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If I ran the zoo, I would not be able to link to it here.
July 9, 2008 11:18 AM   Subscribe

The National Association of Scholars has been publishing a series of articles called "If I Ran the Zoo" (inspired by Seuss) in which various contributors describe what they would do if they were in charge of higher education. (via)

Installments: 1 (Adam Kissel, Herb London, Thomas Reeves), 2 (Mike Adams), 3 (George Leef), 4 (Todd Zywicki), 5 (Anne Neal), 6 (Sylvia Wasson), 7 (Mark Bauerlein), 8 (Michael Kellman), 9 (John Leo), 10 (Roger Kimball)

Adam Kissel, John Leo, and George Leef submitted their thoughts in rhyme. Anne Neal's article is part prose, part poem.
posted by prefpara (25 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
A disturbing number of these people seem to think the main problem with higher education/academia is an imbalance between liberals and conservatives. Talk about getting removed from reality in the ivory tower! What about cost, poor preparation of students, greater disparities in economic opportunities afforded by a college education, the curriculum...
posted by miss tea at 11:36 AM on July 9, 2008


1 "The rules would be clear and applied equally to all.
Rule #1 would be a zero-tolerance policy
For speech codes and “free speech zones.”
Let academic freedom reign—"

"Each day I educate myself on the Internet."

"As things now stand, higher education in this country is largely in the business of creating ideological conformity, producing successful job applicants, and providing fun for adolescents."

2 "Of course, I’ve never really imagined being in charge of the zoo because, you see, I am an endangered species. I am a Christian, a Caucasian, a Conservative, and a Capitalist."

3 "How our students are chosen – I’ll change that up too
We’ll pay no attention to their color or hew
Forget about quotas or “critical masses”
We’re just going to admit sharp kids for our classes!"

4 "Repeal all speech codes... Address the creeping “corporatization” of academic culture... Increase alumni voice in university life and governance..."

5 "No need for hook-ups, no need to binge drink
From this campus culture you won't need to shrink."

6 "Although I have been expelled from the zoo before and have been targeted for extinction, I will continue to protest the zoo’s stifling monoculture in hopes of rousing the wrath of a largely clueless, zoo-supporting taxpaying public."

7 "If I ran the zoo, I would institute a simple rule.

The rule is: every professor in English, history, philosophy, foreign languages, classics, various “studies” programs, art history, education, film, creative writing, and journalism would have to teach one section of freshman composition each year."

8 "In my world, contemporary academics would acknowledge the astonishing disparity between liberals and conservatives among their ranks."

9 "No Star Trek theology
No Matrix psychology
No queer musicology
I give no apology"

10 "If there were a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Words, the word “theory” would long ago have been granted protected status as an Abused Noun."
posted by prefpara at 11:39 AM on July 9, 2008


Thomas C. Reeves: In the best of these institutions, there would be high admission standards (free of all taint of discrimination by color, race or class)....

Well, if I ran higher education, I'd admit everyone, and they'd all be above average.
posted by Monday at 11:43 AM on July 9, 2008


The NAS has some specific concerns which likely account for what miss tea and Monday have noticed.
posted by prefpara at 11:45 AM on July 9, 2008


Having such a silly writing prompt on such a serious topic gives all the essays a trivial feel. There's not much depth in any of these proposals, and many of them are narrow and naive.
posted by demiurge at 11:58 AM on July 9, 2008


2 "Of course, I’ve never really imagined being in charge of the zoo because, you see, I am an endangered species. I am a Christian, a Caucasian, a Conservative, and a Capitalist."

You'd think someone involved in higher educaton would have at least had the presence of mind to step back and realize that being a member of the single most hegemonic social group in the United States means you are not "endangered".
posted by Space Coyote at 12:01 PM on July 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


There are so many things you can learn about, but
You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut.
The more that you read, the more things you will know.
The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.

