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Offline Thucydides

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The education bubble
« on: November 22, 2011, 13:52:47 »
Since education has been a subtopic in many threads, maybe we need a thread for education:

The Fannie and Freddie University
Posted By Victor Davis Hanson On November 20, 2011 @ 11:52 am In Uncategorized | 77 Comments

It’s More than Just PC

The traditionalist critique of the university — I made it myself over thirteen years ago in the co-authored Who Killed Homer? — was that somewhere around the time of the Vietnam War, higher education changed radically for the worse. Note I am talking mostly about the liberal arts. America remains preeminent in math, physics, hard sciences, medicine, and engineering, subjects that are largely immune to politicization and race, class, and gender relativism. The top students, and often the more hard-working, gravitate to these fields; indeed, in my general education courses on the ancient world, I often noticed that math and science students did far better than did their sociology or anthropology counterparts.

Such excellence in math and science explains why the world’s top-rated universities in all the most recent rankings are overwhelmingly American. (Indeed, liberal arts professors piggyback on such findings and often, in a sense quite fraudulently, point to these polls as if to confirm their own superiority.)

I spent a great deal of my life in the university as a student and professor and now as a researcher. Higher learning in the arts and humanities has enriched American life for 200 years. Small liberal arts colleges like Hillsdale, St. John’s, St. Thomas Aquinas, and dozens of others continue to be models of enlightened learning. But all that said, increasingly public universities and the larger private institutions have become morally and fiscally bankrupt. Here are some reasons why.

Monotony of Thought

By 2011 we all know that faculties are overwhelmingly liberal. That in and of itself would not be so alarming if they were not activist as well. By that I mean academics are not just interested in identifying supposed past American sins, but also in turning disinterested instruction into political advocacy, especially along race, class, and gender lines. Rosie the Riveter, the Japanese internment, and Hiroshima all deserve study, but they are not the sum total of World War II. Today’s average undergraduate may know that African-Americans were not integrated into American units during World War II, but they have no clue what the Battle of the Bulge, a B-29, or Iwo Jima were. They may insist that global warming is real and man-caused, but would have trouble explaining what exactly carbon is.

The effect of politicized learning on the quality of education was unfortunate in a strange sort of cyclical fashion. The more “–studies” classes saturated the curriculum, the less time there was for classical approaches to literature, philosophy, language, or history. The more the profile of the student body became more important than its preparation, the more these classes had to be watered down, as if thinking the right thoughts could justify the absence of the old rigor.

Deans begin quoting the ethnic profiles of the incoming classes, the supposed expanded diversity of the faculty, their own commitment to various progressive causes, and kept absolutely mum about the average GPAs and SAT scores of the new student body or the content of the new curriculum. And why not? No provost was ever fired for having fewer students graduate with less skills; many were for not “reaching out” to “underrepresented” groups.

A Blank Check

We know all the other pathologies of the modern university. Tenure metamorphosized from the protection of unpopular expression in the classroom into the ossification of thought and the proliferation of the mediocre. Faculty senate votes did not reflect raucous diversity of thought among secure professors, but were analogous to Saddam’s old plebiscites in their one-sided voting. Tenure created the notion of a select cloister, immune from the tawdry pursuit of money and neurotic worry over job security so true on the crass “outside.”

Campus ethics and values were warped by specialization in both faculty instruction and publication. The grandee that butchered a graduate class every semester was deemed more valuable to the university than the dynamic lecturer who enthused and enlightened three undergraduate introductory classes each term — on the dubious proposition that the former serially “published” peer-reviewed expansions on his dissertation in journals that at most five or ten fellow academics read.

Not teaching at all was even preferable to teaching very little, as a priestly class of administrators evaded the “burdens” of instruction. The new bureaucrats were often given catchy titles: “Assistant to the Provost for Diversity”, or “Associate Dean for Cultural Studies”, or the mundane “Special Assistant to the President for Internal Affairs”, in the manner of late Soviet apparatchiks or the power flow charts of the more mediocre corporations. Although the faculty was overwhelmingly liberal, it was also cynical, and understood that the avalanche of self-serving daily memos it received from the nomenklatura need not be read. I used to see entire trash cans filled each morning with reams of xeroxed pages, as professors started off their days by nonchalantly dumping the contents of their mail slots. Most of the memos read just like those “letters” congressmen send to their constituents, listing a dean’s or vice-provost’s res gestae and detailing how they were “working for you.”

Lala Land

Self-invention proliferated. Under the system of “faculty governance” (analogous to carpenters assuming the roles of the contractor and architect), curriculum, hiring, promotion, and firing were managed by peers. An article “in progress” or “under review” was passed off by committees as good as published (And why not? You, in hand-washes-hand-fashion, might be on the other end of a faculty committee and need the same life raft someday). Linda Wilson-Lopez, a third generation one-quarter Mexican-American, was deemed as much a victim as if he she had just crossed the Rio Grande. Old white guys in their sixties, who were often hired sight unseen in the early 1970s, suddenly demanded diversity hires — with the assumption that when the music stopped in the 1980s they had already found chairs and the new discrimination did not apply to the already tenured. (Had affirmative action involved replacing sixty-something, full-professor white males, it would have had a very different reception). Proposals for envisioned research on sabbaticals were as common as post-sabbatical reports of actual work were rare.

Careers were destroyed by charges of “racism,” “sexism,” or “homophobia,” rarely through smearing a Mormon in class, or skipping a week of instruction to junket at a conference. All of the above is well-known, as hundreds of exposes in the last thirty years have explained to us quite well why college graduates are both so politicized and so lacking in knowledge and the inductive method. We see them screaming in videos at Occupy Wall Street demonstrations — full of self-pity it is true, but also in a sense worthy of pity as well. Nothing is worse than to be broke, unemployed, and conned.

Money is the Game Changer

There is a new element in the equation. Debt. Almost every year, tuition climbed at a rate higher than inflation. It had to. Higher paid faculty taught fewer classes. “Centers,” run by professors who did not teach and full of new staff, addressed everything from declining literacy to supposedly illiberal epidemics of meanness. Somewhere around 1980, the university was no longer a place to learn, but a sort of surrogate parent, eagerly taking on the responsibility of ensuring that students were happy, fit, right thinking, and committed. That required everything from state-of-the-art gyms replete with climbing walls, to grief counselors, to lecture series and symposia on global warming and the West Bank. All that was costly.

To pay for it, the federal government guaranteed student loans and the university charged what they wished — with the hook that the interest need not be paid until after graduation. For an 18-year-old, taking on debt was easy, paying it back something to be dealt with in the distant future — especially when the university promised higher-paying jobs and faculty reminded college students that their newly acquired correct-thinking was in itself worth the cost of education. There was little competition. Trade schools were still looked down upon, and online instruction was in its infancy.

The result, as we now know, was a huge debt bubble, one of nearly $1 trillion in aggregate borrowing that rivaled the Freddie and Fannie frauds. And yet the debt no longer comes with guarantees that the liberal arts and social science graduate will find employment, either of the sort that he was trained for, or necessarily more remunerative than the federal clerk or the union tile setter. Starbucks from 7-7 each day will not pay off that Environmental Studies degree from UC Irvine.

As the economy cooled, cash-strapped parents increasingly had little money to ease the mounting burdens. What was once a rare $10,000 student loan became a commonplace $50,000 and more in debt. Living at home until one’s late twenties is in part explicable to the mounting cost of college and the accompanying dismal job market — and the admission that many college degrees are no proof of reading, writing, or thinking skills. (Note as well that the themes and ethos of the university were not “life is short, get on with it”, but rather population control, abortion, careerism, metrosexism, etc. that contributed to the notion that one’s 20s and even 30s were for fun and exploring alternatives, but most certainly not to marry, have children, get a job, buy a house, and run the rat race.)

I noticed about 1990 that some students in my classes at CSU were both clearly illiterate and yet beneficiaries of lots of federal cash, loans, and university support to ensure their graduation. And when one had to flunk them, an entire apparatus was in place at the university to see that they in fact did not flunk. Just as coaches steered jocks to the right courses, so too counselors did the same with those poorly prepared but on fat federal grants and loans. By the millennium, faculty were conscious that the university was a sort of farm and the students the paying crop that had to be cultivated if it were to make it all the way to harvest and sale — and thus pay for the farmers’ livelihood.

How could a Ponzi scheme of such magnitude go on this long?

End of part 1
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline Thucydides

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Re: The education bubble
« Reply #1 on: November 22, 2011, 13:53:38 »
Part 2

Lots of reasons. The university was deeply embedded with a faux-morality and a supposed disdain for lucre. “College” or “university” was sort of like “green” — an ethical veneer for almost anything imaginable without audit or examination (Whether a Joe Paterno-like exemption or something akin to Climategate or the local CSU campus where the student body president recently boasted that he was an illegal alien and dared authorities to act — to near unanimous support from the university.) Since World War II, a college degree was rightly seen as the key to middle class upward mobility. That belief was enshrined, and so we forgot to ask whether everyone was suited for college, or whether the college educated per se were always more important to the economy than the self-, union-, or trade-schooled welder, concrete finisher, or electrician.

If Only They Were as Fair as Wal-Mart …

The “part-timer” or “adjunct faculty” now became a sort of Messenian helot to square the circle of the universities lacking the resources to meet their pretensions. With dozens of Ph.D. applicants for each liberal arts or social science tenure-track job (graduate schools likewise turned out far more doctorates than were needed, given their own desire for the prestige and the smaller load of graduate instruction), universities found plenty of cheap labor. When the full professor retired, his courses could be outsourced to itinerant part-time lecturers, for thousands less dollars per class in salary and benefits. That the faculty hated Wal-Mart and yet treated its campus employees far worse than did the retailing bogeyman was assumed, but never acknowledged. In some sense, those hired in the 1960s and 1970s before the “Fall”, like senior California public employees now ready to retire, were the proverbial rat in the snake’s belly that had to make its way out, with the understanding that never again would anything like it make its way in.

And So?

But what cannot go on will not go on — at least for most universities without the billion-dollar plus endowments. The present reckoning is brought on not by introspection, self-critique, or concern for our increasingly poorly educated students, but by money, or rather the lack of it. Higher education is desperately searching for students with cash, loaned or not. And it is, by needs, panicking and will ever so slowly start changing. For-profit tech schools, online instruction, and the two-year junior college deliver a cheaper “product,” one not necessarily any longer an inferior one, given the nature of the contemporary university curriculum and values of the faculty.

It used to be that one did not dare go to a DeVry or Phoenix for-profit school for computer certification or accounting, because one would miss out on the rich undergraduate experience, both social and intellectual — best exemplified by the core curriculum of some 50-60 units in liberal arts and sciences. But if the university is serially subsidizing panels about global warming, lauds Palestinian activists, and runs workshops on homophobia (all without balance and counter-opinion), and if its GE required courses, whether so titled or not, are too often little more than the melodramatic obsessions of over-specialized, ranting professors who otherwise would have small audiences, then why spend the money and go through the charade of classically liberal instruction, especially given that the trade school is cheaper and more honestly pragmatic?

Much that was good will fall along with more that was bad. But it was a comeuppance long overdue. With hubris comes nemesis — leading to atê or ruin.

The End of Sparta — a postscript on the sources

The historian Xenophon’s Hellenica, our primary historical source for events of earlier fourth-century-B.C. Greece — in his apparent anger at the rise of a democratic and powerful Thebes — makes no mention of the presence of Epaminondas at Leuktra. He is silent also about his role in the first invasion of Sparta, or the Theban effort to free
the helots of Messenia and to found the citadel of Messenê. Xenophon does, however, in his Anabasis (“The March Up-Country”), talk of a Boiotian Proxenos who had advised Xenophon to join the Ten Thousand, though he says nothing of our son of the same name. The loss of Plutarch’s “Life of Epaminondas,” together with Xenophon’s bias, explains in large part why today we do not fully appreciate the reasons why the classical Greeks and Romans considered Epaminondas the greatest man of the age.

In contrast, the Roman-era Diodorus — based on the lost histories of an Ephoros, Xenophon’s contemporary — much more frequently mentions and praises Epaminondas and his invasions to the south. Thanks to Ephoros — I have no idea whether he had long yellow hair and lisped and was fond of the Boiotians — and the lost historians Theopompos and Kallisthenes, something about the achievement of Epaminondas survives in bits and pieces in the Roman-era traveler Pausanias and the Plutarch’s Life of Pelopidas.

Much of what we know about siege warfare of the age is found in “On the Defense of Fortified Positions,” written by one Ainias of Stymphalos, a shadowy general of the Arkadian federation. His larger corpus, “On Military Preparations,” is unfortunately lost and we otherwise know very little of the general and writer Ainias Taktikos, who may have played a considerable role in the politics of the Peloponnesos in the mid fourth century B.C.

We don’t know exactly all the reasons why Plato (Platôn) so distrusted democracy and favored the Spartans, but it was more than just the democracy’s execution of Sokrates and his own exile. “The Oration on the Messenians” (Logos Messêniakos) by Alkidamas does not survive either, but a fragment of the great speech on the liberation of the helots, “No man is a slave by nature,” seems to be the only explicit condemnation of slavery that survives from classical Greek literature. Perhaps Aristotle had Alkidamas in mind when he later attacked those who taught that there was no such thing as a man suited to slavery at birth.

