Friday, February 28, 2014

The need for solid and intelligent metrics in J-education: On this I agree with Newton

I've had my differences with the Knight Foundation's Eric Newton over the years about what I felt were too-glib prescriptions about how to "reform" journalism education without taking into account the realities of the systems we work in.

(Yeah, I'd love to blow up the system -- but anarchy seldom has been a useful strategy to make real accomplishments and more often than not the opposite but equal reaction of political and organizational physics leaves the blow-up-ees in an even worse position.)

But count me as a big supporter of Newton's latest call for a thorough and deep examination of how we measure our journalism schools. Much too much is done anecdotally, not analytically -- and that contributes to the already painful pace of change.

However, my fear also is that this will come down to an emphasis on job placements, etc. -- in other words, made in the vision of the current infatuation with STEM (and remember, I'm a hard-sciences major to begin with, so I have some understanding of that side of things too). Oh, maybe it would not be among earnest folk like Newton, but if you pay close attention to the political winds, you can pick up more than a whiff of "why can't you be like them" and a strictly job-placement-oriented culture.

(A backlash from the humanities folks is slowly building, as I pointed out yesterday (for instance in this piece from The Philosophers' Mail), but by and large I've judged that many in the halls of academe have trouble grasping that they are being set up politically and that the light at the end of the tunnel is an onrushing political train.)

So yes, let's define the data, get it -- and use it.* But let's use it intelligently too.

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*I say "use it" with the observation that those who profess to deal with research and data daily -- when presented with data about their own operations -- have a p<.05 tendency to go into denial or ignore mode.

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