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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Does a deep distrust of Charles Darwin motivate Rick Scott's education policiies

From the Orlando Sentinel

by Mike Thomas

Rick Scott wants to reform our universities and turn them into great institutions of higher education.

You would hope he might look to North Carolina, Virginia or any basketball state, for that matter.

But, alas, he is turning to Texas and his new friend, Gov. Rick Perry, who graduated from Texas A&M University with a 2.22 grade-point average and a deep distrust of Charles Darwin.

This should be interesting.

It is an expansion of the public-school reform movement. That effort was relatively straightforward. You measured student-learning gains, graded the schools, gave parents the option of switching their kids from a failing public school to a failing charter school and busted the teachers union.

Seemed to work.

But this requires an FCAT, and there is no FCAT in Florida universities because of the potential impact on football programs.

So the universities are an unaccountable maze of immeasurable degree programs, most of them run by liberals who hate America but can't be fired because of tenure.

Anyway, this is what Texas conservatives think — and what's behind their reform movement.

The first order of business is to turn everything into a business. This requires quantification, fiscal accountability, calling students "customers'' and abusing the help.

So Texas examined the cost-effectiveness of its professors. It compared what they were making to how many students they were teaching and projects they were researching.

This exposed several tenured freeloaders making six figures, teaching six students and still awaiting publication in the Journal of Irreproducible Results.

The professors went ballistic, and it has been war ever since.

The conservatives argued that if professors taught more and did less research on darn-fool theories like dinosaurs, they could educate a lot more students for half the cost.

The conservatives also want merit pay for professors.

Because there are no standardized tests to measure student-learning gains, they would have students grade the professors. If you think public-school teachers loathe being judged by a test, consider the reaction of not-really doctors judged by a bunch of entitled "customers.''

The eventual result would be Mutually Assured Excellence: You give me an A and I give you an A.

Professors preferring only to do research would have to pay for themselves with grants, encouraging them to work on more practical scientific breakthroughs such as Gatorade.

There also would be full-disclosure "learning contracts'' between the university and students.

For example: You hereby agree to major in political science. The odds are 58 percent you'll graduate. According to ratings by previous customers, half your professors will be insufferable communists who feel this university is beneath them. After graduating, you will drive a furniture truck for a year, hoot at women in convertibles, make $7 an hour and then try again with a journalism degree. Sign here.

That's the deal I got at the University of Florida.

I like this reform. Psychology majors should be made aware of their impending starvation.

The university establishment says you cannot enlighten minds with this assembly-line model.

Dean Randy Diehl from University of Texas College of Liberal Arts (big surprise there) wrote that the reforms would dumb down the school, send top professors packing and scare away bright graduate students. This would leave Texas with a bunch of undergraduates with 2.22 GPAs.

Well, at least that's good enough to run the place. or 407-420-5525,0,3646791.column

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