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Monday, January 11, 2010

The big-time official WOW Report

The "Final" Report. WOW. I can barely contain myself. However, this exuberance is not a result of the report's brilliance, but rather its assumption of brilliance. Her deanship thought this was Pulitzer Prize material. She must have been thinking of my second cousin Ralph Turncoat Pulitzer. Now that I've taken my cheap shots, let's get serious. Actually, Dr. Tinkle finds it difficult to take any of this seriously so I am turning the blog over to Dr. David E. Tucker, an Associate Professor of Communication. Dr. Tucker was an original member of the Round Table and one of the few faculty participants without an administrative title. In addition he attended all of the Fall meetings as a representative of the College of Arts & Sciences.

I wish to thank Dr. Tinkle for the loan of his/her computer for this purpose. Dr. Tinkle is right about one thing--it is time to get serious. First, let me acknowledge the time and effort that has gone into this report. There has been a lot of work done; the question is, to what end? I asked at the original round table meeting what problem it was we were trying to solve? I received no answer. I still have not received an answer. I have been told that we are remaking the college for the next however many years; and, that this document will provide us with that path. The assumption always been that this is a good idea. I do not believe the assumption to be either right or wrong, merely misguided. Inherent in any organizational change (and make no mistake that is where this will go), is that the outcome will result in something better, not just different. It also assumes a certain level of power, authority and control over students in order to make those outcomes reality. This last assumption is just not correct. Please allow me an example. One of the things that media researchers have concluded is that it is very difficult to determine exactly what an audience will do with any particular content. When All in the Family premiered it was generally believed that the character of Archie Bunker would make racists realize just how stupid they appeared. Actually the opposite happened with a particular audience segment; something of a complete surprise to the producers. The assumption is that integrative programs and new teaching methods (generally involving technology of some type) will inherently improve the outcomes realized by our student body. This is a dubious assumption. They may be slightly different graduates because they have been exposed to slightly different information packaged in slightly different ways, but it is not likely to result in "better" graduates.

I also have a problem with what is not in the report. As has been pointed out elsewhere, there is no glossary, nor any effort to define terms. There are also no footnotes or citations of any type. We are told that intergrative studies is the next best thing to heaven, but no research is provided. We are told that technology can be used to better our students' performances but again there are no citations. There is no bibliography. Knowing where things have been tried and on what scale seem to me at least to be relatively important in this context.

The other missing item has to do with student responsibility. Nowhere in the document is there any statement about what students need to do. It is all on us. It is all our fault if they fail. We have just not found the magic bullet to reach them. The report has an overwhelming faith in the magic bullet called technology. You can find the same kind of statements made at the introduction of radio, television and the computer. They were all going to improve education.

The report also talks about rewards for a variety of things, primarily "innovative" teaching. Where are they getting the money? Remember this is an administrative bunch that refused to fight for a faculty position for Foreign Language so they could house the Confuscious Institute. And, the Institute was deemed extremely important by our dean.

I have one other comment before returning control to Dr. Tinkle. There seems to be a general rush to get this approved by the administration. Why? What happens next? Once the report has been approved, exactly what happens and when? It would not surprise me to see significant portions of the College reorganized by the end of this semester. That was the original goal of Dean Lee. Now if anyone complains, the administration will point to this report and say, rightly or wrongly, that they had lots of faculty input during the process.

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