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Time's "Creature of the Year" Award

How many years has it been since Time magazine switched from their famous "Man of the Year" award to "Person of the Year?" But that's still anthropocentric, you know. The award would be more PC if it were opened up to all species. Coyotes come to mind, especially wily ones.

Since the financial turmoil of 2008 it has become almost common to picture our economy -- actually the world's economy -- as Wile E. Coyote running over the edge of a cliff, finally looking down and realizing the situation, and then disappearing into a shrinking point and a final poof at the bottom of the canyon.

Despite its aging, the coyote metaphor is so perfect that it should get the award for 2012. Just think of all the time and effort you could spend discussing so many issues and problems of our times; it tires you just to think of it. And we are sick of it anyway.

Sometimes the metaphor seems to apply to something perfectly, but the coyote in question just hangs out there, in mid-air, for far longer than he should. The post office seemed like that; but the coyote is plummeting finally. For years Hewlett Packard was said to be living on the profits of outrageously priced ink jet cartridges. Wasn't the "paperless office" of the future supposed to put an end to that? Perhaps it finally is.

As an RVer I keep wondering when rigs are going to revert to their size in 1975 or 1980. But the newer rigs don't seem to be shrinking. Yet.

The coyote metaphor seldom gets used in "education," that is, the diploma manufacturing racket. An article about online degrees by Mish Shedlock got me thinking about how expensive and obsolete our entire system of education is. The debt-slavery of college loans has gotten a lot of attention lately, as well it should. The inflation of college costs has, too. One college issue that is taboo is diploma inflation.

But what really takes the prize for neglect is the one about brick-and-mortar colleges versus online education. Aren't brick-and-mortar colleges as obsolete as brick-and-mortar video stores? Or travel agencies? Many billions of dollars could be saved by governments that can't afford their current level of spending. "Customers" would also save billions. Students could save years of wasted time and misery if they didn't have to live in noisy college dormitories, trudge through the snow to their morning classes, etc.

Most people would agree with this, I'll bet. So why hasn't it happened yet? Entrenched power and the status quo. Perhaps there is a conflict of interest built into the accreditation bureaucracy. If I were a political consultant for the Democratic party I would advise them to fight online education with all their might, since, as the incumbent culture in Academia, they have the most to lose. It would certainly be ironic to see "progressives" trying to stop semi-revolutionary progress in education, but it wouldn't be the first time that progressives were loyal to the status quo for reasons of partisan advantage.

The issue really isn't about whether online education can be better and more efficient than ivy-covered brick walls. It should be obvious to most people that this is true. The question is how to turn this potential revolution into "legal tender", that is, marketable credentials.


Unknown said…
Well first I have issues with what passes as higher education in general these days. Many college classes are no more than a continuation of high school and I hold virtually no stock in most modern degrees.

As for online schools, you can now go from kindergarten to phd from the comfort of your couch. I have to wonder what this type of educational isolation is doing for our already shrinking social skills. Part of school is about building community and though some may argue with me, online friends are in a different class than flesh & bone ones.

That aside, from a purely educational stance many classes probably can be taken online, but there are still some things that require actual classrooms. Like you wouldn't want to go to a neurosurgeon with an online degree, right?
I agree with the need for the online training to be supplemented with social interaction. For older kids that could best be gotten from part-time work -- essentially an apprenticeship.
John Farnsworth said…
Bravo, Boonie. Very well said. I realized just out of high school that books taken at their own pace, in their most logical and interesting order, and without the interference of bells, imposed schedules and agenda driven "educators" were the preferred method of learning. Now, thanks to technology, an entire world of books and knowledge and learning can be carried in a shirt pocket or over a shoulder and accessed virtually anywhere, anytime.

Travel, I believe, is a much better way to develop social skills and an understanding of the world and cultures and people around us, not to mention languages.

As mentioned above, certain disciplines, such as neurosurgery, do require the best that colleges and universities have to offer. But, for most, I feel, the time and money could be much better spent following one's own interests and ambitions, learning self-guidance and self-discipline self-reliance along the way.

I prefer the school of self-learning, where freedom is taught.

John "Juanderlust" Farnsworth
TomInBellaVista said…
I searched for but couldn't find an article to share with you on education reforms in one of the Scandinavian countries. I'm not sure which country it was, as I read this some time ago, but they have introduced on-line learning, which includes the ability for parents to monitor progress and be more involved in their kids day to day education. One result of this is a much higher ratio of students to teacher, and that the system is partially privatized. Not exactly what one would expect from the heart of Socialism?
John, I agree about travel being a good way to develop social skills and understanding of other people, but only if it is the right kind of travel. You certainly don't develop much by looking at postcard scenery, the most trivial form of travel.
Tom, that would be an interesting article if you find it. Sometimes countries don't live up to their own image, so I'm not surprised that that is sometimes true for Scandinavian countries.

My two trips to Mexico shocked me with how much more freedom there is in Mexico than the USA, which doesn't fit the image, either.
John Farnsworth said…
Amen to that. I prefer solo travel, generally, and immersive. No more interested in being herded on a tour than in a school, and I agree, looking only at the spectacular would be like only reading best sellers. The masses will take care of all that; I like to dig a bit deeper.

As to your mention above of "marketable credentials", maybe we should concentrate less on credentials and more on performance and product.

John "Juanderlust" Farnsworth