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I’m delighted my Cover Story, “So Last Century,” about the state of current higher education–how we got this way and how we can do better–just came out in Times Higher Education (UK).    It is already being circulated to deans and college presidents, according to various emails and Facebook postings and tweets I’m reading.   Here are some highlights to whet your appetite:  the lead, a few tidbits, some promising programs that are prototyping change—and the url.

So last century

28 April 2011

About 100 years ago, higher education restructured to meet the needs of the industrial age. It has changed little since, even as the internet has transformed life. Another revolution is needed, says Cathy Davidson, to modernise universities and prepare graduates for a 21st-century working environment . . .

 

. . . Whether the study is conducted by the CBI in the UK or by commercial for-profit educational providers drumming up business for their remedial post-baccalaureate job-training services, everyone seems to acknowledge that today’s students are good test-takers but lack the workplace essentials necessary for the 21st century. These include people skills (especially in diverse global contexts), communication skills, collaborative skills, analytical skills, networking skills, an ability to synthesise information across a wide range of evidence, and even the most elementary skills, such as how to write a great job application letter and curriculum vitae or represent their character and talent at a job interview. No wonder they face the career centre with such trepidation. . . .

 

. . . We all think we know what work is. We all think we know what education is. What we really know are the institutions of work and education developed over the past 150 years. People had to be taught the division of labour in all its manifestations, and public education was designed for that purpose. Virtually all the features that have come to be synonymous with the institutions of education and the workplace have been carefully developed to support and enhance the ideals and methods of the industrial workplace. . . .

 

. . . For more than 100 years, training a student for the world of work has meant instilling the lesson of hierarchy and a vertical management system that depends on specialisation, expertise and devising the right metrics for determining success. Human resources departments work to systematise variant human outcomes within complex organisations. . . .

 

. . . We continue to prepare students as if their career path were linear, definite, specialised and predictable. We are making them experts in obsolescence. We are doing a good job of training them for the 20th century.

 

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And then some bright attempts at solutions for the 21st century:

 

. . .In 2002, I sat with my colleague David Theo Goldberg, director of the University of California Humanities Research Institute, at a meeting of administrators who were talking about “resisting” the encroachments of technology into the university. We heard a lot of what might be called the “internet is driving us to distraction and making us dumber” logic. Within a year, a group of about 15 of us – prominent educators from every discipline – formed a virtual network with an unwieldy acronym, the Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory (Hastac). Don’t ask – everyone just says “haystack”.Dedicated to the new ways of learning and doing research that are required for the 21st-century workplace, Hastac now has about 5,400 active registrants, and there are 200 members of the Hastac Scholars Fellowship programme (see box, below), so there is definitely interest in educational transformation, and it’s growing. . . .

 

. . . In December 2009, David F. Bell, senior associate dean of the graduate school at Duke University, asked me and others at Duke to mobilise the network to outline a next-generation master’s degree. We have held local and national forums, online and in person, and have assembled some 300 comments – and all this input has informed a degree programme that is now being vetted by various university approval committees. The proposed programme should be open for business in 2012 or 2013. It is a prototype of a new hybrid degree that, we hope, can inspire other programmes everywhere.. . .

 

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE, including details about the various programs that put the whining and handwringing and fingerpointing aside to do something constructive about it all:  http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode…

 

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Cathy N. Davidson

Cathy N. Davidson

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