Daniel Willingham, Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, on the ouster of the school’s president and the behavior of the plutocrats behind the plan. A few tidbits, but you should read the whole thing.
Dear Ms. Dragas & Mr. Kington:
I’m writing to let you know your grade for the Digital Learning Project, as part of your larger grade as Rector and Vice Rector. I wish I brought better news.
On the bright side, let me complement you on your font choice and the formatting of your emails. Further, they feature some unusual words, and a spirit of verve throughout.
But I’m afraid these bright spots pale in comparison to the problems: an immature analysis brought on by terribly shallow research.
I’m not surprised you drew this conclusion, given the sources you cite. Wall Street Journal editorials and New York Times op-eds are not considered primary sources in this context, Ms. Dragas and Mr. Kington. These are non-experts pulling together the opinions of experts as best they can. That’s what you are supposed to do, rather than parrot the opinions of others, however highly regarded they may be.
Now, I can just hear your protests: “You can’t judge my views on this matter from a few emails! And they were not based solely on a few New York Times columns!”
In other words, the project submitted does not reflect your best thinking on the subject.
I hear that a lot from students.
But I can only grade you on what you submitted, not based on my best guess as to what you were thinking. And maybe that’s part of the problem. If you had let me know what you were thinking, I might have been able to help make this project better. I’m not entirely ignorant on the subject of learning myself.
You have earned a grade of F for this project.
From the Code of Virginia, language on courses the University of Virginia must offer:
The following branches of learning shall be taught at the University: the Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Anglo-Saxon languages; the different branches of mathematics, pure and physical; natural philosophy, chemistry, mineralogy, including geology; the principles of agriculture; botany, anatomy, surgery, and medicine; zoology, history, ideology, general grammar, ethics, rhetoric, and belles lettres; civil government, political economy, the law of nature and of nations and municipal law.
I don’t see anything here about “strategic management,” “proactive proactivity” or “leveraging strategic proactive proactivity management.” Which must suggest that neither Thomas Jefferson nor anyone else in the first 150 years of the University of Virginia knew what was important in higher education: maximizing profit in the pockets of the 1%.
Of course, such a vaguely worded statute is easy for modern corporate lawyers to get around–“We’ll offer 1 course of German and 1 course on Greek literature. But do we actually have to pay someone to teach it? They should pay us! It’s valuable experience for a Ph.D!”
Still, it’s worth keeping in mind.
Lest we think that UVA is an isolated case, here’s a couple reminders that the corportaization of both public K-12 and public universities is taking place at an increasingly rapid rate, with few questioning why capitalists should have any say at all over schools. North Carolina Republicans are pushing a plan funded by the heirs of Wal-Mart and Amway to send taxpayer money into private K-12 schools.
Meanwhile, the University of Missouri, which recently hired Tim Wolfe, a software executive with no experience in higher education as its president, has shut down its university press because it was costing the school $400,000 a year while at the same time paying its football coach $2.7 million a year. Wolfe may not have a Ph.D., but he is rich. For that matter, he doesn’t have a master’s degree either. Or a law degree. But he does have a B.A. in something called “personnel management” from the University of Missouri! And he’s rich! I can’t think of a better candidate to leverage some corporate strategizing in order to maximize potentialities! Starting with eliminating the university press.
Meanwhile, Wolfe’s starting salary is $450,000 a year.
We are all the University of Virginia