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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Is teaching "cost efficient"?

What I mean by this question is that the same sort of profoundly antihumanistic thinking that makes research seem pointless, that counts up citations or the lack of citations, would also make teaching *as we know it* largely obsolete. For lecturing, you could just mass distribute the work of brilliant lecturers. Why have countless people involved in giving physics lectures in numerous universities over the world? You could must pay 1,000,000 to the best damned lecturer and use those lectures everywhere from Perth to Dallas. Students could teach themselves out of textbooks and by listening to lectures. Of course, the antihumanist thinking also reduces education to *outcomes* that can be quantified or exercises that can be graded by machines. You could hire peons to grade more qualitative assignments like essays. You could have armies of tutors for those who can't manage the system.

The kind of *transactional* learning that occurs in a class discussion, or when a professor gives personal comments to a student she knows in the flesh, is not very cost effective, after all. Perhaps even less so than research. We know the academic institution values teaching less, because when they hire someone to teach with no expectation of research, the salary is much lower on a per course basis.

What I am talking about is something that is already occurring. Once you take research out of the picture, you no longer have the mechanism for training college professors who adhere to the older values of humanism. As the intellectual standards slip, the more education will become more remedial rote work that can be quantified and parceled out into low-paying jobs.

This is a downward cycle, because the stupider people get, the less need they will see for higher intellectual pursuits. The more education will be oriented toward the bare minimum, which will make people stupider, which will make them even more disdainful of intellectual pursuits.