Monday, August 26, 2013

Rays of Light in Higher Education

Canadian government policy over the past few decades has been to open universities to the largest possible number of students—a seat for everyone who wants to attend, as Ken Coates and Bill Morrison describe it in their higher education exposĂ© Campus Confidential (2011). Partly as a result of this open-door policy, a perfect storm has battered the Humanities.

Program requirements have been reduced or eliminated altogether, replaced by an ever-widening range of popular electives. At my university, “Magic, Witchcraft, and Occult Phenomenon” was the most popular course for a number of years running. In addition, the content of individual courses has been progressively watered down to accommodate those students who have neither the time nor the inclination to read. A recent American study by Philip Babcock and Mindy Marks showed a significant decline in the number of hours students spend studying every week. At the same time, grade inflation has run rampant, both to pacify students and to support the university’s stated goal of “retention” (i.e. preventing dropouts). Working in tandem with all these developments has been the infiltration of once-legitimate academic subjects by progressivist ideology.

The dispiriting results should surprise no one: a generation and more have learned buzz words rather than knowledge; many are barely literate, incapable of understanding what they read or of expressing an idea in precise and correct language.  (more...)

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