Home > Uncategorized > Radical Change in Higher Education: Money, Sports, and Computers

Radical Change in Higher Education: Money, Sports, and Computers

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.

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  1. November 25, 2012 at 9:10 am

    I think a compromise on your sports proposal that is more culturally tractable, at least in the short term, would be to 1) have universities with established sports programs place them into a university foundation, where profits feed research and education, 2) pay athletes competitively as minor league sports players and 3) include a guaranteed education within that university at ant point in their life; including during their playing days. I know a number of college athletes who balanced the demands effectively. Not everyone does, and this accounts for that, as well as your well articulated concerns. IMHO.

    • November 25, 2012 at 9:29 am

      Great points, Sean. Some people do balance well… others not so much. If college was free to people who work hard and get good grades in the first place, then maybe people could make more rational decisions about sports participation.

  2. Holly
    November 25, 2012 at 10:16 am

    Computer Science may be too deep as a requirement for “everyone.” CS has little to do with using computers and everything to do with creating the computers, operating systems, and software of the future. Instead, use of computers could be integrated with all courses, and literacy programs in high school and college should be expanded to include internet search techniques and critical evaluation of internet sources.

    Your assessment of the MOOC craze seems dead on to me. I’m grateful that they are out there because they offer an opportunity to people who might otherwise not be able to access higher education for a variety of reasons. I’m just not convinced that they are going to somehow replace higher ed or that every college and university should be participating.

  3. November 26, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    I’d love to see faux-professional college sports decline.

    I don’t follow the argument about public funding for traditional colleges, though. To try and be brief, I went through college on loans, and I found it straightforward both to get the loans and to pay them off. As far as I know this experience generalizes, and will continue to do so in the coming decades: for people that have an actual expected benefit from a larger education, the funding is not hard to come by.

    It’s a large discussion, but consider one thought experiment. Two different Joes are coming up on their fourth year of college, and they have to decide whether to finish up on time, or to delay a semester and take some side classes in literature. For Joe Public, it’s an easy decision: college is awesome! Stay as long as possible. For Joe Private, there are tradeoffs. I would claim it is good for both Joe and for his fellow citizens that he mentally weighs these tradeoffs. Among other things, if he decides to stick around another semester, you can bet Joe Private will actually show up at class.

    Who do we want to be surrounded by in a generation? More people like Joe Private, or more people like Joe Public?

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