Reality Check

The Reality Check blog, from John V. Lombardi, follows the endlessly fascinating parade of criticism and defense of the higher education business.

September 26, 2007 - 11:20am
At one time, we imagined that students came to the university to learn, that they had an obligation to engage their courses and faculty, read, write, study, take exams, and demonstrate their achievement. This simple approach placed the responsibility for learning on the students who we assumed recognized that the privilege of attending a college carried with it a commitment to the learning process.
August 17, 2007 - 7:26am
It is rankings time again, as everyone interested in colleges and universities know. This annual celebration gives everyone something. It gives the rich elite colleges a way to demonstrate their presumed superiority and it gives everyone else an opportunity to identify the errors, misconceptions and ideological biases that inform the lists. As often observed, when institutions rise in spurious rankings, they publicize the results; when they fall in the same rankings, they critique the methodology.
August 8, 2007 - 5:35pm
Nothing gets our academic principles exercised quite as quickly as a conflict between athletic excellence and academic standards. Any issue in this domain quickly escalates to the extremes, as various commentators leverage a specific issue into a cosmic debate about values. The recent flap triggered by my good friend Steve Spurrier is an example of this process. Sometimes it helps to be a little less extreme.
July 29, 2007 - 9:26am
The New York Times noticed in its edition of July 29, 2007 the introduction of differential tuition by field into some public universities. While the notion of explicitly charging more for business or engineering majors than for history or English is hardly new, the desperate search for additional revenue to sustain university operations has led to more explicit pricing strategies such as this one.
July 23, 2007 - 3:18pm
University presidents are a varied lot: some charismatic and charming, some dour and solid, some charlatans and others true believers. Those of us who have watched, and lived the cycle of presidential performance often wonder if there’s a predictable set of characteristics that would define the successful, triumphant institutional leader.
June 18, 2007 - 2:43pm
Many of us find it challenging to explain the American higher education system to non-academic audiences (and sometimes to academic audiences as well). The remarkable complexity and range of institutional types, organizations, financing, and governance often defy simple explanations, and global generalizations rarely convey much useful information. If we try to be comprehensive and thorough, people's eyes glaze over quickly. Fortunately, the ACE publishes A Brief Guide to U.S. Higher Education, a very useful item now available in its 2007 edition.
May 18, 2007 - 9:32am
The liberal arts have been in crisis in American colleges and universities in one way or another throughout my academic life. Whether challenged by Sputnik, assaulted by the rise of vocationally oriented education, or rejected by the fine arts as irrelevant to performance, we in the liberal arts have found ourselves playing defense for a long time.
May 11, 2007 - 12:07pm
Friday, May 11, 2007ACE, the American Council on Education, is a remarkable organization. Their mission, to speak for and about the entire range of higher education institutions, is admirable for its impossibility. Even so, ACE is almost always there when we need someone saying the right things about significant national issues related to higher education. Indeed, David Ward's reign, which is sadly nearing its end, has been a model of effective representation, and we are sorry to lose his charm, insight, and forthright courage in speaking on our behalf.
May 8, 2007 - 9:22am
Although much that comes across the academic administrative desk shines with the bright light of pride and promotion -- expensively produced with high quality paper and commercial production values, creative layout and design, and magnetically attractive photography -- a few items arrive with impressive calm, quietly. In this case, it's a small book that looks like a scholarly journal in an obscure area of the humanities. The paper is soft, the cover appears faded; there are no pictures, no dramatic announcements, no claims of cosmic significance.
May 1, 2007 - 11:41am
Everyone who lives the life of academic administration receives a steady flow of publications in their mail and email streams each day. Some of these items delight, some bore, and some outrage, but all prompt amazement and awe at the energy and literary achievement they represent. We receive magazines, journals, and endless reports from various alphabet agencies. Some we deserve because we pay their sponsor agencies a membership fee and some come in unsolicited.


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