Can Technology Save Us from Dysfunctional Educational Institutions?

Image credit: Wall Street Journal

by James A. Bacon

Tech journalist Michael S. Malone makes the case in today’s Wall Street Journal that technologies nearing commercialization will revitalize the American economy. Just as fracking technology transformed the energy sector, nanotechnology, big data, three-dimensional printing and online education will create a new wave of abundance, he argues in “The Sources of the Next American Boom.”

Malone displays the same optimistic spirit of other tech utopians like Howard Kurzweil of “The Singularity Is Near” fame. Scientific knowledge is advancing so rapidly that material prosperity is almost guaranteed. Our biggest problem will be figuring out how to deal with all the affluence.

While I eagerly await the development of everything from nano-materials with super properties to 3D-printers that can turn my garage into a home manufacturing center — “honey, I’m running low on manganese, could you pick up a cartridge at the store?” — I also worry that technological change is hurtling forward so rapidly that it is outpacing the ability of human institutions to adapt.

As Alvin and Heidi Toffler observed in “Revolutionary Wealth,” different types of institutions evolve at different rates of speed. Businesses operating in a competitive, free-market environment adapt with the most alacrity, followed by nongovernmental, grass roots organizations. Labor unions, government bureaucracies and regulatory agencies lag behind, while schools, legal systems and governance structures remain embedded in institutional amber.

Paying little heed to this “desynchronization of change,” Malone writes optimistically about a resolution to the current affordability crisis in higher education:

The discrepancy between the cost of university tuition and the return on that investment for most students grows every year. As students, increasingly priced out of traditional education, begin to abandon the college path, colleges and universities will have no choice but to pursue them—with ever-greater numbers of virtual courses (and eventually degrees)—on laptops, smartphones and tablets. This shift is already beginning to transform higher education and bring in a host of new competitors. Its potential to raise educational achievements in K-12—where rising costs and diminishing results are even more out of control—could be even more revolutionary.

That is precisely the argument that I have been making, lo, these many years. And it is precisely the challenge, I have contended, that faces the University of Virginia, all other public institutions of higher education in the commonwealth and, indeed, higher education generally. However, we have seen the reaction at UVa to an effort — an ill-executed effort, I will concede — by the Board of Visitors to accelerate the rate of change in a venerable institution, and we have seen how powerful constituencies within the university defended their prerogatives on the grounds that top-down reform cannot be imposed upon the collegial, consensus-driven culture of academia.

But change waits upon no man. The college-affordability crisis is intensifying. While UVa held down its tuition and fee increases to 3.5% this year, the lowest in years, it still outpaced the rate of inflation and wage growth. (Other Virginia colleges jacked up rates even more aggressively.) All the while Moore’s Law is still driving down the cost of computing power and telecommunications, the quality of personal online interaction is improving and entrepreneurs are learning what works and what doesn’t. It is only a matter of time before the face-to-face interaction of the residential campus is replicated in holographic form.

Thus, two things are entirely predictable: First, that online entrepreneurs will gain educational market share. At present, the share of online educational enterprises is so small that rapid growth does not yet threaten established institutions, especially ones with strong brand names like UVa. But in time, the threat will grow. Thus, the second predictable thing is that powerful established institutions will utilize their massive resources and political clout to thwart the competition, just as teacher unions (and quasi-unions like the Virginia Educational Association) use their influence to thwart disruptive change to K-12 schools. Expect a legislative and regulatory backlash against career colleges, online schools and other upstarts on the grounds of protecting the “public.”

Even in our increasingly centralized political system, in which the federal leviathan intrudes into every sphere of human existence, including those functions once relegated to the states, regulation and oversight of K-12 and higher education remain resides primarily with the states. Virginia’s political class, like that of every state, eventually will be forced to deal with the educational crisis. Will our political class act to open up competition and technology, or will it seek to stymie the forces of change to protect the vested interests? One path leads to renewal, the other to stagnation. Which will it be?

