James F. Naas, Ph.D.
It is a pleasure for me to make some observations and comments about preprofessional education in communication sciences and disorders (hereafter, CSD). Iíve been engaged in that very gratifying vineyard for more than twenty years. On behalf of all those who are energized in the same arena, I can tell you that I am proud of us. As we engage in this exchange, letís be clear about a few things.
First, donít be swayed by an obtuse argument advocating that preprofessional education in CSD is somehow inferior to a curricular model which purposefully absents those courses that include the word disorder; and, is suffused with those that suffix the word science. Such an argument might go on to suggest that a preprofessional CSD model as currently conceived neglects an emphasis on critical thinking. Look around you. Nothing could be further from the truth. Who in this assembly would posit the notion that critical thinking skills cannot be taught in the context of preprofessional education? Or that a curriculum entry that includes the word disorder must somehow be structured in such a way that empiricism and discovery cannot possibly be a part of the agenda? Logemannís (1997) narrative illustrates exactly this point. Naremore (1989) has argued that a well-conceived preprofessional program is the perfect place to infuse liberal education values. The integration of liberal education competencies into the curricular continuum is especially important for the enhancement of our clinical roles (Naas, 1989).
One of our most esteemed colleagues (Bernthal, 1997) has written that ď...the fact remains that if professional education does not occur at the undergraduate level, students have more opportunities to take more liberal arts courses, which should make better professionals in the long run.Ē Which one is the fact (emphases mine) here? The initial observation is reasonable. The latter speculation is not. Things are more complicated than that. If you begin from impoverished assumptions, your view of education itself is bound to be impoverished (Elshtain, 1996).
In addition, recall that requirements for the Certificates of Clinical Competency are extensive and prescriptive. They must typically be met at the undergraduate as well as the graduate level. The day that masterís level students initiate a grand volunteer movement to spend two more semesters in graduate school is the day when we can fundamentally change preprofessional curricula.
We need to be clear about the issue here. There is some notion to suggest that preprofessional education models in CSD may be contributing to the declining numbers of speech and hearing scientists. I find no inherent empiricism in this notion. What exactly is the ď...broad-based, scientific curriculumĒ (CAPCSD, 1998) that is suggested as an alternative to preprofessional education? Is it a curriculum through which the undergraduate student earns 107 of 128 degree credits -- fully 84% at my shop -- in areas of disciplinary science and liberal education?
Hereís another question: do we have hard data that suggest that preprofessional education as currently conceived is failing the discipline? I think not. What we have today are different students with different expectations and therein lies the rub. As Mays (1997) points out, mine was perhaps the last generation of Americans to grow up believing education was principally a matter of learning to live virtuously, by imitating virtuous examples, rather than acquiring a trade. Academicians must work considerably harder today to distinguish between education and training. David Prins (1996) identified this challenge for us most eloquently when he cited the extraordinary efforts of [ASHA]...to market the profession...[and] virtually no effort to market the discipline.
As I have on other occasions (Naas, 1989; 1997) I would submit to you that our scientist-faculty members are exactly those who must take this disciplinary bull by the horns. Step away from the lab, away from your graduate assistants, and into the undergraduate mainstream. There are potential scientists there waiting for you to mentor them.
Recent discussions about modifying our baccalaureate degree programs seem to have emanated from a concern about the numbers of students who are not admitted to graduate school. That may be a diminishing issue as potential undergraduates learn even more about employment problems under Medicare restrictions, and the prospective payment system. Whatever the case, admission to graduate school is not a programmatic problem. It is an admissions problem. In frankness, as long as university administrators continue to mete out faculty tracks on the backs of undergraduate numbers, I donít anticipate pervasive change in the numbers game.
I leave you, then, with these points to ponder:
_____. (1998). Council Resolution 98-2. Council of Academic Programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders. Palm Springs, CA.
Elshtain, J.B. (1996). Celebrating the humanities: a half-century of the Search course at Rhodes College. (M. Nelson, Ed.) Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press.
Logemann, J.A. (1997). Implementing a broad liberal arts curriculum: undergraduate education in the discipline and/or the profession. Proceedings of the Eighteenth Annual Conference on Graduate Education (pp.107-110). Minneapolis, MN: Council of Graduate Programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders.
Mays, J.B. (1997). Power in the blood: land, memory, and a southern family. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.
Naas, J.F. (April, 1989). Undergraduate education: do we stand or do we go? Address presented at the ASHA Conference on Undergraduate Education: The Foundation of the Educational Continuum. Tampa, FL.
Naas, J.F. (1997). Implementing a broad liberal arts curriculum: of cows and liberal education. Proceedings of the Eighteenth annual Conference on Graduate Education (pp. 111-114). Minneapolis, MN: Council of Graduate Programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders.
Naremore, R.C. (April, 1989). Untitled. Comments at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Conference on Undergraduate Education: The Foundation of the Educational Continuum. Tampa, FL.
Prins, D. (November, 1996). The discipline: whence, whither, and whether. Paper presented at the annual convention of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Seattle, WA.