The Future of Higher Education

If you’ve talked to me recently about Higher Education (or just education in general), you know where I stand with it.  To boil it down into simple terms, I think colleges are going to be forced to change or they will be forced to not exist.

Of course, I’m not talking about the Harvard’s or the Stanford’s of the world.  They’ll be around well after I’m gone.  But smaller, less exclusive schools, I’m not so sure about.

I mean, look at the landscape of education right now.  More and more classes are going online.  More and more people are going to community college (1, because it’s cheaper and 2, because it costs less).  There is more and more evidence that our education system is wrong for what we want to produce (we don’t want to be producing factory workers anymore and we are in grave danger of not having enough skilled labor to do the basic things that we rely on others for now).

I just read an article in The Chronicle about the coming personalization of education.  But I think it’s going to be more than that.  At some point in the very near future, the rising cost of college is going to become a big issue, or at least give people pause to think about other options.  Many people say that a college degree is what a high school degree used to be.  I tend to think that instead of everyone now needing PhD’s to get ahead, things are going to change (or, the US will stop producing things and our economy will go into the tank, but hey, we’ll have really educated people!).

I may be all gloom and doom for the “University”, but I feel that they better be nimble or risk becoming phased out.

What caused this reaction, and how I generally feel about higher education can be found from this Huffington Post article: Whither the University.

Quality of Writing

I’m in the middle of reading “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance“, and the author brings up a good question:

How do you define quality?

You know what it is, but you don’t know what it is.  Pirsig (the author) is specifically speaking of writing in the section I am referring to, but I think it can be attributed to many things.

Many of the people I supervise ask questions about how to do certain parts of their jobs better, or to improve the quality of their work.  I can give them examples of what has worked in the past, but it is very hard for me to say “This is specifically what you need to do”.

I have a hard time with this question when talking about the quality of things.  I mean, a $400 blender that won’t break on you is definitively of better quality than a $25 blender that can’t blend as well and breaks more often.  However, when discussing writing for instance, I’ve always had issues.  What makes a good poem good?  It really is (partly) in the eye of the beholder, yes?  And how would you explain to someone specifically how to have quality writing?

What Do Teachers Make

I’m torn on the whole “how much should a teacher be paid” issue.

One the one hand, they do amazing work…  I know.  I was one of them.

Teachers do not make a lot, but they have the ability to change lives.  Although they deal with a lot – badly behaving children/young adults, not a whole lot of free time throughout the day, constantly being “on” – they still have the energy to shape minds and make students believe that they can do whatever they want.

They SHOULD be paid more than they are.

Except that they aren’t.  As it IS a pretty good deal to be a teacher, their paychecks reflect that.  They have a nice lifestyle.  Who wouldn’t want summers and federal holidays off and work days typically ending at 3pm?

But many teachers don’t do the minimum.  They aren’t there just for the paycheck.  Many are correcting papers late at night.  Many take on second jobs because they aren’t paid a whole lot.

It can be immensely rewarding to be a teacher, which is the point of the clip.  The good ones make their students learn that if they work hard, they can follow their heart and do what they want to do.