Friday, August 21, 2009

How Charter Colleges Can Rekindle Innovation: NAS

How Charter Colleges Can Rekindle Innovation: taking the charter school concept to academia. Money excerpts:

Most public universities have tenure and promotion rules that reward faculty members for little more than publishing in academic journals. Most have swollen administrative budgets and employ legions of staff members who contribute virtually nothing to what goes on inside the classroom. Most have byzantine, often secretive decision-making processes. And most have special programs that cater to narrow constituencies and drain resources away from general education.

We should have revisited all of those practices long ago, but bureaucratic inertia and organizational rigidity stymied any such attempts. Without greater institutional flexibility, progress will be painfully slow at best. Innovation would be unshackled if we could organize charter colleges on the campuses of our public-university systems -- where they would have access to dormitories, gymnasiums, libraries, and laboratories -- or as free-standing institutions.

The typical response from long-time academics is that this would promote more anti-thetical (to academia) entities such as the Hoover Institute. My response is two-fold. Firstly, why should academics fear the marketplace of free ideas? Do they honestly believe that these will draw sufficient funds away from mainline schools to imperil their existence? And secondly, what's to say that a George Soros wouldn't want to fund something like this from the Left? It doesn't have to be a one-way ticket to Rushville.

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