If you read with your eyes shut, you’re likely to find
That the place where you’re going is far, far behind.
So that’s why I tell you to keep your eyes wide,
Keep them wide open ... at least on one side!
posted by designbot at 12:07 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wow, this could've been great because there are so many blatantly obvious problems with higher education that were barely addressed (cost due to receding government support even for public universities, social upper class background bias, grades/classes that don't mean much when half the class is cheating and/or don't care about material, meaningless rankings, grad students facing dictatorial professors/departments with no real recourse, exorbitantly funded illegitimate hierarchy of administrators, textbook costs), but instead it's a lot of wishy washy politicking from the POV of professors who seem to take pointers from conservative pundits. blech.
posted by peppito at 12:19 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, in case it wasn't abundantly obvious from the inclusion of hacks like John Leo, the NAS is a right-wing lobbying group (much like the better-known FIRE and ACTA). Apart from being written in clunky verse rather than the usual clunky prose, this is just a retread of the same old decades-old "tenured radical" talking points.

The real Dr. Seuss would probably be furious at this misappropriation of his work (at least if it were any more convincingly done), since he was immeasurably more humane, progressive, and learned, and less anti-intellectual, than the majority of these shrill partisan whiners and Bill O'Reilly wanna-bes. I'll read The Lorax a hundred more times before I start listening seriously to these right-going Zaxes who only go right.
posted by RogerB at 12:24 PM on July 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


Clearly the biggest problem facing higher education today is that education causes too many liberals!
posted by callmejay at 12:36 PM on July 9, 2008


POV of professors who seem to take pointers from conservative pundits. blech.

Whoops, they're not even all professors.
posted by peppito at 12:42 PM on July 9, 2008


The self-sabotage with the structure is delicious and symbolic of the long-standing self-trivializing of the NAS. If only they actually cared about corporatization.
posted by Mngo at 12:55 PM on July 9, 2008


demiurge: Having such a silly writing prompt on such a serious topic gives all the essays a trivial feel.

I know a brilliant English professor who would probably throw her stuffed Lorax at you for that.
posted by JHarris at 1:42 PM on July 9, 2008


The one that talked about all the religious stuff being brought into institutions is a load of shit. Seriously, people are supposed to be educated, not indoctrinated into bullshit. Keep your religion out of my education.
posted by kldickson at 1:53 PM on July 9, 2008


I didn't mind Adam Kissel's so much: let's halve and halve and halve administrators, let's reclaim the liberal arts from their use in partisan debates, let's have due process and interdisciplinary review, let's spend less money and energy on athletics.... Oh, and speech codes are largely silly: coercion isn't the best tool for achieving the otherwise laudable goal of inclusiveness, and I don't see why anyone would want to give administrator more authority rather than less.

The rest were poorly written and ax-grind-y.

Anyway, I'm a fan of all utopian dreams, conservative and liberal, so maybe I'm biased against bad examples of same.
posted by anotherpanacea at 3:05 PM on July 9, 2008


And actually, John Leo's and Michael Kellman's pieces aren't bad, either. I'm especially surprised by that, I'll admit, but here's Leo:

TAs are beloved
They’re always the rage
Because they all work
For a minimum wage
(But do students want teachers
Who are just their own age?)


That's a pretty good criticism, if you ask me. prefpara, thanks for the post, but I wish you hadn't done all the pull quotes for maximum outrage. Sometimes it's better to let more complicated thoughts stand on their own, for slower but more honest absorption.
posted by anotherpanacea at 3:14 PM on July 9, 2008


I wonder if anyone has told Herb London about Open Courseware.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 4:01 PM on July 9, 2008


prefpara, thanks for the post, but I wish you hadn't done all the pull quotes for maximum outrage. Sometimes it's better to let more complicated thoughts stand on their own, for slower but more honest absorption.

That's a fair point. I thought it might work to have a sort of preview, since there were so many articles, but I see what you mean about that creating a sort of funhouse version of the articles. For what its worth, I really don't think most of them are outrageous.
posted by prefpara at 5:27 PM on July 9, 2008


Oh, it's so beautiful when they willingly make targets of themselves.

These people clearly don't have any idea of what they're talking about, and/or can't actually imagine the consequences of their proposals.

Frex, Mr. Leef, of "hew" (when I'm betting he meant "hue"):

Teachers would spend more time teaching than they do
Research is OK if it’s done on their time
Or if someone else wants it, let him spend the dime.


