One-Size-Fits-All Higher Ed?

19 August 2010 at 5:54 pm 7 comments

| Peter Klein |

Alternative title: “An Economist Tries Talking to an English Professor, and Gives Up.” Perhaps one of you wants to take up the mantle over at UD?

The point, which I’ve raised in previous posts (e.g., here and here), is that higher education isn’t one, well-defined thing, but a variety of things, and we should welcome experimentation, innovation, and — well — diversity. Blockquoting myself:

“Diversity” is the primary mantra of higher-education institutions. So why not have some diversity in organizational forms? “Education,” after all, is not a homogenous good. As with healthcare, one size doesn’t fit all. Shouldn’t we encourage entry, and applaud entrants who experiment with alternative curricula, teaching methods, incentive structures, sizes, and shapes? Let a thousand pedagogic flowers bloom, I say!

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Entry filed under: - Klein -, Education, Institutions.

Students: Do It for the Panda Experimental Philosophy

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Randy  |  20 August 2010 at 8:03 am

    Would you like me to find you an old dog to kick? ;-)

  • 2. Warren Miller  |  20 August 2010 at 9:44 am

    Well, Peter, she teaches @ GWU. The air and the water inside the Beltway require inoculation, and she obviously hasn’t received it. She’s a vitriolic so-and-so, isn’t she? Still–and I’m confident that you know this–trying to convey economic sense to the typical English professor is like trying to teach a fish to ride a bicycle.

  • 3. David Gerard  |  20 August 2010 at 11:24 am

    Speaking of heterogeneity in higher ed, there is a very interesting op-ed in The Atlantic by Reed College’s president, talking about his opting out of the US News and World Report ranking system.

    What lesson can be derived from the fact that Reed continues to thrive despite its refusal to cooperate with the U.S. News rankings? Some of my peers speculate that Reed’s success has little application to their schools. Only a college as iconoclastic and distinctive as Reed, they argue, could pursue such a strategy and survive. I disagree. To me, our success says something important about the market for higher education as well as about Reed College. Participants in the higher-education marketplace are still looking primarily for academic integrity and quality, not the superficial prestige conferred by commercial rankings. They understand that higher education is not a mass-produced commodity but an artisan-produced, interactive, and individually tailored service of remarkable complexity. Trying to rank institutions of higher education is a little like trying to rank religions or philosophies. The entire enterprise is flawed, not only in detail but also in conception.

  • 4. David Gerard  |  20 August 2010 at 11:30 am

    I am also inkleined to believe these aren’t really discrete choices, either. It’s interesting that many faculty and administrators either dismiss or completely discount on-line higher ed, when I would suspect that it’s proliferation tells us something very important about the changing dynamics of higher ed. What it’s telling us, I don’t know, but it is surprising that the typical response when I bring it up is reflexive antagonism rather than some curiosity about what’s going on and where this is headed.

  • 5. srp  |  20 August 2010 at 7:43 pm

    The experimental evidence she cites in the NBER paper doesn’t sound that convincing, in that the distance learning treatment was just showing a recording of the in-class lecture. Probably, web content needs to be optimized for that medium to compete with live instruction. And I say this as a mild skeptic about distance learning approaches.

  • 6. FC  |  21 August 2010 at 12:53 am

    You are an economist, therefore you are a capitalist, therefore you are bad. It’s really quite obvious.

  • 7. Max Borders  |  24 August 2010 at 3:53 pm

    I would encourage everyone involved in this debate to consider that technology is helping to make online MORE LIKE live. Consider, for example, Teleplace (or it’s Open Source counterpart, Cobalt) — There is no bright line. The fusion is happening and we’re moving ever closer towards something like the Matrix. :)

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