Another dot in the blogosphere?

Systemically stupid

Posted on: December 2, 2021

There is a saying that history repeats itself. For this to happen, we might assume that something bad happened and it was countered, but a similar bad thing happened again.

This might apply to pandemics. We had them, they went away through systemic intervention, but they periodically return to haunt us.

We hope that we record and learn from our collective efforts so that we can be better prepared for the next pandemic. Unfortunately, we don’t do that effectively. Worse still, we allow “dense stupidity” (see Twitter thread below) to slow us down or even stop us. The reading of an article written in 1875 about anti-vaxxers is terrifyingly familiar now.

We seem to do this whatever the scale of problems and problem-solving. For example, I see institutes of higher learning (IHLs) not learn from previous experiences or from other institutes. This could be due to a combination of poor record-keeping, sharing, and hubris. 

In a bid to provide quality education, IHLs reduced class sizes to promote greater interaction and deeper communication. Much of this was thrown out the window when many instructors were told to revert to mass lectures during the pandemic.

Why? Instead of investing in the professional development of teaching faculty so they become effective designers and facilitators of online learning, administrators sought quick fixes from technology vendors. Neither of the latter groups fully understand pedagogy or the needs of learners, but they are good at problem-solving from a spreadsheet.

One result was larger classes led by fewer faculty and resulted in lowered costs — an administrators wet dream! But this sets the wrong expectations as we emerge from the pandemic. The year or two long experiment of reverting to old ways with new technologies has a positive track record from an administrative point of view.

Assessment used to be the tail that wagged the dog, i.e., it determined what and how something was taught. Now the pandemic has made administrative efficiency that tail. It is so infectious that it can even change assessment and pedagogy. 

The tweet thread ended: 

I say that our progress in higher education is a misnomer if we allow unbridled administration to create conditions for regression. Some might pat themselves on the back for just patching over cracks instead of dealing with what is causing those cracks.

We cannot return to normal because normal is stupid and in our rearview mirror. We also should not let the familiar past hold us back, or worse, set a path backwards. That would be densely stupid.

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