Kamenetz, A. (200) Adapt or decline Inside Higher Education, March 26

This is another breathless romp through the reasons why higher education must change, and how it will change, similar in tone and substance to the Tapscott and William‘s article. Similarly, this article is a mile wide and an inch deep, as one of the comments posted to the Kamenetz article said.

Once again, then, I find myself agreeing with the general propositions that Ms Kamenetz puts forward, but I still struggle to see how change will happen, even though I recognise all the pressures to change.

What is lacking in these diatribes is a grounded, practical vision – or rather multiple visions – of how teaching and learning will be organized. Who will pay for it and how? How will such organizations be managed, and by whom? What will students actually do and what will they learn, and how will they do it? What will be the role of teachers, subject experts, facilitators or counsellors? How will they be paid? How will accreditation work? How will this process occur – magically, by itself, or will it need some kind of policies and political backing? How does this link, for example, to Obama’s plans for educational reform? I know, boring questions, all about practicalities and not dreams, but ideas need to be turned into action. Remember we are not talking about isolated experiments but changing a whole system for millions of people.

We probably need eventually to settle on at least several well-rounded, detailed and different visions for different needs – any more than three or four ‘systems’ will be difficult to comprehend and to get public opinion and support behind, any less will probably not meet all the needs. As well as visions, we need plans or practical steps to implement the visions. And probably, for good reasons, the changes will be slow and gradual.

I feel a little bit like Cubans in 1956 – we need to change, but where will the revolution take us? And will it roll over me and everyone else? At least Castro had a vision and a plan, but he didn’t share them with the public until the revolution was over, and had most known how it would turn out, they wouldn’t have fought for it. So be careful what you wish for. I need to know the details, as well as the big picture, before I vote for it. But then, I’m old.


  1. Hi Tony – Nice list of questions you raised. It *would* be helpful to have various visions of educational futures as guideposts … sort of a panoramic Google Earth view. But it’s rather the Google Street view where the multitude of experimentation, failure, and glimmers of hope appear. Seems like we need people doing both views (Earth and Street) and then finding some way to better communicate and learn from each other. I don’t buy the argument that educational reform and transformation should not happen until we’ve got answers to all our questions. Maybe it’s the programmer in me. Prototype early and often, learning along the way what works and why … but all the while holding steady to some vague notion of where things should go.

    Thanks for a thoughtful post.

  2. Hi all,

    The Future(s) of Education project: http://www.futureofeducationproject.net is an international discussion on this issue – we take on all of education not just HE. We believe the world’s diversity will have a role, and that we need all the voices. It seems likely that we will have local solutions develop that then leapfrog and that flexibility will be key.

    After our first year we crunched our data and found that much hinges on a matrix of two continuum – between student or educator driven curriculum on the one hand and student or educator driven process on the other.

    Bottom line – its a work in progress but voices are talking and we believe it is the smaller voices rather than the institutions that will drive change. We ask: What do our children need to thrive in the world they will inherit? A world we cannot imagine?



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