Giving Universities the Business Essay

Giving Universities the Business Essay

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Giving Universities the Business

"The business of America is business." Calvin Coolidge

"To talk in public, to think in solitude, to read and to hear, to inquire and answer inquiries, is the business of a scholar." Samuel Johnson

In the last ten years there has been a concerted movement in this country to re-design schools according to the Business Model--a movement which has recently gained an apparently unstoppable momentum. We hear continually of the university's need to open up "new markets," to learn new ways to "compete" and create new "customer bases"; simultaneously, we are bombarded with demands from the politicians and administrators who control our public funds to increase our "productivity" and "accountability." (1)

Justifications for this evangelical urge are various, but usually take one of two forms: the Times Are Tough argument, which assumes that the traditional sources of university revenues (tuition and public funds) are "drying up," and that the logical substitute are Product Dollars, i.e., money "customers" will only spend for a "product" they have been convinced they either want or need; and the Schools Are Lazy argument, which assumes that universities are islands of idleness and inefficiency in the ocean of American business success, and that the missionaries from the business world can redeem our scholars by converting them to habits of rigor and accountability. Both of these models take their inspiration from the definitions of "business" which usually go something like "a commercial or industrial establishment where the demands of profit rule all other considerations." Interestingly enough, this and related definitions seem to assume "profit" can only be achieved through activities practical,...

... middle of paper ...

...orgotten all about teaching: "... [the] culprit is 'process'--the belief that we can teach our children how to think without troubling them to learn anything worth thinking about." Quoted in Cultural Pedagogy: Art/Education/Politics, David Trend, Bergin & Garvey, New York, 1992.

3 As I know this figure will be greeted by some with skepticism,a more detailed breakdown of the average academic work week is available in the WWW document Work Load Figures.

4 Though it may finally be dawning on some that business does not equal efficiency and success when it comes to education, as with Baltimore's recent decision to terminate its contract with EAI.

5 For instance, the recent reorganization of GEDs was a perfect opportunity to negotiate a matching reduction in teaching load, from 4/4 to the much saner (and standard) 3/3. Was a single word spoken about such a "deal"?

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