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Massimo offers Solutions to the Problems of Athletics in College in the Second of a Two-Part Article

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Massimo offers solutions to the problems of athletics in college in the second of a two-part article.

Since I just attacked undergraduate education at big-time sports universities in the United States, a fair question is: what could be done to solve the problem? My answers are an elaboration on those suggested by Murray Sperber in his Beer and Circus: How Big Time College Sports is Crippling Undergraduate Education and those outlined in a highly influential report on what works and doesn't work in American colleges, known as the Boyer Commission report.

Modest proposal 1: Big-time U's should slim down by thousands of undergraduates until the student body is of a size that can be handled by the faculty. The only other alternative is to increase the size of the faculty by an order of magnitude, which is much more inconceivable.

Modest proposal 2: Universities should separate undergraduate teaching from the graduate training and research activities. Here I part company with Sperber in that I do not propose having a few universities devoted exclusively to research and many more to undergraduate education, though that is certainly a viable model. But it is time to stop hiring faculty on the pretense that they are good teachers when everyone knows that they are tenured and promoted because of their research and in spite of their teaching. Let's hire good teachers to do the teaching and good researchers to do the research. If a few individuals can do both, so much the better.

Modest proposal 3: Hire at least some faculty whose research is in pedagogy. It is astounding that a lot is known about how the brain learns, and on what works and doesn't work in teaching, but that most faculty and teaching assistants are wholly ignorant of this field of work. Having at least a few colleagues who know what they are doing might actually help.

Modest proposal 4: Abolish passive teaching methods that turn undergraduates into zombies: no more lectures (with or without PowerPointâ„¢) and increased emphasis on inquiry-based learning, small class discussions, open-ended research projects and the like.

Modest proposal 5: Raise the standards of acceptance into four-year colleges: require a minimum (high) score on the Scholastic Aptitude Test or equivalent exam. Despite the fact that standardized tests have their limitations, scores on college entrance exams actually correlate much better than grades with students' abilities at critical thinking because of rampant grade inflation. We need to acknowledge that while equal opportunity to go college is a right, acceptance into university must be based on readiness. Community colleges exist to bridge the gap for those whose performance indicates that they would not be best served by the university experience.

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