The President Gives Away the Game with a Word

I commented on this article.

Promiscuous College Come-Ons – NYTimes.com.

Here is the comment, but be aware that I was on some serious pain medication when I wrote it last night.  It may not be so clear.

(I had surgery Thursday and will be off the medication, today.)

“…Kathleen McCartney, the president of Smith College, said…’Colleges need to explain to students what their product is about’…”

“Product”? – that word gives away the game, doesn’t it. Uneducated young people must thus be “consumers”, not “students” – an idea so 20th century, and so full of wasted weekends studying.

So, college presidents “sell” “products” to young, uneducated “consumers”? (I replaced Smith with the generic “college” because, after three decades as a professor, I can assure you that Smith is not special.)

So, where does the logic take us?

A goal of many college presidents is to see that their “consumers” are happy. That way more of those “consumers” will want to buy the “product”. So why wouldn’t they make it easier to apply? or why wouldn’t they make it easier to get feedback (grades) telling the “consumers” and their parents how much the students are learning. (Since we are pretending that they are learning, we might as well pretend they are students) Sounds kind of like Bernie Madoff made being a good investor easy, doesn’t it?

Here is what David Riesman said about this whole process.

“…the “wants” of students to which competing institutions…cater are quite different from the “needs” of students…the student estate often does not grasp its own interests, and those who speak in its name are not always its friends…” (from “On Higher Education: The Academic Enterprise in an Era of Rising Student Consumerism” , 1980)

 

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