Saturday, February 23, 2013

Let's Rank Colleges on a "Civic Scale"

Ellen McCullough-Lovell, the president of Marlboro College in Vermont, proposes a new way to evaluate colleges and universities.  Rather than reward them on the number of "degrees completed, jobs attained, and salaries earned," why not evaluate them based on how courses contribute to democratic behaviors and how alumni demonstrate "key civic attributes."

I am sympathetic to this idea, but if colleges want to train students for democratic life they are going to need to invest heavily in the humanities.  This will mean bucking the STEM trend that Obama has been pushing and throwing money and resources into strengthening humanities-based learning.

Here is a taste of McCulloch-Lovell's post:

We should survey our alumni at least every five years to ask questions like:
  • Do you vote; how often?
  • Do you volunteer with a community organization?
  • Have you run for office?
  • Have you written to someone in elected office or published a letter to the editor?
  • Do you give to your favorite causes?
  • Do you attend civic meetings or organize to make change?
  • Do you participate in your children’s schools?
  • Do you attend cultural or other events that strengthen your community’s life?
  • Do you work for a nonprofit or an organization focused on education, the arts or social justice?
  • After college, did you join the Peace Corps or Teach for America?
We may find out that the more civically engaged students are also those who are the informed activists of today. Their behavior may even correlate with both economic success and the more elusive “pursuit of happiness.”