by Addy Junckt
Tensions broke out yesterday between media magnate Rupert Murdoch and investment sage Warren Buffett at a meeting of a newly forming council on higher education. Several members of the Council on Recursive Pedagogy (CORP) engaged in a heated debate over methods of teaching assessment, with Team Murdoch maintaining that as knowledge facilitators, professors should be evaluated by the same criteria as knowledge disseminators, namely, news and sports anchors.
Murdoch posited that public polling à la TV ratings would best guarantee teaching effectiveness. He was backed by mega-wealthier movers and shakers the Koch brothers, the Waltons, and the Gates, all of whom variously asserted their agreement.
Murdoch pointed to proven results from a variety of news and sports networks, emblematically highlighted by Dan Rather’s controversial departure from network television as 24-year veteran anchor for the “CBS Evening News.” Murdoch quoted news anchor mainstay Walter Cronkite, who observed in a 2005 interview with Wolf Blitzer, “It surprised quite a few people at CBS and elsewhere that, without being able to pull up the ratings beyond third in a three-man field, they tolerated [Rather] being there for so long.”
To further support the idea that a rating system based on videogenic qualities like entertainment value, charisma, home spun accessibility, and plain old likeability would solve problems such as student retention and ongoing budget crises, Murdoch quoted “60 Minutes” creator Don Hewitt, arguing, “Look, ‘if you’re in a three-network race and you come in third, then the public is against you.’ Likewise, unattractive, commonplace teachers need to be replaced by those who appeal to viewers, can increase the reach and gain a larger share of the audience.”
In a rush of enthusiasm, Bill Gates chimed in, “You know, we could even add an ‘American Idol’-type viewer participation model. They could vote yea or nay from their seats in the lecture hall. It would accelerate the system to more quickly determine flaws in the product – I mean, professors. We really should get Simon Cowell in on this.”
Tensions flared when Warren Buffett reminded Gates of his status as a college dropout who “should therefore know his place.” To this, Gates responded, “I respect your idealism and sense of tradition, Warren, but this is the age of democratization of knowledge. The masses can now enlighten the masses. The time of the sage professor is gone.”
Buffett then offered reasons why further shifts away from the true purpose of education only work to dispossess the proletariat and disengage the bourgeoisie. Noting the confused look on most all in the room, he said, “In a word, it’s a stupid idea.”
Discussion was tabled while a list of potential consultants to the committee was developed, including educational experts Simon Cowell, Michael Bloomberg, Mark Zuckerberg and Google founders, Jeff Bezos and Larry Page.