De-skilling Education in Action

This is what de-skilling looks like in higher education (de-professionalization too but that’s too long so I’ll just use ‘de-skilling’). Apart from the course material that students are expected to learn, they are also learning how to function in an adult environment which means, among other things, learning how to deal with constructive criticism (as well as meeting unreasonable deadlines, conflicting time requirements, and doing work that seems pointless – all things that functioning adults have to deal with all the time).

Notice that the sentence that set everything off was pretty innocuous: ‘Is that really what you would wear?’

There are lots of ways of responding to this, in rough order of most to least constructive they might include:

I didn’t realize this was a dress rehearsal, of course I’ll look more professional during the real thing.”

No, I’d like your advice on what to wear after my presentation.”


Why not?


Too dressy?

“No, I’m planning on wearing a Brazilian bikini but I haven’t had the chance to get waxed yet

Even this last response would have been better because the shock humor value would have signalled that she has some idea of how to dress for a formal occasion.

Instead, since she was raised by people with no regard for her well-being, she chose the least productive repsonse possible… silence. And then she followed by outrage.

The horrible irony is that the subject of her thesis is on the integration of refugees, yet she demonstrates that they has failed to integrate into the institutional culture of Cornell despite being there for years. And in addition the summary of her work, which “focuses on the integration of refugees and internally based persons(sic) into host communities by treating them as contributing members of local society rather than an exterior burden” seems all wrong.

The services provided for refugees and internally displaced persons (I’m assuming that’s what was meant by ‘internally based persons’) are a burden on the host community and pretending they’re not doesn’t help anybody.

Treating people as ‘contributing members’ of a local society before they can actually contribute anything is deeply humiliating for them and de-spiriting for the host community.

Maybe she meant treating them as potential contributors to the local society but who knows? Her hissy fit has completely overshadowed any content that her thesis might have had. And it demonstrates that any organization would have to be insane to hire her because if you do hire her there is for sure and for certain a lawsuit with your name on it waiting for you in the future.

Higher education in the US is slowly but surely being turned into a vehicle for self-actualizing personal drama in public. Who needs things like tenure tracks or research or scholarly journals if faculty are to be turned into props for student self-branding?

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