I believe…

I post this with the uncomfortable understanding that in my classes within the context of critical thinking, belief requires no evidence. Everything I say here is, to my knowledge, based on what I hope is good evidence. I will go where the evidence leads me. I intend to update this post frequently. Most of it is just me articulating my thoughts. Sometimes I’m afraid to say what I’m thinking.

I believe that learning comes from engaging oneself in resources that facilitate understanding.

I believe the instructor’s role in learning has been exaggerated to the point where we, and we alone, are now erroneously held accountable when students fail to engage and learn. Unfortunately, incompetent administrators and politicians (the line between those two continues to blur) have adopted the opposite point of view and propagate it to keep students satisfied and to protect institutional reputation above all else.

I believe that when a student registers for a course, the student implicitly agrees to engage and learn the requisite course material regardless of what the instructor does. However, this alone does not absolve the instructor of professional responsibilities.

I believe the instructor’s role is to provide a safe environment in which students are free to engage to whatever extent they wish.

I believe the instructor can only do so much to motivate student engagement and at some point, must be relieved of responsibility in cases where students refuse to engage.

I believe the commodification of teaching is inherently threatening to the tenents of quality teaching and education.

I believe assessment has become so politically motivated that it is inherently a functionally meaningless concept at this point. This represents a radical change in my point of view.

I believe that true improvement in teaching and learning come organically, from deep inward reflection and thought. It cannot, and should not, be forced as a matter of policy. This represents a radical change in my point of view.

I believe that learning should not be penalized, but encouraged and motivated by the pleasure and, dare I say it, joy and excitement of understanding something previously thought to be impossible to understand, especially when other people have conditioned you to think you cannot learn. I don’t anticipate any significant change in the current status quo (is that unnecessarily repetitive?) but this is where I nevertheless stand at the moment.

I believe that learning should not be a competition among students, especially for the purpose of determining who gets access to further education opportunities.

I believe college faculty must be more assertive in defining our jobs and responsibilites. In some environments, we are currently asked to do too much that crosses into administration. Sometimes, these extra duties are dumped in our laps as a result of administrative decision to lay off staff. It is not faculty’s job or responsibility in any way to compensate for such decisions.

I believe that taking attendance should be the job of an administrator, not that of the instructor. Have an administrator, or a designee thereof, to do it so as to not interfere with instruction. Costly? So? It’s not a faculty thing. We’re here to teach, not to be head counters.

I believe that most academic job searches, especially those for “faculty” positions, are intended to find people who will maintain the status quo and not bring any real innovation to teaching, which ostensibly the mission of any and all undergraduate degree granting institutions of higher learning. By “status quo” I mean a continued emphasis on research rather than teaching. That may be fine for an R1, but there are far fewer R1s than other types of colleges so they are far from the majority and really in no position to set the standard. Students do not withstand competetive application to become research subjects. Having been on both sides of job searches, I observe that the same people keep getting hired for the same positions thus perpetuating a system we constantly claim to be in dire need of reform. Either we need to stop the calls for reform or take the call seriously and let different people into the game. It’s quite clear that the the status quo isn’t best for students.

I believe that if we are to take diversity seriously, then we must also extend the concept to hiring faculty with diverse academic backgrounds to staff introductory, and perhaps even intermediate, undergraduate classrooms with all the benefits (including tenure) currently extended to current college/university faculty. It seems fallacious to think that only one particular background makes one the ideal teacher.

I believe that as more and more community colleges in my state are forced to host charter and early college high schools (taking valuable space), the community colleges will be become more and more beholden to the policies and whims of the state department of public education. The charter high schools will demand, and get, a say in college course offerings, scheduling, semester schedules. We were initially told this would not happen, but as is frequently the case, we were lied to.

I believe that if an institution hires faculty to teach courses in a given discipline, then the institution is ethically obligated to offer those courses regardless of budgetary issues to provide a job for the hiree. It was not the hiree’s decision and therefore the hiree must not be penalized for administration’s poor decision making. If anyone should suffer job loss from this, it should be administration, not faculty. Unrealistic you say? Since when does reality play a role in the business of education? (Is “hiree” even a word?)

I believe one role of a department chair is to represent and convey the department faculty’s informed opinions in matters to administration. It is NOT to be an advocate for administration for the purpose of implementing policy, especially bad policy. A chair who assumes this role is an extension of administration and no longer a valid representative of faculty.

I believe there must be explicit limits to the “other duties as assigned” and similar clauses in hiring agreements for college faculty. This is being abused, at least in some environments, to the extent that it hinders faculty teaching responsibilities.

I believe that college faculty must never let administration randomly and arbitrarily decide whether or not we are “speaking for the institution” in any given situation. It is common knowledge that faculty cannot do so. We can, and indeed must, nevertheless speak for our discipline when necessary even if that means rebutting a member of the public with valid evidence rebutting an outrageous or controversial (in the crackpot sense of the word). If administration cannot tolerate this, then it must cease offering courses in the offending discipline. Of course this means violating institutional obligation to offer the courses in the first place by virtue of the need to hire faculty in the discipline. Therefore, administration has no standing in deciding whether or not faculty may speak within our disciplines as that is part of being practitioners in the discipline. 

I believe…(to be continued)


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