I’ve been regarding all the recent hype about online education/”MOOCs” with suspicion, because administrators jumping on the bandwagon seem to be motivated by an odd combination of fear (“Things are changing! What if we’re left out?”) and ambition (“Here’s my chance to make a big splash!”) I wonder where all this passion for innovation in education was a few years ago. But on the other hand, the ossified institutions of higher education are contemplating radical change? Really? What an opportunity!
If we’re really rethinking higher education, here are a few things I’d change:
Public Funding for Higher Ed: College should be publicly funded, for any student who works hard and gets good grades. At one point in our history, we made a decision that everyone was entitled to schooling. The knowledge economy has advanced to the point where a few more years are needed, for the majority of students. Social justice demands it. Even if you reject the notion of “social justice,” our economy demands it.
College Sports: College sports should serve the sole purpose of helping students to develop life-long healthy habits. Spelman College recently canceled their sports programs in favor of an enhanced wellness program–Bravo! Everyone should follow suit. Campus sports should be limited in their time commitment enough that students can get the most out of their classroom education. Since college is now free for everyone, we can eliminate the farce that is sports scholarships (“Come here for free! You won’t really have time to take your classes seriously and you probably better pick the easiest major on campus, but it’s free!”)
Minor-League Sports: If you aspire to a professional sports career, you should join a minor league sports team. College is not the place to go for Olympics or pro sports training. Pro teams should pay to support a proper farm team system to give aspiring athletes training and pay. And yes, aspiring junior athletes should be able to accept endorsements. (Colleges are making millions off of their sports programs, but student athletes are severely punished for accepting a free pair of shoes? Really?)
Computer Science: CS should be required. For everyone. Can you be a historian today without using a computer? An artist? A salesperson? Anything? Shouldn’t we aspire to turn out a new generation of educated men and women who have more than a surface knowledge of how the blasted things work, since their success in no small part will depend on that knowledge?
As long as we’re rethinking things, let’s really rethink them.