All professors– especially if you’ve been teaching for a while– love to pontificate on learning and on higher education. I certainly can’t throw stones in that glass house. I am continually amazed, though, that so many avoid the white elephant: the almost total destruction of a secure employment system in U.S. Higher Education. It makes all of the professors’ ideas seem disingenuous.
Sometimes, as with Joel Shatzky’s piece in the Huffington Post, it’s only a question of not acknowledging reality ( “Educating for Democracy: What Makes Students Want to Learn?” ). Shatzky is also incorrect when he uses Bourdieu’s terminology (it’s embodied not social capital) and I think he makes the common mistake of reducing adult motivation to economics.
It’s important to understand education in economic terms. Students should be told that they will do much better financially if they graduate; that will surely motivate them. There are other motivations that are probably more important in late adolescence. Conformity and peer pressure come to mind, for example. What we need, more than anything, is a culture in which learning is cool.
In Lynn O’Shaughnessy’s “3 Negatives About How Colleges Are Behaving” the denial of reality is more glaring. Ms. O’Shaughnessy’s ideas are good, more or less, although I doubt educational quality can be “measured” quite as easily as she suggests, but her list leaves out university employment practices. Context is king: U.S. News and World Report isn’t exactly a labor friendly rag.