Further decline of “public” education

“The Texas A&M University System is moving ahead with a controversial method of evaluating how much professors are worth, based on their salaries, how much research money they bring in, and how much money they generate from teaching, The Bryan-College Station Eagle reports. Under the proposal, officials will add the money generated by each professor and subtract that amount from his or her salary to get a bottom-line value for each, according to the article.”

This bodes ill for faculty like myself who have Extension appointments.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with how Extension works, Extension specialists educate citizens outside university classrooms.  But with declining state support for universities, their administrators in turn focus on income generation from grants and tuition.  Extension specialists do get grants, but for those of us in areas outside food and fiber research (which is what the USDA funds), there’s not much money available.

Bottom line?  According to this model I’m not just worth nothing – I’m worth less than nothing.  I’m not worried about my job (I have tenure after all), but for the direction that outreach education is heading.  What will happen is that Extension specialists will be pushed back into classroom teaching, leaving no time for educating the rest of the state citizens.  Outreach education will become little more than an afterthought.

The ironic thing about this trend is that Extension is one of the biggest bargains states get from their land grant universities.  Extension education includes Master Gardeners as well as other programs tailored to local state and county needs.

It’s sad that Texas A&M puts so little value on outreach education.  What’s even sadder is that this economic approach will undoubtedly be adopted by other state universities.

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Linda Chalker-Scott

Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott has a Ph.D. in Horticulture from Oregon State University and is an ISA certified arborist and an ASCA consulting arborist. She is WSU’s Extension Urban Horticulturist and a Professor in the Department of Horticulture, and holds two affiliate associate professor positions at University of Washington. She conducts research in applied plant and soil sciences, publishing the results in scientific articles and university Extension fact sheets. Linda also is the award-winning author of five books: the horticultural myth-busting The Informed Gardener (2008) and The Informed Gardener Blooms Again (2010) from the University of Washington Press and Sustainable Landscapes and Gardens: Good Science – Practical Application (2009) from GFG Publishing, Inc., and How Plants Work: The Science Behind the Amazing Things Plants Do from Timber Press (2015). Her latest effort is an update of Art Kruckeberg’s Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest from UW Press (2019). In 2018 Linda was featured in a video series – The Science of Gardening – produced by The Great Courses. She also is one of the Garden Professors – a group of academic colleagues who educate and entertain through their blog and Facebook pages. Linda’s contribution to gardeners was recognized in 2017 by the Association for Garden Communicators as the first recipient of their Cynthia Westcott Scientific Writing Award. "The Garden Professors" Facebook page - www.facebook.com/TheGardenProfessors "The Garden Professors" Facebook group - www.facebook.com/groups/GardenProfessors Books: http://www.sustainablelandscapesandgardens.com

7 thoughts on “Further decline of “public” education”

  1. Yeah, my timing wasn’t great…but ever since I got this email yesterday I’ve been stewing. Had to share the misery a little!

  2. Not to worry. I feel your pain. It’s on-going dilemma we face trying to show the value of landscape horticulture and the value of Extension.

  3. As a Master Gardener, I see the huge value of the extension program to the citizens of our community. And I know how much time so many give to teach us so that we can in turn teach homeowners and others about good gardening practices.

    For example…
    An area of great concern in Virginia is pollution of the Chesapeake Bay from urban runoff of lawn and garden fertilizers. We have a very successful program in our county that teaches homeowners ways to have a nice lawn without creating excess pollution. What happens to this type of public education if land grant universities “count the pennies” and cut programs such as this? The expression “penny wise and pound foolish” comes to mind.

    We wen
    t through a similar budget crunch a few years ago and ended up with no extension agents for a period of time. The Master Gardener program continued but there was a serious gap in our services. I certainly hope that those in positions to decide the future of outreach programs, extension personnel, and the volunteers that assist them will remember the public they are supposed to serve.

  4. I’m not a hort man, but I teach English as a lecturer at a large state school. The environment is switching. We’re losing tenured faculty at warp speed in favor for folks like me, who get paid 1/5 the annual salary because we have to–there aren’t enough jobs. The whole system is corrupt and archaic, and needs to change. Unfortunately, most univeristes see corporate America as the right model, which means sacrificing the pursuit of knowledge, sharing of knowledge across discplines, and education for education’s sake. I fear the subsequent generations of students will elave school as trade specialists and not as thinkers who create worthwhile change by opposing and denying the status quo. We lack wonder. That’s my rant.

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