I have read three articles this morning. NYT's Thomas Friedman's "Come the Revolution," and the top two articles in IHE, "Rethinking the Humanities" and "Outsourcing On Line Coaches." To use a phrase that was a good one until the book with the same name made it hackneyed, higher education is undoubtedly at a tipping point. Not even in idyllic Ithaca can I or anyone else pretend that serious and enduring change is upon us, from for-profit education in its myriad forms to new programs for Ph.D.s and worthwhile venture described in this article.
Joshua Kim made an interesting point in reference to the last entry I made in this blog. He noted that what still remains in this entire area is deep and thoughtful public policy consideration. Not knee jerk rejections to these new initiatives, but looking forward while keeping both traditional missions and the fundamental understanding that education serves society front and center. I thought of his comment as I contemplated all of these various changes expressed in these three articles.
Frankly, I do not sense that the vast majority of higher education leadership in this country, whether it be in institutions or in associations, is on top of the sum, parts and whole of these developments. Coach up, early adopters! Catch on, respected leaders! And remember all to keep our eyes on the prize. There is nothing wrong with the goals of higher education. The means appear to be our challenge.
Here is my idea: Let's call for a three day retreat where everyone in higher education stops in their place, like music chairs, and speaking of hackneyed phrase, does an old fashioned SWOT analysis, but with a big twist. Not for your department or unit, not for your college or university, but for all of higher education, and including all of these new and fascinating developments: for profit, on line, global, outsourcing everything from IT to instruction, letters, certification, degrees, degree program refitting ... one could go on and on. And with one additional element: add thinking about how can my college or university reach out to the world ... not simply in service to the community but its operations (both administrative and academic), even if that world is the community college across town. How can we make higher education serve society by working with colleagues instead of competing for students, grants and faculty?
When should we do the "Global Think In"? How would you structure it? How can we use IT to connect participants, so that perhaps institutions can do it together?
Remember the old slogan: If we don't do it, it will be done for us? The shoe fits. Let's do it.