We hear from Plutarch and others that an adolescent Philip of Makedon spent a year as a hostage with the Thebans. Though it is not recorded that he was known at Thebes as Melissos, the adult Philip bore no antipathy for the Messenians and when, more than thirty years later, he invaded Boiotia, he spared the helot city to the south after his victory at Chaironeia. He did, however, finish the job of subjugating Greece by ending the Sacred Band at Chaironeia — but supposedly lamented the sight of their corpses that littered the battlefield. Scholars are still unsure why Philip erected a proud lion on the battlefield to honor the dead of the Sacred Band, but the monument sits there today guarding the old road to Thebes as it skirts the foothills of Mt. Parnassos.

Pausanias says in his own days of the first century B.C. that there was an iron monument of Epaminondas at Messenia. Both Pausanias, and Plutarch in his life of Agesilaos, record that the off spring of Antikrates were forever known as the “swordsmen” for the thrust of their ancestor that killed the hated Epaminondas. They add that the great liberator was brought alive out of battle to die in 362 B.C. on the hilltop of Skopê, overlooking the battlefield of Mantineia, after Epaminondas’s fourth and last invasion of the Peloponnesos, more than nine years after the victory at Leuktra. They mention none who died with him, not even Mêlon, son of Malgis, farmer of Helikon.

Black limestone steles of the heroes of Boiotia can be seen in the modern museum of Thebes, carved, we believe, by the sculptor Aristides. Archaeologists argue about the architecture of the great cities of Mantineia, Megalopolis, and Messenê, but by general consent the stones seem to reveal the work of now anonymous Boiotian architects whose work resembles the contemporary rebuilt walls of Plataia and Thespiai. Much of the massive Arkadian Gate at Messenê survives, though no one has yet found among the best-preserved city in Greece any fragments of the two stone lions with the likenesses of Chiôn and Proxenos — nor the iron statue of Epaminondas himself.

Of the final end of Phrynê, little is known. Athenaeus in the thirteenth book of The Deipnosophists relates a tradition that she returned to Thespiai and offered her own great riches to rebuild the city walls after Alexander the Great had torn them down — if only they would inscribe her own name on the fortifications.

I have hiked over much of Hesiod’s Mt. Helikon, but so far I have not discovered the highland farm of Mêlon, son of Malgis, father of the good Lophis — the master of godlike Chiôn and Nêto, hero of Leuktra, slayer of Kleombrotos, who in the following decade went south three more times after the founding of Messene to fight the Spartans and, more than nine years after Leuktra, to die on Skopê above Mantineia at the side of his friend — and of his savior — Epaminondas, son of Polymnis, general of Thebes, first man of Greece.

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Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline Tuna

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Re: The education bubble
« Reply #2 on: November 22, 2011, 14:34:59 »
I have not yet attended a post secondary educational institution, but some of the points that the article made are both sad and true. in particular the tidbit about global warming  (it is surprising how many people in my generation think that way. The vast majority don't know anything about carbon and that is not just a straw man example) and the lack of history knowledge (mentioned in the article) is also quite saddening. Another big issue (as mentioned)
 is the debt involved. Education is so expensive in many areas that even the "looked down upon" trade school students come out with quite a bit of debt, what I think the article should have mentioned in depth though is the "everybody goes to college fad"  which has grown in recent years and has locked more and more people into this scam. and also has made it harder and harder to get a job without a degree (even if it's just waiting tables, an employer will usually put those with bachelors' degrees on the top of the pile) especially in tough economic times.
"The only thing on earth smarter than a warrant officer is a senior officer" -WO Dygalo, 9th company of Russian infantry

Offline Thucydides

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Re: The education bubble
« Reply #3 on: December 06, 2011, 11:25:25 »
Looking at some possible futures of the education system. Another hint of what Post Progressive society may look like is also here:

The End of Stagnation and the Coming Innovation Boom

By Nick Schulz Monday, December 5, 2011

Filed under: Big Ideas, Economic Policy, Public Square
Economist Alex Tabarrok discusses bringing smart ideas to market, the college bubble, and why Paul Romer reminds him of Nobel Prize winner Ronald Coase.

Alex Tabarrok is the Bartley J. Madden Chair in Economics at the Mercatus Center and an associate professor of economics at George Mason University. He is also half of the dynamic blogging duo (along with Tyler Cowen) at the popular Tabarrok has published a new e-book, “Launching the Innovation Renaissance: A New Path to Bring Smart Ideas to Market Fast.” (Click here for Nook version and here for iTunes version). editor-in-chief Nick Schulz recently asked Tabarrok about the ideas in the book.

NICK SCHULZ: Your book calls for an innovation renaissance and promotes a series of policy changes—with respect to patents, education, immigration, and more—to trigger this renaissance. If the U.S. innovation system is stalled, are any countries getting innovation right today?

ALEX TABARROK: Let's take a look at just one aspect, infrastructure. China is very exciting right now: everywhere you go there are new buildings, new highways, new universities, modern airports, and lots of infrastructure spending, both public and private. Meanwhile, here in the United States we have an ancient power grid that repeatedly throws millions of people into the dark. It's quite depressing.

Our ancestors were bold and industrious, they built a significant part of our transportation and energy infrastructure more than half a century ago. It would be impossible to build that same infrastructure today. Could we build the Hoover Dam? We have the technology, of course, but do we have the will? In building infrastructure many interest groups can say no and nearly no one can say yes. We are beset by a swarm of veto players. Time, however, is running out. We cannot rely on the infrastructure of our past to travel to our future.

NS: You make a strong case that the patent system needs to be reformed, but you are not anti-intellectual property the way some critics of patents are. How should a policymaker think about the importance of patent policy and how policy should be reformed?

AT: The most important point is blindingly obvious yet ignored: not every innovation needs or deserves a 20-year patent. It's crazy that one-click shopping or reverse auctions are granted the same 20-year monopoly rights as a pharmaceutical that took 15 years and a billion dollars to research and develop. Thus, I advocate creating classes of patents of say 20, 7, and 3 years. Shorter patents would be approved more quickly and with less investigation.

We also have to remember that it's judges who have gotten us into the patent mess and judges who could get us out, even without major changes in legislation. The Sawyer and Man v. Edison case is absolutely fascinating in this regard, as I discuss in the book.

NS: You say we need more skilled immigrants. What argument can be made to critics of increased immigration that is most likely to prompt them to change their minds?

AT: We need to split the issue of high-skilled immigration from general immigration reform. If we do this, I think that there is room for a deal, because the economics are so compelling. Look, we spend six years educating a Chinese engineer; she earns her PhD at an American university. Now, is it better for the United States if that engineer stays in the United States or returns to China?

We used to think about high-skill immigration as a favor we did for the immigrant. Soon, however, we are going to offer that Chinese engineer a visa and we are going to be turned down. When the world's cream is no longer so eager to come to the United States, perhaps then we will start competing. But we should act now while the market for talent is still in our favor!

NS: You argue that the economic benefits of college are oversold. Assuming that is true, there’s a cultural hurdle to overcome: The BA has become a societal totem, something that defines and divides society along class lines. How do you convince folks—especially parents—that they can risk not sending a kid to college when they are told it is essential to an upper middle-class life?

AT: First, there is plenty of risk in sending a kid to college! Forty percent of students don't graduate within six years (and probably never will), many more graduate with degrees that won't help them much in the labor force, and even the ones that do graduate often do so with student debt that will follow them for decades. Moreover, even when college pays for kids is it paying for society? A lot of schooling is just signaling, not the true building of human capital. There is an argument for subsidizing science, technology, engineering, and math fields, but should we really be subsidizing anthropology, sociology, and English lit students?

In Germany, far fewer kids go to college than in the United States. Instead, most German high school students opt for apprenticeships and on-the-job training. These students are given high-skill, technical training that motivates theory with practice, and the students are paid! Moreover, on-the-job training promotes acculturation into the adult world instead of walling off 16- to 18-year-olds in their own, sometimes dangerous, world.

By the way, when I make these arguments I am sometimes accused of not appreciating that college education makes for a "well-rounded" person. What a load of rot. Basically, these critics define well-rounded as someone who can quote Plato! Rather self-serving. Well-rounded should also mean being able to replace a light fixture, a challenge to many Platonists! More seriously, take a look at students in Finland, Sweden, or Germany. In these countries, more than half the students enter apprenticeship programs instead of going to college, but these students are very well-educated and well-rounded.

NS: What thinkers have most influenced your views on innovation and growth and why?

AT: I would mention Michael Heller, Mancur Olson, Paul Romer, and my colleagues at George Mason. Michael Heller's The Gridlock Economy is a brilliant book and a great read. Heller coined the term the tragedy of the anticommons. The better-known tragedy of the commons is the tendency for an unowned and hence nonexcludable resource to be overused. The tragedy of the anticommons is the tendency for a resource with many owners, each of whom can exclude the others, to be underused. I draw on Heller's work to talk about patents. Basically, it's hard to get an agreement to innovate when a product builds on four patents and each owner wants 30 percent of the profits. It's almost impossible to innovate when a product builds on 100 patents and each owner wants 10 percent of the profits.

Mancur Olson's The Rise and Decline of Nations is another classic. Olson shows how interests groups accrete over time, slowing down decision-making, gumming up the works, and stalling innovation. Jonathan Rauch wrote an applied version of Olson's book that I always like to quote for the illustrative title, Demosclerosis: The Silent Killer of American Government. Olson died young, but had he lived he could well have won the Nobel. Mancur Olson's work grows more relevant every day.

We have talked a lot about what impedes innovation, but in Launching I also talk about some factors that are increasing innovation, and here Paul Romer has been a big influence. Romer is best known for several breakthrough papers in the theory of economic growth. I draw not so much on the technique of those papers but a few of Romer's ideas about ideas, most importantly that ideas are sunk costs—perhaps best expressed by the saying that the first pill costs a billion dollars and the second pill costs 50 cents. It's a simple point but one with deep implications for economic growth, world trade, research and development, and even things like foreign policy. I talk a lot about these ideas in my TED talk and they also make a brief appearance in the book. Romer reminds me a lot of Coase—a handful of publications, seemingly simple ideas, deep and profound implications.

Finally, I am very fortunate to have colleagues at George Mason with whom I discuss ideas every day—Tyler Cowen, Bryan Caplan, Garrett Jones, and Robin Hanson are notable influences.

Nick Schulz is editor-in-chief of The American and the DeWitt Wallace Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline Thucydides

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Re: The education bubble
« Reply #4 on: December 07, 2011, 09:14:44 »

A very long answer from an advice columnist about the worth of education, paying off student debt and living your own life:

Worth reading
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline Robert0288

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Re: The education bubble
« Reply #5 on: December 07, 2011, 11:21:05 »
Some of the article was spot on, and some of it was dead wrong. 

As for the more 'hard working' students gravitate towards the sciences is a myth.  Many of the top students in those fields are amazing with numbers and formulas, but as soon as you ask them to explain it, talk to another human being, or write a piece of paper, they are completely useless.  Which is why they have to take manditory english classes (atleast at OttawaU,)

The race arguement isn't applicable in Canada as applications are done via marks and not personal interviews.  Grad school is a different story, also might depend if your trying to get into some obscure impossible program.

My first arugment also applies to proffessors and TAs.  They can be the greatest mind known to mankind, and therefore useful to the institution.  But have absolutely no personal skills or teaching ability.  This leads to the class where students are dissinterested because the proff only writes equations on the board, reads off a prepared sheet for 3 hours, or my personal favorite is getting the students to teach each other. (Although if done in the correct maner is a great teaching tool)

As for cost, I can't comment on the US system (other than it appears to be FUBAR) but I and many of my friends payed for university ourselves working one if not more jobs usually at minimum wage and making sacrifices, which it appears the OWS generation which I refuse to be part of, fails to do.  I went for years without a cell phone, OWS protesters who are complaining had the new Iphone 4S.

Offline Nemo888

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Re: The education bubble
« Reply #6 on: December 07, 2011, 11:59:12 »
I agree that the humanities did die.  I lament their loss. He says the word liberal like it is an insult. Liberal movements that brought forth things like blacks being treated like human beings,  woman having the right to vote, a 40 hour work week, statutory holidays, no child labour, pensions for the old or infirm, healthcare and free public schools just to name a few.

Liberals decided to support the elites and enmesh themselves with crony capitalism. Hoping for a few crumbs from the table they sold us out and became irrelevant. They no longer attacked the real issues and played with political correctness and other irrelevancies. Now they are ridiculed and rightly so. Education no longer taught critical thinking. It taught conformity and gave a piece of paper that supposedly gave admittance to the middle class. It was all very Orwellian in outcome, but the only levers used were market forces. Perhaps profit should not be our only motive and measure of success.  Humanities could of course vaccinate us against many dark roads we could become lost on. Corruption cannot be controlled by rules. It is controlled by morals. History(A humanities course) shows an uneducated populace is always susceptible to demagogues and quickly slides towards fascism.