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  1. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    With all due respect to Michael S. Malone, reading his WSJ piece is like timetripping back to the late 1990s. That’s the trouble with these “Big Think” pieces, they all become a blur.

    Nanotechnology is so 90s. That was the big news back then and how many dozens of pieces did we ready about how incredibly small is going to change everything for the better. Now is is the 2010s. See much difference?

    Cloud computing was big news, maybe a half a decade ago or more. Ditto new advanced materials. This ideas sound like a four-color brochure from the economic development agency of a medium to small city.

    Lastly, of course, is online education — the right wing’s latest discovery. As usual, our Big Blogger has headlined this post in his slanted way, telling us that our education system is “dysfunctional.” No evidence is offered that it is, we’re just supposed to buy in to the idea.

    And, as noted just now, “:online” or “distance” education is something you got sick of reading about 10 years ago. It is billed as the salvation for high schools and colleges (by automatic definition “dysfunctional”). But what is the difference between attending college and simply going to your local library and checking out the tapes (that is if budget cuts haven’t closed your library?)

    And, there may be a reality check from Colorado where EdNewsColorado reports on problems with online education. The state has spent $100 million on online elementary and high schools. Some high school kids have left the public system and signed for for the online GOAL Academy. Investigative reporters found that one half of the online students leave within a year; online schools have three times the dropout rates as regular schools; millions of dollars go to online schools who have lost students; when the online kids come back to the bricks and mortar schools, the system has to pay even more money re-educating them.

    Unless such matters are addressed, online ed is a pipedream that will be things truly “dysfunctional.”

    1. Peter, one of your oldest rhetorical tropes is to declare something “old news,” with the implication that, it it’s old, it’s not worthy of consideration anymore. The salient point isn’t that online education is “new” — I was writing about it 15 years ago in the Henrico County School system. A Japanese friend of mine taught Japanese to children in six different high schools from a central online facility. The point is that it’s not just a niche serving a few hundred students in Virginia. It has reached a tipping point where it’s increasingly competitive with conventional higher ed.

      As for offering no evidence for the fact that higher ed is dysfunctional… have you been paying attention? I’ve been offering evidence on this blog for years. Do I have to regurgitate the full body of data and theory with every post.

      Let me make it simple for you. College is increasingly unaffordable. Do I really have to document that? Students are going deeper into debt. Do I have to document that? Tuitions and fees increase faster than the CPI and average wage year after year. Do I really have to cite chapter and verse for you, or are you in deep denial?

      Higher education is in crisis, and anyone who’s not deeply wedded to the status quo, either because their paycheck is involved or they fear that the crisis is concocted by bogey men conservatives who are trying to undermine a bastion of liberalism, they would acknowledge the fact!!

    2. I will give you one point (but it s a point that I’ve never denied): Online learning will not spring forth in sublime perfection like Venus on the half shell. There will be a lot of trial and error to see what works. You’ve pointed out to problems in Colorado. I have no doubt those problems are real, and they need to be addressed. But, then, it’s not as if conventional classroom education is exactly problem free either. The point is, you try something, you learn from your mistakes, and you move on.

  2. DJRippert Avatar

    Jim Bacon comes tantalizingly close to “getting it” with this post. Early in the post he has the chance to link technological change to income and wealth distribution but then he veers off course – into online education.

    Peter checks in with a comment that is baffling even by “progressive” standards. He discounts the changes technology is bringing to society. That is truly frightening for a usually astute observer of societal change. Perhaps Peter could try his logic on the local travel agents, telephone operators, airline ticket desk employees, typing pool people, stockbrokers, insurance agents and tax preparers.

    Both men miss a key point beyond the effect of technological change on wealth distribution – namely, the link between education and health care. Both are critical to society. Both are experiencing cost escalations that are unsustainable. Both are in serious need of reform lest they both put the United States in a very bad position for the future. Yet, the conservatives hate the idea of Obamacare even though the present system has observably failed and the liberals hate the idea of tearing down the “employment for life” positions in colleges and universities for their liberal professor – friends.

