Opinion: Why UConn looks a lot like a fast food restaurant
Published: Monday, March 4, 2013
Updated: Sunday, March 3, 2013 21:03
When you think of a Big Mac, the University of Connecticut may not come to mind. It may seem that they have no similar characteristics, but in fact there is a resemblance between the fast food chain McDonald’s and our public university.
Society advances on a key characteristic, rationality. A rational society is one that is 100% efficient, predictable, calculable, and has complete control of over uncertainty. And this process of rationality is occurring globally, and specifically in American society. A microcosm of this process of can be seen in the McDonald’s business model, also known as “McDonaldization.”
We go to McDonald’s because of its rationality. It is predictable, efficient and calculable. No matter which McDonald’s we go to, whether it is in Storrs or San Francisco, the Big Mac will taste, look, and cost the same. The same principle can be applied to the process of learning at a higher educational facility.
McDonaldization favors quantity over quality. The quality of the hamburger is difficult to assess, thus McDonald’s creates a number of values that can be quantified to act as surrogate for quality. UConn, likewise has done the same.
Students are now numbers, judged by statistics and grades; their educational experience has been reduced to numbers ranging from GPA to SAT scores. “With less and less contact between professor and student, there is a little real effort to assess the quality of what students know, let a lone the quality of their overall abilities,” states George Ritzer, author of “The McDonaldization of America.”
In addition, at UConn, the importance of grades is well emphasized, but little is known about the evaluation of college professors and the university. Like the Big Mac, teaching ability is very hard to evaluate. Administrators have trouble evaluating teaching quality, and thus substitute quantitative scores, and although each score has a qualitative portion, it is conveniently ignored. Student opinion polls are taken and the scores are summed, averaged, and compared. The teachers that score well are thus deemed good teachers and the teachers that score poorly are bad. All these scores are thus combined and then used to compare and rank UConn to other universities.
Another aspect of McDonaldization is predictability. When you go to McDonald’s and order a Big Mac, you expect a beef hamburger and not a chicken sandwich. The same applies to the higher education system. The university structure has turned into more or less a “cookie-cutter” system. Students can expect to find the same courses being taught, the same teaching methods being used, the same type of textbooks, and the same examination systems. This prevents students from having a unique college experience.
Through rationalization there are enormous gains such as growth and advancements. However, there are consequences to this process. These consequences are the dehumanization of society; such that students are numbers, put through a uniform educational system, where they are fed facts and theories. Rationality may seem healthy to society, but in fact it has serious side effects.