By Jim Shimabukuro
Kris W. Kimel says that “higher education, once open to a select portion of the citizenry, is now increasingly available to virtually everyone, anyplace at any time and oftentimes for free.” He also says that “the rise of the innovation and information economy is also sweeping aside the traditional role and position of gatekeepers, those institutions and people who have historically controlled access to the economic playing field, professions and customers.” These are the types of observations that we’d expect from the “president and a founder of the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation, a non-profit company with an international reputation for designing and implementing innovative and broad-scale initiatives and programs.” A gem, eloquent and accurate.
But hidden under this gem, barely noticeable, is a small stone so rare that it takes your breath away. It’s a comment by someone who goes by the username Seabees1. S/he says that “a larger question relates to academic resistance exercised by countless so-called educators and education planners.” He asks:
Why so much duplication in majors [courses?] among institutions, which siphons off excellence while also wasting taxpayer dollars? Why continue old-fashioned methods of foreign language instruction when new — yes, through technology — techniques trump the status quo?
Why constant boredom in classrooms thanks to professors offering limited lifetime working experience regarding the subjects they allegedly teach?
“Perhaps,” he says, “the culprit is a combination of petty politics, internal self-preservation couched in collegiate mumbo jumbo, and declining teacher preparation by the very organizations offering education degrees. ‘Physician, heal thyself’ doesn’t apply only to medicine.”
It seems Seabees1 has the kind of crap detector that is sorely missing among the vast majority of educators and so-called experts. When those with the power to impact education rely on “collegiate mumbo jumbo” and ignore the signs of their own failure, then the outlook for change is gloomy.
Seriously, though, if Seabees1 were an educator, would he survive? He might, that is, if he unplugs his crap detector or keeps the results to himself. I like to think that he’s the president of a top-tier university who is secretly posting as Seabees1 and quietly working toward the kinds of changes that are implied in his questions. Or, if not president, then a fellow grunt in the teaching trenches who is quietly disrupting the status quo. This way, I’d at least know that not all educators are consumed by “petty politics” and “internal self-preservation,” that the light for future growth is embedded in the ranks if not in the leadership and waiting to emerge when the climate is right.
But Seabees1 is probably in some other field where crap detection is prized and rewarded, and he’s taken a moment out of his busy schedule to try to make a difference in the only way that works — by being honest.
The problem, if we care to listen to Seabees1, in the failure of our schools and colleges to make effective use of the latest technology, is us. We, as educators, are being driven by “petty politics” and “internal self-preservation,” and many who can see this are afraid to say so. Thus, Seabees1, we owe you one.
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