A secret memo left on the counter of the Starbucks on Capitol Hill maps out the federal government's real plan to "shake up" higher education. Reading between the stains of a venti/halfskim/halfsoy/halfcaf/doubleshot latte, here are the salient points:
Using good academic form, the secret memo starts with the statement of mission: the Obama Administration's recently announced 'rating system' to control college costs is a small step toward a master plan to control the ungainly college curriculum, break the back of that very silly and wasteful idea called "shared governance" and replace hoodwinked boards of trustees with eagle-eyed federal agents overseeing the handful of institutions that will continue. Most colleges as we know them will simply disappear since MOOCs will replace most faculty and campuses, thus significantly reducing the cost of higher education. (The abandoned campuses will become retirement homes for Baby Boomers where they can relive their college years by enjoying legal medical marijuana in their waning days.)
According to the memo, strategies to achieve these goals include using drone aircraft hovering over faculty lounges and administration buildings to facilitate implementation of the reform plan for higher education. Whether the administration will seek Congressional approval for these actions is unclear --- the latte spill on the memo obscured that section.
The use of drones, while provocative, should be swift and effective. The first strike will take out the philosophers. Really, aren't these people the source of the problem? All they want students to do is think. THINK. Think "critically." Four years of tuition payments to learn how to think? Stamping out critical thinking will go a long way to solving so many national problems.
Language faculty are definitely next on the list. Their insistence on learning other languages undermines the hegemony of English --- American English, not that British import. Besides, the language professors are always insisting on promoting other cultures, even "celebrating" diverse ethnicities and nationalities. Federal student loans are paying for that? Let American tax dollars teach American!
Too late, the English Lit profs will invoke their heroic warriors, but memories of deconstructing Richard III will only inflame the drones. Forsooth, if people want uppity English they can watch Downton Abbey!
Social scientists will try to hide beneath the blanket of data they'll proffer as proof that they're really on the government's team, but frankly, they're just a front for anthropology. Zap 'em. Double zaps for the political scientists --- the last thing we need is education about how government should work. The history crowd will beg to be spared, claiming they warned everyone years ago about the Rise of Fascism, but really, how useful was that? The outcomes assessment rubric shows that the teachers of history have failed to keep the world from repeating history. (See: Santayana) Surely, if studying history was useful, we'd have no more wars, economic equality and an end to the abomination of designated hitters. Nope, no sparing the historians. Zap!
President Obama said that law schools should be reduced to two years, but a small slip of the trigger finger could just wipe out those pests entirely. Oops.
College presidents will meet a worse fate. Led to believe that they are summoned to an Important Meeting with Administration Officials to have a rational discussion of the proposed new rating system, they will be herded into the subterranean ballroom of the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill where they will be subjected to hours of powerpoint presentations by Education Consultants. They will run out screaming that they are late for drinks with donors at the Hay Adams. Won't hear much from them again.
Having disposed of major opposition rather efficiently, the Administration will move quickly from the topic of controlling costs to the real agenda of controlling the curriculum. With Philosophy, Languages and Social Sciences wiped out, the rest of the liberal arts will easily devolve into skills building courses for job training tracks. Math and Science faculty will undergo retraining in Silicon Valley to learn what the tech industry really wants from their students. Without needing time to teach about big ideas, critical thinking and socially constructed views of reality, the curriculum can be cut way back, maybe 50 credits or so, and maybe with test-out options where students can prove what they already know by showing their Facebook pages and Twitter feeds.
With the faculty and college presidents out of the way, there should be no further problems with graduation rates, since every student who wants a piece of paper can certainly purchase one.
And like the scene in H.S. Well's Time Machine where the Time Traveller discovers the books that have turned to dust in the "perfect" society whose inhabitants have no capacity for curiosity, in some future millennium explorers will stumble across the remnants of America's once great universities, silent monuments to a time when a more thoughtful nation once prized genuine higher learning, expansive research and the unfettered exercise of academic freedom as among its most cherished assets.
Editor's note: This blog post is satirical.