On the replacement of knowledge and analysis by numbers

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“ There’s nothing wrong with quantitative metrics. But they should be supplemented with qualitative yardsticks, and assessed with rigor. Instead, administrators use a narrow set of metrics to justify the neoliberal policies they endorse. For example, they defend the shift to STEM education on the basis of some empirical research while ignoring findings that would suggest a different set of educational priorities. Numbers have all but replaced analysis (…) Faculty end up worrying more about the number of articles they publish than their quality. Students end up focusing on grades rather than acquiring knowledge. Assessing a school’s performance comes down to enrollment numbers, grade distribution, and the introduction of new technologies. Intellectual curiosity, a passion for knowledge, and the pursuit of exciting questions have disappeared; no one has time to do anything except perform by the numbers (…) Schools and states are attacking the idea that faculty, who work in a setting where the free flow of ideas is vital, should be protected from controversy in their teaching and research ”

Harry Targ, ‘An Education Worth Fighting For’, Jacobin Magazine

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