Published on 2012/03/09

Globalization And The Academy

Globalization And The Academy
Academia needs to integrate some of the values of capitalism into its reformulated model of education delivery to lessen the tension between effort and outcome. Photo by Jay P.

One of the main cultural trends of globalization is the spread of capitalistic values:  time is money.  Capitalism is a very interesting ideology, which places high value on efficiency.  However the efficiency that is logical or rational is not the same for all parties:  for workers it is doing the least amount of work necessary for the greatest benefit; for employers it is getting the most work for the least pay.

I find it interesting that so little discussion is ever centered on this tension (outside of socialist writings), because this has a substantial impact on the expectations and practices of people in so many areas of life.  Particularly procrastination.

In the academic setting, the desire to maximize minimal work has been augmented by the academy’s increasing tendency to view colleges and universities as service providers.  Students are increasingly finding that their preferences are playing a greater role in determining the criteria for success.  They follow their values, unspoken but so prevalent in society, and become “instrumentalist” in their approach to study.

But this is not the only issue at play.  At the same time the academy has been challenging itself and old models of course delivery.  In the midst of self critique, it is easy for the complaints of students to receive significant notice.  And academia does need to question its traditions; how is it that to teach children a person requires two years of coursework, specifically in education, but to teach adults they need only be a subject matter expert?

It is my belief that academia needs to improve its use of educational design research and clarify its purpose.  Higher education has always placed value in distal goals, in dreams and possibilities.  This is perhaps an outdated perspective in the modern world in which technology and culture progress so rapidly that a degree does not confer lifelong expertise.  I think it would be useful to establish proximal goals as a part of the regular path to graduation.  I also see a need to reexamine general education content.  Not to eliminate that aspect of study, but to determine how courses apply to life outside of academia.   I believe the way to combat instrumentalism is to offer a reason to work hard.

The values inherent to capitalism are not going away, so perhaps academia needs to use them.

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Readers Comments

Chuck Schwartz 2012/03/09 at 12:01 pm

It’s interesting, watching the dance in university classrooms take place: students consistently try to get the most out of no work, because culturally that’s how we understand effective work to happen.

We need a cultural shift where we recognize the value in hard work, as well as final products

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