Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Ivy Tech: We Don't Pay You People to Think!

When people ask me what's going wrong with higher ed, I usually have a laundry list of gripes to give them in response; I'm sure they're sorry they ever asked! But surely one of the weakest links would have to be administrators who seemingly have no clue about, or interest in education. Their fixation on student evaluations could be very helpful, if their goal was to figure out if the students are actually learning anything. And yet, they seem to care about nothing aside from whether or not the students are having a pleasant "educational experience" to ward off any future complaints. It also suggests that they're fumbling around in the wilderness: hey, kids, we don't have any idea what a university actually is; why don't you tell us?

How else to explain the case of Pejman Norasteh? He was teaching statistics this spring as an adjunct at the Indianapolis campus of Ivy Tech Community College, when his students started complaining that the textbook, mandated by the college, was too difficult and poorly-written to follow. So, showing a tremendous dedication to his work, Norasteh wrote supplementary material to explain the concepts to his students in a clearer manner. One might ask who could possibly object to an instructor going to extra mile to facilitate learning among all of his students.

Well, another group of his students, of course. They complained that he was assigning them "extra work". Admittedly, eighteen-year olds are not necessarily going to see the wisdom of what Norasteh did, so it's lucky that we have wise and benevolent admins. And they fired him. No questions asked. The customers complained, so there was "accountability".

Civilians often complain that academia will only be fixed when we get rid of tenure and can hold instructors accountable to the needs of the students. And so, this is what they want, ultimately. They hope to put the power in the hands of administrators who couldn't care less if students learn anything and only those students who complain the most. The key to all of this is to make educators into temps and fire them whenever they rock the boat. Lucky for the public then that their dreams are coming to pass.

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