Today, the federal commission that was appointed by Education Secretary Margaret Spellings approved the final draft of their report. This concludes the year long process to meet their charge to review the state of higher education in America and offer reccomendations as needed to improve the state of the academy.
The report seems to include some reccomendations that the higher education community needs to spend time reflecting and eventually acting on. In my opinion, the most important reccomendation addresses the need to remove the growing impediments that exist for working class Americans in pursuing college educations.
A year ago when this commission was appointed the largest concern that was echoed throughout my academic network at Purdue and nationally was that standardized tests would emerge as a primary reccomendation and would further the process of strangling intellectual creativity and academic freedom from American educational institutions that the corporatization of the University has already started. The report does suggest that universities should assess student learning through standardized tests, but does nt go so far as to insist upon it. This was apparently one of the hotly contested components of the report among the members of the commission and appears to have led to the one vote against the final report.
Interestingly, the commission weighed in on the hot button issue of immigration. They suggest that is should be made easier for scientists who are visiting the United States on Education Visas to conduct research and obtain degrees to become citizens on completion of their research and schooling. This seems to be a logical and well thought out suggestion.
Critiques thus far seem to focus on the frustration with attempts to standardize higher education, the concern that the role of the university to prepare students to be engaged democratic citizens was ignored in the analysis as well as the resistance to the lack of higher education officers and proffessors being included in the commission membership.
I, for one, am glad this process has came to an end and hope that the report will not become factors in the fall elections. It will be curious to see what if any legislation is passed to attempt to turn this report into policy or law.