Offline Thucydides

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Re: The education bubble
« Reply #7 on: December 08, 2011, 00:55:38 »
A degree course in puppetry? No wonder the "liberal arts" studies is mocked so mercilessly. Perhaps real "Liberal Arts" education involving the study of the works by "Dead White Males" needs to return:

How To Ruin Your Life

Alert reader Dan Shea drew Via Meadia‘s attention to an unusually depressing article in the Boston Globe.  It is one of those fluffy and airheaded “lifestyle” pieces, the print equivalent of empty calorie junk food and like many such articles it provides a horrifying glimpse into the vacuous nature of the modern American mind.  In this particular case, the reporter, who hopefully is affecting rather than spontaneously producing prose redolent of relentless stupidity, shares her view of 10 “awesome” classes at Boston area colleges that she thinks her readers would like to take.

A couple of them, we hasten to observe, look both useful and good.  The MIT course taking first year mechanical engineering students through the entire process of toy design seems a bit out of place on this list.  And we also note that the actual classes may have more substance than our chipper journalist reports.  But some “awesome” courses look like the kind of academic malpractice that help so many American kids emerge from four years of “education” with massive debt loads, major attitude problems, and no marketable skills.  Consider:

“Staging American Women: The Culture of Burlesque”. Burlesque is a complex and alluring underground culture — and sexy, too, of course. Think about tassels for a moment — are you blushing? Then you might want to skip out on a course that involves discussing pin-ups and early sexploitation films. Your loss.

It is hard to know which is more disturbing, here: that a college can accept student loan money for a course like this without being charged with financial fraud or the vapid thinking and limp prose that Globe editors evidently think belongs in their newspaper.  Or consider this piece of awesomeness from the same college (Emerson, where tuition and fees run to more than $30,000 a year, and almost half of those who apply are admitted):

“Puppetry”. “The course culminates in the construction of puppets for in-class presentations,” which is really all you need to know. Plus, puppets are pretty popular right now. I’ll be the first to say it: This class will make you a hit with the ladies.

Or there is our fatuous writer’s top suggestion, a useful course on the history of surfing:
“Surfing and American Culture“. As a Massachusetts native, I have a bit of trouble picturing the impact surfing has had on American culture beyond that Beach Boys song and Point Break. This class will take the uninitiated through the history of surfing up to the present day, as well as examine its role as a major economic force. And include field trips? Just a suggestion.

(Again, one wonders when the Globe decided that soggy, tasteless mush like this was publishable content.  Either the writer or the editor of this piece and quite possibly both clearly spent much too much time in college taking classes like the ones being praised here.)

As Via Meadia looked at these course descriptions, and reflected that all over America students are borrowing tens of thousands of dollars a year to attend expensive schools and then blowing the money on glittering fripperies like these, we were reminded of a book title we came across in our long vanished youth: How to Make Yourself Miserable.  It occurs to us that there is an infallible recipe for making yourself miserable, and that many young people in this country are following it — some, perhaps, without knowing that that is what they are doing.

So, inspired by this list of awesome courses, here is a sure-fire way to make yourself miserably unhappy in your twenties.

First, enroll in a college that you cannot afford, and rely on large student loans to make up the difference.

Second, spend the next four years having as good a time as possible: hang out, hook up, and above all, take plenty of “awesome” courses.

Third, find teachers and role models who will encourage you to develop an attitude of enlightened contempt for ordinary American middle class life, the world of business, and such bourgeois virtues as self-reliance, thrift, accountability and self-discipline.  Specialize in sarcasm and snark.

Fourth, avoid all courses with tough requirements, taking only the minimum required number of classes in science, math and foreign languages.

Fifth, never think about acquiring marketable skills.

Sixth, when you graduate and discover that you have to repay the loans and cannot get a job that pays enough to live comfortably while servicing your debts, be surprised.  Blame society.  Demand that the government or your parents or evil corporations bail you out.
Seventh, expect anyone (except for other clueless losers who’ve been as stupid and wasteful as you) to sympathize with your plight, or to treat you with anything but an infuriating mixture of sorrow, pity and contempt.

If you follow this recipe faithfully, Via Meadia promises that you will achieve all the unhappiness you want.  And don’t worry; anytime you feel sad and blue, just read some “lifestyle” journalism in the Boston Globe.  It will be sure to cheer you up.
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline bcbarman

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Re: The education bubble
« Reply #8 on: December 10, 2011, 16:43:30 »
As a strong advocate for education, I feel that post-secondary in Canada is essential for moving anywhere in a career that does not involve spinning a stop sign. 

With that, there is so many junk degrees out there, where has our workforce and contribution to the Canadian economy come from.  We have a new shift, at least out here in BC, the University Colleges.  These former colleges have received a degree granting status, so one could go to the cheaper, smaller class size, more personalized education school and receive a degree. 

Does it have the same weight as a big name University? Of course not, but other then your first job, when did anyone ask where you went to school to get your accreditation?

However, the junk degrees continue to flow. Womyn studies? Art appreciation? meterological studies?  I understand that there are jobs for people out there with this kind of degree, but how many really? With that, what are the odds of getting a decently paying job out of it.

There will be a day that the shift in training will stop, but what will be the catalist that changes it?

Offline Snakedoc

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Re: The education bubble
« Reply #9 on: December 10, 2011, 17:06:30 »
Mind you...there was a time when people pursued post-secondary education and degrees for intellectual and not functional reasons

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Re: The education bubble
« Reply #10 on: December 10, 2011, 17:45:51 »
Mind you...there was a time when people pursued post-secondary education and degrees for intellectual and not functional reasons

Yes, but in those days one became an engineer or lawyer or doctor through what was, essentially, an apprenticeship programme.

The modern education system, the one which is only about 150 years old, is a mix of education and practical training, the latter designed to produce professionals who can meet certain (hopefully demanding) standards like those tested in PEng exams, bar exams and the like.
It is ill that men should kill one another in seditions, tumults and wars; but it is worse to bring nations to such misery, weakness and baseness
as to have neither strength nor courage to contend for anything; to have nothing left worth defending and to give the name of peace to desolation.
Algernon Sidney in Discourses Concerning Government, (1698)
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Offline Thucydides

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Re: The education bubble
« Reply #11 on: December 11, 2011, 18:57:38 »
Looking at different solutions to educating people:

The Problem Solvers
December 7, 2011 - 3:00am
Steve Kolowich

As a fledgling voice of reform in higher education, Salman Khan is an oddity. He cannot name any higher education accrediting agencies off the top of his head. He advocates for competency-based credentialing, but has never heard of Western Governors University. He is capable of talking on the phone for a full hour without using the word “disruptive” once. Until recently, he was an analyst for a hedge fund.

Here is what Khan does know: algebra, statistics, trigonometry, calculus, computer science, biology, chemistry, astronomy, physics, economics, and finance -- well enough, at least, to demonstrate the concepts via brief video tutorials on Khan Academy, his free learning website. What began in 2006 as an attempt to tutor his young cousin from afar has evolved into a 2,700-video library with millions of monthly visitors.

Many have lauded Khan’s natural skill as a teacher. Khan’s charmingly unpolished home recordings form the public face of the organization and provide a peg for media narratives about online learning and the YouTube-ification of the textbook in an era where the rising prices and demand for higher education has collided with the Internet’s culture of free.

But Khan and his 20-person team -- refugees from hedge funds, consulting firms, software companies, and tech start-ups -- say the videos are hardly the most innovative work they are doing. The real revolution at Khan Academy, they contend, is not being streamed on its vaunted website; it is happening in the back end of the platform, where Khan’s engineers are learning as much about the site’s 1.4 million registered users as those users are learning about math and science.

Khan Academy’s explicit goal is to teach people fundamental concepts. But in the process, it hopes to break new ground by changing how educators think about teaching, how psychologists think about learning, how employers think about credentialing, and how everybody thinks about the price of a good education.

“I think too much conversation about Khan Academy is about cute little videos," Khan said in an interview last week. “Most of our resources, almost two-thirds of [the staff], are engineers working on the exercises and analytics platform. That, I think, is what we’re most excited about.”

Mastering Solutions

Jace Kohlmeier is one of those engineers. Like Khan, Kohlmeier is late of the finance industry. Before joining Khan Academy on a volunteer basis last year, he trained computers to predict price changes in the stock market and make trades based on those predictions. Stock-trading and teaching might be different endeavors on the surface, but Kohlmeier says the work he does for Khan Academy is similar to the statistical modeling he did in finance.

In both cases, “You want to understand the process of why things happen the way they do, and find the explanatory variables,” he says. “And in certain situations you also want to predict what will happen in the future.”

Using math and computer science concepts decidedly more advanced than most of those in Khan’s video library, the Khan engineers have trained the website’s exercise platform how to predict, with startling accuracy, how likely it is that a student will correctly answer the next practice problem -- and whether that student will be able to solve the same type of problem a week, two weeks, and a month later.

They do this by accounting for hundreds of data points that describe, in numbers, the entire history of the relationship between a learner and a concept.

“If [a user is] logged in, then we have the entire history of every problem they’ve done, and how long it took them, and how they did,” says Ben Kamens, the lead developer at Khan Academy. “So whenever anybody does a problem, we see whether they got it right or wrong, how many tries it took them, what their guess was, what the problem was, how many hints they used, and how long they took between each hint.”

The Khan engineers are also working to tweak the exercise platform so it does not confuse genuine mastery with “pattern matching” -- a method of problem-solving wherein a student mechanically rehashes the steps necessary to solve that type of problem without necessarily grasping, conceptually, what those steps represent.

Pattern-matching is one of the human brain’s most basic learning tools, Kamens says. It is the sort of useful imitation that allows toddlers to learn how to use language without first learning how grammar works. But there is a difference between imitating problem-solving procedures and mastering the logic undergirding those procedures, Kamens says. Getting to that level of understanding, he says, is probably what determines whether students will remember how to solve a problem after the test is over, after a course is over, and -- most importantly, in Khan’s view -- once their formal schooling is over.

Khan has half-joked that his ideal assessment model is having professors ambush their students in the hallways with random questions, months after the student has passed the exam, and revise their score based on whether they've kept their chops. At Khan Academy, that half-joke is half-real. At a time when students are always within arm's reach of a computer and a wireless signal, “mechanic practice schedulers” can spring questions on students at intervals to gauge how well they remember how to do certain types of problems. This would allow Khan's team to collect data on how well students retain their command of different concepts, which in turn would enable them to look back at their original interactions with the concepts and try to spot variables that correlate with long-term retention.

“We have already built some internal models that incorporate memory/forgetting over time into the predictions,” says Kohlmeier. “We'll continue improving them.”

The Khan engineers think that randomizing the types of problems posed during these jump-outs might serve as a shibboleth to distinguish between people who have truly mastered concepts, and those who passed the tests by temporarily memorizing a series of rote steps.

This is crucial, Kohlmeier says. When students are doing practice problems in a textbook chapter on quadratic equations, they know each problem can be solved by factorization -- even if they cannot say why. But in the world, whether in finance, software or education, the right path to a solution is not always so obvious.

“A big part of real-life problem-solving,” Kohlmeier says, “is recognizing what kind of problem you’re dealing with.”

Defining Problems

While Khan Academy’s current institutional partnerships, and much of the content in the Khan Academy library, are oriented to the K-12 world, college and university leaders are paying attention. Khan may not know the names of all the big movers in higher education yet. But they know his.

At the annual Future of State Universities conference in October, Khan was featured on a bill with a who’s who of statesmen, Education Department officials, industry soothsayer Clayton Christensen, and a number of prominent executives from university systems and accrediting agencies. His presentation had the audience of college presidents and other traditional academic leaders rapt. He has since been added to the docket for the American Council on Education's annual meeting in March, penciled in to the same "reformer" lineup spot that Christensen filled at this year's meeting.

In October Khan told the Future of State Universities audience that the most pressing problem facing the education system is not so much the retention of students in academic programs, but the retention of specific academic concepts in the minds of those students. Completion means nothing, said the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grantee, without comprehension -- a command of crucial skills that stick around long after the test, and the course, are over.

Salman Khan remarks from the Future of State Universities Conference from Academic Partnerships on Vimeo.

College students do not graduate with a firm enough grasp of the skills -- particularly in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields -- that they really need to land good jobs, he said. As a result, the credential colleges use to signal the competence of their graduates, the college degree, says very little about what its holder actually knows.

In a conversation with Inside Higher Ed last week, Khan expressed some ideas on how to improve the signaling quality of academic credentials. Under the current regime, a degree from a college amounts to something similar to an acceptance letter from that college, he says. And that is not ideal for employers.

“We find a lot of college grads with high GPAs that have been exposed to many things … but even in their purported majors, they have a pretty weak grasp of” essential concepts, Khan said. “It’s almost like you view them as a blank slate, and the most impressive thing about them is that they got in to University X.”

In other words, the current price of a college degree is not just the balance of four years’ tuition; one must also consider the cost, to students and employers, of the ambiguity hanging over what the degree actually means.

One root of the problem is the fact that the college degree is issued by the same institution that is in charge of setting, and enforcing, the standards of that credential, says Khan, who holds four degrees himself. This is tantamount to investment banks rating their own securities, he says. Meanwhile, the accrediting agencies that are in charge of making sure those “ratings” are legitimate do not currently focus on what students coming out of those institutions measurably know.

