David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Are You Credentialed?

June 9, 2015

In May 2014, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) established new, stricter guidelines on appropriate faculty credentials for colleges and universities, including those of high school faculty teaching high school students via direct credit (a model where the college course is offered in the high schools).  At the same time, they basically gave all institutions about 18 months to become compliant. As usual, the HLC wasn't particularly clear, and so now that the compliance deadline of January 2016 nears, most college and university academic leaders are in a state of sheer panic.

The panic comes from the challenge of long-time faculty, long tenured, long serving, long protected through unions, who probably won't meet these stricter guidelines.  For instance, at colleges and universities across the country, many introduction to speech courses have been taught by faculty with degrees in literature or humanities or even business.  Now, a faculty member teaching any speech course must have 18 graduate hours in the field of communications, a field that may have barely existed 25 years ago when some of these long-standing faculty did their graduate degrees.

In regard to the high schools, the panic comes from an entirely different model, where the teachers have been mandated to get advanced degrees in education, programs where pedagogy is emphasized, not necessarily a core content knowledge.  The government is pressuring the high schools to offer more college-level courses and yet neither the current high school "training" model nor the college "training" model fits to encourage this to happen.  The Higher Learning Commission has simply used this opportunity to dig its heels in deeper regarding its own model, a defense mechanism understandable in a world where the government's aim focuses back and forth between secondary education and higher education daily.

I just can't help but be cynical about all of this.  The HLC seems bound and detemined to live and die by its assumptions that a certain input (the credential of the faculty member) equates to a quality output (student achievement of course outcomes). And let's face it, who gets "rewarded" if a large number of high school and college faculty have to go back to college to earn additional credits?  Oh, that's right, the colleges and universities themselves, the very acccrediting body.  

It brings to mind Jimi Hendrix's "Are You Experienced?", which in today's world of academia is not the right question. The question is "Are You Credentialed?"

First, just in case you don't know them, here are the original Jimi Hendrix lyrics to "Are You Experienced?"

Are You Experienced* 

If you can just get your mind together, then come across to me.

We’ll hold hands an’ then we’ll watch the sun rise from the bottom of the sea.

But first, are you experienced?

Ah! Have you ever been experienced? Well, I  have!

I know, I know you’ll probably scream n’ cry that your little world won’t let go,

But who in your measly little world are trying to prove  that you’re made out of gold and can’t be sold.

So, are You experienced?

Ah! Have you ever been experienced? Well,  I have!

Ah, let me prove it to you I think they’re calling our names.

Maybe now you can’t hear them, but you will if you just take hold of my hand.

Ah! But are you experienced? Have you ever been experienced?

Not necessarily stoned, but beautiful


Now, here is the Higher Learning Commission's "Are You Credentialed?"


If you can just get your CV together, then forward it to me.

We’ll make a judgement of your graduate credit hours and see.

Oh curses, are you credentialed?

Ah! Should you've ever been credentialed? Hell, I have!

I know, I know you’ll probably scream n’ cry about the content you know of,

But who in your measly little world are trying to prove experience equals diploma.

So, are you credentialed?

Uh, have you ever been credentialed? Hell, I have!

Ah, let me prove it to you that we are trying to deflect the blame.

In classrooms you can’t hear them, but you will if you stand where they take aim.

Uh! are you credentialed? Have you ever been credentialed?

Not necessarily respected, but stoned.


(And, no, I don't mean, necessarily, the stereotypical pot-smoking liberal professor, a la Donald Sutherland from "Animal House." I'm thinking more of Bob Dylan's "Rainy Day Women" -- everybody must get stoned!)


* Jimi Hendrix, 1967