Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Scandal! Academia is no longer shocking, just flawed

"News" is only really New to those that haven't been following an issue, or been involved in it. Similarly, "Scandal" or "Shock" can be defined as being revelationary only to those who would otherwise assume otherwise, and that are generally somewhat detached from the issue. (This, of course, is what most British newspapers rely on to sell their wares - the fact that most people reading have been "assured" about the state of the world, rather than actually knowing all that much about it.)

So things such as the news that students caught plagiarising are rarely kicked out really can only be said to be "shocking" if you follow the assurances laid out in the story: that "almost all universities [threaten] expulsion as a sanction."

There are two main reasons why you'd see this as "shocking". Firstly, you'd followed those assumptions because, well, you probably don't actually care. And if that's the case, then you probably don't care that things weren't like that at all.

Secondly, those are your assumptions because that's what you want to assume. if you've spent a lot of time and energy, for example, setting up a system of measurement and tracking to ensure the machinery outputs what you want it to output, then maybe going against those assumptions would damage not only your bank account, but also your reputation, and your credibility. Maybe those assumptions keep you looking good in the eyes of the first bunch of people - the people that don't really care what the system does, but do care that you're capable of doing what you say you'll do.

These are the people that the Reality needs to speak to, the people with their heads so far up their clouded arses that they can just fart to ignore the cries of all the people below them bringing them gifts of the Real World. (I dearly wanted to get round to blogging the twisted National Student Survey too, but failed utterly, like the NSS itself.)

And with that, I wanted to leave you with the words of one "Head of Department" that left a great comment on the BBC site. His or her words hit the academic nail on the head in a world where "academic" is fast meaning "for the cash", rather than "unnecessary".
"I regret to say that the attitude amongst staff is now tending towards 'Let them in, give them a degree (any degree), collect payslip, go home.' The solution is threefold - to increase funding for Universities, to pay students a grant (because at the moment they say 'we are customers, we are paying for our degrees'), and, to cut the number of students. Many of our students do not really want to be here and they are not really capable of learning that which we endeavour to teach them. For many students education has become an obligation rather than a right, or, more strictly speaking, a privilege."

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