inside the K-12 beast, he thought: wow, these people are nuts, I have to tell the world. He wrote a wonderful book in 1951 titled “Quackery in the Public Schools.” More than 60 years ago, society was more polite, from what I hear. Imagine the words he was saying in private.

Planned Illiteracy in our Public Schools

Another great example is a Canadian name Mary Johnson, a housewife in the 1950s and a piano teacher. As it usually happens, there was a tiny incident. A 5th grade student insisted on reading “minuet” for “mimic” and Mary Johnson knew that everything was going to hell. She became a bulldog fighting for real education. All hail Mary Johnson! She wrote a book called “Planned Illiteracy in our Public Schools” in 1970. Note the word “planned.”

Once you see that crooked house, you want to tell people about each flaw. It takes a lot of skill to build a really good crooked house. You have to use gimmicks such as Whole Word reading theory, New Math, Constructivism, Self-esteem, Relevance, Multiculturalism, and literally dozens of flawed theories. The essence of the conspiracy is 1) concoct these cons and 2) force them on students.

Bad education theories function like viruses in a computer: everything slows down. Neither the theories nor the viruses appear by themselves. Somebody has to put them in play. Similarly—and this is the good news—you can take the bad ideas out of the schools just as you can remove viruses from your own computer. That’s what we need to do, clean out the garbage.

What we have in K-12 education is a vast interlocking array of crookedness, both in the sense of a crooked house and crooked people. I think at this point there are few good ideas left in American public schools. Instead there are two dozen viruses, i.e., intellectual sophistries that render progress difficult. Just consider this one example. Self-esteem emphasizes positive reinforcement for all students. Sounds good, right? In practice this turns out to mean that you have to eliminate any material that some students find difficult. There goes your curriculum.

Bad education theories function like viruses in a computer

A lot of very smart sensitive people have written books about their own crooked-house experiences. Charlotte Iserbyt has a book on the Internet you can read for free called “The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America.” Note the word “deliberate.” More recently, attorney Robin Eubanks published a book called “Credentialed to Destroy: how education became a weapon.” Eubanks saw the homework that children were bringing home from school and thought: are you kidding? All these books end up making the same point: we’re being attacked by a carefully orchestrated plot to take down our country.

This year, Samuel Blumenfeld, our ranking real educator, published his tenth book, “Crimes of the Educators.” He says that K-12 education is a “criminal enterprise from top to bottom.”

The problem with our Education Establishment is that it is steeped in deviousness. I don’t know how they live with themselves. Each year they come back with their warmed-over sophistries and their cute little propaganda ploys. Really, the only way we’ll have any relief is if the public starts to treat them with the contempt they deserve. These are clowns that pop out of a clown car and throw garbage at us. At some point you have to think: I don’t want clowns throwing garbage at me. That’s reasonable.

I’ve put hundreds of education articles and videos on the Internet; they are all trying to explain various nooks and crannies of the conspiracy to dumb down our public schools. In effect, we’ve got doors that won’t close, floor boards that are warped, pipes that leak, and a fireplace that will always spew smoke into the house. It takes a weird kind of genius to build a fireplace like that. I’ve written 30 articles just on reading. That’s how slippery and twisted each sophistry is. Do you think I exaggerate? Rudolf Flesch wrote two whole books (1955, 1981) explaining Why Johnny Can’t Read but millions of people still didn’t get the message. Canadian and American schools have been in an alternative reality for 75 years. In that reality, sight-words are a great way for children to learn to read. That’s the triumph of sophistry over common sense, because almost no one can learn to read with sight-words.

Common Core is a repackaging of all the bad ideas from the last 75 years but now locked-in by federal regulation

Five or six years ago a Canadian woman contacted me on the Internet. She was really angry. I would ask a question and she would write back two anguished pages. She had a daughter in the third grade and the school officials had announced: “Your daughter has dyslexia and will never learn to read so we recommend tape recorders and various adaptive technologies.” This woman basically screamed back, “My child is fine. You have messed her up because you won’t teach her to read with phonics.” Only nine, and this kid was already written off. Heartbreaking.

Multiply her story times many millions and you know what the Education Establishment in Canada did to the children there. All of this is contained in the phrase “planned illiteracy.” Keep a child from reading and you create a tragedy that spreads out in all directions. I’m sure the mother’s health was affected. As I say, she was really angry.

This ruthless game is continuing in the United States where Common Core is a repackaging of all the bad ideas from the last 75 years but now locked-in by federal regulation. The whole thing is wonderful if you like totalitarianism. The sales pitch is sophisticated but all the ideas are the same old instructions for building a crooked house.

My hope is that you’ll share this article with friends, discuss the ideas, and then find more information on the Internet. The people in charge of your schools probably do not deserve your support. Quite the opposite. Get informed. Get involved. Knock down the crooked house. Then we’ll start over and build it right.”