Friday, August 16, 2013

Rhetoric for Presidents/Deans Vs. for Faculty

"a committee to develop a detailed curriculum proposal to be presented to faculty ...for an ultimate and final vote.  The committee will ... setting out to determine strategic goals and program competencies, designing learning experiences that inspire creativity and enhance knowledge in critical domains to catapult already accomplished professionals into expanded capacity to serve communities of practice and address global challenges." [my italics, my source here is left out deliberately]*

Here are the key terms:
an ultimate and final vote
setting out to determine 
strategic goals
program competencies
designing learning experiences 
inspire creativity
enhance knowledge 
critical domains
expanded capacity 
to serve communities of practice
address global challenges

This quote is ideal for presidents and deans, but it won't work for your faculty colleagues since they are immediately skeptical of the use of ideas in good currency (another such term, due to D. Schon), and they know that votes are neither ultimate nor final, at least until the provost and deans go along.  

What are you really up to? Is this quote meant to have specific content, or is it meant to  be flag-waving (a good thing, but it won't work for faculty).  See below under * for a translation that might do a bit better.

The deep problem is that when we initiate programs we tend to describe them in apocalyptic and chiliastic terms. But someone is bound to ask, Where's the beef?, and for a recipe that one might follow (and not something that is well beyond Julia Child).

Similarly, of late my colleagues seem to be skeptical of terms like "transformational", and they wonder what is the "interdisciplinarity" that has concrete meaning in their areas of concern. "Student centered learning" and "learning styles" are interesting notions, but they always thought they were being student centered. It's not that my colleagues are deaf to transcendent goals; they see these in football and other athletic endeavors. They are willing to engage in such talk in fund-raising, but most donors are quite smart and not at all deceived by grandiose language--although it may serve their interests to be so seen. But they do know where's the beef.

*I believe the following conveys the sense: The proposal will be discussed and voted upon by the faculty, and the dean and university committee will have the final say. The proposal will focus on skills and policy areas that reflect our faculty’s unique strengths; describe the basic courses, courses meant to teach you how to learn even more--so that you can develop your ideas about advancing practice in your profession (while grounding those ideas in the scholarly literature).