Not Giving Up the Ship: Education marches on
Bill Mauldin’s cartoon above mocked the Air Force Generals who wanted manned bombers well into the age of the ICBM. Like the Navy Admirals who hated air power, they clung to the past as history marched on.
“Visionaries see a future of telecommuting workers, interactive libraries and multimedia classrooms. They speak of electronic town meetings and virtual communities. Commerce and business will shift from offices and malls to networks and modems. And the freedom of digital networks will make government more democratic. Baloney.” — Clifford Stoll in “Newsweek”, 1995. as cited by Tv Tropes.
“Taxpayers in Arizona spend $125 million each school year funding more than 13,000 students who don’t exist at public schools.
That’s because the state school system uses an antique budget approach that causes taxpayers to overpay, says a new report, “Ghost Busters: How to Save $125 Million a Year in Arizona’s Education Budget,” by Goldwater Institute education director Jonathan Butcher.”
Arizona Blows $125M in Taxpayer Money on Ghost Students: Elizabeth MacDonald, FoxBusiness.com
HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: Instapundit Google search.
“Let’s put it this way: if you can build a $100 billion company by using the Internet to replace the college yearbook–imagine what you can do if you use the Internet to replace college.”
–“Bigger than Facebook”: Robert Tracinski, Realclearmarkets.com.
I dunno maybe the Khan Academy might not be riveting as PBS but it’s free.
The educational establishment, from the teacher unions to the left professors to the “Cherokee” politicians cling to the current educational system much like those generals and admirals. The internet is getting faster and cheaper. Sure there is shlock, porn and Kim Kardishan’s huge ass all over the place. But you can learn about the Vietnam War, how to make a radio, see pictures of water falls, solve quadratic equations, download old books.
Make, see, hear, do, learn.
Now big brick and mortar colleges had their place. After WWII, it was just a given that if you weren’t rocking the 9 to 5 at the local factory, that was where you’d go. “School” was seen as a continuum of elementary, junior high, high school then college. Colleges (fat on GI Bill money and the Cold War era urge to do better than the Ruskies) sold themselves as subject matter experts on everything. The more elite the better.
As the 50′s gave way to the 60′s and the hippies dodged the draft Congress tried to give Pell Grants. Everyone likes free money and lots of kinds wanted to go to college. Student loans came about as a way for kids to pay for college then repay the taxpayer (and make a profit for lenders) when they got that diploma.
But colleges go fatter on student loans. The humanities, sports and other crap soon outpaced actual learning. Lefty politics became the only politics. Safe from market forces colleges can offer courses based on shitty pop culture:
“But then again, the humanities departments are also packed with a bunch of charlatans who will waste your time with things like–well, here’s an example. Check out a hilarious review by Joe Queenan of an impossibly pretentious and utterly nonsensical academic tome on the deeper meaning of that important subject, Harpo Marx.“
– Robert Tracinski.
So college is just the high school after high school, a place were kids become adults who act like kids. Most don’t even learn because they don’t think have to. Promised easy A’s and a career they can coast through 4 years and rack up the debt.
There is another way. Just as the airplane killed the battleship and the missile replaced many manned bombers, the internet offers learning fast, cheap and easy. A big college has the same standing, visibility and accountability as some dude posting videos online. Accreditation, certification and finances would carry over of course. Diploma mills will always exist. But then again suckers and con artist are as old as time.
One of the problems with education is that the public school system fails to teach many subjects. Trained in the humanities, most teachers aren’t able to teach STEM subjects so they go soft. Writing and critical thinking given way to filling in ovals on standardized tests. Enter the internet to help those kids catch up. Profs could use the Kahn Academy and wikipedia to help kids learn the shit they didn’t get in school. Furthermore, with no
overhead, online programs can focus on teaching instead of catering to politics or fads. Leave the study of pop culture and other vapid things to the nerds on the internet.
Expect a major fight from brick and mortar professors. I predict that they’ll while like little bitches to Congress and try to curtail online universities. Expect the mainstream media to give some silly moral panic (briefly, the internet is killing them off too). Clifford Stoll, who I quoted above, was a computer programmers who caught another hacker working for the KGB/Stasi hacking into US military and college networks. He believed, as many of the facility lounge set do now, that the internet somehow is “less real” and less “social” than “realife”. He’s since changed his mind (and his book about how the internet will never catch on is for sale on Amazon.com).
Don’t get me wrong, I’m cool with people studying 17th century French Drama, pop culture and drinking beer for breakfast. I just don’t want to pay for it. Between Pell Grants (which which I don’t have a problem) and paying as you go for school, anyone can learn anything. It’s bullshit that people have to go to college right after high school and then learning somehow stops. Hench the Student Loan hustle. People never stop learning. They just stop wearing pj’s in the afternoon. As education gets cheaper and the signal overcomes the noise, the slacker college student and the lefty prof will go into history with the Battleship Admirals and the Bomber Generals.