More on Godin’s higher ed melt-down: curated comments from the Chronicle

Seth Godin may not accept comments on his blog, but The Chronicle of Higher Education does. So if you want to re-read Godin’s controversial blog post — “The coming melt-down in higher education (as seen by a marketer)” (discussed here and by a few other higher ed bloggers earlier this week) — and you wish to comment on it, you can do so on The Chronicle‘s virtual op-ed pages, The Chronicle Review. (You must register to comment, however.)

So far, Godin’s post there has garnered 30 responses. Many of the comments consist of little more than the usual academic snark you find on the Chronicle’s blogs — “[W]hy on earth is this in the Chronicle? Editors, please contact me if you are running short on copy, happy to oblige!” — and the counter-snark: “Woooooh! Lots of heads in the sand here. He’s not an academic like us and he doesn’t write like us and he says things we don’t want to hear. So what he says must be worthless.”

But a few of the comments are worth reading. If you prefer not to wade through them, I’ve pulled a few excerpts that I thought readers of this blog might appreciate:

… I think some of you may be missing the point, which is contained in the parenthetical part of the article’s title: This is an analysis of how the situation looks *to a marketer*. That’s a singularly relevant viewpoint in our current marketing-dominated culture. And the fact that Godin’s overall prognosis echoes what a lot of the rest of us are seeing and saying based on other ways of looking adds a valuable element of consensus to the conversation.

***

… I think Seth is spot on — higher education has always moved at a glacial pace in adapting to change, especially at large schools or those that are tradition-bound.

Our society is changing at an incredible pace these days and higher ed is not keeping up very well, especially four year institutions, because we’ve never been well equipped to do so. So marketing has substituted for substantive change in how we operate and educate. Personally, I’d love to see the money spent on those glossy mailers put into my departmental budget instead, but I’m certain that’s not going to happen anytime soon.

… I am incredibly frustrated with the idea that more expensive = better education. There doesn’t seem to be any correlation. Half the battle for students being successful is finding the institution with the right fit for their needs, whether that’s an expensive Ivy or a inexpensive community college.

***

The access to information afforded by the digital age has probably increased the importance of college education. Increased access to information has also increased access to misinfomation [sic]. The staggering increase in the amount information readily available to large numbers of people does not speak to the increase in the potency of the information. It says nothing about the increase in validated knowledge. More information is not better information. The critical function of college education is to help students build a solid foundation of validated knowledge and to develop critical and analytical skills to identify the solid knowledge in the unevaluated mass of information that threatens to overwhelm us.

***

I believe his message boils down simply to this; “market forces are increasingly coming to the world of higher education and non-selective schools better have a strong value proposition and differentiators in order to remain successful”. Those who believe that the already-broke government (federal and state in most of the USA) will continue providing huge subsidies are in for a rude awakening.

***

… [O]ur arrogance combined with our colossal ignorance provides an impenetrable wall around our campus cabbage patch and their marketing, advertising and PR dullards continue to tweet each other from across the room about fantastic ideas that have just popped into their moussed heads, that is when they aren’t scheduling their next tanning and teeth-whitening appointments.

And we wonder why the rest of world goes on without us? American navel-gazing has reached epidemic proportions and the creaking of our cultural Titanic CAN be heard across our campuses, but only if you are listening and I’m sorry to report that the Ipod earplugs will have to come out first.

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Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

8 thoughts on “More on Godin’s higher ed melt-down: curated comments from the Chronicle”

  1. That last comment is kind of brutal… hopefully you don’t use mousse.

    I see the increased access to information as having a major impact on the future of higher ed. True, I can’t educate myself to the doctorate level using Google or Wikipedia (yet). But there are a lot of free resources out there to help me cover the basics of a college education. This leaves me wondering why I should pay the same amount for English 101 that I do for an upper-level class, when I could easily learn grammar and writing skills online no cost, and then simply take a test to verify my proficiency. I don’t see this happening right away of course, but as funding becomes more scarce, perhaps universities will consider new ways to refocus their time and money in order to provide more value to the students (what a concept).

  2. Good points, Andrew. Imagine higher education as a truly integrated “system” in which colleges and universities worked together to provide what’s best for students, rather than competing for scarce resources. Basic-level courses like English 101, Western Civilization, Business Law, etc., as well as many electives, could be offered online by higher ed consortia, while more specialized upper-level coursework, or specific disciplines, could be offered in a blended environment of online, classroom, lab and field work.

    P.S. – No mousse for me. I’m a Dapper Dan guy.

  3. I agree it makes sense to allow students to learn basic-level course material through other, perhaps less expensive, channels. Universities have allow this for decades. Any student can take College-Level Examination Program® (CLEP) test, prove they know they material, and skip most freshman-level courses. Granted, students are gaining more and more resouces to help them learn the basics through the internet. Whether or not they choose to take advantage of these or any other opportunities is still up to them.

  4. I have heard Seth Godin many times over the past 25 years. His message and insights don’t really change that much. He thrives on sharing insights that are generally accurate and he shares thoughts about what many people often think about or at least share with each other privately. He is very good at describing problems, but a little softer on solutions. Higher education is at a crossroads. It does need to think differently. Godin is at least going public with a real problem. His solutions are not perfect and may not be right, but he is challenging people to start thinking differently and frankly, become a part of the conversation. He gets an A for stimulating the conversation.

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