Sometimes the posts just write themselves.

17 04 2012

Did you enter academia in order to stare at a screen all day? Unfortunately, that decision is being made for you even while you stare at a screen in order to read this. Here’s a big part of the 82nd reason not to go to graduate school:

With a future of teaching and research in mind, graduate students come to imagine that their lives will be quite different from those of the “cubicle drones” to whom they like to compare themselves. But an academic spends very long hours at his desk. Classroom teaching is the one aspect of his working life that looks fundamentally different from what an office worker does, and even that–dramatized by an unfortunate recent episode in Florida–has lost much of its charm (see Reason 65).

Traditional teaching, however, is increasingly being replaced by alternatives made possible by the Internet. Academic job announcements posted by all kinds of institutions now routinely include references to course management software, distance education, and “virtual learning environments.” Because of the enormous oversupply of PhDs (see Reason 55), people who once envisioned themselves lecturing in front of classrooms are being squeezed into teaching jobs in which much (if not all) of the “teaching” involves sitting at a computer. Even those jobs are scarce, and may become scarcer in the future as technological advancements allow fewer professors to teach more students.

But we aren’t the only ones alienated by the educational process. Imagine life once the grade-bots take over. Audrey Watters already has:

And oh, the labor. Grading essays – whether in comp or in other writing-heavy classes – is incredibly time-consuming. That makes the move to robot graders one of efficiency, time- and cost-savings. Grading essays is also incredibly grueling intellectually, I’d argue, as giving meaningful feedback on student writing (and by extension on student thinking) is hard work.

Robot graders don’t give feedback; they simply score. Do they score papers better than graduate students, writing instructors, and those individuals hired by testing companies to pour through the written portions of standardized exams do? “The reality is, humans are not very good at doing this,” Steve Graham, a Vanderbilt University professor who has researched essay grading techniques tells Reuters. “It’s inevitable,” he said, that robo-graders will soon take over.

Comments? Those are for rich people. The common folks don’t need no stinkin’ comments. If they find the grade-bot alienating, then they can just drop out of college and get a job now.

Students, their teachers and Dee Snider (just for effect) must join together now and say, “We’re not going to take it!” It’s our jobs, our lives and our happiness that’s at stake. We can’t afford to just sit back and accept these kinds of changes lying down. Market-based values have no business in any aspect of education, but they’ll infect it anyways unless we all fight them together.

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