University of Texas philosophy professor Rob Koons has a good essay on Minding the Campus in response to the administration of the UT system. Prodded by Governor Perry’s reform ideas, the UT administration has produced a plan for greater accountability, but Professor Koons finds it empty. It boils down to little more than raising graduation rates, but, as he points out, that’s pretty easy. All that schools need to do is lower academic standards while making campus life a bit more fun. Presto! More students will stick around to get their degrees. Higher graduation rates will make for good sound bites, but they mislead most people into thinking students are becoming better educated and ready to contribute to the world. Getting enough credits to graduate does not, however, necessarily mean significant gains in skill and knowledge.
Koons suggests that it would be far better for each campus to test students on their knowledge of important subjects. Good idea, but I’d bet it gets the cold shoulder from his superiors in the system.