That is why, when an audience member at Khan’s Future of State Universities talk asked whether Khan Academy was interested in credentialing, its tutor-in-chief answered with an enthusiastic yes-but. Khan told Inside Higher Ed that he does not want to turn his free, online trove -- whose 2,700 videos could theoretically be organized into course-length sequences -- into a credential-granting institution. What he does want to do is advocate for the creation and mainstreaming of credential-granting institutions that exist wholly separate (“decoupled,” in Khan-speak) from the institutions (including his) that do the teaching.

In Khan’s ideal world, this would mean an independent third party that tests specific competencies and awards credentials corresponding to knowledge areas in which a student can demonstrate mastery -- like the MCAT or standardized tests like a bar exam for calculus, physics, or computer science. “It would be much more useful, speaking as employer, if they show they’re just at the top of the charts on a certain skill set that we really want,” he said.

Re-ordering Operations

Although he speaks about the value of college in the sort of sober, transactional terms that might read as hostile to liberal education, Khan insists that he is sympathetic to the idea of learning for reasons of pure curiosity or personal pleasure. Not for nothing has Khan researched and recorded tutorials on the Civil War, the Cuban Missile crisis, and the French Revolution. He recently hired two art history Ph.D.s -- Beth Harris and Steven Zucker -- to join him as the first two non-Khan faculty members at Khan Academy.

At the same time, Khan sharply criticizes the buffet approach to curriculum that leaves graduates with general impressions about many topics but few applicable skills. Teaching students “how to think” is not good enough, he says.

“If you can go deep in many things, awesome,” he told Inside Higher Ed. “That’s wonderful. But the reality is, right now, you’re forcing students to [obtain], and employers to hire students with, kind of a broad and very shallow experience base -- an expensive broad experience base. And it’s not clear that’s doing anyone any good.”

“Higher order” skills in critical thinking and creativity are useful only to the extent that graduates wind up in a position to apply them, Khan said. In the malaise of post-college unemployment, a graduate’s aptitude for analyzing themes in literature or conducting reliable research will languish. “If you don’t have that starting point of [graduates] being engaged and productive in society in some way, then the rest is just a waste of time,” said Khan.

Distribution requirements, the four-year model, and the buffet approach to curriculum all contribute to the “arbitrariness” that muddies the signaling function of college degrees and “have no relation to what makes you a more productive citizen or better for society or a more creative person,” Khan said.

“If you decouple [learning and credentialing], the arbitrariness is gone,” he added, and “it federates the options to adjust to what people’s needs are.”
Stability theories

Khan Academy’s efforts to describe the learning process with granular data are not necessarily new. Publishers and test-prep companies have developed software that creates detailed learning profiles for students working through problem sets and uses predictive modeling to gauge mastery.

The difference is that while those products can cost each student as much as a regular textbook (publishers often package the software with new textbooks, or else sell them separately for about the price of a used one),  Khan Academy offers its video tutorials, and unlimited use of its "smart" exercise platform, free. And its eponymous founder has no plans to bill students.

“While I’m around, Khan Academy will be free,” Khan says. He says the organization has attracted enough investment  ($16.5 million, according to the New York Times) to subsidize its $3 million annual operating budget. And although there are key members of Khan's team who could be making that much themselves each year in the corporate sector, Khan believes that mission can be just as powerful as money when attracting top talent, especially in the era of the Web and machine learning, when it only takes a handful of bright minds to ignite the potential of millions more worldwide.
"There’s a very strong ethic and philosophy at Khan Academy about openness," says Kohlmeier, who works for Khan Academy pro bono, having left a lucrative post as president and co-founder of a proprietary trading firm that employed 30 people. “That’s the M.O. that I intend to follow," he says. "I would not be at Khan Academy if Khan Academy were not a nonprofit.”

While Khan and his team shy away from confrontational statements about taking on commercial publishers, they are confident that their machine-learning program is sophisticated enough to apply some pressure to commercial products. “Is there a potential that our presence in those markets will change what the profit opportunity is?" says Kohlmeier. "I definitely think that’s a possibility.”

But Khan Academy's determination to stay on the cutting edge of teaching technology while remaining free is not entirely original, either. Carnegie Mellon University's Open Learning Initiative has, since early last decade, used federal and private grant money to build free course modules infused with "smart" software that supplies instructors with detailed feedback on individual students, along with exercise platforms that adapt to the needs of each student as they work through problem sets. Candace Thille, the head of that long-running project, has posed similar ideas to Khan's about a system of credentialing based on measurable fluency in various concepts.

And yet higher education's traditional teaching, assessment and credentialing models remain largely in place, despite Thille and her Open Learning Initiative having been widely known, and respected, for years. When considering what impact Khan and his band of outsiders could have on the higher education establishment and the digital content providers that serve it, an insider's perspective can be sobering.

At best, Khan Academy is a good idea with a lot to prove, says Carol Twigg, CEO and president of the National Center for Academic Transformation. At worst, it is "just another repository scheme" that will stagnate once the buzz dies down.

Twigg, who for years has been a leading advocate of using technology to upend calcified models of teaching and learning, would seem a natural ally for Khan. But she has also been around enough to have seen more than one ostensibly transformational content platform peter out. In the absence of any evidence that Khan Academy's videos and exercise software can successfully integrate with college classrooms (which, she points out, are not the same as K-12 classrooms, where Khan is road-testing his software through partnerships with several charter schools), and produce better learning outcomes than the stuff that is currently available, Twigg doubts that Khan Academy will transform any college curriculums anytime soon.

"The idea that you can just put stuff out there, and that it will magically be effective and used effectively -- there’s just no evidence of that,” Twigg says. Collecting evidence requires integrating with college classrooms, which requires scale and support, which requires money, she says. Lots of it. "Sixteen million dollars is not chump change," says Twigg, "but you need to be able to support and sustain it." Nonprofit projects in higher education do not have a great track record on this, she points out, not even the most highly regarded ones.

Khan himself comes off as almost cavalier when discussing the future of Khan Academy. "There is no business model," he told Inside Higher Ed. Asked whether he thinks his nonprofit model is sustainable, he replies, "I'm not sure," adding, "It’s not like we have a big strategic plan to raise 'X' dollars by 'X' date or anything like that.”

Then again, Khan has always been confident in his ability to solve for "X."

"We're still young," he points out. If money becomes a problem, Khan and his team will work on a solution. And when that day comes, the method they use will probably depend on what the equation looks like.

For the latest technology news and opinion from Inside Higher Ed, follow @IHEtech on Twitter.

Read more:
Inside Higher Ed
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline Thucydides

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Re: The education bubble
« Reply #12 on: December 19, 2011, 16:17:36 »
Getting a free MIT education:

MIT Will Offer Certificates to Outside Students Who Take Its Online Courses

By Marc Parry

Millions of learners have enjoyed the free lecture videos and other course materials published online through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's OpenCourseWare project. Now MIT plans to release a fresh batch of open online courses—and, for the first time, to offer certificates to outside students who complete them.

The credentials are part of a new, interactive e-learning venture, tentatively called MITx, that is expected to host "a virtual community of millions of learners around the world," the institute will announce on Monday.

Here's how it will work: MITx will give anyone free access to an online-course platform. Users will include students on the MIT campus, but also external learners like high-school seniors and engineering majors at other colleges. They'll watch videos, answer questions, practice exercises, visit online labs, and take quizzes and tests. They'll also connect with others working on the material.

The first course will begin around the spring of 2012. MIT has not yet announced its subject, but the goal is to build a portfolio of high-demand courses—the kind that draw more than 200 people to lecture halls on the campus, in Cambridge, Mass. MIT is investing "millions of dollars" in the project, said L. Rafael Reif, the provost, and the plan is to solicit more from donors and foundations.

Ten years ago, MIT galvanized the open-education movement by giving away free learning materials from 2,100 courses. But some universities are moving beyond publishing online syllabi and simple videos. They now provide virtual tutors and automated feedback through interactive projects like the Open Learning Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University and the free online computer-science courses at Stanford University. MIT's new venture is a step in that direction.

If Stanford's experience is any indication, the potential pool of participants could be vast. Back in November, roughly 94,000 students enrolled in Andrew Ng's open course on machine learning there.

MIT's project could also help answer a big question facing open education: How do you sustain projects whose content is free?

Although access to MITx courses will carry no cost, the institute plans to charge a "modest" fee for certificates that indicate a learner has mastered the content. It's unclear exactly how the assessment will work.

What is clear is that any credentials "would not be issued under the name MIT," according to an MITx fact sheet. "Rather, MIT plans to create a not-for-profit body within the institute that will offer certification for online learners of MIT course work," the sheet says. "That body will carry a distinct name to avoid confusion."

Mr. Reif stressed that the open-learning experiment "is not an easier version of MIT."

"For them to earn a credential, they have to demonstrate mastery of the subject," he said, "just like an MIT student does."

A 3-Tiered Ecosystem

Monday's announcement marks a shift for MIT. The institute does not offer a fully online education for conventional credits. And when the OpenCourseWare idea emerged, the thinking was to avoid credit-bearing courses so as not to "dilute the MIT brand," according to one official quoted in Unlocking the Gates, a book about open learning by Taylor Walsh of Ithaka S+R, a nonprofit group that promotes the use of technology in higher education.

But the new venture will apparently create a three-tiered ecosystem, with traditional MIT degrees, for residential students; cheaper MITx certificates, and free OpenCourseWare materials, said Roger C. Schonfeld, Ithaka's director of research.

"It seems like an effort to begin to expand the breadth of individuals who can claim an educational association with MIT," he said.

The project aims to "lower the existing barriers between residential campuses and millions of learners around the world," MIT says. But how much will outside individuals get to interact with MIT professors? That's unclear.

One way to promote such contact will be software that handles many questions, said Anant Agarwal, director of MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

"Through voting and other mechanisms, you can create a funnel of requests so that the requests that come off the funnel at the very top can actually be answered by MIT professors and MIT TA's," he said. "A large number of questions at the lower parts of the funnel can actually be answered by other learners who may be slightly ahead."

MIT faculty members have also developed technology that can automatically grade essays. Other technologies that could come into play here include automatic transcription, online tutors, and crowdsourced grading.

The core idea of OpenCourseWare—free online content—spread far beyond MIT. The institute hopes this project will also catch on elsewhere. To help make that happen, it will release the MITx open-learning software at no charge, so other educational institutions can adopt it.
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline Thucydides

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Re: The education bubble
« Reply #13 on: December 26, 2011, 15:21:14 »
Radically changing the way education is delivered wil have many effects. One which isn't touched on too much in this article is the elimination of the vast public education bureaucracy (vice eliminating teachers) and the enourmous effect this will have on public budgeting, taxation and the economy. As an aside, it should also change the way we in the military think about instruction and training of our soldiers:

A World without Schoolteachers

By Richard F. Miniter

The Kindle and Nook may make for not only the most important advance in reading since Gutenberg, but also, quite likely, a major lesson in unintended consequences.  Especially for the educational establishment, because for the first time in history, Americans should be able to envision a future without public-school teachers -- indeed, a future without public-school administrators or state departments of education with their rigidly enforced, politically correct social-transformation curriculum.  A future without onerous school taxes, "education president(s)," self-preening school boards, or million-dollar classrooms.  But most happily, a future without a single supercilious finger wagging in our face as we're forever lectured about how much a securely tenured, part-time, self-important, overpaid class of public employees "cares" about our sons and daughters.  Really, really, really cares.  And, of course, knows much better than we do how to bring them up.

And it's all possible because these cheap, handheld, downloadable reading devices such as Kindle and Nook now give parents a choice between tutoring and classroom education.

Tutoring has always been the preferred model.  That is after all how the very rich educated their children.  Second-best, and not-so-second-best at that, were the small schools where the second tier of society, the well-off not-so-rich, pooled their resources in some public location and shared tutors.  (Which is why the British, as in Eton and Harrow, still call exclusive private schools "public" schools.)  And of course, the elite universities did their best to maintain the tutoring model of education.  Did their best, that is, to steer clear of classroom instruction.

Because as opposed to a setting where the instructor stands in front a blackboard lecturing a group of students day after day, guiding and encouraging them through a restricted curriculum, tutoring is a process of individualized on-your-own reading and writing followed a quick critique from the tutor.  A character and skill-building technique which not only consumes vastly more learning material, but hits it harder.  In much less time.

A number of years ago, the Wall Street Journal had a piece about homeschooling in which a professional in some other field explained his discovery of the huge amount of material but amazingly small amount of time it takes to thoroughly educate a child with the tutoring model.  A routine his daughter explained as reading a book every day and then writing an essay about it.  "Read a book, write an essay."

