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Banbury Cross

a pillow for lost thoughts...

Post details: Forward to School

Forward to School

Bubble is dead, long live the bubble.

We have barely clambered out from underneath the housing wreck, and a new bubble is already swelling on the financial horizon. After the homeowners' ability to carry debt maxed out, a fresh new demographic is emerging to pick up the slack. Our youth. Faced with sky rocketing college tuition, many students have no choice but to tie their ankles to interest bearing leg irons. After the graduation, when most people would normally start their families, they will be providing an extra cash flow for our starved financiers. Considering that these loans cannot be defaulted on and have the full backing of taxpayers, it is a diabolically clever scheme for generating income.

There has to be a more efficient way how to transfer knowledge to the next generations - one that won't entail mortgaging their future to the hilt. Perhaps, the brightest ones could compete for an array of public stipends and those who wouldn't get them but were willing to study hard could have some other affordable option. Companies, for instance, could offer targeted stipends for students who'd be willing to work for them a stated number of years. Such approach would not only help young people to gain relevant experience without going into unnecessary debt, but it would also steer them into degrees with actual organic demand rather those in Oriental Literature or Comparative Ceramics (those might be fun, but will probably not lead to a sustainable career).

And then there is the cost side of things. Educating young people should not carry the costs of a minor space program. Significant improvements could and should be made in the overall operation of the system. And I do not just mean trimming the bloated administrative structures whose multitudinous offspring are covering the educational vessels like a layer of polyps.

The model where every University and every class has one full time professor lecturing to a semi attentive group of teenagers belongs to the 19th century. Reading the same textbook over and over on 20,000 campuses is a poor use of faculty time. No wonder tuition can cost tens of thousand of dollars. In the 21 century, the introductory lectures, taught by the best experts in the field, should be made centrally and available through Internet and other mass media. Even students at community colleges should have access to those. At the end of the first two years, students would undergo anonymous testing for basic grasp of history, math, sciences, style etc, and after that they would start specializing. In small problem solving seminars the senior professors could mold young minds in much more effective ways.

A system combining widely distributed mass produced lectures from the best sources with subsequent personal attention of human instructors all neatly tucked into a slim administrative wrapper would significantly improve our standing on the global educational scale. It would make all the difference in the world. A whole new ballgame with a whole new student body formed in the process. A convocation of intrepid eagles surfing the gales of curiosity rather than a flock of puzzled geese peeking into the crystal ball.

In our complex and increasingly regulated society much effort (on the governmental level at least) is being spent on designing all kinds of expensive institutions that would help protect the populace from fraud, abuse and predatory behavior. Yet, while spending taxpayers' money left and right we are forgetting one very deep and yet simple truth - school is the best consumer protection agency. Smart and informed people cannot be easily fooled.

We don't need myriad of protective bureaucracies. We need a functional and widely affordable education.

rr

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