Investing in Community is Supporting College

Critical Thinking Skills – Like a Good Wine Takes Time

First: The same old, published recently in the Oregonian, the big newspaper in Portland and around the state which is going to four-days-a-week in October, as a cost-cutting and reorganizing thing. You know, since these millionaires and great economists can’t get it past their gold-filled teeth that we, a, need public journalism and investigative journalism supported, and, b, we need true public education.

“A three-year college degree would provide value and savings: Guest opinion”

August 09, 2013 at 5:00 AM,

By Bill Manning

The three-sided triangle is the strongest geometric format in today’s architectural design portfolio. It collapses due to material fatigue and not to geometric distortion. Today, our U.S. higher education system consists of only two formats: the two-year community college and the four-year university. As a 30-year college professor, writer and business consultant, I feel there is need for a third, more practical format.

The four-year degree consists of 120 semester credits, or here in Oregon’s universities 180 term or quarter credits. There are 12 terms (three per year, not including summer term) in Oregon’s four-year program, an average of 15 credits per term to graduate on time. Individual courses are grouped into three categories: required courses for a major (20 percent), required courses in your field of study (35 percent) and general university requirements (45 percent).

Today, community college courses can supply transfer students with 80 percent of the four-year university requirement courses, 40 percent of the field-of-interest courses and none of the courses required for the major. Oregon universities will accept 108 transfer credits out of a total of 180 credits required for graduation. That means it is possible for transfer students to complete 60 percent of their education at a community college.

The three-year triangle degree would require 135 term credits to graduate instead of 180, focusing on courses in the student’s field of interest and major. It would eliminate 45 of the 83 credits in university requirements, primarily electives. To mitigate this loss, universities could encourage students to visit free, online resources and even supply them with references to Web coverage of topics such as Shakespeare, American history or philosophy. Community college transfer credits would be limited to 90, assuring that the student’s final 45 credits would be residence credits taken at the university level. The benefits of this streamlined curriculum in today’s economy far outweigh its drawbacks.

Today’s higher education can cost as much as $250,000, and students can end up carrying immense debt. Employers question its relevance and value. The triangle degree is quicker, cheaper, with a higher graduation rate (fewer dropouts) and less college debt. It also offers quicker time to market and professional employment, more relevant education and is tailored to current employer needs.

Are we as an academic community and Oregon family willing to discuss ways to improve our students’ academic alternatives?

Bill Manning is retired from the School of Business Administration at Portland State University and lives in Southwest Portland.

Thanks to some of the commentators for taking out Manning’s whack-out thinking: ** 

1. Three year degree sounds like just the wrong direction. In many serious subjects, it’s hard enough to get through everything needed in four years, let alone three. Look at chemistry or econ or any number of subjects. The general education requirements are not simply a waste of time. That’s why groups like the engineering societies demand them for students who want to enter those professions.

2. Sorry to mislead you; I was attempting to be a bit sarcastic. Would we really want to produce entrepreneurs who do not understand the principles and logic of scientific reasoning? Beyond learning basics of physics or biology it is important people in the business community understands how a scientist goes about testing observations and establishing an understanding of the physical world. If someone wants an advantage in international business speaking a foreign language, understanding other cultures, being able to engage others on their ground rather that just your own is essential. Across a career in international business in the Middle East and Latin America the capacity to work with clients and customers in their language rather than mine has given me a great advantage over American competitors and enabled me to match Europeans. And any American who does not have a good grasp of American history will have a hard time understanding the heinous and anti-American nature of the current surveillance controversy. As for picking things up on the Discovery Channel (and that was not intended as a slight on its entertaining programming) that was simply a dig at the current notion of having students watch lectures on TV and confusing it with education. Presumably we could teach criminal justice by having students watch Bruce Willis Die Hard or legal procedure via reruns of Law and Order.

Our children and students deserve much more than Manning’s proposal.

3. “Also weeds out some who aren’t interested in material outside their major.”

A lot of students are not interested in material in their major!

Maybe we should let them take just the classes they want to take and leave the rest up to their voluntary impulses. Business major at PSU and don’t want to take BA 302 – Organizational Behavior? Just don’t bother. Professors will be glad to encourage you to visit free, online resources and will even supply you with references to core content on Wikipedia.

4. Mine:

Ahh, the benefits of the folk like Manning teaching and practicing what the great documentary “Inside Job” and Matt Taibbi of the Rolling Stone and countless others looking at Wall Street, Big Banks, Hedge Funders, the entire profession (sic) of business majors, econ wonks, MBA types and, err, economists exposed: this crass group of people with a giant lack of ethics, community building, and one giant greedy MOS for putting more people out of good work and capitalizing on shocks to the system, disaster, and economic hits, until we in the 80 Percent just exist to feed capital and consumerism.
The great Bermuda Triangle of cutting back on learning, critical thinking, and education Mr. Manning posits is old news, dead ideas and premised on nihilism. The great big sucking sound I have experienced as an educator at colleges (Gonzaga), universities (UT-El Paso), community colleges(WA, NM, TX, AZ), and in adult-prison-military settings, since 1983, is a community of parasites in the private sector loving the building, paving, remodeling and servicing side of public education where they’ve made billions on higher education, but they’ve continued hating the teachers, and, always, the students. So much so that we, precarious adjuncts-part-time and non-tenure track workers, are now the new majority at 75 percent nationwide.

Check out my pay scale with two undergraduate degrees and two master’s. Go to the Adjunct Project and look at Oregon’s pay scale. Or read the mainstream press on the professors on food stamps.