    Both health care and education are in need of serious reform. The Imperial Clown Show in Richmond is exactly the wrong group on which to depend for progress of any kind.

    The state with the least competitive state elections, a powerless one term governor, judges appointed by the lawyers who practice in front of them, unlimited campaign contributions and no recall, referenda or term limits for the legislators has exactly zero chance of making the necessary changes.

    Of course, the forward progress of technological change will put more and more of the country’s wealth into fewer and fewer hands. This, in turn, will super-heat the competition among the states for those few hands. And Virginia, with a declining level of support from federal spending, will be one of the least likely places to find the people who earn the money, pay the taxes and support the government.

    As for the efficacy of online education – give me a break! It is not all or nothing. It is not either universities or computerized training. It will be a homogenization of both.

    Some things just lend themselves to online training. Programming, for example.

    Try this – Peter and Jim both decide to become Java programmers. Peter tries to lean the art by enrolling in various classes. Jim joins the Code Academy for free.

    Who wins the race? Sorry, Peter, but you’ll be eating Jim’s dust.!/exercises/0

  3. Don, I agree that the effect of technology upon the distribution of wealth is an interesting and crucial question. I also agree that technology is about the only thing that can get us out of our health care morass. (If we can collect the right information, Big Data can provide insights into what works and what doesn’t that could transform the practice and organization of medicine.) I didn’t veer into those topics because I wanted to keep my post at a readable length.

    Technology and income distribution…. I suppose you could make an argument that economic rewards will flow increasingly to the technologically proficient, thus leaving the non-proficient behind. That is undoubtedly one possible income. But if technology can transform our ailing educational system, bypassing dysfunctional schools and making higher educational more affordable, it is equally possible that the technological proficiency of the population will increase by leaps and bounds, thereby reducing income inequality.

  4. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Don the Groveton,
    I can’t tell you how much I miss many pre=tech services. My modem went on the blink. I went through Comcast’s phone tree many times before determining I had to exchange it for a new one. I make the 20 mile roundtrip to Comcast. I plug in the new modem. I then have to plow through Comcast’s phone tree before they can send the right signal to get everything working.
    Don’t even get me started about health care.
    And no, I don’t want o learn Java. Why?

  5. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    BTW, Jim,
    Not sure I understand the difference between a “dysfunctional” education system and one that has troubles. Yes, costs are up, but many of Virginia’s public schools still have some of the lowest tuition in the country. You should know this as we have/are been public college parents. But guess what? Everything is more expensive, even if adjusted for inflation. My college was about $3K back in the day and is now $45K. I just paid $300 for train fare from DC to New York and the WiFi didn’t work half the time. Health care costs are ridiculous and people like me are stuck with high deductible, ripoff insurance after paying thousands upon thousands into the general system for decades.
    So, what is your point? Is it that education is more expensive? Are you decrying high prices? Inflation? You don’t like some research but like some other types? Find Latin and Greek pointless? Maybe it would help if you could define “dysfunctional.” If this is so, how come our better schools are filled with rich, smart, foreign kids?
    You might make your points better if you were more precise and less sweeping in your characterizations.
    As far as me noting that a lot of the stuff in the Malone piece is old, well, yes it is old, and I am frankly of reading the same material over and over. After a while, it all goes into “Next Big Depression” or “Dow 36,000” category — rather pointless exercises in the “Big Ideas.” I am getting to the point that if someone comes up to me with a “Big Idea” then I look for the exit.

    1. Virginia public colleges have done a better job at holding the line on escalating tuitions than most other institutions. They have less administrative bloat, and they do a better job of graduating their students. But the fact remains, higher ed tuitions have been one of the most consistently inflationary sectors of the economy for a long, long time — worse even than health care. I call it dysfunctional because it’s now failing at its primary task, educating America’s young people at a price they are willing to bear. All we see is incremental change — and very little of that is aimed at controlling costs. Judging by their public comments, Teresa Sullivan and Helen Dragas seem more concerned about recruiting and retaining top professors than about keeping tuitions affordable.

