Xenophon's Cliff

In Anabasis, Xenophon recounted his role leading 10,000 Greek mercenaries back from a failed mission to oust the Persian king.  Harassed, outnumbered and finally cornered in Asia Minor, he drew up his weary troops to fight, positioning them with a sheer cliff immediately at their rear.   When one of his lieutenants questioned the move, Xenophon pointed out that their position made it clear to both the men and the Persians that there would be no running away.  We either fight or... 

In other words, Xenophon was choosing not to give himself a choice, which is not always a bad idea.  I've done it a few times.  I'll want to reformat a course but know I'll likely procrastinate once summer comes.  So I list all new texts on the Spring requisition form.  Now I have to change the course.  There is no choice.

On a larger scale this is where my institution is right now.  Last year we voted to adopt a new core curriculum.  We gave ourselves a year to design new courses around new core outcomes.  The deadline for proposals is September and it's only now that a lot of my colleagues are waking up to the fact that we have a cliff immediately behind us.  We either change or...

And we academics don't like change.  Indeed, there's an old joke in higher education that goes something like this:

Question: "How many academics does it take to change a light bulb?"
Response: "Change?  Who said anything about change?"

In any event, the Persians are coming. 


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