Monday, December 07, 2009

Dear Consultant

Dear Consultant (hired to make sure all of our online classes are exactly the same -- EXACTLY, with the same assignments and the same tests and the same everything except the person holding the PhD who will now be little more than a grader):

Please stop referring to the job of teaching as "delivering education." What a horrid melding of technocratic and educratic language! Did you use a Mad Lib to come up with that expression? Perhaps I should be grateful that you haven't used a more Orwellian term, given all of the kant about "collaboration" and "faculty participation." Whatever the origins, perhaps you are unaware that I don't "deliver" education, I educate. Or try to.

I know, I'm splitting hairs. What do mere words matter? Whether we've always been at war with Eurasia or Eastasia isn't the point, right? The point is that we've always been at war. Whether we deliver education or educate doesn't matter, just so long as the students all walk away as satisfied customers.

Still, do you see the difference between the two? One suggests that we give the students the "education" in a brown box and say "sign here, I will stamp your name as having received the education, and you can pick up your degree." The other suggests an interaction, a level of expertise on the part of the instructor to communicate complicated ideas and specialized information, to challenge the student's understanding of the world through this communication. "Delivery" suggests passivity, "education" suggests action. If you do not see the difference, perhaps you should go evaluate your EdD-granting institution -- you know, run an outcomes assessment on them -- to see if they actually have any idea what "education" means. (Am I presuming too much in thinking that you have a doctorate? I have been condescended to by so many people holding decades old masters degrees of late, but I still hold out hope that an actual doctor will condescend to me.)

I know that many students think that they are purchasing a grade or a credential rather than the opportunity to learn new ways of thinking about the world. We don't need to encourage this fallacy by referring to educators as if they are FedEx delivering diplomas.

Sincerely,
Clio Bluestocking.

13 comments:

Notorious Ph.D. said...

((cheers and wild applause))

Ink said...

Brava, brava!! ((whistles and stomps))

RPS77 said...

I can see why this terminology bothers educators - it seems like they're one step away from just dropping the "education" from the the description entirely and describing it as a form of "customer service" instead. I think that people who are taught to approach education from a purely business/management angle often do end up viewing education as just like any other product or service, and ignore its unique features.

feMOMhist said...

sigh the "class in the box" for our "buy a degree program" has kept me from succumbing to the lure of online teaching. I was about to cave until I read this.

Clio Bluestocking said...

Notorious and Ink: (bow, bow, bow)!

RPS77: That's the biggest problem with the business model: it's not necessarily appropriate for everything. The goals of certain endeavors are not to produce profits or worker bees, and the people involved are not customers and service providers. On top of that, after our experience with a tanking economy, seeing business as having the wisest and best practices may not be the wisest and best idea!

FeMOMhist: Hee! "Class in a box" and "buy a degree program" -- I may use both terms. The thing about online teaching is that, due to the online platform, the people in charge have a much easier means of ensuring that sameness, even as the preach "different learning styles."

In fact, it reminds me of my algebra class in high school. We had one of those "open classroom" schools -- the kinds without walls, or with only partial partitions, between classrooms -- that were so popular in the 1970s and held out through the 1980s. I would hear a teacher at the end of the row teaching a lesson. Then, I'd hear a teacher on the other end of th row saying the exact same thing. Then my own teacher said the exact same thing. Then, the teacher next to us said the exact same thing. All were reading out of the textbook, which I knew because I had it open in front of me. Now, I may have had an undiagnosed math disability, but I had superior reading comprehension skills. If I wasn't getting anything out of the text by reading it, then how was I going to get more out of having it read to me? Then, the fact that there were no other teaching styles -- none that might have helped me better -- completely depressed me. Now, here I am teaching college, and they want to participate in a similar, useless type of educating -- whoops! delivery of education. I just don't get it.

I failed algebra that semester, again, by the way. It was the third time I had taken the class -- the exact same class, obviously, although the teacher was different -- and I made As in everything else.

So, I suppose my point is that, with all of their talk of teaching to different learning styles, they see nothing good in different teaching styles. We should all be the same.

I think I'm going to go listen to Pink Floyd's "The Wall" now.

Ann said...

Did you intentionally mis-spell "cant" as "kant?"

You may be smarter than you even knew. . .

Historiann.com

Clio Bluestocking said...

Ann, yeah, that's the ticket, I'm clever! Let's go with that. (Not that I'm a really lousy speller or too lazy to look the word up in the dictionary!)

Digger said...

And when former students of Identical U. get out into the real world, and something goes wrong that requires adaptability, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills, and the solution does not come in the mail tied in a bow addressed to "Dear Customer", it will be the fault of the instructors at Identical U.

The consultant will be off making money telling others how best to do their job, while having no idea even what that is, and making even more bushels of money.

Grrr.

Clio Bluestocking said...

Digger, sad, but true. Perhaps teachers should all refer to themselves as "educational consultants" or "subject specialist consultants." Then, we could double our salaries and be treated as if we are actually doing a job instead of blindly and ignorantly fumbling around a classroom.

Digger said...

Clio, I'm in! I shall no longer refer to myself as an Adjunct, but a Subject Specialist Consultant. Wonder if Accounting would pay the invoice?

Janice said...

My teaching assistants have more pedagogical freedom than this system would provide. Good for you for showing how the emperor has no clothes!

daniel said...

Now a days it is possible to Buy a Degree if due to some reason your degree or diploma has been lost and you want a degree then this helps you.

Clio Bluestocking said...

Daniel: I hope you are joking because most institutions will just send you a copy (for a small fee -- or large one) of you diploma. That "Buy a Degree" looks more like a scam.

 

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