The “College Experience” in Modern Life
The world of sprawling campuses, tenured professors and unassuming young adults may sound tempting—particularly if you think you have no other choice. The promise of intellectual “adventure,” rapid-fire sports highlights, glossy marketing brochures and all those huge buildings do have a certain allure. But beneath that impressive façade is another story.
What this $600+ billion per year industry has become makes it difficult for even the best educators and best students to succeed. It can’t be stressed enough: it’s not the teachers or students that are causing the trouble in most cases; it’s the “system” that both groups have been essentially “forced into” for so long. But consumer choice is finally arriving to higher education, and not just with The Mentor Model.
And not all colleges are created equal or maintained to the same “standards.” Locally funded Community Colleges skip out on the first two bullets below, and possibly some of the last bullet. That is one reason why The Mentor Model suggests 1-2 years of Community College before entering an on-the-job “learn and apply” arrangement. Of course, demonstrated success at other good colleges or from early- or late-blooming non-college achievers would also be acceptable.
For students considering a major college or university—and no professional mentoring—some factors of the modern academic experience are summarized below. Also check out FAQ #10 and the “Bonus: Watch out for ‘debt-dealers’ and the ‘scholarship’ game” on popular gimmicks used to persuade people to make long-term commitments for “sweetheart” deals that may still be a rip off. These are good things to be aware of in advance, because you may spend the next 4 or 5 years in this setting:
“Publish or Perish” – academic leaders have for decades pushed their staffs to publish (often cryptic) research articles in any of the 28,000 “scholarly peer-reviewed journals” that flood the desks of some professors (like this one) and are largely ignored by everyone else. One problem with this mad dash at broadcasting anything deemed “scholarly” was recently exposed by the publication of four overtly fraudulent papers on “grievance studies” and ten more that were lined up for publication or in the review process before outsiders blew the whistle. In other cases, the college peer-review process is little more than a collection of tax-funded censors to enforce a long list of tenets on the wonders of central planning and dangers of personal decision-making. Even when peer-review committees do function as intended, the routine Publish or Perish phenomenon is mainly an attempt to boost school prestige while also filling in a “check box” on a professor’s academic performance evaluation. Of course, no student or employer asked for that. But they aren’t the ones calling the shots.
Taken for Granted – to get their “fair share” of the over $60 billion annual funding from corporate and government R&D subsidies, many professors at major 4-year colleges are so busy with Grant Applications and Grant Projects and Grant Monitoring and burnishing their professional profiles (see prior bullet) to be eligible for such Grants… they have no time for any real “teaching.” That important task is often relegated to low-paid assistants who may have poor teaching skills and might not even know 8th grade English. Once again, students and employers never asked for that, since a school’s ability to secure and service Big Research Grants has no detectable impact on a student’s learning proficiency.
Lack of Academic Freedom – if you do some searching at any college or university website, you’ll likely find long lists of confusing policies that attempt to demonstrate to outside funding providers and Accreditation Boards how much the school is “serious about education.” While that may be true—and a few clear common-sense rules from vested owners can set good boundaries—top-down policy mandates written by non-teaching administrators can also seriously challenge any realistic sense of “academic freedom.” Exhausting policy mandates of “you shall” and “you may not” along with the underlying disconnect with the consumer have ultimately created a college atmosphere of:
o Professors with big titles but little or no private-sector experience
o Somewhat “captive” student audience
o Heavy reliance on lectures and books (the least effective of many available teaching methods)
o Still some opportunities to socialize and be exposed to new ideas (trying to be fair)
o Scripted multiple-choice tests
o Passive-aggressive tendencies (some students and faculty)
o Narrow “degree” restrictions (most students and faculty)
o Left/right and other divisive factions (some students and faculty; affects the “learning culture” for everyone)
o Increasing confusion where “words have no meaning” (e.g., “education” itself and other examples throughout pop culture)
o Diminished ability at creative problem solving
o False sense of security from an official “degree” and from being shielded from market competition
Conclusion: Higher education was never intended to be this way. But the increasingly burdensome dependence on outside subsidies (instead of serving the customer) has taken its toll over the years. Even the best educators and best students will have a hard time succeeding in the current system. And, thankfully, there are much better methods available for educating students to enter and thrive in the workforce.
Some questions for employers: Do you still want to make the 4-year college degree a requirement for many positions at your company? Are you willing to consider other time-proven ways to develop junior professionals?
Perhaps it’s a good time to re-visit some old Human Resources policies on hiring. The Mentor Model can help with that… and a lot more.
For further information please contact: Steve@mentor-model.com