Sunday, 17 March 2013

Pandering to Popularity

I recently came across this quote attributed to Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951):

"Those who compose because they want to please others, and have audience in mind, are not real artists … they are merely more or less skillful entertainers who would renounce composing if they did not find listeners."
Arnold Schoenberg (1946)

(Follow this link for a fuller version - in the final paragraph of p54.)

While Schoenberg was thinking about the writing and performance of music, the chord this quote struck with me was one to do with higher education. Too often, I hear from academics that attracting students is important as it keeps them in a job and how much they are concerned about scoring well in the National Student Survey.
There are lecturers in UK higher education who are more worried about how students will rate them than with ensuring that the subjects they teach are taught to the depth and with the rigour that was once the case. I recently asked a lecturer about the teaching of statistics to science students and was told that the equations for statistical tests were no longer included as there had been students in the past who had not liked them.