Our Academic Crisis Is Nigh - And Response

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Our student loan debacle may, rare compliments of our collective COVID-19 nightmare, be ready for comprehensive national solutions.  

It’s time for open source college curriculum which could issue proctored degrees at far lower cost across many subject categories.  

Our society can wildly expand access to quality education:  

Syndicating classes of excellent professors, keeping content modernized while broadly sharing famous lecturers from across generations.  

Additionally, the general public could see what qualifies as “curriculum” and share commentary on its validity and fitness? for practical application.  

Universities would viscerally hate crowdsourced oversight, precisely the reason we need it.  While Private U can still be an enclave of preferential ideology, our nation demands klieg lights shined upon publicly funded curriculum.  

Labs, apprenticeships, job shadowing and residencies can certainly be organized through vastly improved logistics amid smaller campus footprints.  

Major universities already offer external degrees and reputable certificate programs, so many cats have already been released from many bags.   

The world’s Lori Loughlins can still send their kids to swim in globalist theory and mangled civics at a premium all they want. 

Access to core curriculum and actual skillsets can be made open source to improve our national academic fitness and international competitiveness.  

Market forecasting and career tracking logistics exist.  Together, they must assist prospective students with raw data regarding estimated value of academic track selection and actual market performance of an institution’s graduates.  As of now, colleges suppress the former and fudge the latter.  

The notion of campus physical plants needs to be turned on its ear, releasing future middle and lower income generations from perhaps half or more of their burgeoning student debt.

We do not need more government money to solve our academic crisis. We possess all the tools now and can rearrange them quite handily.  

Nothing improves a citizen’s prospects more than competitive skills and critical thinking.  Nationally our supply chain of both is sorely wanting.  Showing empirical value of technical and scientific skills, then deploying them to millions, would improve our lot.  

As it stands, we enjoy vast surplus of indebted activists with too few operational coffee shops to fully employ them.  If one wishes to challenge this bit of snark, I’d politely engage.  

We must better spend what we already invest among the citizenry, a notion universities would detest so energetically it appears the best route forward.  

Jason M. Kibby

* * *

First of all, I won't argue against the idea that everybody needs and deserves a college education.  It's a ridiculous notion, and it's not the topic here.

I'll also disregard for the moment the unlimited opportunity for fraud in online, offsite, in-your-jammies/skivvies remote education; Craigslist ads offer anyone a guaranteed high grade in any course required --  for a price, of course. 

And I'll not comment on the daily fraud committed by various universities and their so-called professors -- including graduate teaching assistants whose foreign version of 'English' cannot be understood by real American students.

Here's my point -- an interesting twist to education apparently offered by some old European universities.  I've read that students could attend whatever lectures they chose whenever they chose, and were required to pay for those lectures at the door.  How about that?  College a la carte!  And there were no examinations ... not right then, anyway.

That pay-as-you-go practice surely weeded out the incompetent lecturers, the inept, boring, incomprehensible, and otherwise unsatisfactory 'teachers' of any and every subject.  If no one attended his lectures, an undesirable educator simply didn't get paid.  If he had any sense at all, he'd find another line of work.  Pretty radical, huh?

Of course, the old European method also required that ultimate day of reckoning, wherein each student who wanted a degree was required to face a panel of real educators, real lecturers, real experts on every conceivable subject, and answer their questions, solve their word problems, 'show your work,' etc., to prove that he had, by one means or another, become widely and satisfactorily 'educated' according to the university's standards.

No, I'm not against online education or any other sort of honest, genuine teaching and learning.  Personally, I've learned more through simple self-study, in libraries, bookstores, and online, than I ever did in college.  And way back in 1962 I was, along with dozens of other young students at Purdue University, routinely treated to televised remote lectures at 7:30 a.m.  We had all driven into Indianapolis from our homes in the far suburbs, then we sat and watched small black-and-white televisions for 45 minutes or so.  Each taped closed-circuit broadcast was transmitted from an airplane circling high above northern Indiana, whereby one of the university's top teachers reached out and touched us all with his honest and precise wisdom.  Plenty of folks consider 60 years ago as the Dark Ages, but that was way ahead of other schools at the time.  Oh, yeah -- our regular professors were right there in the room with us every minute, and they were the ones we had to satisfy with homework papers and when exam time came!

So, as long as there is genuine accountability, honest teaching and strict examinations, as long as there is real learning and real proof of learning accomplished, then I'll agree that various newfangled and non-traditional methods can be made to work.  But that shouldn't cost anyone an arm and a leg, and it shouldn't involve a lifetime of indebtedness for either students or teachers.  

One possibility I haven't seen addressed is that some (perhaps much) of today's supposed 'college' debt is really a matter of the students' lifestyles, which is not at all the fault of the educational institution.  But that's another thought for another day, huh?

Larry Cloud

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