Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Wrong way, people!

From Tomorrow's Professor Blog, I read an article about the current push for universities to offer 3 year undergraduate degree programs instead of, or in addition to, the standard 4 year programs. The claim is that it will save money, both for the institution and for the student, get people into the work force faster, and result in a more streamlined, "fuel-efficient" education system.

Bah, I say. As soon as I read this, I hung my head in despair. This is not the direction we need to be going. On a biological level, there's an inborn need for more formative years (i.e. more education of immature individuals in the species... not intended as an insult lol) the more complex the lifestyle or society the individual is born into. Everyone seems to be saying that life is much more complex now, and is getting more so... There are simply more things to learn and more specialized nooks for people to fit themselves into. We don't want less educated generalists, generally - we want better trained, better educated, more mature workers. Actually, we need everyone to be more educated generally, I think.

I have to reveal my bias in this of course. I am a librarian in a university, and although I think our library, serving our faculty, within our university helps the students (and staff and faculty) more than average, I still don't think we have enough time with them. We are integrated into their classes almost entirely but we still see the vast majority of the students about 3-4 hours for formal education sessions in information literacy throughout their time here. For a subject and skill set that most people don't think is useful or think they have already (wrong on both counts), this is hardly enough time to change their opinions AND teach them what they need to know. Shortening the time some of them are in university, will simply decrease our time with them, and increase the pressure of the faculty members to give us even less.

As it says in the article, "the push for three years [is] coming from those whose ideas about higher ed amount to: 'get it over with and get it over with fast.'" Yes. In all likelihood, shortening the amount of time students are required to spend in higher education would be cheaper all round. But so would not attending university at all! That's not the direction we want to be going. Honestly, our education system here in Canada and the United States is not perfect. But cutting the time in it is not the answer. More time might be. At least, better teaching strategies and an improved societal atmosphere of "education is a good thing" would help. And more money too. Cutting funds from higher education just destroys all the work that we have done in the past several years to improve our teaching as it is.

The funniest part of the article is the quote from Richard Vedder saying that "Thomas Jefferson's two-year program at the College of William and Mary didn't stunt his intellectual growth." Ignoring the tiring habit of Americans to bring up their founding fathers every chance they get, couldn't Thomas Jefferson be an exception? And besides, I think the almost 250 years since Mr. Jefferson graduated has seen a few developments that may make even a general liberal arts degree require a little more effort. LOL

934 The Buzz and Spin on 3-Year Degrees (via Tomorrow's Professor Blog, RSS feed)

No comments: