A soundbite in the Associated Press this morning from Andrew Hacker, co-author (with Claudia Dreifus) of the new book Higher Education? How Colleges are Wasting Our Money and Failing our Kids -- And What We Can Do About It caught my eye:

"Undergraduates are being neglected. . . . Higher education has become the preserve of professors . . . (who) really have lost contact with the main purpose of higher education, which is the education of students."

The article suggests that Hacker and Dreifus include among their criticisms of the professoriate, emphasis on research and the practice of taking sabbaticals. Hrm. Where, exactly, do these writers presume that quality teaching comes from, if not from the time allotted to do the research which informs the professor's work in the classroom? While I'm game to accept some of their complaints about the current state of post-secondary education, I grimace at their characterization of professors--at least as it comes through in this news report--as a self-involved bunch with no interest in giving students a quality learning experience. Moreover, how much emphasis does their book put on student initiative and the responsibility of students to cultivate a desire to learn?

Just thinking aloud.

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MICHAEL BORSHUK is Associate Professor of African American Literature at Texas Tech University. He is the author of SWINGING THE VERNACULAR: JAZZ AND AFRICAN AMERICAN MODERNIST LITERATURE (Routledge, 2006), and numerous essays, reviews, and encyclopedia entries on African American literature, American modernism, and music. For ten years, from 1999 to 2009, he wrote on jazz regularly for CODA MAGAZINE. His fiction has appeared in ANTIGONISH REVIEW, DALHOUSIE REVIEW, ELYSIAN FIELDS QUARTERLY, SHORT STORY, and 34TH PARALLEL.

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