Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Is the Academy Not Broken?

I have not read the book myself, but Stanley Fish's review of Robert B. Archibald and David H. Feldman's, “Why Does College Cost So Much?” indicates that the academic system is not as broken as often believed.  The price of education is rising because we need to keep buying the latest technology for the classrooms and labs to keep the students at the edge.  Just holding onto old stuff apparently is not going to do the next generation any favors.  And, the costs are not rising much faster than income apparently:
In the story the “new orthodoxy” tells, “prestige competition and gold plating needlessly push up costs . . . which then cuts off access to higher education.” “We think,” Archibald and Feldman conclude, “this story is about as wrong as it is possible to be.” If the important figure is “the difference between income and the cost of college” then “by that criterion there is no national affordability problem” and “talk of a college cost crisis is unnecessarily alarmist.”
 Fish reveals that some of the talk about a "College Cost Crisis" was started by a report signed by John Boehner.  Say no more.  If he believes something, it must be wrong.

Anyhow, Fish finds the arguments in the book persuasive because he lived them:
As a dean who encountered the rising costs of personnel, laboratory equipment, security, compliance demands, information systems and much more every day, I knew I had it basically right, but I am happy to ride (belatedly) on the coattails of people who really know what they’re talking about.
 Of course, I find this book persuasive (again, it falls into the category of a book I have read but not read myself) because it argues stuff that I want to believe--that my profession is not broken.  It does not mean this argument is right, but if Boehner is on the other side of it, I am willing to bet that this argument is, at the very least, a bit more reality-based than the tanned one's.

1 comment:

Mike Tierney said...

Buy the book cheap-skate!

I know both those guys. They are smart. Feldman actually teaches a course with me called International Relations in Disciplinary Perspective. He is the designated dismal scientist in the room. His first field is International Trade.