Friday, February 17, 2006

Utopia, Version 1.2

Yesterday’s discussion about the ideal community college was wonderful – thanks to my readers for being so thoughtful and generous in your comments!

Reading all of those comments prompted me to think a little about what I’d do.

First, the obvious: as so many of you pointed out, small classes, reasonable teaching loads, onsite childcare (both day and evening), good public transportation, strong transfer programs, and locally-relevant vocational programs are simply essential.

Given all of that, I’d do some curricular and organizational tweaking.

First, I’d mandate at least one course in public speaking for every degree program. For the transfer oriented programs, I’d probably follow that with a course in debate or interpersonal communication. Educated people should be at least reasonably articulate, and I’m concerned that the ipod and IM generation isn’t getting that. Employers constantly complain about the communication skills of recent college graduates, and they aren’t only referring to writing. Composition is pretty much a ubiquitous requirement; I say Speech should be, too.

Second, when there’s room in the curriculum, I’d love to see mandatory courses in American Government and something like Personal Finance. Equip the students to defend themselves in the real world. Teach the math of insurance, the sociology of consumer credit, and the basic structure of the government. (Maybe this could be developed into an interdisciplinary course on contemporary reality? But who would teach it?...) In fact, something like “the logic of organizations” might make a nice unifying rubric. A boy can dream...

Organizationally, it’s time to look seriously at long-term renewable contracts for faculty. I'm working on a longer piece on this topic that I hope will be done shortly.

Politically, I’d hope to gain support from across the political spectrum for giving people with drive a chance to become more economically productive. How to translate that into sufficient, sustainable funding is a major question. I’d also love to see the Age Discrimination in Employment Act revised in a few ways. Bring back a mandatory retirement age of 70, and allow hiring for diversity to include age. Without the occasional younger faculty role model, I think we really miss opportunities to reach students.

Technologically, I strongly believe that podcasting offers possibilities we have only begun to imagine. I’d also recognize serious academic blogging as a form of professional development; to my mind, the kind of work that Bardiac or Bitch, Ph.D. posts is clearly professionally relevant, even if it’s different from the traditional article-that-three-people-read.

Finally, I’d institute a serious goose control program. The damn things poop all over the place.

Thanks, everyone, for the ideas! I don’t know what I’ll be able to use, but it’s good to be reminded from time to time that we are capable of far more than we’ve done.