The Transactional Model of Education

College had an IdeaScope  thread where a staff member asked why students don’t value their education at JCCC as much as they should.  The classes here are taught by experienced teachers, many of whom have PhD’s.  The same classes at KU are taught by Graduate Teaching Assistants, many of whom only have a Bachelor’s degree and little or no previous teaching experience.

I agree this is unfortunate and a problem; but the fault lies partly with ourselves and how we present or market ourselves to students.  When we talk of students as customers and knowledge and wisdom as commodities, we invoke a metaphor for understanding and shaping our collective experience that has great consequence.

Matt Damon eloquently addressed this to a reporter who applied the  banking model to acting.  The video is gone, but the accompanying text explains how those who have a vocation don’t fit the business model.  Shane Lopex talking about Disney encourages JCCC faculty to give students “good customer service.”

He assumed that embracing the banking model of education would connect with his audience, though I heard a few gasps after the comment in the video clip above.

Some may go into teaching for a paycheck, but there are easier ways to make money.  Prof. Phil McKnight at KU taught that teaching is a profession: like law or medicine.  You practice.  You constantly have to develop your own skills and knowledge.

And I’ve heard one staff member tell students, “[professors] work for you.  You pay their salaries.” It’s like telling a traffic police officer to get out of your face, since, “you work for me.  I pay your salary.”   a) it won’t go well, b) that isn’t true.  Money comes out of a different bucket that the taxes you may or may not pay go into.

I don’t hear it often, but I’m consistently caught off guard when people say things like this.  A colleague had a student take a call during class, interrupting a lecture.  When the prof. addressed the issue with the student, the student explained that she was a businesswoman, and it was a business call. And who was the prof. to say anything about it?

One problem I have, is that in this metaphor, what am I?  Is it like food service?  Are teachers waiters or waitresses?  Is the college the Burger King of higher ed, where you can have it your way?  Or are we the Tchotche’s in Office Space, where wait staff have to wear 17 pieces of flair?  And why do we encourage students to use first names with faculty?  At KU the faculty won’t generally tolerate that.  But we don’t see our education as on par with KU and 4-year institutions.

And that’s a shame.


I’ll need to break out the Banking Model a la Freire and go all Montessori on your hides. I’m going to present this problem to my students and see how they approach it.