In fact, at least in the sciences, research is pretty much exclusively funded extramurally. In fact, this is why professors at major research universities regard teaching as a hassle rather than the primary part of their jobs: because the vast majority of the money for their equipment, supplies, research groups AND THEIR OWN SALARIES comes from outside the institution, and they teach because they are contractually obligated to do so.

Mr. Adams suggests:

I would put a nursery in the place of the WRC to care for the children of female students who choose not to abort their children. I would reward these brave pro-life students with free tuition – paid for by doubling the tuition of male students who get women pregnant out of wedlock.

Hmm...I wonder how that would work out when the guys, being rational actors in a free market, can just choose to transfer to a school elsewhere?

Mr. Kissell brilliantly suggests:

But this is where peer review
Comes into transdisciplinary purview.
Let each professor defend his work before his peers,
Across the university, and in the public sphere
So that honor may accrue where it is due—
And ridicule for those more than a few
Who cannot quite justify what it is that they do


Just what we need, the historians and English profs and sociologists as the ultimate arbiters of the validity of, say, mutational analysis of promoter regulators in the development of polarity in the Drosophila embryo.

What a bunch of maroons.
posted by Sublimity at 8:06 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Since "If I Ran the Zoo" is so infrequently mentioned, it should be noted here that it is considered by many to contain the first use of the word nerd.

Here's what a Nerd looks like.

...looks in a mirror...

Yep, that's about right.
posted by eye of newt at 11:02 PM on July 9, 2008


Fortunately, they don't.
posted by cogneuro at 9:19 AM on July 10, 2008


Actually, NAS welcomes diverse perspectives, especially in our "If I Ran the Zoo" series. If any of you who have commented here or read this post would like to send us your own Zoo piece, we'll be glad to consider it for posting on the NAS website. We look forward to reading new zookeepers' ideas on what higher education should look like. If you are interested, email me.
- Ashley Thorne
posted by cashew14 at 12:08 PM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


aren't.
posted by cogneuro at 12:09 PM on July 10, 2008


If I ran American Higher Education, there'd be fewer administrators, no universities with more than 10,000 students, and no organized athletics.
If I ran American Higher Education, no course could count towards a degree unless taught by a Ph.D.
If I ran American Higher Education, fraternities and sororities would play no role in student life.
If I ran American Higher Education, there would be Pell Grants for prisoners and incarcerated students would get quality faculty to teach them.
If I ran American Higher Education, full-time researchers would work for private scientific labs or political think tanks and every "full-time" faculty member would be required to teach at least four courses a year, regardless of endowed chairs or administrative tasks. Basic research would occur at these private labs but be publicly funded and results would be owned by the public. Faculty would be expected to go on sabbatical if they wanted to go work for one of these labs or think tanks.
If I ran American Higher Education, charitable donations would not be tax-deductible unless used for scholarships, architecture, or books.
If I ran American Higher Education, graduate students would be required to teach high school students for a year in their subject area, after receiving a Masters but before going on to finish their Ph.D.
If I ran American Higher Education, law school would only take two years, not three.
If I ran American Higher Education, schools would never pay for computer operating systems: Ubuntu or typewriters are fine, but no proprietary tech, especially if it's donated to create path dependent consumers. (Computers and software have played a major role in hiking tuition and expending endowments in the last two decades.)
If I ran American Higher Education, all academic journals would be published on-line and freely available to the public.
If I ran American Higher Education, there'd be no pro-male affirmative action. Women, who have higher scores and higher grades, would be admitted in numbers proportionate to their qualifications, not rejected to keep classes gender balanced.
If I ran American Higher Education, administrators would always answer to faculty, not vice versa.
If I ran American Higher Education, graduates students couldn't unionize because they wouldn't have jobs. They're STUDENTS, not cheap labor.
If I ran American Higher Education, medical education would proceed from nurse's training to physician's assistant training to medical school, and every MD would have to work as an RN and a PA before moving on.
If I ran American Higher Education, all libraries would allow coffee in spill-proof containers.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:57 PM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


NAS "welcomes diverse perspectives" as long as we're all willing to serve as Junior G-Men for its McCarthyite campus watch squad, apparently. Try spinning that as a non-partisan effort in scholarship, cashew14.
posted by RogerB at 7:40 AM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


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