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Category: Education, History Comments: 3

A Model of Leadership Education, Part 2: Current Trends in Higher Education

This is part 2 of an 8-part article.
Read Part 1 Here
We are now in the eleventh, or current, generation of American higher learning.
Excoriated by Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind and a host of other polemics outlining the decline of higher education, the universities nevertheless flourish in the market-for now.
The leading current trends in higher education include:

  • A central focus on market branding (selling the name of the university in order to attract clients).
  • The hiring of academic superstars
  • Research contracts over teaching (during the 1980s and 1990s, the priority was publishing over teaching)
  • The shrinking of academic quality, humanities and liberal arts
  • Running departments as profit centers (e.g. running the English Department or Art Department like the Athletic Department)
  • Using technology as a replacement for increasing areas of direct student-teacher interaction
  • The transformation of school leadership from educators to businessmen
  • Teachers are now on par with factory workers, often paid less
  • “Can” has replaced “should” as the governing value of most schools
  • Accreditation agencies often follow all these trends themselves; all of higher education seems to see the market as the ultimate source
  • The new goals of schools are to have the highest cash flow and the highest average graduate income rate
  • The rise of for-profit schools (with some positive results, but also speeding up negative trends)

From a business market perspective, all of these trends may be positive. In terms of education, learning and national freedom, however, these trends are a disaster.
Make no mistake, a generation of conveyor belt politicians and bureaucrats will never be a generation of statesmen.  Without a superb knowledge of history, our leaders will repeat its worst mistakes.  Without a foundation in the greatest ideas of mankind, our leaders  will act only based on the market with today’s market      report taking the place of the Bible or other central    classics.
Truth will be replaced with power and then  force.    Perhaps the strongest proof of this direction is  how few  modern Americans even realize or believe it.
Ironically, even the market leaders in modern academia  realize that their day is over, that if the industrial age is  ending then the universities must drastically change.  There are currently four major views about what lies ahead for America*:

  • The Social Conservative View is that our society will face drastic challenges in the years ahead, economic problems, societal decay, major conflict and “hard times.”  In this view, we must prepare for the coming tough times by being smart, frugal, and judicious today.  Good times will come again after a period of crisis, but our focus should be to adequately prepare our nation for the crises ahead.


  • The Fiscal Conservative View holds that capitalism has won the day, and the world is finally safe for democracy.  Prospects for world economic growth have never been better, and we should busily focus our national resources on spreading capitalistic values far and wide around the globe.  Great days of prosperity are just ahead!


  • The Liberal View agrees that capitalism has won the global conflicts of the Twentieth Century, and the Twenty-first Century offers an unbounded opportunity for world prosperity.  Unfortunately, says the liberal perspective, the cost of increasing prosperity seems to be a rising gap between the rich and the poor-and government must intervene with stronger treaties, international organizations, andglobal controls to ensure that all the peoples of the world get their fair share of our increasing wealth.


  • The Libertarian View is that government continues to dominate economies and slow growth .  Business and technology are poised for great and positive changes, which will help, solve many of the world’s problems, but government and religions remain the leading obstacles to progress and must be overcome.

*Research done by Oliver DeMille
Historically, it would be the role of the university to analyze these views, show their strengths and, most importantly, publicize their weaknesses.  In history , governments, business, churches, media, the university and the family stood as six separate but equal institutions that checked and balanced each other when needed and stopped the excesses of the others if they got out of line.
Our Current Situation
Nearly all universities are now philosophical extensions of business and government, dependent on research grant monies to survive and taking orders from their betters.  Freedom cannot survive unless the university regains its independence, and that means it must adopt a higher value than the market.
Many modern educators and administrators have spoken out on the need for change in higher education.  A few have suggested possible solutions to restore the university to its proper role as a leader of society, an institution on the same level as government, church, corporation, media, community and family.
Indeed, to restate this for emphasis: In a democracy, these entities form natural checks and balances upon each other-whereas in a monarchy, the government dominates them all.
In an aristocracy, they are all subservient to business and the market.  In the Twenty-first Century, the rise of a global corporate-government aristocracy is nearly a fait accompli.
Nearly all educators agree that the university is in dire straights, as discussed recently by one of the leading thinkers of the 20th Century, Peter Drucker: “Thirty years from now the big university campuses will be relics. It is as large a change as when we got the first printed books.”
William Wulf concurs: “If you believe that an institution that has survived for a millennium cannot disappear in just a few decades, just ask yourself what has happened to the family farm.”
The university knows that it is in trouble, and some of its most  credible leaders have spoken out on the need for change.  Here are the leading suggestions on what to do to fix the university:

  • Derek Bok, former President of Harvard, says the university must set clear standards that it will not compromise, such as not accepting students because their parents make donations to the school or because they are good athletes.



  • David Kirp, a professor at Berkeley, says we must convince the public to subsidize higher education, to fund it through government so it does nothave to bow to the market.5



  • Johnson, Kavanagh and Mattson write that the answer is to formally organize academic labor unions where professors keep corporations from controlling the university.


  • James J. Duderstadt, former President of Michigan, says that the industrial age is over, and with it, the industrial age university. To survive, the university will have to reinvent itself. His suggestions for doing this include new corporate boards instead of lay boards, increased high tech learning options, alliances among institutions with differing specialties, and a rebirth of the college level of learning, among other things.



  • Dinesh D’Souza states that colleges have declined due to policies of affirmative action and programs of extreme political correctness and spends chapter after chapter arguing that getting rid of such policies and philosophies will fix American higher education.


  • Frank H. Rhodes, former President of Cornell, says the university must change or become a dinosaur.  It must change both by maintaining its good points:residence studies, strong faculties, quality research, etc. and by increasing its focus on these things instead of others.  It must also deliver learning the way the market wants.

To be Continued….

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