Sunday, July 6, 2008

Start your career a year earlier?

I saw this posted on the Metro and wondered, really, why would you possibly want to start your career a year earlier? 

Then, I realized, that there are, in fact, plenty of good reasons to start a career ASAP: kids, debt, ambition.  In fact, the reason that I (and many like me, I'd imagine), can't fathom rushing through college is that the "undergraduate experience" (ie everything outside of the classroom) was the most meaningful part of college.

This then brings to mind the recent findings of the Spellings Commission on higher education quality.  The Commission asserts that many universities - particularly the large public and prestigious private variety that so many of my ilk attended - are failing to institute accounatability metrics of any form.  The report also commends for-profit universities (University of Pheonix, etc.) and community colleges for creating student-acheivement-focused metrics, setting ambitious goals, and for openly tracking and reporting progress toward these goals. 

When a friend first told me about the report, I was blown away by how right the findings were.  I remember at Duke there are two types of metrics by which professors are held accountable - 1) personal productivity (books published, grants received, etc.), and 2) popularity among students.  These metrics, of course, serve to de-emphasize teaching and academic achievement and might, in turn, take the focus of the university away from creating great graduates.

Of course, universities like mine still do create great alumni, but without proper accountability systems, there is no way to tell if that's just luck or how it could be better.

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