Wednesday, April 12, 2006

fox, meet henhouse...

is it just me or is this a bad idea?:

One proposal calls for scrapping the current system of accreditation, which has been done largely by private regional bodies, in favor of a National Accreditation Foundation that would be created by Congress and the president.

for a moment, let's leave aside the obvious problems with having an agency put together by politicians (e.g., people with political science backgrounds and with many priorities besides education) mandating standards for all types of undergraduate training in addition to overseeing the specialized fields of medicine, dentistry, law, and business (just to name a few). on the face of it, this would centralize accreditation and more closely tie the carrot (government funding) to the stick (loss of accreditation).

on the simplest level, accreditation is about assuring a minimum standard of quality and accountability for students and for future employers. how much havoc can politicians really wreak with regard to student achievement? oh wait. that isn't the only area evaluated by accreditation (bolding mine):

While each accrediting organization establishes its own standards by which institutions and programs are accredited, these standards all address similar areas, such as expected student achievement, curriculum, faculty, services and academic support for students, and financial capacity.

the FDA is mandated to address the safety of drugs and make decisions based on available science and yet emergency contraception continues to be held hostage to the Administration's stance on abortion.

by creating a National Accreditation Foundation, the Administration would essentially gain the ability to mandate all American education or lack thereof. subjects judged contentious by a politically-controlled body could be barred from the curricula (evolution, stem cell research and abortion) or forcibly introduced (creationism into the science classroom). standards limiting the ability for faculty to espouse views dissenting from the Administration's could be easily introduced.

the real surprise on this issue is how little press the potential ramifications have gotten. university presidents remain more focused on trading barbs with business recruiters (who gripe about underqualification in American graduates while continuing to lay off qualified professionals in the relentless quest to outsource all skilled labor positions to other countries).

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