Phi Beta Cons

What We’re Up Against

The establishment speaketh. The establishment could have written its latest essay in its sleep.

Appearing last week in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Hunter R. Rawlings III, former president of the University of Iowa and Cornell, uses the usual buzz words about what reformers want college to be:  …”factory model”  … “professionals as piece workers” … “everything that can be counted is counted, and everything that cannot be counted doesn’t count” … “utilitarianism” …  “does not concern itself with quality”… “the goal is knowledge, not profit…”

Awhile back I criticized the august Dr. Rawlings when, in a speech at Princeton, he attacked state legislatures for being the biggest (not the only, but the biggest) problem in higher education. Why he brought that up at Princeton, I’m not sure.

Now he’s after the university business model, with Exhibit A being the efforts by Governor Rick Perry and his associates to push out William Powers, president of the University of Texas at Austin. Exhibit B is the aborted ouster of Virginia Sullivan as president of the University of Virginia.

Rawlings says other all-too-familiar words as well:

Transparency and accountability are laudable goals and sound good as populist slogans, but, to be applied effectively to universities, they need academic substance and depth. We are all concerned about the cost of college. But we cannot separate cost from value. Cheap does not mean good; it just means cheap.

He then goes on to say, “The real question is, What is the value of one’s education?”

But he never answers the question or says how he would go about finding it out.

After all, transparency and accountability are just “populist slogans.”

Jane S. ShawJane S. Shaw retired as president of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in 2015. Before joining the Pope Center in 2006, Shaw spent 22 years in ...

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