William Deresiewicz on higher ed….

His long piece essay/movie review entitled The Miseducation of America is here from the Chronicle. It’s well worth the read, although I suspect some of our loyal readers may disagree with his positions on MOOCS and other proffered solutions to the mess we seem to find ourselves in.

Money quote:

The truth is, there are powerful forces at work in our society that are actively hostile to the college ideal. That distrust critical thinking and deny the proposition that democracy necessitates an educated citizenry. That have no use for larger social purposes. That decline to recognize the worth of that which can’t be bought or sold. Above all, that reject the view that higher education is a basic human right.

Future of Higher Education Conference

I’ve been attending the past few days….it’s here at George Mason. Of course the theme has been systemic change in the way we deliver content to undergraduate learners. In spite of all the talk of MOOCs and learning management systems, I’m struck by two things that aren’t changing: first that in science, the theoretical framework (Professor Jim Trefil mentioned this yesterday) stands apart from the mass of regular course content, waiting to be “discovered” by students enabling them to make sense of so much that must otherwise be memorized (think finally understanding enough quantum mechanics to make sense of organic chemistry). Second, that also in science, today’s factual content is tomorrow’s unreplicated result, religated to the wastebin of history–experiments and the scientific method go on 24/7 and theories (and even the framework!) are on a constantly evolving trajectory.

Technology can help teach science–I use it a lot in my own hybrid cellular neuroscience course for undergraduate majors here at Mason–but it doesn’t solve the problem of getting to the aha! moment when the learner sees a glimpse of the underlying framework that makes sense of all that, otherwise, scattered content.