So, this business prof wants the Gates Effect — cut the fat, i.e. philosophy, ethics, history, sociology, psychology, arts, humanities, classics, writing, languages (well, the spoken ones) so those great gifts to part-time work creation and slave labor like Gates, Jobs, Bezos, et al, can get more coders and lower ranking folk to continue that Medusa of apps, obsolete hardware and software before it gets off the sweat and blood assembly lines.

Quicker, faster, with less depth, fewer lessons in participatory democracy, and maybe critical thinking around Capitalism as we see the One Percent with their 40 percent of all wealth protected by the 19 Percent with 53 percent of all wealth.

That’s us, right — 80 percent of USA population controlling (sic) a whooping 7 percent of the goods. Nah, no need for political science, sociology, history, writing, literature, art, PE, etc., requirements. Let’s do the iSchool thing — get PK12 on line, fire teachers, and put the rest of us on-line, in giant call centers, or these other mind killing things called MOOCs.

A dime a dozen ideas by the nanosecond by so-called education reformers. Administrators bloating, getting paid more and more and building their class of crass greedy types. Golly, can’t get a progressive levy system, AKA taxation. Nope. Let the One Percent and millionaires in the 19 Percent just keep getting more, keep their millions in income from social security levies, let the entire public school system become that economist’s dream — school-to-school-to-debtors prison-to-grave-to-next generation debt pipeline.

If the Oregonian was serious about covering education, they’d get some voices outside that middle mush zone. And they’d do research.

Instead, we get these floundering essays. And some pretty rotten op-eds in the rag that is going the Bezos way — newspapers will be a thing of the past in 20 years, that editor-in-chief of the Washington Post says.

Read a bit more pithy stuff here:  ** DV.


And, then, my own op-ed, sent in immediately after I read Manning’s piece, ironically, while I was on the job at my overnight shift as a complete care-medical-teaching-supervising instructor for adults with developmental disabilities, who I might add really do love teachers and see the benefit of hands-on and in the round face-to-face work with human beings!

I doubt my piece will run in the Oregonian, though, so here it is – the shortest thing (they limit to 500 words) I’ve ever written!

 *–*              *–*

Investing in Community is Supporting College —  Critical Thinking Skills. . . .

Like a Good Wine Takes Time

By Paul K. Haeder

Whew, more jabberwocky from yet another business administration person setting aflame the true added value and basic cultural bedrock those history, humanities, arts, and “elective” courses hold for this country, the globe (re: “College in Three Years” by Bill Manning, August 8).

Today’s higher education system is floundering for many reasons, none of which have anything to do with requiring all disciplines to carry forth on a larger critical thinking path – read: electives — beyond the student’s so-called major. The current Code Blue of higher education will be put at the feet of those administrators who have for 30 years padded their high-salaried league of do-nothing higher ups who have been asleep at the wheel.

College and universities have faculty, many support staff and students with the true mission of school in mind – building a society of thinkers, actors, participants in democracy, and believers in a life outside of money making and feeding corporate power. However, for decades those so-called leaders failed to influence the political class and business realm, or forward the idea of value added to a biology degree or nursing bachelor’s or master’s in information technology.

Colleges have been a cash cow for private entities making money off of buildings, services, landscaping, and all the other “things” that help a microcosm of a city work. Unfortunately, the MBA types running the show are those who have failed to advocate for the true way to advance education:  fair and equitable support for our institutions, including PK12 and higher education. That would be in the form of progressive levies or taxation. Corporations have bilked the US taxpayer and those communities where people live and go to college. Millionaires and billionaires do not pay their fair share.

Having a retired business administration professor from Portland State U try to muscle in a broken thesis about cutting “general university” requirements from a four-year degree by kicking the teacher out of the equation and having students surf the web for free (sic) on-line sources for such topics as history, philosophy or Shakespeare, well,  this says it all. It’s emblematic of how out of touch that cadre of economists and MBAs are in understanding the value of an education beyond some jobs corps or pipeline to corporation X or Y model.

History is littered with “the next big thing” in jobs and in careers, set upon us by this collective drag on our economy – economists and the business class.  Wrestle this idea of getting rid of the humanities — so-called electives — is warped, a brand of thinking that is being posited by bigger fish in the sea of giant cultural sucking sounds. Think Bill Gates wanting students to learn computer coding and nothing else. Think the Walton Family (sic) wanting charter schools for the rich and tech or burger-flipping schools for the rest of us.

One of the more interesting people I have brought to my students through his essay and my radio show is Gregory Petsko. Make that Doctor Petsko as he is a professor, researcher (genomes) and an MD  with Rosenstiel Basic Medical Sciences Research Center, Brandeis University. His essay, “A Faustian Bargain,” discusses how as a top-notch scientist working with all manner of students he will always defend the humanities, classics, all those electives Manning of PSU thinks should be pushed out of Oregon’s college curriculum ,or worse, shunted to some on-line black hole of no-learning, no-thinking, no-discussing bargain basement anti-education model.

Unfortunately, we only have a few column inches here, so weighing in on this student debt canard Manning broaches would take too much space. Why the humanities count is an old argument easily presented to any business major from here to Timbuktu. Email me if you want the whole nine-yards, not the half-page memo written by yet another business school proponent.

Paul Haeder taught English, writing, journalism and adult education in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Washington for more than three decades and currently works as an instructor of adults with developmental disabilities in Portland. 

Paul Haeder's been a teacher, social worker, newspaperman, environmental activist, and marginalized muckraker, union organizer. Paul's book, Reimagining Sanity: Voices Beyond the Echo Chamber (2016), looks at 10 years (now going on 17 years) of his writing at Dissident Voice. Read his musings at LA Progressive. Read (purchase) his short story collection, Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam now out, published by Cirque Journal. Here's his Amazon page with more published work Amazon. Read other articles by Paul, or visit Paul's website.