  6. DJRippert Avatar


    I have been in the heart of the technology industry for 31 years. I wish I shared your optimism. The problem isn’t technology. The problem is our government’s inability to change as fast as technology is changing our society.

    Technology often takes people out of the equation. If Watson can be the world champ at Jeopardy! then Watson can answer Peter’s questions at Comcast. Good for Peter. Good for Comcast. Bad for the person who used to have a job answering the phone and answering the questions.

    In the end, permanent income re-distribution may be the only answer.

    Remember the folded paper example of exponential growth. A piece of paper is 0.1mm thick. Fold it once and it’s 0.2mm thick. Fold it again and it’s 0.4mm thick.

    The first bunch of folds don’t do much. It’s just a slightly thicker folded piece of paper.

    Even after 7 folds it’s only 0.5 inches thick.

    The 17th fold adds 1.7 feet to the thickness of the paper.

    By the 25th fold, each next fold is adding 2.1 miles to the thickness.

    Technology is like our folded piece of paper. The early doublings are interesting and each additional “fold” adds a comprehensible amount.

    But, eventually, humans have trouble with the amount of change that each new fold brings.

    By the 100th fold of our original piece of paper, it is thicker than the known universe is wide.

    Take a long hard look at America’s politicians and Virginia’s state legislators. Do you really think those people will be able to manage the changes in society that technology brings at the rate required?

    We are now at the point where each “fold” is adding a lot of thickness. And our political class can’t keep up.

  7. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Groveton the Ripper,
    With all due respect to your technology background (and no sarcasm intended), there is a limit to how much technology needs to be used by an ordinary person at a given instant and how much is unneeded overload.Does someone like me, who basically talks and does word processing and checks the weather radar and stock markets, need every goddamned ap IPhone comes out with? Why do I have to remember 109 passwords every day even ones from Stanley Steemer which just cleaned my carpets and I always have to sign in with a different email because after I click how many rooms I want cleaned, I then have to lose everything because I have to get them to resend my password because I didn’t write it down? Why do I need all these passwords?
    Is all this helping humanity and me? Up to a point. It’s better having safer airline traffic control and DaVinci robotic surgery, etc. But you can get drunk on Technology for Technology’s sake. I am sick and tired of hearing why we have to sacrifice everything for STEM. I could give a damn about too much STEM. I have been listening to the “they’re getting ahead of us” tech pep talks for years now. Look at Japan. They were going to take us over circa 1988. Then, the Lost Decade.

    1. I share your gripe about passwords!

      It’s time to start decrying password inflation!

    2. Groveton Avatar


      Don’t you find it odd that you are using a PC with access to cloud-based blogging software running over the internet to tell me how little new technology affects your daily life?

      The word “blog” wasn’t even coined until 1999. That was 13 years ago.

      I studied Latin in High School (at Groveton). I studied Chinese at UVA. I have no problem with liberal arts. I loved economics.

      My point is not about STEM, per se – although the Virginia public colleges and universities are lacking in those critical disciplines.

      My point is about the concentration of money into the hands of a few. I think technology is a big cause of the wealth gap. I think it will only get worse – no matter what the economy does or doesn’t do.

      Why has the Obama non-recovery happened? Why were recoveries once sharp rises in employment and economic activity while the last three have been long, drawn out periods of misery?

      It’s not because of Republican or Democrat. It’s not CEO salaries or the 1%. It’s not that Americans are getting lazy and refusing to work.

      Technology is taking labor out of the productive cycle faster than people can be retrained to participate in portions of the productive cycle that still require labor.

      And it’s not going to slow down. It’s going to speed up.

