I believe that worries about “assessment” in higher ed are exaggerated. I teach precisely at the kind of an underfunded regional school that the linked author mentions, and assessment is not a problem I face. I mean, my students either speak Spanish or not, so it’s not that hard to assess. We don’t let anybody graduate without writing and presenting a research essay in Spanish, and you simply can’t do that if you don’t have the language skills. We work with each student individually and very intensely, so there’s no chance they don’t present their own work.
I don’t think that everything needs to be utilitarian. Knowledge for its own sake is a great thing. But, folks, you still need to teach something. There’s got to be some understanding of who the students are and what they need.
Last semester, I’d come to one of my classes to find the board covered in the most inane and meaningless claptrap left over from the previous lecture about “intersectionally feminist and inclusive brown bodies.” Fifteen weeks of this crap, folks. Our students are not nearly rich enough to care about this ridiculousness. They laughed aloud whenever they saw the slogans on the board. I felt vicariously embarrassed for my colleague and angry on behalf of my students who are getting into debt so that an East Coast airhead can recite the mantra she learned at her expensive all-female college at them.
Students don’t know that Cuba is an island because nobody even tried to tell them. Maybe we should do that and teach them the names of continents before beginning to recite the slogans.
If people truly want to turn a college classroom into a haven of pure knowledge, they should stop talking about today’s politics in courses other than the ones titled Contemporary US Politics. It’s ridiculous that we keep harping on the importance of knowing fact from opinion yet we keep offering students our opinions by the bucketful.
When students ask me anything remotely political, I always answer that I have no professional training in any area but Hispanic Studies, so I’m unqualified to speak. I wish more people did this and kept their politics out of the classroom. There is zero excuse for talking about US gun control debates in a Calc I or Early Medieval History course.