A Journalistic Model of Education

Colleges fail to adequately educate their students. Newspapers are failing left and right. I wonder if a solution to each could be the solution to both.

I propose a journalistic model of education.

Students would be assigned to write, not papers, but articles. They would research them, craft them, and publish them.

These articles would be on subjects of public concern. This would include local news and government, investigative reporting, science and technical journalism – i.e., everything found in a newspaper.

The goal for students would be twofold: first, to supply the world with quality journalism; second, to learn about their subjects, about research, and about writing. In this the students would be part scholar and part reporter – part member of their academic community, and part member of the community at large.

The goal for their supervisors would be twofold: to see that publishable-quality material is written; to help students learn the crafts of investigation and writing. In this they would be parts professor and part journalist.

The writing of articles would require: choice of topic; investigation into the world; interviewing; critical thinking; synthesis; clear writing; and, most likely, the doing of significant research of a traditional, scholarly nature, in order to understand the answers – and ask the right questions.

This would be differentiated from traditional homework assignments, where it is unimportant what you choose to write about; no one but the professor shall ever read it; the library – other people’s research – is the basis, rather than the buttress, of research; and standards for judging its quality are subjective, ill-codified, and incredibly variable.

This would be very little differentiated from traditional journalism, except that it would be practiced by those with little training, working for little or no money, on behalf of nonprofits. This is also known as, “the way things are going anyway.”

The students’ supervisors would therefore be one part journalistic professional, one part professor. This is not much different from the role of a newspaper editor.

Moreover, these roles could be split among multiple persons – the more scholarly to teach data and methods, the more journalistic to teach writing and technique. This split is already apparent in the division of scholarly specialties at a college, as between writing and criticism (in the English department), or writing and everything else (in general).

This would allow greater subordination of classroom work to project work (e.g. a chemistry class to better understand a journalistic investigation of the chemical industry), and also a greater subordination of college-level writing to academic subjects (e.g. a chemistry major learning to write while still studying chemistry).

It could be phased in slowly as a student advances in their curriculum. Younger students could be seconded to older students, in the manner of younger to older reporters. Or younger students could publish in campus newspapers, with only older students expected to publish to an off-campus audience. However, I would think a meritocracy might be employed, whereby the articles of younger students might still be selected for broader publication if they are good enough, whereas the articles of older students would be required to meet this standard.

Older students could also become involved in the editorial process, providing qualitative decision-making and management experience, as well as an opportunity to teach.

This model, if currently implemented, would provide numerous jobs to journalistic professionals, who face either dwindling career prospects, or have already been forced into early retirement.

This model would provide much greater exposure of students to life off-campus, both by giving them the opportunity (and the requirement) to interact with real people, including those who might offer them internships or future employment; and by requiring them to interact with the world at large as their readership, helping to modify the problem of the insular, disconnected campus (the ‘college bubble’).

It would also provide a significant burst of journalistic attention to small things. This would answer David Simon’s famous comments, made before Congress and reported on Last Week Tonight: “The day I run into a Huffington post reporter at a Baltimore zoning meeting, is the day that I will be confident that we’ve actually reached some sort of equilibrium… [without it,] the next ten to fifteen years are going to be a house in error for state and local political corruption.” When you have thousands of students who need assignments, shit is going to be attended – and investigated, and reported on.

 

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~ by davekov on 30 December 2016.

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