Editor’s Note: In 1948 the USSR announced a centralized plan to alter the environment. Like most of the Soviet Union’s grandiose plans, it ultimately failed.
Perhaps you’ve seen the Chancellor’s latest on “PASSHE Transformation?” It’s amazing how a document so short on details can still manage to rankle. The very notion that students and faculty will be transformed is enough to disturb, but its implicit anti-intellectual message really vexes. It’s hard to ignore the presumptuousness that could lead some to conclude that “transformation” is necessary or, even worse, that they somehow singlehandedly possess the knowledge of what that transformation ought to be and that it should be imposed from above.
We’d like to think that one key to the success of American higher education was the very idea that the marketplace of ideas was at work. Change emerged from, among other things, advances in academic disciplines, scholarship, and faculty-driven shared governance. It was a bottom-up approach. How times have changed. Then again, maybe they haven’t. PASSHE’s Transformation reminds us all too much of the discredited centralized planning embraced by the Soviet Union.
Sometimes, all you can do is laugh. In that spirit, we bring you:
The Great Stalin Plan for the Transformation of PASSHE:
Transforming Student Comrades
Comrades must be prepared for the future. They must learn appropriate State-approved jargon. Architecture must reinforce the State’s message. Technology makes for good pictures, so it must be prominent. Comrade students must be encouraged to use this. Students must be prepared for practical challenges; independent thought will neither be encouraged nor taught.
Transforming State Resources
Comrade employees must be retrained to think about resources. All work should be geared toward the financial health of the State. Personal goals must be reoriented toward focusing on the financial needs of the State and promoting the appearance of inclusiveness in decision making. And the resources need to be carefully managed: Want pens? Pencils will do. Want a new computer? A new Commodore awaits you. Want a copy? Ask a scribe.
Comrade employees have an obligation to ensure the betterment of all comrades of the State. Comrade employees must interact with the local community to indoctrinate them in the importance of the State’s priorities.
Transforming the State’s Future
Comrade employees have an obligation to ensure that the strategic needs of the State are its focus. Academic programs at all levels must be brought in line with the need of the State. Comrade faculty must never forget that their personal academic disciplines come secondary to the needs of the State. Frivolous enterprises like physics, theater, music, foreign language, and nursing must be sacrificed for the good of the State.
All jokes aside, APSCUF stands ready to fight top-down approaches that seek to unilaterally redefine what a college education means.
Steve & Ken