After a week’s worth of lectures in Sydney I had a splendid time touring Western Australia. We trekked 60 kilometers in three days on the Bibbulmun Track (now we only have another 940 kilometers to complete its entire distance!). We also did our fair share of wine tasting along the Margaret River, visiting friends, and perhaps in the greatest fit of lunacy, scaled a 500-foot Karri tree. The view from the top was extraordinary—coming back down to earth death defying.
I have been back since before New Year’s and I thought rather than looking to the past year, it might be useful to offer some thoughts about what the New Year will bring with regard to education. I am not suggesting that these points should happen, just that they are likely to occur:
The importance of college readiness will increase
Getting into and out of college in as efficient a manner as possible will increase the demand for students who are college ready. States, schools, and universities will continue to figure out what they need to do to improve college readiness and lessen the need for remediation.
Privatization will stall
Senator Harkin will again focus his ire on for-profit higher education. The luster of charter schools has worn off. Until for-profits can prove their worth federal and state monies are now likely to be withheld or at least not increased.
The euphoria over MOOCs (and technology) will subside
After the initial exuberance that MOOCs will solve all of academe’s problems, the focus will turn to their quality. It’s nice that a gadget can serve thousands, but until they can prove they do a serviceable job they are likely to remain a niche.
The calls for a Common Core Curriculum will increase, (but fail)
A “common core” curriculum is the latest buzzword that is attracting attention. It makes a good deal of sense, which is why the calls for it will increase, but broad ideas usually fail when they meet the meat-grinder of regional, state, and local public policy.
College participation rates will demonstrate a modest (but insufficient) increase
If the country is going to demonstrate significant growth then for-profits must be involved, and public institutions must demonstrate a dedication to significant curricular change. The former aren’t. The latter won’t. An improving economy, however, will enable modest growth.
Full-time tenure-track faculty will continue to decrease
Until faculty are better able to articulate why tenure should exist and that they are better equipped to handle the changes that are upon us the temptation will be to hire part-time adjuncts. Such a trend isn’t good for the academy but I don’t see it shifting this year.
Undocumented students will be hung out to dry
After the election I expected a speedy resolution to the manner in which the country treats undocumented immigrants, especially students. Unfortunately, the resolve of some to stymie any broad legislation seems likely to create—if at all—a multi-year tortuous path to citizenship for many young people whose brains the country could use.
School violence will continue unabated
Of all the predictions I have made here this one is the most depressing. After 20 children were slaughtered one might think that the country would move with urgency and resolve never to let such tragedies happen again. But as with undocumented students, I do not see Congress putting forward any responsible gun legislation.
Admittedly, some of these predictions are not optimistic. Predictions also can be proven wrong. Indeed, if the country is to prosper we need to reverse these trends or reconfigure them. My commitment this year, and that of the Pullias Center, is to focus intensively on these issues.
To end on one extremely positive note, I’d like to mention that my colleague Adrianna Kezar has been promoted to Professor. The strength of the Pullias Center only increases, and our capability and vigor in dealing with these policy issues will be at full force over the coming months.