(nothing like a golden-age Simpsons reference…I really didn’t mean for this blog to become All Higher Ed, All The Time, but if it works…)

Matt Reed, the confessing community college dean, has a great post up today about the differences between mere competency and those skills which require the investment of time. The model is music lessons, and I believe this to be an outstanding metaphor for why education – at all levels, but especially higher education – cannot be broken down into standardized tests, MOOCs, and credit for life experience.

To be sure, I have no trouble with well-articulated, critically- and curricularly-thought-out plans to give credit for life experience (I hear good things about Thomas Edison State College and Empire State College), but I am skeptical that the true college/university experience (critical thinking, citizenship, breadth of knowledge, high level of expertise in a chosen area) can be reduced to a series of check-off boxes.

Of some concern is Coursera’s plan to offer MOOCs to “non-elite” institutions; I refuse to accept that because I don’t teach at Harvard I am less of a professor, which is the clear implication of this plan. (See Matt Reed’s Three Dollar People blog entry for a similar thought.)

What say you, Gentle Reader?


Three things on topics academic this morning:

(1) A note to The Chronicle of Higher Education: Putting up an op-ed from an attorney for the Competitive Enterprise Institute (a “free-market” “think” tank so right-wing that it makes AEI look like the Comintern) does not help your credibility.

(2) Colorado College in (not surprisingly) Colorado is offering a new major in Education that operates a little differently. Good on them.

(3) If you read only one of these, read this one from Matt Reed at Inside Higher Ed. The destruction of public education is not limited to K-12. Public education (from pre-K to PhD) remains the greatest potential creator of *true* equality, and as such it’s a threat to the oligarchs. That’s why we have the funding inequalities described here. That’s why we have MOOCs and for-profit “schools” pushed – and pushed hard – by people who would *never* send their own children to one.


Today I finished Carl Solberg’s biography of Hubert Humphrey. I figure if I’m going to be a Minnesotan, I need to bone up on the state’s history, politics, and culture (though it may be a while before I get up the courage to try lutefisk).

There’s a phrase from Humphrey’s 1948 speech to the Democratic National Convention that has stuck with me for years, and it’s referenced in the title of this post. We’ve heard much about human rights in the North Star State this past week, for obvious reasons. I think the Happy Warrior would be proud.

Also, this happened.

He's good enough, he's smart enough, and doggone it, people like him.
He’s good enough, he’s smart enough, and doggone it, people like him.

Sen. Franken gave the address at UMM’s Commencement on May 11. He shook every faculty member’s hand before the speech, and this picture was taken after the exercises. When he was talking to me and two fellow music faculty members, he remarked that the only class he had real trouble with was Music Theory, because “I couldn’t hear modulations. Plus, whenever you had to identify a piece of music by hearing it, if I didn’t know I’d just put ‘Streets of Laredo’ because I thought the professor might find it funny.”

I like it here. There are challenges, to be sure, but I like it here.