Well there it is. My college's mission. What a revelation! Why do these things always sound this way? Why do they have to suck so mightily? Well, for one thing a committee wrote it.
The mission of the College of Arts and Sciences [of a great, old, publically-assisted institution of higher learning in the Land of Lincoln] is to provide students with the core disciplinary and transdisciplinary knowledge of a liberal arts education. We deliver high-quality general education and rigorous degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels in the humanities, social sciences, and mathematics and the natural sciences. We are engaged in disciplinary research and creative activities that lead to the discovery, application, and dissemination of new knowledge; the excellence of the college’s programs results from our engagement in the creation of disciplinary knowledge and our longstanding commitment to teaching. We are committed to diversity and to adopting cross-cultural and transnational perspectives in our teaching, learning, and scholarly activities.
Let’s have some fun and deconstruct it!
core disciplinary and transdisciplinary knowledge of a liberal arts education
The mission of arts and sciences is to provide students with a liberal arts education. If that no longer means broad and interdisciplinary, then we are in trouble. Transdisciplinary is a made up word and it sounds silly and pretentious, oh, but this is a mission statement so it goes without saying that it’s supposed to be pretentious.
We deliver high-quality general education and rigorous degree programs
Doesn’t everyone say this? And it would be correct if “some” were inserted between deliver and high-quality. Because some are quite frankly pretty average. It would be a refreshing admission.
the natural sciences
As opposed to the unnatural sciences? Scheesh, it’s just science people, but they really don't get it. All the sciences are natural in that they and they alone deal with life, the universe, and everything else that isn’t a human artifact. Oh, maybe criminal justice science, consumer science, political science and the like are the unnatural sciences, the made up disciplines.
We are engaged in disciplinary research and creative activities that lead to the discovery, application, and dissemination of new knowledge
A nice short phrase like, we are scholars, period, should never be allowed to replace a long wordy sentence. This must be a rule when writing mission statements. Why you would think no one knows what a scholar is without having it defined for them. Interestingly enough, this doesn't endorse transdisciplinary research, so one wonders where the transdisciplinary knowledge we teach (see above) comes from.
We are committed to diversity and to adopting cross-cultural and transnational perspectives in our teaching, learning, and scholarly activities.
Well, I’m not committed to all of these things in my teaching and scholarship. The reason is quite simple, these “values” are generally meaningless in science. And they certainly don’t mean diversity in a biological sense because otherwise I would get some kind of award for raising the consciousness of students to the fact that more than one species exists and deserves our attentions. Even worse this sentence is in no sense part of a mission, but rather it is a values statement, which tend to be even suckier than mission statements, and that’s where this belongs. Some trans-fat heads must have worked on this mission because transnational is another made up word.
And I won’t get into it now, but I simply can’t resist one last dig. Our college's “vision” includes a commitment to “programs that … exceed the highest academic standards”.
I’m certain this is too picky for a committee, but how do you exceed the highest? Is this promoting cheating because that’s the only way I know to get 110% correct?
Of course, all of these objections were delivered to the committee when they asked for comments, and you see the results of supplying constructive criticism. They were ignored transcommittee, so now if these comments are a source of embarrassment for anyone, well, too bad.
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