Tuesday, February 06, 2007



The life-cycle of an occupational program:

  1. “Gee, we're seeing a lot of employer and student demand for a program in x.”

  2. Several years pass

  3. “Maybe we should have a program leading to a degree in x, so students can get those jobs.”

  4. “Don't we already have something sorta like that in department z?”

  5. “Let's have the chair of department z put it together.”

The scene shifts to department z.

  1. “How can students possibly jump right into that? They need a solid foundation in the courses we happen to teach.”

  2. “Let's make x a subset of z, so students can major in z with a concentration in x.”

  3. “Good idea. And let's construct the Gen Eds so as not to offend the other chairs.”

Curriculum committee:

  1. “Great job! I'm glad you've made certain the students will get a solid foundation in z.”

  2. “Thanks. It's all about academic integrity, you know.”

At in-person registration:

  1. “Why do I have to take z? I only want x!”

  2. “These prereqs are bullshit. I'll just take what I want.”

Years later:

  1. “Why don't we have a program in x? Students and employers are clamoring for it.”

  2. “Can't be done. We tried it a few years ago, and the numbers were terrible.”

Is the point that students are short sited wrt prereqs or that faculty make bad decisions about curriculum?
I suspect that Dean Dad is intending to criticize the faculty. Of course, it's an unfortunate possibility to add too many pre-requisites simply to obtain faculty buy-in. But I also support the "short-sighted" interpretation. Why should we believe that students know which courses they'll need to succeed in a field? E.g., should you support students who say, "I want to go to law school, so I just want to take some 'pre-law courses' -- never mind about American political history or basic economics"? All that produces is uninformed law students (and bad lawyers).
It looks to me like he's saying everyone involved is hosing it up. The administration responds slowly and poorly ("several years pass", foisting it onto "department z"), the faculty resists and fights turf battles, and the students don't recognize that maybe the college has a point that prereqs aren't all a waste of time. Then, due to the brevity and shallowness of institutional memory, nobody learns the lessons of the tanked program.
Are you sure it's not just a challenge that leadership from the administration doesn't exist? It reads to me as if the leadership/administration was slow to respond, and when they did respond, rather than engage the faculty and students in a way that not only encouraged development of the program but encourage "ownership" the administration allowed old ways to rule.

I thought it was intended as a rather insightful and inciteful rebuke of the administration.
Yeah, this one's an interesting rorschach, isn't it?
Or is it about the fact that nothing can get done by committee because consensus always rolls down hill? And how the way things get done is not, perhaps, the most efficient way to do things. That individuals within institutions need more power to effect change. That we are all hamstrung by the institutions.
I see a pretty butterfly.

I also see “Don't we already have something sorta like that in department z?” where admin passes the buck after a few years rather than research the needs of the employer right away ...

... and “Let's make x a subset of z, so students can major in z with a concentration in x.” where the committee at the dept level does much the same thing.

Of course, it could suffer low enrollment if the program only uses classes that are narrowly focussed on the new subject. Cuts both ways, which is why DD has a tough job.
My brother pretty much got my intention, but the range of readings is interesting.
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