Saturday, June 29, 2013

In Higher Education, No one can hear you scream

Money, you've got lots of friends
Crowding round the door
When you're gone, spending ends
They don't come no more
Rich relations give
Crust of bread and such
You can help yourself
But don't take too much
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that's got his own
That's got his own

And now reporting from Sacramento, CA: Between the community college and 4+ year schools (Hah! Who graduates in 4 years now, besides the elite and privileged?), it is estimated that approximately one-half million students in California are on course wait lists. Yes, the number is correct: more than 500,000 California students can't graduate because they can't get the courses required. Why? It's the way they do it. Few offerings, once per year, when the faculty choose to offer. It worked well when only the wealthy went to college. But things have changed, we hit a recession, times are tough.

Still, we slog on as if we're all at Oxford. Hello? Except for a few schools that will get away with educating only the rich (who will always be with us) we are not Oxford. We are a nation that needs to educate more than the elite and the clergy. We are the USA, entering a rapid-knowledge age, and being left behind. Higher education should step up, look for solutions and do the right thing. But we can't because we won't. Technology, the internet, new media, evidence of deeper learning be damned. Death of the industrial age be damned. Outcry of society be damned.

You've read about the wait lists, the student debt, the dissatisfaction of students, parents and society. You've read about grade inflation and poor learning outcomes. You've read that it doesn't work and students are academically adrift, not learning. Still, little changes. Oh wait, expenses have changed. Students now pay 6-9% more PER YEAR to attend college.

Jerry Brown tried to step into that mess and offer $20 million dollars if UC and CSU would explore developing online course offerings. This, along with demanding that CA universities accept courses taken online elsewhere by determining equivalencies. Don't change, just get out of the way of change. The faculty fought back, sending petitions to the legislature asking them not to approve the bill requiring universities to accept course credit earned online. The legislature told the faculty to take a hike. And the bill went to Brown to be signed. All he needed to do was sign it. His own bill.  

But months had passed and his arm had been twisted and he took the money approved by the legislature and he told UC and CSU to do whatever they wanted with it. Because they've been doing such a great job of educating the new student who isn't rich and privileged, young and on a free ride from their parents. Because they need even "greater flexibility" (Brown) to remain inflexible. Because his office is sure that they'll do the right thing: "The expectation is that UC and CSU are going to move forward with online education, understanding it's a high priority." (Brown's Finance Director)

Read more here:

Sometimes, when I've been called too many names and taken too many hits for having skills, passion and determination to get the next generation the education they deserve, I just want to run. When everything, except the will to get it done, is in place, I want a new career. I want to find a job where I don't daily confront the tragedy of an institution dying at its own hand and taking millions of citizens down with it.

Shame on Jerry Brown. In these moments, I want to throw in the towel and accept that public institutions of higher education would rather go the way of Detroit than change. I want to let them go: go the way of Blockbuster and US health care. I want to step back as a flailing generation of leaders  prop up selfish interests, laziness, and elitist belief that the masses (and disruptive innovation) will not rise.

I am tired of this struggle, but I know history is on our side. Rise up, rise up. Start a school that serves the people. Write code that puts learning in the hands of the learner. If you're a student, ask questions! Find a school that will take MOOCs and CLEPs and offers online courses and competency-based assessments. Join the social, collaborative, personalized-learning movement made possible by this lovely, extraordinary, amazing internet. #RiseUp. 
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