The Corporate Student

Last year, I gave a speech on campus to students about the threat of careerism. That is, seeking an education for the purpose of acquiring a job in a single and narrow fashion. I warned students against this. I advised them to pursue their passions, but do so for the sake of learning. In return, the skills acquired by way of seeking knowledge will reward them for their commitment toward understanding ideas. In a recent article published by Inside Higher Education, the author notes that too many teachers and universities have become too corporate. My public school colleagues believe that private schools are the most corporate entities around. They contend that private schools cave too often to misinformed parents, donors, and unmotivated affluent students. They blame the matter on a sense of false prestige by lower-tirer schools, and a system of legacy by upper-tier schools. In this Q & A, the author notes the problem and sense of entitlement of corporate students here:

Q: Why do you link this trend to the disengagement of students?

A: The corporate model treats students like customers, and as customers they expect services and products for their tuition fees. The services include high grades in return for little effort. The products include guaranteed credentials with a guaranteed value. With this sense of entitlement, most will not prepare for classes, and expect all material to be told to them in simple terms in entertaining classes. What is lost here is the implicit bilateral contract of higher education for students to meet their teachers “halfway.” When students put out the effort to partner with professors in the teaching/learning process, classes assume their proper place as the “tip of the iceberg” of learning rather than the “iceberg.” Programs that require students to learn only in classes — thereby misleading students that classes are the “iceberg of learning” — are little more than (pseudo-) vocational high schools. We now have many universities where a “culture of disengagement” prevails and students in this culture have a sense of “entitled disengagement” never found before in institutions of higher learning (i.e., while grade inflation and disengagement can be found in the past, never have both simultaneously occurred in such proportions and been condoned by universities).

But it is not just the students who are disengaged. Many faculty members are also, and following recent savage cuts to budgets, so too are many university staff members. In Ivory Tower Blues, we tied disengagement to the wider culture of entitlement and empowerment. Now in Lowering Higher Education, we can more clearly see the disengagement on the professors’ side as the corporate culture has come to eclipse what was formerly a quite special “job.”

You can read the entirety of this piece here.

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One thought on “The Corporate Student

  1. I love this article. It mirrors something I was discussing with one of my IB students a couple of days ago. I’m going to have them read this tonight and we will be discussing it tomorrow. Thanks Carson!

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