Once you give in and engage in such a race to the bottom, it becomes very difficult not to go all the way. When you replace academic and pedagogical values with the desire to separate parents from students from their money while giving students (and society) far less in return, you change student expectations and disciplinary culture in a way which quickly becomes difficult to modify.
The only thing protecting what remains of a worthwhile undergraduate education is the refusal of some of us to keep lowering our standards to win these kinds of races. There will always be ways to simplify things, and it will always pay off to do so if the goal of the game is to attract students by reducing the amount of work they have to do. But, despite the fact that students entering college are less prepared than ever, they work less and less in an average week the longer it lasts. Dropping our hands in philosophy and racing to the bottom will accelerate this trend.
Already I see many students taking the highest number of classes allowed despite working so many hours outside of school, and socializing, that they only spend a few minutes a week outside of class on any of their classes (by their own admission), and spend almost all of their class time on their computers and phones, paying little or no attention to what’s going on around them . Some of the less scrupulous deans and senior administrators wish we all found ways to give these A students without hesitation: if enough schools did it, the accreditation boards might be persuaded that the new group of students can handle even more courses. immediately, and colleges and universities could squeeze even more money out of students’ pockets for nothing, and faster. Meanwhile, classes would be easier to manage, allowing admissions requirements to be removed, allowing school boards to scale back their programs for similar reasons while still posting record high admission rates. university. This, in turn, would lead to even less prepared students in our college classes (there is no bottom), and the cycle would continue and accelerate. The end result will not be good for civilization or for us.
The best solutions to the problem involve strong and uncomfortable pressure against people, departments and disciplines who would lower their standards in pursuit of profiteering and lack of professionalism.
If we can’t get that, we should do what we can in a principled way. Departments have the power to enforce their own anti-inflation standards in a number of ways, and they should.
Some students may choose to abandon their long-term interests in favor of other departments that offer easy Aces. Let them go! These students are, in essence, dupes. They’re willing to waste their one big chance to develop their intellect and fluff habits for a few years of leisure. But what they get out of it is a sham: a degree that won’t help them much in the fifty-odd years of work ahead of them (just to focus on the job for now). There are always serious students to be found who want to make the most of their time at university. The more we can cultivate and satisfy them, the more we will attract the right kind of students while developing an undergraduate culture among our majors that might otherwise be lost. And existing majors will take courses with new students, and the influence will fade.
It’s a longer game, but ultimately more successful. And if enough of us step back and do it while other disciplines join the race to the bottom, the reputation of a philosophy major will continue to grow with employers and advanced programs while the reputation of other majors will sink into ridicule.