Monday, June 11, 2012

Dinosaurs fear change

Almost 600 years ago the printing
press revolutionized information.
Article by Ars Technica about the intransigence from some members of academia and technology. Ostensibly they fear the disconnect in learning that could be caused from teaching someone over the digital nether versus face to face interaction.  But as many of us have said, such as the Captain, the real fear is obsolescence.  Much like the monks that transcribed literary works after the invention of the printing press, laborers after the industrial revolution, and big journalism after the invention of the journalist blogger; they fear the diffusing of power that changing technology brings.

With the advent of online teaching, and the pioneering souls who push it, education is continuing to open up to the masses.  Where once educational intuitions were the gateway to higher valuable knowledge, and the respect and prestige that comes with it, they now are find themselves manning the ramparts and preparing for a siege because online education is exposing a truth long kept hiding. Most higher institutions are indistinguishable from each other in terms of quality education.

This statement is still blasphemous today, and uttering such a thing unthinkable even a decade a go. But outside the protests of academics, rationalisations of those, like myself, who spent $ 30k a year on 'education' and degree of dubious value, and the elders among us who remember the days when colleges delivered what they promised; we know, or suspect this to be true.  Is there any quantifiable information out there that really tells us that Harvard is better than Yale, or even better than a state school?  There is not.  And while there is a major advantage in regards the legacy network that one receives from an Ivy league school; really deserve the stature they hold in American society?

'But Cogitans', they might say, 'those schools became prestigious for a reason.  World leaders and major business men have graduated from these institutions.  People didn't wake up and make those schools as prestigious as they are now arbitrarily.'  And they would be right. However, just because an institution, person, or place was elite in the past doesn't make them so now.  Look at Detroit, GM, or California.  All places, cities, or companies that were once great, once excelled, that rested upon their laurels and proclaimed their greatness all while they bleed. These places are but shadows of what they once were, and whose to say that colleges are any different?

We cannot say with confidence or certainty that these places are head and shoulders above any other intuition because we have no way of measuring it.  Those that graduate who are successful could just have easily succeeded if they had gone to state university base on innate ability alone. Take drive and intelligent people and put them in third world conditions and they will still find a way to make it. That is the truth that many presidents of many universities fear, whether or not they can articulate it is another matter.  These smart and driven individuals will soon realize that as long as they can get the information they will be able to develop the skills they need. Finance, Economics, and the Sciences are the same wherever you go.  It's not like the Ivy league teaches you some secret formula or new economic model not privy to anyone else.  It is, quite literally, all the same material.

Online education offers a doorway to do for education that no government program ever could.  Make it affordable and accessible to everyone.  The Universities fear because their winter is coming, but you should rejoice, because it means your spring may yet arrive.

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Seattle resident whose real name is Kevin Daniels. This blog covers the following topics, libertarian philosophy, realpolitik, western culture, history and the pursuit of truth from the perspective of a libertarian traditionalist.