Blog Post

Reflections on Twitter Feeds: The "Subprime Students"

Before I get bombarded by hundreds about the title: I do not, repeat--NOT, believe that students are in any way "subprime." I have worked in higher education for 30 years and I always tell my classes that I learn far more from them than they learn from me. I have the upmost respect and, in some cases, awe for the students I have worked with over the last three decades.

However, the reason for this blog post is that even tho' I do not believe the phrase, the model of education that we have inherited from the 19th century does believe in this concept of the "subprime students." Please let me tease this out:

One notion that led to the phrase "subprime" was the notion that students are free to fail and that since we offer high quality education, the resulting failures are incumbent on those students who lacked--whatever--to be successful.

Secondly, the notion if "subprime" refers back to the old industrail model: students are raw material that go through our "factory" (read "college") and are "manufactured" into good workers. And, as with any "raw material," some of it is waste. . . or "subprime."

Thirdly: the idea of education in this country is nearly Darwinian in its conceptual notion that it is the individual that must fight for survival. If there are doubters, simply ask any PhD student about the challenges and systematic pitfalls that are placed in their paths. Also, anyone with gray hair such as mine remembers the old saw: "Look to your left, look to your right; two of the three of you will be gone by the end of the semester."

These concepts: students aren't smart enough, students and the "assembly line," and students are fighting for survival permeate the system of education.  And the reason is simple: the institution of education has evolved to the point where it is only committed to preserving the institution. Thus we are left with these worn out metaphors that never were applicable to "education" (etymologically, "to lead forth.")

There may be time to save education. . . but we need to consider critical examination of what education truly is in the 21st century, and we must fight the inherent inertia that institutions develop over time. . . .


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