The University’s Darker Side

Posted by | May 4, 2011 20:29 | Filed under: Top Stories

by Stuart Shapiro

Several years ago the anonymous “Professor X” wrote an essay in the Atlantic sharing his experiences as an adjunct professor of English 101.  And it wasn’t pretty:

The bursting of our collective bubble comes quickly. A few weeks into the semester, the students must start actually writing papers, and I must start grading them. Despite my enthusiasm, despite their thoughtful nods of agreement and what I have interpreted as moments of clarity, it turns out that in many cases it has all come to naught.

Remarkably few of my students can do well in these classes. Students routinely fail; some fail multiple times, and some will never pass, because they cannot write a coherent sentence.

Now Professor X has turned his controversial essay into a book.  It was reviewed this week in the Times.

In X’s opinion, a glut of degrees has led to a spurious inflation of the credentials required for many jobs. Tuitions are rising, and two-thirds of college graduates now leave school with debt, owing on average about $24,000.

X raises a lot of issues many involved in academia (including me) would rather not think about.  Like print media and recorded music, higher education is in a time of major upheaval and the industry will not look the same in a decade or two.  Adjunct professors of low level (or remedial) classes are on the front lines of these changes, far away from the hallowed walls of the Ivy League.  I don’t have solutions for many of the problems that X points out but I do know that he has identified problems we need to think about..

(Or maybe my colleagues and I should just dress better.)

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Copyright 2011 Liberaland
By: Stuart Shapiro

Stuart is a professor and the Director of the Public Policy
program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers
University. He teaches economics and cost-benefit analysis and studies
regulation in the United States at both the federal and state levels.
Prior to coming to Rutgers, Stuart worked for five years at the Office
of Management and Budget in Washington under Presidents Clinton and
George W. Bush.

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