The inevitable triumph of bad ideas?
The contemporary narrative of higher education leaves open a number of questions about how universities could or should develop. But there are certain assumptions that are, at least by implication, generally considered to be indisputable: that institutions must cut costs (and staff costs in particular); that technology will determine both pedagogy and education policy; that public money will be less and less important as a source of revenue.
Is this picture of the future of higher education inevitable? Joshua Kim, the Director of Digital Learning Initiatives at the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning, thinks not. In an interesting blog post published by Inside Higher Education, he suggests that many of these assumptions are simply ‘bad ideas’ that we should reject.
Whether he is right or wrong about individual items in his list (and I for one don’t agree with him about all of them), it is clear that too much of higher education policy planning is based on an unwillingness to question current received wisdom, rather than on a considered view of what will happen or needs to happen. The rush towards MOOCs was an example of this phenomenon.
It is quite possible to argue that some of Dr Kim’s ‘bad ideas’ are not that bad. But the implication of his list – that nothing is right just because important people say it is – is sound. The critical driver of higher education policy, as indeed of all policy, should be evidence. No idea should be accepted as inherently right without further critical examination. Universities should live by the methods they teach.