In fact, even the simplest tutoring approach often works magic.  Years ago, a twelve-year-old foster child arrived in our home essentially unable to read after six or seven years of classroom "special" education.  To the point where he didn't even know how to use a dictionary.  Our oldest son, a prolific writer, happened to be visiting us at the time, saw the problem, and came up with a fix.  He handed the boy the newspaper he read each morning, told him to sit on his bed, read it aloud, and circle every word he couldn't pronounce or didn't know the meaning of.  Then, later, the two of them went over the circled words together.  The first day, every fourth or fifth word was circled, but it wasn't very long before the number of circles began to decrease, and something clicked in the boy's mind.  "Hey," he seemed to say to himself, "this is not such a mystery.  I can get this reading and writing thing working on my own."  And he went on to other material.  Then, when he was ready to begin high school, the state and local school district sent a team to evaluate him in order to design a classroom program that met his "special needs."  Only there wasn't any, because they were shocked to discover that he tested at or above -- and in a couple of subjects, far above -- his grade level.

And that's all it takes.  Hand out the reading assignment, be available, or have someone else available to examine the essay they write and perhaps send them back to the same material book for another go or two on the same subject.  Because tutoring doesn't teach a discrete body of knowledge as much as it does a skill we don't hear much about anymore: scholarship.  Not simply memorizing some facts about a subject, but examining it from one perspective and then another until you develop a detailed, three-dimensional view of the subject.  It's your month to learn about the Revolutionary War?  Read a biography of Washington one day, then in the next Paine or Jefferson, Madison and Adams.  Intersperse these books with a personal account of a common soldier, a slave, a parson of the time.  Sample some fiction which portrays the period -- Drums Along the Mohawk, for example.  Some of the short and breezy economic looks about the period like The Timber Economy of New England.  Maybe read the newspapers of the time.

Twenty days, twenty books, all of which a student has had to think fairly deeply about because he knows that he has to write about them, and voilà: a child knows more about the Revolutionary period than -- not to put too fine a point on it -- the average public-school teacher.

Too much to expect of your little second-grader?  Well, for little people, there are little books with little words, and at the end of the day, little essays.  They'll grow.  Kids are smart.

It also sums down to a little block of time because without having to get ready for the school bus; the bus ride; dispersing to classroom; disciplinary issues in classrooms; having to raise your hand to go to the bathroom; noisy, chaotic hallways scenes every fifty minutes; noisy, chaotic lunch periods; announcements; fire drills; lectures about bullying, respecting alternative lifestyles, or strangers; then preparing for the bus ride home, followed by homework, one can do a better job with a child in two hours than a traditional school classroom setting can in eight.

There's also the issue of the eight-hundred-pound gorilla in the classroom which the educational establishment will never admit to: indoctrination.

After all, whom do we thank for the classroom?  Yes, that right -- dissenting religious sects who wanted their children to read the Bible (their version of it), couldn't afford individual tutors or many other books, and stood a schoolmaster/preacher up in front of a bunch of benches.  An effort in indoctrination which later sublimated into civics (a branch of the same tree), after the schools were secularized and then in these latter days into a mushy leveling philosophy rooted in certain psychological/Marxist precepts that seem to impart a new and even higher truth.

Such as the very strange belief that competition is damaging -- that children are fragile, everyone is the same as everyone else, everyone is special, students can learn as much from other students as they may from adults, don't judge, don't strive...and teachers, don't you dare encourage students to study really hard in order to achieve "ability status"...don't make any gestures when you sing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" because it might offend deaf people -- yada, yada.  Anyone with even just a passing acquaintance knows the drill.  Knows that this is in fact the end-game of public education -- a belief system.

And so, just as in the earlier religious schools and later in the quasi-religious civics schools, the information allowed to reach the classroom is controlled.

Via the texts.

Diane Ravitch and others have written extensively on the issue of K-12 textbooks, and anybody interested in the Byzantine, incredibly politically correct process by which they are formulated should read her.  Suffice it to say that they provide a very restricted view of subjects and, even in "science," do their best to push the party line in much the same manner as a communist math textbook from the 1930s would offer the problem "if one capitalist can exploit twelve workers a day, how many can ten exploit in seven point five days?"

Public-school textbooks also make things up.  Portray the starving times in the early Virginia colony as a transitional period in which the early colonists hadn't yet learned to "share," when the exact opposite was the case.  I believe that it was Ravitch herself who used the example of a passage in a social studies text which presented as fact, and so glorified, the vanished Anasazi of the southwest as developing an egalitarian society in which everything was shared, when the fact is that they left no written record and so nobody knows how they organized themselves.  But the examples of selection and mendacity are legion.  And cut from exactly the same bolt of cloth used by earlier educators, who portrayed the four-hundred-year history of the Spanish Inquisition as history's benchmark for terror (and it is a good example) but ignored the fact that religious fanatics from their own doctrinal camp in tiny Scotland burned as many so-called heretics in forty.

But suddenly, with a Kindle or Nook in hand, children can skip the propaganda.  At the fingertips of parents armed with a one of these electronic reading devices, there are eight hundred thousand free books -- and a million for sometimes as little as ninety-nine cents.  They can find their own lies if they want to.  Or, more importantly, the truth.

Which means that just as the automatic washing machine and dryer made in-house, twenty-four-a-day laundry service available to the middle-class (who couldn't afford live-in maids), these new, quickly downloadable electronic readers have put individual tutoring within reach of the great mass of families.  Because the problem with tutoring has always been the books.  A wealthy family might have had a huge, expensive library to draw from, while the peasants never did.  Even a middle-class family in America today would be hard-put to sample and then make available 300 different print books for a child every year -- three children, 900 books.  But now even the meanest family can have the Library of Congress in their pocket, or their child's backpack.  In fact, there isn't any need to lug a backpack around any longer.

So should all parents begin tutoring their children at home?  I don't know.  My children are long grown and on their own, but if I had them back and compared the two visions -- a tutoring program taking only an hour or two out of my day which would land my child on his feet at age eighteen, having read and written about the lessons of over four thousand books, or a public education in which he would read and understand, if I was lucky, a hundred or two -- I'd be mighty tempted.  Not to mention the fact that for twelve years I wouldn't have had some other adult whispering strange nothings in my kid's ear.

But what I am convinced of is that given the advent of the Kindle and Nook and whatever surprises follow, the current model of classroom-based public education is simply a dead woman walking.  Teachers are going to have to reinvent themselves because children aren't going to be lectured to anymore day after dreary day.  They won't allow it.  Parents won't allow it.  For the one single reason that they don't have to anymore.  Instead, more and more children are going to be reading and writing and talking about the world of knowledge they're exploring.  Intelligently.  Becoming ever more educated while spending a much greater portion of their day doing what kids are wont to do.  Running and shouting in the autumn sunshine, assembling a model of the Empire State Building in the basement, collecting rocks or dolls or pets.  Being, one might say, kids.

...Who, if you're really lucky, might decide to take a walk down the road and interrupt Grandpa's nap.

Richard F. Miniter is the author of The Things I Want Most (BDD, Random House) and the coming e-book Conversations With My Graddaughter.  He writes in Stone Ridge New York and can be reached at

Page Printed from: at December 26, 2011 - 02:13:08 PM CST
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline Thucydides

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Re: The education bubble
« Reply #14 on: December 27, 2011, 22:37:54 »
More on how the education bubble will unwind. The economic argument is pretty solid and convincing (and it is a win win; the employer pays less but the employee isn't encumbered with huge debt loads which drag down his/her personal wealth building). Another glimpse of what post progressive society may look like:

In the Future Everything Will Be A Coffee Shop
By Stephen Gordon + December 26th, 2011

Phil and I ended last week’s FastForward Radio show discussing how higher education will change in the coming years. My conclusion:

Universities Will Become Coffee Shops

We’re faced with an education bubble. Tuition and other costs associated with a college education have been outpacing inflation for decades. It’s a trend that simply cannot continue. It has continued, so far, because the demand for education has proven to be somewhat inelastic. If you want a good job (the thinking went) there really wasn’t much of a choice. You went and you paid whatever price they put in front of you.

But what’s the advantage of a good job if the salary difference between that job and a non-college-level job is lost servicing student debt? It’s a reasonable question that has become more pressing as the amount of student debt required to get an education has risen.

At the same time several universities with world renown branding have begun offering online courses for free. MIT has been the pioneering institution in this. They were first to make practically all classes available online. Now they are beginning to offer some level of credential for completion of online courses through a new program they’re calling MITx.

Imagine a personnel manager at a mid-sized industrial corporation in Kansas who’s looking for a candidate with a particular set of knowledge. There are two candidates: one from the local state school with an appropriate college degree, a second with relevant MITx certificates of completion.

Let’s say all other things between the candidates are equal. Which should be chosen? It’s true that an online education is not the same as the college experience. The candidate who went to college probably enjoyed his experience more, but how much is that experience worth to a potential employer? Unless he’s a member of the same fraternity, probably not as much as the college candidate would hope.

And here’s the reality: the student debt of the college candidate controls, to some extent, his salary requirements. Since the MITx candidate appears to have the knowledge required, and has no student debt, he probably can be hired cheaper.

There is a tendency to go with the college candidate because: “that’s the way its always been done.” But cheaper ultimately wins. Repeat that story a million times over the next few years and you begin to see how the local colleges – which already are overcharging for their product – begin to suffer in favor of free programs like MITx.

Eventually you could have local campuses becoming places where MITx students seek tutoring, network, and socialize – reclaiming some of the college experience they’d otherwise have lost.

Phil thought this sounded like college as a giant coffee shop. I agree. Every education would be ad hoc. It would be student-directed toward the job market she’s aiming for.

This trend toward… coffeeshopification… is changing more than just colleges:

Book Stores Will Shrink to Coffee Shops

Ebooks are coming of age – for many reasons. You can keep your library in your pocket. You can annotate and share your thoughts within social networks. Writers can publish more directly to their audience. Once completed, the unit cost of each ebook sold is essentially $0. Those savings can (and sometimes are) passed on to the customer. Also, an ebook doesn’t have to be limited to the written word. An ebook can incorporate video, audio and other methods of presentation. Your book store is always with you and has every book ready to sell. Nothing ever goes out of print because there are no print runs.

Compare that with your local Barnes and Nobel. Those stores are huge but can accommodate only a small fraction of the titles available in the Kindle store. They require expensive real estate, buildings, and employees.

If you don’t like reading from an ereader, there are new on-demand printing options like the Espresso Book Machine that can print a book within minutes.

Between ebooks and print-on-demand, Barnes and Nobel sized stores shrink down to just their coffee shops – or maybe Starbucks takes over their business. Either way, custormers keep the experience of reading with coffee and those big comfortable chairs.

The Coffee Shop Will Displace Most Retail Shops

My Christmas shopping this year was 90% through Amazon Prime. Not having to fight the crowds and having it delivered free of charge to my home is a big plus, but as with the Kindle store, the online retail selection is much better that even the largest retail outlet.

Which is more enjoyable: Starbucks or Walmart?  For the sane: Starbucks.  So if you can accomplish your Walmart shopping at Starbucks, why do it any other way?

Also, imagine the 3D print shop of the future. You put in your order, probably from your smart phone, and then go pick it up. What does the lobby of such a business look like?  Again: a coffee shop.

Offices Become Coffee Shops… Again

We’re going back to the future: the modern office was birthed in 17th century coffee shops. Steven Johnson has argued that coffee fueled the enlightenment. It was certainly a more enlightening beverage than the previous choice of alcohol.

The need for offices grew as the equipment for mental work was developed starting in the late 19th centuries. That need appears to have peaked about 1980. It was a rare person who could afford the computers, printers, fax machines, and mailing/shipping equipment of that time.

Now a single person with $500 can duplicate most of those functions with a single laptop computer.  So the remaining function of the office is to be that place that clients know to find you… and that kids and the other distractions of home can’t.

Going forward the workplace will need the same sort of flexibility that I described for education. Groups for one project will form and then disband and then reform with new members for the next project. What will that workplace look like? Probably closer to Starbucks than Bob Par’s cubicle.

What Doesn’t Become a Coffee Shop?

I’d say the last holdout will be houses of worship, except that the church I grew up in now has a coffee shop. They buy Land of a Thousand Hills coffee to aid war ravished Rwanda, and the profits go to missions. Just as important, I suspect, is their desire to be a community hub: a place where people – most especially those who don’t normally go to church – are comfortable.

"The Well" at my home church.

What will remain other than coffee shops? Upscale retail will remain – people paying as much for the experience as for the goods purchased. Restaurants remain. Grocery stores remain.

Brick and mortar retail stores will be converted to public spaces. Multi-use space will be in increasing demand as connectivity tools allow easy coordination of impromptu events. Some large retail stores will be converted to industrial 3D printer factories. These heavy-duty fab labs will fabricate products that are too big or complicated to fabricate at home.
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline Thucydides

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Re: The education bubble
« Reply #15 on: January 06, 2012, 00:14:33 »
And perhaps the best reason to support the Khan academy:

Social justice and diversity key subjects for new UBC program
Changes will better prepare teachers for work in classrooms: dean

Social justice, diversity and aboriginal perspectives will be dominant themes in all courses offered by the University of B.C. education faculty starting next fall as a result of a program overhaul that’s been in the works for several years.

The subjects won’t be taught as separate courses but will be infused throughout the curriculum, Associate Dean Rita Irwin said in an interview this week. “The program will have a very different look and feel,” she noted.

There will also be greater emphasis on research and inquiry, along with a requirement for student teachers to complete an alternative practicum in a non-school setting — such as a community centre, a museum, or even a senior-citizens’ home. That’s intended to open students’ eyes to a variety of work opportunities beyond the often-tight job market for generalist teachers in Metro schools.

