Silver Bullet? Prove it to the Cullens

I just heard an NPR report about a “skeptical environmentalist” who suggested it would be much cheaper to simply find the “Silver Bullet” for climate change than to be wasting time with international summits and accords.

This sort of thinking really irritates me and makes me think of charlatans selling snake oil. It presupposes that there could be just one quick and easy solution to a strikingly complex problem like the planet’s climate escalating at dangerous rates. You know, something easy like covering all the unpopulated space in Montana with solar panels or placing wind turbines on various elevated spaces throughout the country. The idea of “silver bullet” solutions for anything seems to me, at best, to be little more than a desire for short cuts, quick fixes or “get rich quick schemes.”

Putting this in the context of the work we do as educators and the educational endeavors of our students, I sometimes feel people around me are looking for “silver bullets” all too frequently. Whether it’s a student looking for the a way to cram for an exam or running to ratemyprofessor to find the easiest or best professor, or colleagues looking to quantify benefits of using social media in academia in a quest for a “Silver Bullet” remedy to low student engagement and retention levels, it seems to me that energies are being spent in the wrong direction.

There is no easy, “one size fits all,” “silver bullet” remedy for complex problems. The quick fix will only create a possibly bigger problem later on. Colleagues, how many of you have lectured on the topic of memory theory proving to your students that cramming is effective only for short-term memory gains? And how many times have we seen our students stumble on cumulative exams when they fail to head these warnings? Students, does this sound familiar? I’d further surmise that some of you have built social media tools into your advising models in the hope of creating great buy-in from students only to be disappointed by what you quantify as results. The academic use of social media simply provides us an opportunity to situate learning opportunities in on-line spaces–we still need to be able to teach and advise.

There are no “Silver Bullets” for complex issues. In the end, cramming for exams never results in effective knowledge acquisition and social media is really no more than a delivery tool, like a telephone. . .

. . . alright, a terrifically rich and engaging telephone, but a telephone nonetheless.


About Art

I've been a higher education professional for over 15 years and an Academic Advising administrator for the past eight of those. I have a background in exploratory student advising and have spent a great deal of time guiding students through contemplating their personal college-to-career pathways. I've published, presented, and consulted on the intersection of social media and academia and am a firm believer in social media's power as a tool for engagement rather than solely information delivery. I've worked at public and private institutions as well as 2-year colleges and 4-year universities. I believe in Academic Advising as a teaching and learning activity, that learner-centered education is the key to students' academic success, and that as long as we keep students' individual goals and success at the center of our decision-making process, the problem of college-level student attrition can be solved.
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