      STEM is nice but 95% of Americans don’t have the quantitative intellectual capacity to do what my engineers do. And I don’t care if you send that 95% to the Academical Village at UVA or enroll them in online training – they’re not going to get this stuff. Maybe they would be great authors or great historians or great poets. Who knows? But they won’t be great technologists. So, more STEM would be great but the idea that everybody will be a “heavy math” technologist is absurd.

      The problem is that there are only two consistent ways to make money these days:

      1. Make money with money: finance.
      2. Harness technology to reduce the demand for labor in the production cycle.

      As I have said repeatedly … Maybe permanent income re-distribution is the only way forward.

      Technological nirvana is only nirvana if the fruits of the technology are shared broadly. Otherwise, the wealth collects in the hands of the technologists and their financiers who see the rest of the rest of the world as useless vassals.

      It doesn’t matter whether you use iPhone apps or not. Theodore Kaczynski didn’t use iPhone apps either.

      What matters is whether there will be sufficient employment opportunities for a country of 310+M people under our traditional “you keep what you earn” mentality. The employment participation rate for Americans aged 16 and older was 65% in 2000. It is 58% today. A 7% drop in 12 years. Wow!

      DJ Rippert.

      1. Your theory that the spike in unemployment is all about technology replacing human work is intuitively appealing. And it has been since the day of Ned Ludd (and before). Maybe technology has built up such a head of steam that “it’s different this time.”

        I’m prepared to accept that theory if I see it backed up with data. Here’s my problem. We are not seeing a great surge in productivity during this economic cycle. If people are out of work, it’s not because the economy is becoming more efficient by leaps and bounds. I emailed you those productivity numbers a month or so ag0 (right after you posted on this subject). To complete your theory, you have to reconcile the surge in joblessness with the mediocre gains in productivity.

        I would also examine a competing proposition: The problem isn’t people getting laid off, it’s not enough new jobs being created. Why aren’t new jobs being created? Because job creation is discouraged by (a) the Obama administration’s current policy mix and (b) structural problems like a massive debt overhang that transcend political parties.

        If you can address those two objections, I’m on board with you. If you can’t, your theory is incomplete.

        1. Groveton Avatar

          I briefly looked at the productivity numbers you sent. I realized that I’d have to get very deeply into how they were calculated. My first hunch is that they are better at measuring the productivity of making physical things than services so they may be under-representing things like bookselling.

          I don’t really know what the massive debt overhang has to do with the price of tea in China at this point. The debt was supposed to spark runaway inflation. That didn’t happen. It was supposed to spark runaway interest rates. That didn’t happen. Maybe one day these things will happen but it’s hard to blame the debt for the length of the recession and the poverty of the recession without any of the collateral symptoms being observed.

          Meanwhile, those in finance and technology are doing fabulously well. We seem to have a bifurcated economy – finance/technology vs everything else.

  8. larryg Avatar

    A system where technology puts more and more people out of work is not sustainable. It should take a totally dead economy for us to figure that out.

    By the way – speaking of….education, online, and all that, have ya’ll seen
    Waldo’s belly-shaking ” Rector Dragas’ Statement, Translated into Plain English”?

  9. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    I have been a journalist for 38 years. The Net and blogging have ruined everything. Twenty years ago I made a six figure salary all told and could fly business class to my far-flung assignments. Then the Net came along with its Everything-for-free information business model ruined thousands of publications and resulted in tens of thousands of layoffs. No, these were not people who “deserved” to be laid off in the usual “Technology Rules” BS — these are smart, hard-working people who care about what information means for people. The problem was our managers didn’t know how to handle the World Wide Web and gave everything away because self-styled assholes on the West Coast told them it was the cool thing to do. And what is the freaking Internet, anyway? Just a bigger, better telephone system. However, when the first phone system came along, everything wasn’t for free.
    What bugs me about those wide-eyed about the “new” online university is that they are just going to use it to screw over academics, just as they screwed over journalists. They are going to say, “you are way overpaid, despite all those years you spent getting your PhD.” And when they cut their pay to the bone, we won’t have even a “dysfunctional” education system, We won’t have any system at all. Not to worry, though, all the conservatives can say, “but we really cut costs.”