“It will help our graduates understand what they can do with their Bachelor of Education degree,” Irwin explained.

The exceptional emphasis on diversity will better prepare teachers for work in classrooms that include students with special needs and behavioural challenges. A special focus on aboriginal perspectives will help teachers encourage success among aboriginal students while also teaching all children to appreciate aboriginal culture, Irwin said.

While these studies are not new at UBC, they will no longer be confined to a separate course with lessons to be learned and set aside. Rather, they will be embedded throughout the program, which represents a change for both students and faculty, she added.

Across town at Simon Fraser University, the education faculty has already moved in that direction. Dean Kris Magnusson said the same three themes have been an integral part of SFU’s education program for several years, through direct instruction and workshops designed to challenge students’ thinking.

The result is more than just a theoretical understanding of the issues, he said. Such training helps students to not only recognize intolerance, for example, but also to understand what professional action they must take in response.

Other changes at UBC are intended to help graduates teach English as an additional language and French in elementary schools, although that doesn’t include lessons to improve the French vocabulary of beginner teachers.

Asked what new students are likely to find most surprising upon entering the education faculty, Irwin said it is the ever-growing emphasis on professionalism and the message that once they become teachers, their actions — and their relationships with students in particular — will be under constant review.

“That’s an eye-opener for many of them,” Irwin said.

Last year, approximately 2,700 new teachers were certified in B.C. but only 1,500 new teaching positions were available, the university says. Nevertheless, Irwin says, there are still plenty of opportunities for graduates, including jobs teaching abroad.

jsteffenhagen@vancouversun.comRead more education news at

Based on the commentary, this isn't being viewed as a positive thing by the readers...
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline Thucydides

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Re: The education bubble
« Reply #16 on: January 09, 2012, 20:41:06 »
An interesting concept. One thing which needs to be addressed right now is how the Military is going to deal with this. In a very few years, people will be showing up at recruiting centers with on line courses and "badges" or other indicators of education (but not acreditation from traditional colleges or universities). Private sector employers are free to accept or decline these indicators of skill as they choose.

'Badges' Earned Online Pose Challenge to Traditional College Diplomas

By Jeffrey R. Young

The spread of a seemingly playful alternative to traditional diplomas, inspired by Boy Scout achievement patches and video-game power-ups, suggests that the standard certification system no longer works in today's fast-changing job market.

Educational upstarts across the Web are adopting systems of "badges" to certify skills and abilities. If scouting focuses on outdoorsy skills like tying knots, these badges denote areas employers might look for, like mentorship or digital video editing. Many of the new digital badges are easy to attain—intentionally so—to keep students motivated, while others signal mastery of fine-grained skills that are not formally recognized in a traditional classroom.

At the free online-education provider Khan Academy, for instance, students get a "Great Listener" badge for watching 30 minutes of videos from its collection of thousands of short educational clips. With enough of those badges, paired with badges earned for passing standardized tests administered on the site, users can earn the distinction of "Master of Algebra" or other "Challenge Patches."

Traditional colleges and universities are considering badges and other alternative credentials as well. In December the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced that it will create MITx, a self-service learning system in which students can take online tests and earn certificates after watching the free lecture materials the university has long posted as part of its OpenCourseWare project.

MIT also has an arrangement with a company called OpenStudy, which runs online study groups, to give online badges to students who give consistently useful answers in discussion forums set up around the university's free course materials.

But the biggest push for badges is coming from industry and education reformers, rather than from traditional educational institutions. Mozilla, the group that develops the popular Firefox Web browser, is designing a framework to let anyone with a Web page—colleges, companies, or even individuals—issue education badges designed to prevent forgeries and give potential employers details about the distinctions at the click of a mouse. Hundreds of educational institutions, traditional and nontraditional, have flocked to a $2-million grant program run in coordination with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, seeking financial support to experiment with the educational-badge platform.

Catherine Lacey is a Level 40 Hero on OpenStudy, a Web site where the U. of Western Australia student spends up to 30 hours a week helping other students with their biology homework.

Employers might prefer a world of badges to the current system. After all, traditional college diplomas look elegant when hung on the wall, but they contain very little detail about what the recipient learned. Students using Mozilla's proposed badge system might display dozens or even hundreds of merit badges on their online résumés detailing what they studied. And students could start showing off the badges as they earn them, rather than waiting four years to earn a diploma.

"We have to question the tyranny of the degree," says David Wiley, an associate professor of instructional psychology and technology at Brigham Young University. Mr. Wiley is an outspoken advocate of so-called open education, and he imagines a future where screenfuls of badges from free or low-cost institutions, perhaps mixed with a course or two from a traditional college, replace the need for setting foot on a campus. "As soon as big employers everywhere start accepting these new credentials, either singly or in bundles, the gig is up completely."

The idea is already well established in some computer-programming jobs, with Microsoft and other companies developing certification programs to let employees show they have mastered certain computer systems.

Some observers see a darker side, though, charging that badges turn all learning into a commodity, and thus cheapen the difficult challenge of mastering something new. Rather than dive into an assignment out of curiosity, many students might focus on an endless pursuit of badges, argues Alex Reid, an associate professor of English at the University at Buffalo. "The presence of a badge could actually be a detriment to an otherwise genuine learning experience," he wrote on his blog earlier this year.

But in an interview, he agreed that in today's tough job market, people are searching for alternatives that better reflect the range of their qualifications.

What is the best way to certify higher learning? And who gets to decide?

The Lure of the Badge

When it comes to biology, Catherine Lacey is a Level 40 Hero. That's her ranking on OpenStudy, where the University of Western Australia student spends up to 30 hours per week answering homework questions posed by students around the world. The level indicates time spent on the site, and Hero is the hardest-to-attain badge. If you think of helping with homework as a game, she's got the high score.

The 20-year-old first stumbled upon the OpenStudy site while surfing the Web. She was hooked after an answer she tossed out yielded an online medal signaling that her knowledge had served as a lifeline to a struggling student. "I said, Wow, people think I'm smart," she recalls. As she spent more time on the site, "achievements start popping up," she says. Now her online persona on OpenStudy, TranceNova, has racked up a page of merit badges, including one for helping people with MIT open biology courses.

She receives no pay for all the time she logs on the site. A paycheck would be "an honor" but would make the experience feel like toil, she told me. "I don't see it as a labor, I see it as no different than going out to the movies with friends." Going out with friends is one thing she doesn't do much (calling herself "not that social"), so for Ms. Lacey the site is an important outlet.

So far that Hero badge isn't listed on the student's résumé, but she might add it if she ever applies for a teaching job. "It's a measure of how much time and effort I've put into this and what other people think of me."

That's just what OpenStudy's designers hoped for. One of them, Preetha Ram, argues that "massively multiplayer" online games like World of Warcraft do a better job exciting players about learning complicated controls and fictional missions than professors do motivating students in the classroom. "We've been called a massively multiplayer study group," she says with apparent pride at the comparison. Ms. Ram is no gamer herself, though—she has spent her career in academe, and she is on leave from her job as associate dean for pre-health and science education at Emory University.

She wanted to take her ideas about peer-to-peer learning beyond her own classroom in Atlanta, so she helped start the company, which now has offices in Georgia and in Palo Alto and backing from the National Science Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the venture-capital firm Learn Capital.

Far from replacing university degrees, her goal is to fill a gap by recognizing soft skills that traditional grades and diplomas often miss. Students who help out other students in face-to-face study groups have no way to show the effort they invested there, she contends. "We all know that teaching someone is the best way to deepen your understanding of the concept," she argues. And she says that crafting a clear answer to explain tough material to a peer is a the kind of soft skill that employers say they increasingly value.

Winning recognition for underappreciated educational activities drives many of the college officials who are experimenting with badges.

The University of Southern California's service-learning division, for example, is among the first-round winners of the MacArthur grant to try the new badge platform. Called the Joint Educational Project, the USC program works with professors to run community-service projects that grant students extra credit for volunteer work.

"The service-learning community has struggled with how to identify and recognize the outcomes that students learn, like civic knowledge and diversity," explains Susan Harris, an associate director of the project.

One of its proposed badges would recognize "Mentorship." Ms. Harris hopes such a badge would carry more cachet than simply listing volunteer work on a résumé.

Credential Overload?

Throwing open educational certification and multiplying the number of skills recognized could lead to résumé overload, though.

A world of badges would also create extra work for both job applicants trying to organize and present their badges and to employers trying to judge their actual worth. All badges could seem more flash than substance, like the "flair" worn by the waitress in the movie Office Space.

One thing badge proponents I talked with seemed surprisingly blasé about was the possibility of falsely claimed skills and certificates.

"Seventy-five percent of most résumés already have at least one very stretched truth," says Sheryl Grant, who helps run the MacArthur grant competition, through her work with Hastac, or the Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory. "People say, 'You could just make up a badge or give yourself a grade.' Yeah, but if you got caught for that you're taking a chance just like anything else." And technical systems would ensure that students earned the digital badges they claim.

Accreditors say they haven't looked into the issue seriously—at least not yet.

"The idea of badges hasn't risen to our radar as a concept, but I think we can't ignore it," says Belle S. Wheelan, president of the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. "The whole idea of learning beyond high school has changed," she adds. "College used to indicate that not only did you have a skill set in a particular area, but that you gained a body of knowledge that made you a well-rounded person. People don't care about being well-rounded anymore, they just want to get a job."

Fundamentally, badges are all about perception, so it's difficult to predict whether the key players—employers and job applicants—will click the like button on the concept.

"The biggest hurdle is the one I had, which is prejudice," says Cathy Davidson, a professor of interdisciplinary studies at Duke University and author of Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn. She says she initially viewed educational badges as frivolous, but is now a leading proponent as a co-founder of Hastac.

"People seem to think they know what school is and they know what work is," she says. "We live in a world where anyone can learn anything, anytime, anywhere, but we haven't remotely reorganized our workplace or school for this age."

Some STEM subjects would benefit from lab work and group projects which arn't available at home (Mom, can I borrow the wind tunnel?), but what other subjects could be done on line? (This also begs the question about how well the course design and marking is done on line. My experience with the DL portion of the PLQ course isn't promising).
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline Thucydides

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Re: The education bubble
« Reply #17 on: January 13, 2012, 19:10:48 »
While the tragedy of "Head Start" probably isn't going to end, there is a question here about what could effectively replace it? Self learning programs like the Khan Academy are great for self motivated people, but for people who do not come from a background or environment that supports learning, what is going to be done?

In the short term , the Khan Academy model provides an escape valve for the motivated, and reduces costs and pressure throughout the system, so should be supported on those grounds alone. Branching out and providing/allowing vouchers for things like Montessori, Charter schools and other alternatives will provide even more outlets and escape valves. How to change the home environments for children who's families don't value/support learning is beyond me, and there is probably no government program that can change that short of forcibly removing the children from those sorts of home environments (but then again, who is going to determine how "supportive" the home environment is?)

Head Start A 50 Year Flop? Say It Ain’t So, Joe

“Head Start” has been the poster child of federal aid to education ever since the Lyndon Johnson administration introduced it as part of the Great Society. And for decades liberals have pointed to it as one of the great advances that the federal government has brought to education, and as evidence that creative social engineering by smart professional interventionists can change the world.

But a long-suppressed government report finally released by the Obama administration report is shaking the foundations of Head Start, and the news isn’t coming from right wing conservatives but from Joe Klein at Time magazine. As Klein reports,

    We spend more than $7 billion providing Head Start to nearly 1 million children each year. And finally there is indisputable evidence about the program’s effectiveness, provided by the Department of Health and Human Services: Head Start simply does not work.

These days, defenders of Head Start say less about what it does for kids (essentially nothing) but about the jobs it creates in poor neighborhoods.  This is blue liberal thinking at its most self-parodic: we can’t develop social programs that will accomplish something worthwhile, but we can at least use the illusion that such programs work to create jobs for people who will then vote for the politicians who give them make work jobs.

True enough, as far as it goes, but it would just be cheaper to send them all checks. While it might be utopian to hope that a huge government boondoggle would shut down just because it’s been proven useless, even federal bureaucrats seem disturbed by the thought that limited antipoverty resources are being spent on a known flop. The L.A. Times has the story:

    The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the Head Start program, enacted reforms in December to address concerns about quality and accountability, among other things. They include a provision that, for the first time, requires low-performing agencies to compete for funding. Previously, funding for grantees was automatic.

It’s a start.  The bigger story, though, is that the fundamental assumptions behind decades of government policy in education are coming unglued. The tools we’ve been using to address some of our most serious social problems don’t work. The money we’ve spent has been wasted.

It isn’t the just the Tea Party and Ayn Rand acolytes saying these things. It’s President Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services. It’s Time magazine.

A paradigm is falling apart.
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline Thucydides

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Re: The education bubble
« Reply #18 on: January 19, 2012, 20:48:04 »
A very long article here on the higher education bubble. I have noted that there will be some direct fallout for the Canadian Forces as the education model changes; how do we decide what is an acceotable form of self or self directed education? How do we decide if the education being claimed is relevant or rigerous? Do we continue to support "Brick and Mortar" institutions because we look for intangables like socialization, or perhaps because "Brick and Mortar" institutions provide a better venue for the STEM disciplines?

