LO and Higher Ed LO7538

Wed, 22 May 1996 08:03:14 -0400

Replying to LO7516,

James Needham listed seven skills which, according to the president of his
university, are too often lacking in college graduates. Then James raised
five questions having to do with validity, responsibility, and whether
actions are being taken.

It is relatively easy to understand that colleage graduates lack these
skills because essentially nothing is being done to develop them in the
universities (with a few notable exceptions).

While there are a variety of contributory explanations for this, in the
final analysis it seems relevant to go back to the idea that the chief
executive of an organization bears responsibility for the continuation of
this trend.

If we accept that idea, then we can go one step further and ask whether
there are clear avenues of action open to the chief executive and, if so,
what they might be.

Having studied this matter for several decades, here is a partial

(1) There is one avenue open.

(2) That avenue begins with the recognition that the infrastructure of the
university is not organized to support the kind of learning that is
required. There have been dozens of programs started in universities
around the world, striving to put in place programs of the type needed.
Virtually every one of them has been eliminated, often because they become
administrative burdens due to their differences from normal departments,
and their requirements for space and time scheduling that depart from
comfortable academic norms, provided by the prevailing infrastructures.

(3) Continuing, it is necessary to understand that several things need to
happen together, for each is part of a chicken and egg like phenomenon:

o Find out what the new infrastructure needs to be
o Find out what available knowledge and practice makes it possible to run
programs that fill the void, and which require this infrastructure
o Put in place just below the presidential level in the university, a
process leadership division that will lead the institutional changes,
bringing in the appropriate faculty, and supporting the actions they must
take to get the new programs running

Very likely there is still one more action required, which only time will
tell, and that is to put in place the university observatorium--a piece of
real estate that makes transparent to everyone what is going on in the
university, so it becomes possible to support the good and trash the rest.

Simplistic solutions like abolishing tenure, periodic reviews of faculty,
making minor curriculum changes, going for general education programs
(with what faculty, doing what?) etc., etc., do not penetrate to the core
of this situation, which is where the necessary conditions for learning
must arise.

John N. Warfield



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