    1. I can vouch for Peter on this one. Once upon a time, you could make a good living as a journalist. Now you scrounge for scraps. For old goats like PeterG and me, it’s too late in the game to reinvent ourselves as computer programmers (even if we had the aptitude). I suppose we could try selling out to marketing/advertising agencies, but they wouldn’t want us because the journalism ethic runs too deep. We’d cause too much trouble.

  10. larryg Avatar

    but as you say… education and health care are next on the chopping block.

    It’s not like Journalism was selected out of the crowd for execution.

    It’s happening in virtually all industries and it does present a troubling conundrum of what will the people do who become the casualties of technology.

    I hear the Bill Gates and Policy Wonks and the word is …retrain …. FAST

    so I think we’re entering a new era where for one’s entire career – you’ve got to be learning and preparing for the day when you must be agile enough to leave the frying pan and leap over the fire to the next safe spot.

    “keeping up”, i.e. continuing education is common in some fields – like Medical or piloting aircraft, etc… I know a guy who was one of the best teletype repair guys in the business and his company came to him one day and said – “we’re getting rid of all the teletypes. Do you want to learn how to service faxes and other kinds of electronic printers and equipment?”

    and the guy was paralyzed for a week but then finally decided to say “yes”.

    he never looked back but his job kept changing and he had to keep updating his skills.

    there are no career-long jobs any more.

    My wife, the teacher started when there was no such thing as computers. Now the first graders are given IPADs and the teacher is expected to know how to use the IPADs and to teach the kids how to use them – and no course was offered to the teachers.. they just got a delivery of IPADs…and this was a few years after they wheeled in a cart of laptops and told the teachers to hand them out to the kids.

    Some teachers, near retirement age – threw up their hands … others took on the new duties ….

    The IPADs? well.. there’s a whole new field of software development where a given software program on the IPAD captures the answers of the child and provides the teacher with a summary of the lessons the kid did, what they did good, and what they had trouble with.

    Change is not just coming – it’s coming like a freight train… you hop on or you get thrown under it….

    1. LarryG, you’re right. We all need to retrain. And if we fail to do so, well, who’s fault is that? Our own. No one owes us a comfortable living as writers.

  11. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    I can’t believe you agree with me. What was that line from “Casablanca?”

  12. Groveton Avatar

    The point about journalism is spot on. The technology changed too fast. This enabled new business models as they say. Advertising had always been key but now you could target the advertising much more specifically than ever was the case before. Google figured out how to target ads, many newspapers did not.

    Bookstores are another case in point. First, you ordered books on Amazon.Com and they were shipped to your house. Now, you download them. Bye, bye Borders. Barnes & Noble’s last 3 quarters have shown losses. In 2010, the head of Barnes & Noble’s website and online bookstore became the company’s CEO. B&N is fighting an uphill battle. Even if they stay in business – will they employ fewer or more Americans than they employed before the electronic bookstore craze?

    1. reed fawell Avatar
      reed fawell

      Now that you’ve mentioned Borders and Barnes & Noble, both were extremely efficient models. Both quickly overran and demolished the small bookstores’ dominance in place since the early days of Printing Press. Why? Simply because big box bookstore’s size earned good profits off volume discounted cost to their customers while also offering them far a greater variety to produces to chose from in a single trip to a single store.

      These twin advantages quickly ate the little guys’ lunch. It seems like a Stone Age ago. What, was it ten years maybe, before Amazon blew away Borders and Barnes & Noble in little more than a nanosecond’s time, given the prior norms of the marketplace?

