Same questions for planning. Different answers? Yes, and no. Stay tuned for more on this. (And note, in the face of its crisis, how Legal Education is Reforming) NYT article created a flood of responses on various blogs and a debate about the merits of the Socratic and questioning methods of teaching Three months later a damning book Failing Law Schools, see Stanley Fish’s review The Bad News Law Schools
The broader context of assessment of university education is also relevant:
Our Universities: Why Are They Failing? by Anthony Grafton in New York Review of Books (2011)
Britain: The Disgrace of the Universities by Anthony Grafton in New York Review of Books (2010)
In the mean time, here is one view on The State of City Planning Today by Allan Jacobs.
Do I agree with him? No, and yes. More on why later.
And for a useful look at the wider context for teaching planning into which I would like to put my responses, see Planning the Paths of Planning Schools by Bruce Stiftel (2009)
Stiftel’s arguments sent my thoughts back to when I applied to be Director of SCARP in 1998 and the three priorities I identified in my letter of application as those that I would pursue if appointed:
- Planning for Planning: We need to make better use of our planning skills to better influence our own destiny. To capitalize on the rich array of diverse opportunties and head off the threats we face, there needs to be a greater emphasis on explicitly and jointly choosing what we do, how we do it and when. I would establish an annual planning cycle through which we agree on priorities; set targets; make commitments; integrate teaching, research and community activities; balance workloads; create incentives; allocate support; and stage change. It would also consider the multi-year issues relating to renewing faculty and staff; sequencing leaves; student recruiting; program development, etc.
- Review and Feedback on Our Performance: As Director I will actively seek continuing review and feedback on my performance from the faculty, staff and students so that I can learn how to do a better job. If at any time I sense that I have lost the support of the School, I would resign. I will also give great emphasis to constructive, supportive, and timely review and feedback among faculty, staff and students in all areas of our teaching, research, community and administrative activities. Performance indicators will be developed in the planning process.
- Professionalism, the Profession and the Community: Being one of the professional units of the university makes us distinctive but being a professional school in planning makes us unique and gives us a special relationship with the wider community. I propose to draw on the University’s emerging strategic plan and the results of the upcoming five-year accreditation reviews by the CIP and PAB to initiate a review of our activities and programs raising questions about what the School’s role should be in producing new academics and professionals, working with the professions involved in planning, and serving the wider community. In this context, we would consider future directions for the doctoral and masters programs.
Interestingly writing 10 years later, Bruce Stiftel concludes by making a very similar set of recommendations for planning schools facing governance challenges around the world. During the 7 years that I was Director of SCARP (1999-2006) I succeeded in achieving my three priorities to a certain extent but not as much as I would have liked. Now that I am retiring I will have the time to reflect on this experience and assess more carefully what was achieved and what was not. I am particularly interested in exploring the reasons for success and failure and how to do better in future. Stay tuned.
At the end of his 2011 article “Planning Theory Education: A Thirty-Year Review” it is worth noting that Richard Klosterman concludes:
“The endangered state of American planning suggests that planning theorists should do more than sit comfortably on the sidelines, observing and criticizing planning practice. Instead, they should draw on the impressive body of knowledge the field has accumulated over the past thirty years to define new modes of intellectually rich and politically realistic professional practice that can once again excite students, guide practice, and garner political support. They should stop writing for other scholars and rather convey new models of professional practice to students and practitioners in a compelling way. If planning theory continues to only observe and criticize practice, it will not only fail to support planning in hard times, it may help undermine it.”