Are Educators So Full of It That They Can No Longer Detect It?

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro
Editor

Kris W. Kimel[1] 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.”[2] 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.

__________
1. “A Little Change Won’t Be Enough,” Kentucky.com, 15 July 2012. Webcite alternative.
2. Kimel’s bio.

5 Responses

  1. There are many Seabees1 in the system, both high and low but it is very difficult to change the system from within. (You can get “sentenced to 20 years of boredom”). As someone on the inside it seems to me that competition from the outside is the only way to get movement. That and allowing under-performing organisations to fail.

    • Two good points, Brian. Perhaps the positive in the current fiscal shakedown is the loss of patience with those who define change as more of the same. U-Va is a prominent example of a board throwing up its hands and saying enough. Their decision was later reversed, but that only postpones the inevitable. Change or go under is the fate of all but the top brandname institutions.

      I agree. Change won’t happen with the current population of 20th century teachers and leaders. In time, however, they’ll be replaced by 21st century counterparts who will see change as the only sustainable model.

      I also agree that there are probably many closet 21st century leaders and teachers who are softly moving toward a model for learning and instruction that’s suited to the antime-anywhere culture that technology promotes. In time, they’ll be able to come out without fear.

      In the end, change is like the expanding galaxy — inevitable. If there’s an easier and sometimes better way to do something, it’ll win out. That’s the course of sustainability.

      • The thing is, Jim, I’m not sure Higher Education IS sustainable in the longer term. It is not a great exaggeration to state that you can learn anything on the Internet. So what value to higher ed institutions add? Accreditation – employers trust them to separate learners and then verify that they have learned something. Imagine if we had a different system for that. Badges?

        Aside: I heard a story once of someone who was accepted to an Ivy League institution and turned it down on the basis that employers would be more impressed by the fact that they were accepted, than by what they might learn at the institution.

        • Brian: “I’m not sure Higher Education IS sustainable in the longer term. It is not a great exaggeration to state that you can learn anything on the Internet. So what value to higher ed institutions add?”

          Brian please consider expanding on this idea for ETCJ readers. If you decide to do it, email it to me (jamess@hawaii.edu), and I’ll publish it as an article within 24 hrs. I think you’re onto sonething!

  2. I was involved in a new project which I will not name because of what I am going to say. The people creating it were professors. The technology did not work. In a real school that would have been the death of the lesson. I had my two computers and an iPad. We did not have enough broadband and no one thought of it. Someone even came around and then gave us the lesson from a thumb drive.

    So the lesson sort of proceeded. But the people sitting around the table were kind of mute. The professors were giving us the Classroom Connect model. I guess university students are paying for their knowledge and so they don’t grumble. Well we sitting around the table not only knew more than they did .. in bits and pieces, but we also knew that telling is not teaching, because we deal with real students.
    So we started sharing since the technology did not work anyway.

    The lessons that may have been learned are that if you use technology, test it well, even if you have to get people to design your infrastructure or use cell phones.. they worked but everyone did not have one. ( Digital Divide)

    Crowd sourcing does not always work, but there are ways, if you are using TPACK, to gather content and teach in different ways. Classroom Connect is no more. Good thing. It was eventually boring too . I like the professors but the sage on the stage needed to have
    done the homework for sharing with educators. .. Had I been a first time educator using technology I would have run screaming ( in my head from the experience). ( Mental Divide) there is no wait and lst’s get it to work when you deal with real students in k-12.

    Bonnie Bracey Sutton

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