      Why? Alien tech offers the reader a humungous world wide variety, all viewed, parsed, recommended, and previewed by his own customized electronic researcher, literary critic and/or book club, before he selects this choices by a click of his finger, and receives what he desires instantly at his reading chair, or front door next day if he prefers. What a deal, all this at mega-discounts over the Stone Age Borders Barnes & Noble economic model.

      Remarkably, the Big box bookstore model was ruthless cutting edge efficient as compared to the Modern University. If the former is Stone Age now, the latter is Proterozoic. Why? Without competition and fed copiously by hand for nearly century by State and Federal Governments, private industries, Alumni and Donors, ballooning tuition and subsidies nearing Ponzi scheme proportions, the modern American University has grown to proportions, appetites and inefficiencies that rival Java the Hutt.

      Now, all of Java’s life support systems are draining away, some quite abruptly. To add to Java’s miseries, for the first time, some seriously exotic predators are on the prowl. They don’t include Ms. Dragas. Circle the wagons around her, the canary in the mineshaft.

  13. larryg Avatar

    WOW! That’s a TELLING set of numbers!

    I read CNET reviews and they often start this way: First, we went to Best Buy to see the item itself then when we decided to buy we got it online.

    Circuit City went down and now Best Buy is in trouble…

    WalMart ? well they sell the stuff you don’t get online….except they do have an electronics dept that seems to be fairly busy.

  14. Fascinating discussion…but isn’t this a great time to explore the limits of incorporating technology and entrepreneurial training into education? I would be curious to compare statistics on jobs lost in fields like journalism to jobs gained in fields like app development. I agree that doesn’t help the middle-aged person who finds their career obsolete, but shouldn’t the focus then shift to how to keep the same fate from befalling the next generation?

    1. reed fawell Avatar
      reed fawell

      Jamestsmith asks a key question I think. I am reminded that bleak outlooks and impending dooms are often the key, indeed essential, ingredient to explosive innovations that birth a renaissance. See, for example, the near death of Arlington’s Urban downtown as its discussed in Smart Growth for Conservatives #4 blog above in banner.

      There, an urban disaster zone birthed the dominate Urban downtown model on the Eastern seaboard, one that now substantially out performs the new outer ring of downtowns like Tyson’s Corner that nearly destroyed it only a short while back.

      Here, with the impending doom of the big University Model, we may confront serious near death challenges that hold within them the small fertile seeds of an enormous opportunity. Among many, those seeds likely include the approaching retirement of large generation of tenured professors together with a very large and very talented group of younger professors who have for years been pushed to the side (indeed exploited as well) by their elders. And also whole generations of students who in substantial part have not been and are not now getting the education they deserve and/or have paid for. Plus there is new technology, among other things. So, now perhaps there is an ultimately fortuitous alignment of Death Stars and Birth Seeds that together are capable of sparking whole new and far better and fairer galaxies for all, whether they be teacher, student, parent, donor, taxpayer, Indian Chief, or society generally.

      Its a grand and scary endeavor that just has to be done right, but humans often do amazing things with their backs to the wall.

  15. User 0 Avatar
    A/B Testing or Split Testing will direct the evolution of on-line education. Then, too,the evolution of techniques such as deep brain stimulation and (the latest)

    ‘Diabetes Drug Makes Brain Cells Grow’ and so on is just at the beginning of research which will no doubt further determine how society itself evolves.
    Kurt Vonnegut’s first novel, ‘Player Piano’, pointed out the innovation problem 50 years ago. Technology ultimately must mean no more jobs no more. The end point of labor saving, yes? So, read ‘Abundance’ by Steven Kotler and Peter Diamandis. Our prognostications are linear and our technological advances are logarithmic. Confirmation bias is the typical result. There will be a few years dislocation, but barring disaster, an entirely new social order will evolve as there will be no need for jobs. No one could tell the homes of the wealthy from the tradesmen in ancient Greece just by appearances, the wealthy then (and some of our wealthiest now) were known for what they did for their city. And remember, “We can’t solve a problem with the same thinking that created it.” says whats-his-name.

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