We have all heard the expression at one time or another, “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” First of all, who was the person who actually threw the baby out with the bathwater and why didn’t someone try and stop him? Second, why do we state the obvious after it has already occurred? This phrase exists because we have not changed our behavior. We get frustrated with processes, products, and companies. Our immediate solution is to scrap everything and start over. We react this way because in our minds, it is easier to start from scratch then it is to analyze what went wrong and try to fix it.
It is why we are so attracted to New Year’s resolutions. If we have experienced a rather difficult year (not that I am calling out 2016 or anything), it is refreshing to #newyearnewyou, right? Just start over. Like pressing the “easy” button. However, by pressing reset, we trick our minds into thinking that the challenges we experienced are somehow not valuable or maybe that there was nothing for us to learn.
Catch phrases exist because they are true. We post motivational quotes about failure, dreams, and becoming a better person because they are easy to post and hard to follow. We can point to the endless variety of issues we face whether within our personal or professional lives or with specific industries, like higher education. The challenges faced within higher education are splashed across news headlines daily. There are too many students, not enough affordable educational options, not to mention the constant question of quality versus value. Various educational models are all screaming for attention and posing as the next innovative disruption.
We convince ourselves that higher education must be broken and that the traditional model no longer works. Well, that is not entirely true. It does work, for some, but not for all and that is the bigger issue. We tend to think of higher education as a privilege instead of a common good. Our immediate response, as we have seen in the past several years, is to offer MOOCs, coding bootcamps, or competency-based learning. We spend time experimenting with silver bullets hoping that one solution will rise above the rest and solve the higher education crisis.
All of these options serve only to provide more alternatives, but fail to address the issues that students struggle with the most. Students are not complaining that there are not enough ways to learn or seek out information. Students are not complaining that the campuses are not big enough. Students are not complaining that there are not enough qualified faculty. So what are the issues? The students who need access the most to higher education cannot afford it. In one sentence, the issues are accessibility and affordability. We do not need to start all over. We need to look at the barriers that prevent students from pursuing their academic goals and find ways to remove them. We need to focus on providing solutions for those who need help the most.
“If we can help people, this time those with less privilege, remove some seemingly simple obstacles, then they too will have an opportunity to be more productive and lift themselves up to achieve their great potential.” ~ Bill Gates
What kind of impact can we have in 2017 if we all looked for simple obstacles to remove?