Problems in Higher Education


Education has become a concern for many throughout the past years. In the Article titled “Clueless in Academe” by Gerald Graff, his main claim is that the education system is cheating the students by making the material more difficult and confusing than it is. He affirms “To put it another way, schooling takes students who are perfectly street-smart and exposes them to the life of the mind in ways that make them feel dumb”. Sacks argues that students are to blame for the lack of education since they view education as a service to them. In addition as seen in the article titled “Generation X goes to College” by Peter Sacks, it claims that students want an easy way to success and view education as a hyperconsumer. Sacks states “Students raised in a postmodern society of hyperconsumerism appear to want facile knowledge, served up in easily digestable, bit-sized chunks”. He affirms that students want to do minimal work and yet receive good grades in return. Assuming that they paid for their education, they expect something good in return which in this case is a grade. In my opinion, I agree with Graff and Sacks on the basis that students are hyperconsumers and on the lines that some teachers make the material more difficult, but there is more that comes into play with this problem. Family orientation, economic status, and former education are also important factors on the effort that students put in to their education.

In Jennifer Washburn’s article “University Inc.,” she writes about education. W believes that the root of the problem with the education system is because of the commercialization of Universities. This causes the belief that it will bring the country out of debt when really, “the commercialization of higher education may actually impede long term growth by drawing universities away from their traditional roles.”(xii) “These trends have put a squeeze on less commercially oriented fields such as the humanities and social sciences.” (xiv). A university is meant to be a place to learn and teach. Sperber in his article that he titled “Beer and Circus” sees the problem with universities prioritizing research. Graff believes that universities “prop up the power of the cultural elite (14).” I agree with these authors.


1. In X’s he (grammar prob)

2. Book, not article. Underline/italicize book/magazine/long work titles

3. U not capped b/c not name, not beg of sent

4. First sent very vague; probably could be eliminated altogether

5. “This causes the belief” – also vague: who believes what? Have a clear They Say.

6. Make clear, in third and fourth sents, who’s speaking (see WA p. 260 #1)

7. Fourth sent is a “disembodied” or “hit and run” quote. To integrate/blend/splice it into your own words, see Tips WA 260 #2 and TSIS ch 3.

8. Fourth sent: no double punc.

9. Third and fourth sents (quotes) need analysis. Never leave a quote uncommented on!

10. Fifth sent: who’s speaking? Probably the writer, but in the absence of a voice tag (TSIS ch 5), reader can’t be sure. If it’s Wash, then writer doesn’t say and that’s plagiarism. If it’s the writer, writer wants to be sure s/he gets credit!

11. Fifth sent (writer’s own contribution?) needs more development, as does final sent (why do you agree?)

12. Sperber (sixth sent) comes out of clear blue sky: reader not expecting b/c no transition. Anyway, what does “prioritizing research” have to do with “commercialization of higher ed”? Don’t assume the connections clear in your own mind will be clear in your readers! Make your links EXPLICIT.

13. Very wordy to say “Sp in his article that he titled…” Eliminate unnecessary words.

14. Say more about Sperber and how he relates.

15. Connect Sp with G; beware misreading Graff! Pg # part of Q.

Two better RRs – begins with context, introduces authors, quotes selectively, transitions from one author to the next, weighs in on each author. Also paragraph breaks allow the reader to more easily see the important parts and the organization of each RR.

(1) Graff is clueless. For years he has taught at a huge research university just like the ones Sperber and Washburn disparage, but he never makes the connection between professors not connecting with their students and the research that professors do to earn their pay. He even calls the opposition others have noted between research and teaching “overdrawn” (10), insisting that the questions researchers must ask to do their work “are central to good teaching” (10). If this is the case, then why aren’t the nation’s universities – apparently filled with good researchers – simultaneously filled with great teachers? That this is far from being true is something Washburn describes when she notes that aspiring professors learn that “if you want to succeed in academia…what maters are publications, prestige, and grant money” (xiii). Teaching, thus, becomes a “subsidiary activity” (Washburn xiii), and she is not alone in her belief.

Sperber echoes this “cynical” view (as Graff might call it) in his chapter “The Great Researcher = Great Teacher Myth,” which (unlike Graff’s chapter) contains a lot of evidence to support his claim that the often-repeated claim of administrators that students “’benefit immensely’” from research faculty “is wrong on every count.” Largely, he says, this is because “only a minority of undergraduate classes are taught – often badly or indifferently – by research professors….And when these professors conduct an undergraduate course, they rarely teach their research because it is too technical or abstruse for undergraduates” (83). Because, in other words, research professors teaching nurtures the very “obfuscation” Graff is so concerned about, however much he may be clueless about the problem being rooted in the extent to which universities prioritize research.

(2) In recent years, observers have noticed a change in America’s educational system towards a sort of market ideology. One Washington Post contributor, Jennifer Washburn, describes “the growing role that commercial values have assumed in academic life” (ix) as universities and for-profit enterprises establish mutually beneficial relationships, promoting research at the expense of student learning. But university administrators seem not to be the only parties affected by market forces. One community college professor, Peter Sacks, comments on how students have begun treating education, grades, and degrees as a monetary exchange, where they merely need to pay for their success, rather than earn it (156).

If Sacks and Washburn are right, America’s tentacles of consumerism have appeared to have caught the collegiate system within their influential grasp. The education system is becoming more privatized, prices have increased, grading pampers students, and schools are spending money to advertise their campuses to the students they will ignore, all while courting the research companies who may be their most important clients. However, is it really the schools’ fault? With the falling government support, no wonder that the education system has turned towards consumerism to sustain itself. This contortion of values and practice must be straightened out with a combined governmental, constituent, and collegiate effort before the system goes past the point of no return and the education system truly becomes the next American franchise.