Thursday, July 31, 2014

Why I Teach Where I Teach

I teach at a small Christian liberal arts school for a number of reasons. One of them is given in this probably overlong but still entertaining and pretty much right article titled "Don't Send Your Kid to the Ivy League". For example, I'm working with a nation-wide group that is trying to bring real knowledge-generating research into the teaching laboratory for ordinary science classes. None of us is at an elite school, and I think all of us are teaching our students in ways that the elite schools don't attempt.

But even at my institution, especially in conversations with those "above" me in the administrative order/Great Chain of Being, I find myself slipping into technocratic, job-focused justifications for what I do. It's one of those things where the playing field is so tilted that unless you put forward active effort you slip into the default pattern of thinking, even if you've consciously built your career around thinking differently. Don't be conformed -- be transformed.

Here's the quote that stands out to me:

Elite schools like to boast that they teach their students how to think, but all they mean is that they train them in the analytic and rhetorical skills that are necessary for success in business and the professions. Everything is technocraticthe development of expertiseand everything is ultimately justified in technocratic terms.
Religious collegeseven obscure, regional schools that no one has ever heard of on the coastsoften do a much better job in that respect. What an indictment of the Ivy League and its peers: that colleges four levels down on the academic totem pole, enrolling students whose SAT scores are hundreds of points lower than theirs, deliver a better education, in the highest sense of the word.

1 comment:

O.R. Pagan said...

I completely agree; I also teach at a smaller, "non-research" institution...