Education as a commodity

Posted: October 11, 2022 by chrisharper in Uncategorized

By Christopher Harper

The bond between learners and teachers has been fraying for years in higher education, but it appears that it is becoming increasingly broken.

I was always known as a tough grader. Still, it was only recently that administrators literally changed the marks for two students—one considered a star and another a woman whose father threatened a lawsuit.

That’s why I sympathize with a New York University chemistry professor whose medical students complained that his course was too challenging, and he got fired because of the criticism.

For a number of years, I taught the final course for journalism students—known in the trade as the capstone—before the budding reporters went into the real world.

The students had to travel outside of their comfort zones to report about troubled Philadelphia neighborhoods. They had to do so while creating stories in text, photography, audio, video, and web design.

Most students wanted to work in less difficult environments and only in their preferred journalism sector, whether in text, photography, or broadcasting. After my colleague and I left the course we created, the class has been dumbed down so much that it’s almost impossible to gain any significant understanding of the requirements of the craft of journalism.

Because of the escalating cost of higher education, students treat teachers like a commodity. If you pay for that commodity, you should expect it to do what you want it to do.

If you want a higher grade, you complain.

If you think the work is too hard, you complain.

If you don’t like how the teacher treats you, you complain.

It’s heartening that even some liberal professors agree that the system is broken.

Feminist journalists lamented the state of academia in opinion pieces for CNN and NBC after the NYU professor got axed. 

“Faculty members aren’t commodities, and programs aren’t products. Education isn’t a raw material with a return policy,” Christina Wyman, an adjunct professor at Michigan State University, wrote for NBC.

Feminist writer and former adjunct New York University journalism professor Jill Filipovic agreed that the firing showed “what’s wrong with academia” in an opinion piece for CNN. “Turning education into a consumer product rather than a public good also subjects educators to the whims of the consuming public,” she wrote.

It’s nice to see that liberals and I can agree on something!

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