Monday, June 28, 2010

I Don't Micromanage

No one ever does, by her own description. Yet everyone complains of being micromanaged. How so?

The PA state legislature is giving us yet another example. Included in the fine print of a recent law governing its state university system is a requirement that professors choose as textbooks the least expensive, educationally sound book available.

Right! Thanks for that good advice, Madam Legislator! There's $5 difference between this book and another one, so we're legally obligated to select the cheaper one, as long as it's "educationally sound," whatever standard that implies to whoever is in charge of applying such standards.

Legislators want to do something in response to parents who have written to them demanding that they do something about the ridiculous cost of textbooks. Legislators, by nature pleasers, make a law, by definition what they do.

The result is a dog's breakfast of rules that can't be defined and enforced but will make for more dissatisfaction and probably legal action down the road. No longer a republic of citizens, we prefer to be a bureaucracy of rulemakers, clerks and clients.

We will try to restrain our Schadenfreude that protests now arise from the state university community, commonly so devoted to the idea of better and better regulation of economic choices.

1 comment:

Hensel said...

this coming from the shared experience of my sister who is at Purdue and not from my own experience at CCU:

The easiest way to keep the cost of textbooks down is to not allow professors to assign their own books as required course material.

My sister spends at least double and often triple what I spent on books for my classes. Most of that cost is generated by having to buy updated versions of textbooks that the professors authored themselves (with books often costing $75-100 a piece). Then next year there's another updated version and it is required for the class so now there's no chance at selling back the textbook which offers little to the table.

I would make willing concessions to this if in fact these books were the best books out there and the professors were the leading scholars in their fields (I'd also settle for professors that are worth their weight in paper). However, the books are not and professors are not.

It's not "Publish or Perish" it's "Publish or Poor" apparently.