Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The End of the University as We Know It

Well, I just published a post about not knowing what to post, and then I head over to Twitter and see this piece, and I'm all over it. This is from Elizabeth Scarborough from 

She tweeted this article from The American about the end of the university as we know it. 

The high cost of an education in the United States is one thing that drives me crazy. Everyone goes to college, and in the good old days (when I was an undergrad student) college was basically finishing school for the middle class. That was okay because it really didn't cost that much and there were plenty of jobs to go around to pay off what amounted to pittance in loans. Now there's no middle class, and what's left of of the middle class is getting charged up the yin yang for a diploma that is becoming as worthless as the one dollar bill.

Thirty years ago, when I started out in business as a writer I didn't need a degree. All you had to do was prove that you could write. Then colleges noticed a hole to fill and started communication curriculums, and today, if you don't have some kind of communications degree (communications or journalism or English) on your resume you won't even be called in for an interview.

I'm not saying degrees aren't important (the Masters I just earned, for instance, was invaluable for jump starting me as a playwright), but there are plenty of jobs that you don't need a degree for, copywriting being one of them.

I've seen and worked with people who have these communications degrees, and I just bite my tongue. My last gig there was an editor who emailed me a jpeg they were going to use on the web site, asking me to email it to one of sources I used, who she knew better than I did. Um, instead of emailing me, why didn't you just email it yourself, I wanted to ask, but of course I didn't. She was too busy "strategizing",which is business for "we don't know what the fuck we're doing but we're going to make it look like we do."

A lot of these people couldn't smell a story if you smeared peanut butter all over it.

But I'm digressing. I do think there will be a huge change soon in higher ed. People simply won't be able to afford it anymore, but they'll still have a thirst for knowledge. When you put people under pressue, they can be awfully resourceful. And God love the Internet for continuing to shake things up. People are learning to ignore the gatekeepers in our society to get what they want, and universities are definitely gatekeepers. As I pointed out, without their sanction you can't even be considered or a job writing marketing swill, and trust me, it isn't that hard. But they make it out like it is, just to justify their own existance.

Again, I want to make it very clear that I think degrees will continue to be important. I mean, copywriting is one thing, brain surgery is quite another.

But after I graduated from BU, I wanted to take a summer course from one of my professors, who was a terrific teacher, and her six-week course was $5,000! I simply can't afford that, and BU doesn't even give discounts to alumni. And frankly, is six weeks of modern drama really worth $5,000? No, it isn't, even from the best of teachers.

But Sue and I consider leaning a life-long pursuit. We have a cabinet filled with Great Courses' material, material that home schoolers and yachties use. We have their series on the history of music, relativity, quantam physics (which I haven't done yet), mythology, and the Greek tragedies, which I'm part-way through. In the spring I'll be taking two music courses from Berklee through Coursera. I just came home with a pile of books from the Boston Public Library. You don't need a lot of money to get an education.

Finally, I'm reminded of this:

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