The other implications are that:

1. Traditional Brick and Mortar degrees get discounted. Is there going to be some sort of transition policy, or will people with "old" degree education be Grandfathered, or perhaps there will be a demand for holders of these degrees to go online and upgrade? (This will be an issue everywhere, not hust the CF)

2. As Brick and Mortar institutions involuntarily downsize we will be stuck with a flood of essentially unemployable people being forced out of the cloisters and into the productive economy, with all the social issues and ills that will cause. (We might accept such people as non comissioned members, in the event they choose to enlist, but the bigger effect will be outside the CF as these people create social and economic turmoil)
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline Thucydides

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Re: The education bubble
« Reply #19 on: January 25, 2012, 08:53:13 »
More on alternative certification:

Beware: Alternative Certification Is Coming
January 23, 2012, 4:42 pm

By Richard Vedder

The announcement of agreements between Burck Smith’s StraighterLine and the Education Testing Service (ETS) and the Council on Aid to Education (CAE) to provide competency test materials to students online is potentially very important, along with several other recent developments. A little economics explains why this is so.

In the first week of beginning economics courses, professors usually make this fundamental point: If the price of something rises a lot, people look for substitutes. Resources (dollars) are scarce, and individuals want to make the best use of them. They “maximize their utility” by shifting away from high-priced good or service A to lower-priced good B.

With regards to colleges, consumers typically have believed that there are no good substitutes–the only way a person can certify to potential employers that she/he is pretty bright, well educated, good at communicating, disciplined, etc., is by presenting a bachelor’s degree diploma. College graduates typically have these positive attributes more than others, so degrees serve as an important signaling device to employers, lowering the costs of learning about the traits of the applicant. Because of the lack of good substitutes, colleges face little outside competition and can raise prices more, given their quasi-monopoly status.

As college costs rise, however, people are asking: Aren’t there cheaper ways of certifying competence and skills to employers? Employers like the current system, because the huge (often over $100,000) cost of demonstrating competency is borne by the student, not by them. Employers seemingly have little incentive to look for alternative certification. That is why reformers like me cannot get employer organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to take alternative certification seriously. But if companies can find good employees with high-school diplomas who have demonstrated necessary skills and competency via some cheaper (to society) means, they might be able to hire workers more cheaply than before–paying wages that are high by high-school-graduate standards, but low relative to college-graduate norms. Employers can capture the huge savings of reduced certification costs. And students avoid huge debt, get four years more time in the labor force, and do not face the risks of not getting through college. Since millions of college grads have jobs which really do not use skills developed in college anyhow, alternative certification is more attractive than ever.

Back to StraighterLine, a company that has brought relatively high-quality college-level courses to undergraduates online at very modest costs. Through StraighterLine, a student spending a thousand bucks or so a year could get a large hunk, if not all, of a year of college-level learning if he or she applied herself. The biggest problem, as Burck told me, is that accreditation agencies refuse to accredit courses (they only accredit degrees), even though, arguably, a degree is simply a collection of courses. But the college-dominated accrediting agencies, seem to not want new forms of competition for existing schools.

Enter ETS and CAE. ETS has operated the famed SAT test for the College Board and owns and operates many other iconic tests, such as the TOEFL, GRE, and Praxis. Through affiliated organizations, it is big into employee testing. Via StraighterLine, students, for a modest fee, will be able to take the iSkills test that “measures the ability of a student to navigate and critically evaluate information from digital technology.” CAE is a powerhouse organization, with a board laden with leaders from the college world (e.g, Benno Schmidt, former Yale president; Charlie Reed, chancellor of the Cal State University System; Michael Crow, president of Arizona State; Sara Martinez Tucker, former Under Secretary of Education). The CLA assesses critical learning and writing skills through use of cognitively challenging problems. It is the test used by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa to support the research in Academically Adrift, my favorite recent higher-education book. Hundreds of universities use the test.

Students can tell employers, “I did very well on the CLA and iSkills test, strong predictors of future positive work performance,” and, implicitly “you can hire me for less than you pay college graduates who score less well on these tests.”

There are other promising approaches. The Saylor Foundation, Khan Academy, the Learning Company, and others have developed low- or no-cost high-quality course materials. MIT, Stanford, and others have open sourced much learning material and MIT is planning to offer some form of certificate–a huge step. If costs are kept low, students can avoid borrowing money, and thereby sidestep the stranglehold imposed by the Accreditation Cartel. Some highly regarded nonprofit entity (the equivalent of Underwriters Laboratories) could certify that a given student “has achieved the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree.” In short, we can create an equivalent instrument to the GED test equating to high-school diplomas.

All of this should appeal to affluent visionaries like Peter Thiel and Michael Saylor who share the concerns about the rising costs of traditional higher education. This is not for everyone, of course. Many have the resources to go to expensive residential colleges, which is as much a consumption as academic/investment experience. But necessity imposed by extraordinary high costs is the mother of innovations–and they are coming.
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline Thucydides

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Re: The education bubble
« Reply #20 on: January 28, 2012, 18:51:51 »
Using the school system for indoctrination rather than education has always been a pet peeve of mine (I spend an awful lot of time deprogramming the kids when they get home; remind me to tell you how I trew the science teacher for a loop when I helped my daughter point out ways to reduce human CO2 output....).

The long term efect is probably going to be to put parent's backs up and give them incentives to seek alternatives to publicly funded schools which push this nonsense. Home schooling, charter schools and provate schools will benefit, and the next ripple efect will be lots of parents wondering why they are funding public schools when they are teaching their children on their own or their own dime...

Alternative classrooms may not be as inclusive as they claim to be
Kathryn Blaze Carlson  Jan 27, 2012 – 10:47 PM ET | Last Updated: Jan 27, 2012 10:57 PM ET

Rachel Adelman’s Israeli son never clicked with the traditional education system, so when the family moved to Canada, she was drawn to an alternative public school that promised an intimate setting where students could express themselves freely; a school “based on the principles of participatory democracy and social equity,” as the school advertised itself.

She learned soon enough, though, that those promises of open-mindedness and equality “sounded nice,” but that the reality in the hallways would nearly cost her son his sense of self.

Eitan, then 17 years old and described by his mother as shy, came home from his first day at Toronto’s Student School in a “state of dismay,” his mother said.

“He said, ‘Ima [Hebrew for mother], the walls of the school are plastered with posters saying Israel: Apartheid State,’ ” said Professor Adelman, who now teaches at the Harvard Divinity School, referring to flyers mounted by a pro-Palestinian student club.

At the first all-school assembly, the students were shown Occupation 101, a controversial film that has been accused of portraying Israel as equivalent to Apartheid-era South Africa. Prof. Adelman said the school’s administrator defended the showing, saying the school had a policy of allowing students to voice their ideological bents. Two months later, Eitan switched schools.

But The Student School is just one of several Canadian schools that have moved “social justice” education onto the timetable. In launching nine alternative academies last week, one of this country’s boldest education directors touted “social justice” education as a way for children to gain social status and self-esteem. Proponents also say the approach teaches tolerance and respect for diversity — that it grooms socially conscious students prepared to fight against injustices they see in their communities.

‘What social justice really means is trying to create some sort of egalitarian system. That’s a political standpoint — it’s basically socialist’
— Frank Furedi

Unlike lessons about long division or photosynthesis, however, there are competing versions of what “social justice” actually looks like — and about which vision of it should end up on school curricula. That has left some parents and education advocates increasingly uncomfortable with the trend of trying to teach a subject that, virtually by definition, aims to challenge dominant cultural values. It can often, then, end up crossing into the kind of ethical and ideological instruction that has traditionally belonged at home.

“I worry about confusing the idea of teaching children about a just society with teaching a political viewpoint,” said Annie Kidder, executive director of People for Education, a parents’ advocacy group focusing on the public school system.

Yet school officials have not exactly shied away from putting a distinctly progressive stamp on their social justice programming. In one of its teaching guides, the B.C. Department of Education says social justice “extends beyond the protection of rights” and aims for a “just and equitable society.” Teaching equality in society, it explains, includes teaching ways we can all “attain the same achievements.”

In its 2010 Social Justice Action Plan, the Toronto District School Board defines social justice as a “specific habit of justice that is based on the concepts of human rights, equity, fairness and economic egalitarianism.” One prominent education magazine in the U.S., meantime, characterized social justice education as “teaching kids to question whoever happens to hold the reins of power at a particular moment.”

But certain education experts also question whether grade schools are even prepared to confront the challenges inevitably associated with social justice education. In New Brunswick, one Grade 4 teacher drew ire for trying to impart moral values by asking students to decide in 10 minutes or less who they would save if the Earth were about to explode — an Acadian francophone, a Chinese person, a black African, an English person or an aboriginal. The director of the district’s school board said at the time he believed the teacher aimed to send a message on racial tolerance.

In Ontario, one school sent Grade 1 students home with day-planners that highlighted an “International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People” and “International Day of Zero-Tolerance on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting.” A school board superintendent said the aim was to “promote conversation between our students” but admitted it should have happened in a more “sensitive and age-appropriate manner.”

Last year, another Ontario school sent Grade 7 students to a protest hosted by the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, a notoriously confrontational activist group that advocates militantly for economic equality. Several years ago, the head of the coalition was arrested after a bloody protest at the provincial legislature, where demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails and bricks at police and demanded more action on social housing.

In Quebec, one eco-friendly elementary school excluded a six-year-old boy from a teddy-bear contest because his lunch box contained a plastic bag rather than a reusable container.

“That’s an illegitimate use of the school’s authority,” said British sociologist Frank Furedi. “It’s not up to the schools to determine the behaviour and values of the family. A child’s education should not be confused with politicization, nor is it about internalizing the values of their teachers.”

The debate over the boundaries of a public school education is not new, with policy-makers and parents holding myriad views on how far teachers should tread into the realm of character education, ethics, justice and civic engagement. But it flares up particularly, and most vividly, whenever a particular parent accuses a particular teacher of directly contradicting the values the family teaches at home.

“We’re almost trying to do too many things at school,” said Doretta Wilson, executive director of the Society for Quality Education, a Waterloo, Ont.-based non-profit working to improve education in Canada. “School becomes the social manipulator rather than the place that says, ‘Let’s make sure kids learn the fundamentals when they’re in primary school so they can go on to learn and think for themselves.’ Sometimes schools force-feed a perspective. As a parent, it feels like that sometimes.”

However, Charles Ungerleider, a sociology professor at the University of British Columbia and former B.C. deputy minister of education, thinks it’s important that schools get into teaching ethics and values because that is “one of the strengths of schooling in a democratic society.”

“Parents are the primary educators of their kids and the primary communicators of values,” he said. “But the reason that we send children to public school is, in fact, to develop and inculcate the values we all share and to overcome any limitations a parent may have in exposing kids to alternative points of view.”

But while the idea of human rights may be a prevailing Canadian value, there is a gulf of difference between how some of us interpret it: whether or not the Israelis are denying Palestinians their human rights; whether or not Ottawa is denying First Nations theirs. Equality sounds inoffensive enough, until it raises more divisive questions about affirmative action or if it starts meaning equality of outcomes, instead of just equal opportunities.

“What social justice really means is trying to create some sort of egalitarian system,” Mr. Furedi said. “That’s a political standpoint — it’s basically socialist. If you want to sign up for it then that’s fine, but it’s not something that children should automatically be exposed to. Their parents never asked that their children be indoctrinated with that kind of ideology.”

What The Student School saw as “diversity” — tolerating even views hostile to Zionism — Ms. Adelman said seemed more like anti-Semitism.

“I was upset that the principal didn’t see that [the portrayal of the Arab-Israeli conflict] needs to be more balanced, and that he and the school had clearly taken a side on the issue,” she said of the principal, who was eventually investigated by the school board and is no longer listed as staff on the school’s website.

Ms. Kidder said teachers hold personal views just like anyone else, making it inevitable that their own biases will influence their lessons. “Maybe not when you’re teaching two plus two equals four,” she said. “But nearly everything after that may have some kind of value-based context or spin.”

Danielle McLaughlin, a director at the Canadian Liberties Association and Education Trust, a non-profit research and educational organization, said sinister headline-grabbing stories on social justice gone awry have actually had a “chilling effect” on some teachers who fear angering parents. She said many Ontario teachers are surprised to learn, too, that the province’s Education Act explicitly says it is a teacher’s duty to instill in children a respect for “the principles of Judeo-Christian morality and the highest regard for truth, justice, loyalty, love of country, humanity, benevolence, sobriety, industry, frugality, purity, temperance and all other virtues.”

While Catholic schools have long taught their version of social justice in the classroom — service to others, for example — public schools across the country have launched courses such as Social Justice 12, which was introduced as an elective in B.C. in 2008 and broached issues of homophobia and gender identity. When 90 students signed up for the class at W. J. Mouat Secondary school in Abbotsford, it was cancelled three weeks before it was to begin, reportedly over complaints from parents in the conservative community. A year later, it was brought back with the condition that students needed parental consent to attend.

