My Take on Taylor

April 29, 2009 | Blog

Right now the blogosphere has run amok with talk of Mark Taylor‘s New York Times op-ed (“End the University as We Know It”), calling for the end of the university as we know it. Of course, with an op-ed like that, many will hate him. So I figured, why not highlight what’s good here–and worth considering? In truth, Taylor hits a few high notes I’d like to simply echo. Such as….

1. There is far too little intra-departmental collaboration, and this may well point to the need for new models. I love the idea of cross-disciplinary organizational schemes with faculty gathered around common problems rather than traditional disciplines. But the “problem” areas have got to be more specific than simply “education” or “journalism” or “public policy.” Not enough. I’m surprised Taylor didn’t recognize that we already have a faculty focused on the problem of “law”– duh…..

2. Grad students need to know how to get non-academic jobs, and know that life exists (and can be quite good) outside academia.

3. Colleges and universities need to start acting like teammates, especially those within public systems. Yes, SYSTEMS. Share resources, share students, share faculty–share. Can you tell I have a two-year-old?

The only one I strongly oppose–abolishing tenure. Not for the reasons you might think–truth be told, I’m not really focused on long-term job security. I think bright creative people tend to find jobs, somewhere (and of course I’d like to think I meet those criteria). But we need tenure, or something like it, because now is not the time to throw academic freedom into the wind. Trust me.

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