Field of Science

How to "improve" university professors and destroy higher education in the process

The GnOPe in particular wants to destroy the one remarkably good thing the USA ever constructed: a public education system. The cynical view is that a party that governs by ideology rather than knowledge doesn’t really want a public capable of “critical thinking”.  And in the case of higher education, the GnOPe so dislikes higher education especially that they are willing to toss the economic baby out with the academic bathwater. Of course a lot of people might get upset if a political party actually came right out and said, “we’re out to destroy public education and those expensive universities in particular”, so the plan is to kill them with a thousand small cuts. North Carolina, one of the academic powerhouses of the “south”, is showing just how this is to be done. Under the guise of “improvement” you demand that professors, all professors, have a high teaching load or 4 courses per semester. You may think that doesn’t sound like too much, but then you haven’t calculated how much time is needed for class preparation and evaluations (grading).  In the case of biology, a single 4 hour class generates six hours of class time, 3 lectures and a 3 hour laboratory. Even with a graduate student assistant to help, it took at least 2 hours to assemble and set up a laboratory class and another hour to put it all away. Fresh materials and other supplies took another 2 hours of shopping every week.  And the lab guide, the instructions, had to come from somewhere especially if you are not teaching labs like a cookbook. At a university lectures are not supposed to be a simple guided tour of a textbook. In TPP’s classes he generally knew more and expected more than was delivered in a textbook, and if you know textbooks, especially science textbooks, the conceptual forest is often totally hidden by the factual trees. Now to fulfill a 4-4 load in the sciences a professor would have to teach 3 such courses (and then each three hour lab counts the same as a 1 hour lecture, a for real accounting!).  It boggles the mind. Now please remember that science is not just a subject, a body of knowledge, science is also a very successful process for learning. You learn to do science by the ancient method of apprenticing, but doing science with a master. Science just eats time for lunch, and there are a limit to how many students you can have working under your supervision. So what can be concluded? One, too many of the current crop of politicians either have no idea what science (or other scholarly endeavors) is, or if they do know, they don’t think it’s very important. Two, these politicians don’t understand education at all, but that isn’t stopping them from meddling in a negative way. Three, this has the potential to be the most ruinous political activity ever, one that actually does put our nation, and its international standing, at risk. Too many of these fools think a nation’s status is determined solely by how many boom-booms it has.  Four, many of these anti-education politicians think many fewer professors are needed doing research if you just cut out all those stupid, useless research programs and focused on real human needs. Oh, TPP could say much more about the type of personalities that think research is all and only about us, but this only shows you how little they understand the basis of doing basic research just to satisfy curiosity, the need to learn new things, because if they did know how research worked, they’d know that with a remarkable frequency, “useless” knowledge becomes important for unforeseen reasons.  In places (corporations) or in countries where research has to be focused on “important” or “needed” outcomes, you often see the most humdrum, unimaginative sorts of research, projects pursued without any intellectual passion or creativity.  So wise up people; this has nothing to do with “improving” education. It has everything to do with destroying higher education. 

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