Last week, a Prince Edward Island public school district was the subject of controversy for handing out Bibles to Grade 5 students unless their parents opt out of the practice. One father told the local CBC that he should be held responsible for his child’s belief system, not the school.

“There are certain values we all respect — the sort of Golden Rule ‘do unto others’ type thing,” Ms. Wilson said. “But ultimately, I believe parents should have the decision-making power over what values their children learn.”

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Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline Thucydides

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Re: The education bubble
« Reply #21 on: February 14, 2012, 15:40:52 »
More on the pros and cons of the post campus educational system:

Envisioning a Post-Campus America
By Megan McArdle

MIT is going to offer certificates for completion of low-cost online coursework, an offering the university is calling MITx.  Stephen Gordon ponders the implications:

Now, imagine a personnel manager at a mid-sized corporation who's looking for an employee with some particular knowledge. There are two candidates: one with an appropriate college degree from the local state school, a second with relevant MITx certificates. Let's say all other things between the candidates are equal. Which should the manager choose?

Given the caliber of professor at MIT, the online student may have learned just as much. The candidate who went to college probably enjoyed his experience more, but the potential employer is unlikely to care about that. Finally, there's the financial reality: To some extent, the student debt of the job candidate dictates his salary requirements. If the MITx candidate has the knowledge required and far less student debt, he probably can be hired more cheaply. Ultimately, the cheaper option will win.
I've seen a fair amount of speculation along these lines.  I'm probably more skeptical than most of the boosters, however.  When I was in business school, I saw opportunities for disruptive innovation everywhere--in autos, in groceries, in education.  Since then, I've watched a lot of disruptive innovations get killed or co-opted by incumbents, or undermined by features of the market that weren't immediately obvious to an outside observer.  (Why can't we just order perfectly customized cars online the way we do computers?  Because dealers have a lot of political pull at the state and federal levels, and because the economics of auto plants make it hard to shut down or start up lines in order to follow demand.)

I can see all sorts of factors that might combine to preserve the status quo, from signaling and status and networking, to the desire of college students for a four-year debt-financed semi-vacation.  On the other hand, disruption never looks inevitable until it suddenly is--if you'd told someone in 1955 that GM was going to have its lunch eaten by some Japanese upstart, they would have laughed until the tears came.  So it's interesting and maybe even useful to contemplate what the college system would look like if this sort of distance learning becomes the norm.

1.  Education will end up being dominated by a few huge incumbents.  As we see with Facebook and Twitter and, well, almost everything, the internet offers huge returns to scale, and substantial network effects.  There's a big benefit to having learned stuff the same way as the people around you--not least, that they understand what a given certificate means.  To offer a small example, during my time at the University of Chicago's business school, every class was curved to a 3.25.  Most other business schools don't curve, and as a result, Northwestern, our nearest competitor, had an average GPA of something like 3.8. 

Someone at Chicago who had a 3.4 GPA was slightly better than average.  Someone at Northwestern who had a 3.4 average was kind of a screwup.  This didn't matter unless your interviewer had gone to a different school--but if they had, you were apt to find yourself explaining that no, really, that 3.5 wasn't as bad as it looked.  Which sounded like whining, even to us.

I would expect that economies of scale and network effects would compress the number of schools to a few--or at least, a few within each specialty.  The winners might be the early-moving incumbents like MIT and Stanford, or they might be some dark horse who takes advantage of the disruption to rearrange the current status hierarchy.  But either way, I'd expect to see a few schools dominating, while many go out of business.

2.  Online education will kill the liberal arts degree.  Let's not have the same dismal discussion of whether liberal arts degrees are awesome or useless.  The important aspect for this discussion is that what they teach is hard to test efficiently.  There's enormous variation in grading of, say, English papers, and even if it were easier to standardize, that grading requires hours of expensive labor.

3.  Professors (course developers) will be selected for teaching instead of research brilliance. The brilliant theorist who drones his way through two courses a year while his students fantasize about stabbing themselves in the eardrum with a plastic fork so they can't hear the boring anymore . . . that chap will have no place in the online future.

4.  95% of tenure-track professors will lose their jobs.  Or perhaps I should say, 95% of tenure-track jobs will be eliminated; I have no idea if things could change fast enough to knock current professors out of work.  But if online education really becomes ubiquitous, very few professors will be needed to produce all the education.  Oh, don't get me wrong--at the school level, the workforce will still be enormous.  Probably bigger than it is now, for the schools that win.  But that will be offset by all the schools that close.

5.  The corollary of #4 is the end of universities as research centers.  As I've noted before, tenured academics has worked a great scam.  They've managed to monetize peoples' affection for regional football teams, and their desire for a work credential, and then somehow diverted that money into paying academics to work on whatever they want, for the rest of their lives, without any oversight by the football fans or the employers.  While I'm sensitive to the complaints of conservative critics, I think that by and large, it's a very good thing.  But it's not a viable business model in cyberspace.

We might see much of academia revert to an amateur past-time, as it was in the 18th and even the 19th century.  Work with policy implications would likely move to think tanks or consultancies; and I assume that a lot of basic science would continue to be funded by the government, perhaps renting out the labs of defunct universities.  On the other hand, I'd assume that folks like English professors will have a very difficult time getting funded to do much of anything.  And before the English professors attack, this is not a commentary on your value to society, just my personal assessment of where the bulk of the funding dollars seem to be.

To get funding in the e-future, research will have to be relevant.  More specifically, it will have to strike someone with a lot of money at their disposal as relevant.

6.  Young job-seekers will need new ways to signal diligence.  I'd expect to see a lot of free labor in the early years, something like what aspiring writers and visual artists already do with their blogs.  There will be more freelancing, more try-out employment, and more unpaid internships.

7.  The economics of graduate school will change substantially.  I'm not sure what would happen to the master's and professional degrees--would there be a market for intense, focused instruction in small class groups?  Medical school yes, law school probably, social work . . . um, as long as the government requires it, I guess.

But the PhD would be radically upended.  Right now, graduate students get miserly stipends in exchange for considerably easing the teaching and research loads of their professors.  But in an online model, we won't need so many teachers.  And the online schools will not necessarily be research centers any more.

The implication is that most students, especially outside of STEM, will have to pay for their PhDs.  Which should, at the very least, take care of the oversupply problem.

8.  Civil society will have to substitute for the intense friend networks that are built at college.  I'm not sure what form this would take--college-age students joining the Elks?--but something will have to substitute.   Or perhaps people won't separate from their high school friends as much as they do now.

9.  The role of schooling in upward mobility will change.  This is kind of a cop-out, because I'm not sure which way the change runs.  I can tell a story where eUniversities make it radically easier for smart, poor kids to advance in their spare time.  I can also tell a story where education is very complementary to the kind of personal networks and social capital that middle-class kids can tap through their parents.  For poor kids who can get there (and stay there), college provides a lot of education on how to socialize with other college students, and of course, expert professionals who can help you find a job if you ask for help.

10.  The young will have a much lower financial burden in their 20s.  That's hopefully going to translate into more investment, and more risk-taking, which is great for everyone.

11.  The tutoring industry will boom.  While tenured professorships will go away, there will be lots of opportunity for those who can help an online student pull through a rough spot. (At least until computers learn to do this too).

12.  If the credentials become valuable, cheating will be a problem.  I'd expect online test-taking to eventually shift to test centers like the ones where the GMAT and various professional licensing exams are administered now.

Overall, I think it's very clear that people will have more opportunity to access education, but much less clear how that education will translate into opportunity, particularly for those who weren't born to successful, educated parents.  And except for a few superstars, I think the shift would be unequivocally bad for tenured professors.  The corollary, however, is that it would be unequivocally good for the legions who are lured into grad school by the chimera of a tenured professorship.

Would it be good for society as a whole?  I tend to think that it almost always is when things get cheaper.  But we will have to rethink how we fund important research, and quite possibly, about what the engines of mobility will be for strivers who start out in the bottom quintiles.
This article available online at:

For the CF, an overhaul of the DP learning will have to be done so it is more rigerous (People attending PLQ Mod 1-3 not knowing MofI staples like ICEPAC? Really?), and the job of the Section Commander and 2I/C in garrison might evolve into hands on instruction and mentoring on a much greater scale than today (see the section on the explosion of personal tutoring).  Bricks and mortar will still be important for the skilled trades (how will mechanics learn to fix a LAV without tools and a workshop), so garrison living will be like an extended stay at a vocational institution (i.e. trade school).

OTOH, this might work well in our favour since it will be much easier to pick out motivated people and quick learners, a large portion of PER's can be generated from on line class data (classes attended, marks, number of attempts at particular items etc.). Lots of things to think of, and I only hope *we* are not blind sided by this as an institution.
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline Thucydides

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Re: The education bubble
« Reply #22 on: February 23, 2012, 21:16:32 »
From the National Post. Canadian grads without any useful skills but carrying big debt loads will be a big drag on Canadian society for decades to come (and this at a time we have a shortage of skiled workers and tradesmen, and need to lift our national productivity greatly to generate the wealth to cover a trillion dolars of debt and unfunded liabilities):

Matt Gurney: University students borrowing their way into unemployment
Matt Gurney  Feb 22, 2012 – 2:44 PM ET | Last Updated: Feb 22, 2012 5:10 PM ET

According to a recent survey of what jobs are in demand, and what students are studying in university, many, if not most, of today’s university students are spending good money — probably borrowed money at that — to get themselves a university degree that will prove essentially useless to them the instant they graduate. As Ontario’s manufacturing sector has evaporated, the economy has become such that new graduates have basically three options — a highly skilled professional career (including, perhaps, learning a trade), a low-paid job in the service industry or working for the government. And if you haven’t been paying attention, that last option isn’t looking so hot these days. So what is the smart kid, in their late teen or early 20s, to do? Sadly for them … not what they are doing.

A report by the Toronto Region Research Alliance finds that many students in Canadian universities go into their post-secondary education with hopes of a career in medicine or business. But in the Toronto region, there are only limited spots available for those jobs — and way too many graduates coming out every year, looking for work. For example, the report estimates that in 2012, there will be 6,531 new jobs available for graduates with business and commerce degrees, to be fought over by almost 16,000 graduates. It’s even more lopsided for medicine — barely 3,000 new jobs are forecasted for the current year. Almost 11,000 students will graduate with relevant degrees. Graduates from teacher’s colleges are also having a hell of a hard time finding any open positions. And keep in mind, estimates for the average level of education debt held by Canadian students upon graduation hover around $27,000 each.

Meanwhile, Toronto will need almost 10,000 IT specialists this year. Less than 4,00 will graduate.

Given how slowly the economy is growing, and the pressure being felt by health-care budgets, these medicine and business grads are unlikely to be snapped up any time soon. So if we can’t address the demand issue, why not go after supply? A great place to start would be giving every student who goes into university, or post-secondary education, a mandatory reality check. Instead of Frosh Week, we can call it Future Debt-Ridden Unemployment Week.

Mandatory classes, say in the final year of high school, about student debt, the costs of an education and how long it takes to pay off those debts, given reasonable compensation in their preferred field, would be a great place to start. This would let students make informed decisions about the value of an education — not the fluffy emotional value of making new friends and discovering the joys of binge drinking, but the literal value — how much financial return they can reasonably expect to make on their investment of tens of thousands of dollars.

Employment figures like the ones in the Toronto Region Research Alliance report are a good place to start such a conversation, but then there’s also what the B.C. Securities Commission found last year. Their report showed that Canadian students entering into post-secondary education have wildly unrealistic expectations of what their short-term income potential will be. The average estimate made by these students as to how much they’ll be making within 10 years, when they’re in their late twenties, was $90,000. The actual median income figure for that age group is barely a third of that — $31,648 per annum.

During the Occupy Toronto movement, I met with a lot of young adults, who did not meet the typical stereotype of the left-leaning protester. Many told stories of having always followed the best advice of people they trusted — parents, teachers, guidance counsellors — only to find themselves overeducated, underexperienced, with no job prospects and mounting bills. They felt betrayed, and that was driving their anger. In that, they had a point. And just last week I spoke to a group of university students who will soon be graduating. They are realizing now that their arts degrees might not be enough to land a job, but they’re already paid for. Perhaps this explains the rising trend of Canadian college courses for a particular skill or trade being attended by students who have already paid for a university degree that gave them no competitive edge in the job market.

Individual circumstances will always count for a lot in getting ahead in life. And individual responsibility for one’s development is still the most important ingredient for success. But we owe it to the youth of today to make sure they have the knowledge and financial planning tools to make good decisions about their future before they embark on the expense, in both time and money, of pursuing a university career that turns out to be a path straight to the closest unemployment office.

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Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline GAP

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Re: The education bubble
« Reply #23 on: February 23, 2012, 21:45:47 »
Education is big business. do you really think all the Universities and Colleges are going to stop painting a rosy picture to their future paycheques?
Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I´m not so sure about the universe

Offline ballz


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Re: The education bubble
« Reply #24 on: March 11, 2012, 08:10:56 »
Peter Schiff, known for predicting the 2008 collapse of many of the "too big to fail" businesses, with an interesting perspective.

I thinking offering to do a $35,000 job for $15,000 is a bit of hyperbole... but the rest is probably pretty accurate.
Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.
- Helen Keller