Friday, May 04, 2007

Bought and sold


Diploma courtesy of: http://www.addletters.com/diploma-generator.htm
“Diablo Valley College on Thursday sent prosecutors the names of 74 students suspected in a cash-for-grades plot… Students paid about $600 per changed grade, police said, and as many as 400 grades were altered during the course of three years.”
When schools become remade as “businesses,” why shouldn’t students think that whatever they can do to get themselves ahead is acceptable? That’s certainly how it works in the business world. Sure, getting caught is a drag, but the savvy ones don’t get caught.

When the emphasis is placed on college degrees being mere tickets into the workforce rather than the traditional view of college being a place to engage in a life of the mind, and to become a scholar, and to be challenged to find the limits of one’s intellectual abilities, what, precisely, do we expect?

The universal lament among those toiling in the fields of higher ed is that the vast majority of students are not engaged, not even interested in the subject matter, but just in pursuit of a diploma that will allow them to get on with their money-earning lives. But again, when everyone is expected to attend college in order to earn a decent living, what other outcome could we expect? Because the fact is and always will be: people are not universally suited for, or interested in, the kind of learning that goes on in traditional colleges. The response among college administrators—most of whom are “Ed Docs” who, in common with most students, have no interest in academic pursuits—has been to demand that professors change their courses to “meet the demands” of this new breed of student. And, with their paychecks dependent upon their compliance, most have capitulated, to their chagrin and subsequent despondency.

So, in this changed institutional environment, where learning is no longer valued for its own sake and intellectual creativity is but a distant memory, the administrators who once facilitated teaching now instead dictate from on high about the need for improvement of “retention” statistics, and demand the same kinds of outcome “measures” that have irretrievably ruined the K-12 system.

The short version: academia is dead.

The shell still exists, and a dispirited shell it is. Teachers grasp at remaining tenuous strands of academic vigor while the enterprise shudders in its death throes, all the while under vicious assault from all who believe that “education” is a standardizable process that is administered to nameless and faceless fodder for the corporate enterprise. Learning is irrelevant. Persistence, and retention, and measured outcomes, and “full-time equivalent students,” and funding formulae, and minimum class sizes, and above all, aiming one’s teaching to the lowest common denominator: that is college today.

It is in this environment that students will buy and sell grades without compunction if provided the opportunity to do so, and will plagiarize at every opportunity, repeatedly, and even after having been chastised for doing so, will do it again. It is in this environment that over 50 percent of graduate students surveyed reported that they had cheated.

It has been a gradual process, but over the course of a generation or two, we have allowed higher education to become so debased that a majority of graduate students prefer to steal their diplomas, and presumably, they will be hired by others who stole theirs too. Can we really claim to be surprised that a group of lower division students at a community college seized the opportunity to “get ahead” when it was thrust into their faces by know-nothing administrators? Those who gave the students access to the computer grade change system are at least as guilty as the students themselves, because like the students in this ethically debauched era, the administrators knew full well the sort of temptations those computers offered, and still they chose to offer them, and to pretend otherwise is to stretch our credulity to the breaking point.

1 Comments:

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8:27 AM  

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