At a recent panel hosted by the Committee Development, Gordon Gee advocated “blow[ing] up the box” of Higher Education. He rightly observes that American higher education is behind the curve in serving students, industry, and society in general. A central issue is the structure of higher education. Simply, higher education continues to organize itself around structures that were developed centuries ago for a much different culture. Colleges and departments, Gee opines, are probably not the best structures for connecting consumers (i.e., students) to the world of work and society at large. Rather, we should look to more relevant structures that can accomplish this function. If you have been reading this blog, you may remember a discussion of “form follows function,” and how our current system is missing the mark in this regard.
What makes Gee’s remarks, well, “remarkable,” is the fact that he has been a university president at several very high profile institutions over his 40 year career. He has seen great change (or lack thereof) in higher education. It would be easy for him to rest on his laurels and enjoy the success he has had. Instead, he prods the establishment to wake up and get higher education in step with the rest of society. Hear, hear!
On the other hand, The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Beckie Supiano reported recently concerning faculty push back over new online programs at Eastern Michigan University and elsewhere. The rub here involves unions, partnerships, ownership of program development, and faculty’s general distrust of the efficacy of online education.
Really? This tired litany of issues again? Higher education must quit playing the victim role. First, it must face the fact that “online” education is a myth. There is only EDUCATION--technologically infused, to be sure--but in the end just one basic system of teaching and learning. The responsibility and accountability for creating, distributing, and evaluating this comprehensive system of education lies with the higher education community. There is a variety of models to accomplish this, some of which Gee mentions.
The point here is that higher education needs to quit whining and start DOING; otherwise, some else will. The Kaplans, Pearsons, and various corporate universities will eventually supplant the current higher ed structure by proving their ability to produce productive members of the economy and society at large. We need to stop arguing the point among ourselves and take control of the system before it is too late. Gordon Gee is one of the architects of the status quo. He sees the need to change it. So should the rest of the status quo. Time for the young pups to learn from an old dog. My apologies, Dr. Gee.