There’s a bloodbath going on in Bayside and the site of the letting is the campus of CUNY-Queensborough, and the dagger is called “Pathways.” Pathways, if you haven’t heard, is the new principle of uniting, and unbinding, disparate CUNY satellite campuses into a single, unintelligible — “Borg Cooperative” — where every course and teaching philosophy all land on the same page, and a student can take a class here and have it count for full credit over there and, as a member of the CUNY community, I believe Pathways sounds great in theory, but in current practice and cudgel, Pathways is a gangplank for faculty and the end of being for any idea of a proper, well-rounded, college education on a undergraduate CUNY campus.
Pathways is, of course, all about the bottom line — enrolling more students and graduating them quicker and paying faculty less money — but the end result will be students who are not as educated as their peers and who will be irreparably intellectually maimed, all in the name of convenience and parsimony.
Angus Johnston has been covering the Queensborough Pathways massacre on his outstanding Student Activism blog, and here’s the backstory and current round up of the massacre:
A CUNY administrator’s threat to dismantle the Queensborough Community College English department is making waves across academic media this morning.
The story, which I’ve been covering all weekend, involves a dispute over whether QCC will adopt a reduced contact-hour standard for composition classes demanded by CUNY central. When the department last week refused to cut students’ class time (and professors’ compensation) by 25%, vice president Karen Steele announced that all departmental job searches will be suspended, all adjuncts will be let go, and all full-time faculty — including tenured professors — will face the possibility of job loss. Students at Queensborough will have to go elsewhere for their composition classes.
It’s completely egregious, and the CUNY faculty union PSC has been fighting back. This morning, Inside Higher Ed has an article and a blogpost up, the Chronicle of Higher Education is on the case, Academe’s blog has weighed in, and other news outlets have stories in progress as well. (The blogs Le Hub, Adventures in (Post) Gradland, Clarissa’s Blog, and Juan Monroy have also posted on the topic, if you’re keeping score at home.)
The threat to an intellectual standard starts in Queensborough and ends in the minds on every CUNY campus.
As a foreign language instructor with lots of experience teaching American Sign Language at CUNY, I can translate the palms on the Pathways wall:
(1) a single semester of foreign language, which is the most that can be required, in the current proposal will not give students more than a passing acquaintance with a language;
(2) foreign language courses do not belong in the proposed core curriculum because a semester of language study is not a study of World Cultures;
(3) since it is envisioned that the one semester of foreign language will be a choice among several other kinds of courses, the majority of students are likely not to have the experience of studying a language in college
There’s an easy way to encourage xenophobia — remove fruitful access to the acquisition and temptation of a language. You kill the meme by removing it from memory. Another way to discourage the foreign is to poke it with a stick or, more simply, use a budget axe to cleave the learning from the cleansed mind.
There’s an infuriating move afoot in several major universities to “dumb down” graduation requirements by removing foreign language fluency from the core program of study. Some schools incredibly want to make a mere semester of a foreign language an elective and not a hard requirement for earning a diploma. When I was in college, we had to take four semesters of a foreign language in order to graduate. Soon, that minimal forced fluency that formed many generations of students will no longer be important to a college education.
On August 3, 2012, I wrote about the alarming de-emancipation of the student mind — Attacking the Common Core: Building a Nation of Illiterate, Xenophobic, Non-Mechanical, Artisans — in the Boles University Blog:
Our minds are under attack! Our stake in history and comprehension of the human condition are all under fire! To crumble the core of common knowledge that we all expect to share and understand is precisely how empires fall and civilizations wither away. We have been warned. If we only continue to give in to a devolving educational system, then we deserve what we fail to earn. Today’s students should want to be better than us, not less than us, but that isn’t happening.
We’ve willfully created a generation of under-achieving children — who now require, at the age of consent, that they do less and perform worse than those who graduated before them — because that is somehow their divine, but twisted, right to their share of the American Dream, and they demand to be given the same degree that more rigorous generations ahead of them earned with much more emotional discipline and intellectual dedication.
CUNY Pathways is the fulmination of all my educational fears and sorrows. Sure, students will love Pathways because the curriculum immediately becomes cheaper, faster and easier — but never better.
The administration loves Pathways because they can enroll more students and churn a faster graduation rate.
The faculty must never love, or support, Pathways because, we know in our moral coil, that creating a less immersive experience only cheapens the learning and never deepens understanding, and the worst thing we can do for our students is to allow them to believe, even for a second, that they are getting a righteous, and proper, and prudent, and necessary, and urgent, education they unwittingly deny, but unexpectedly deserve, going into an ever-darkening, dumber, world.