July 7, 2012

Is college doomed by the Internet?

If George Mason economist and Marginal Revolution blogger Tyler Cowen is right, higher education is about to go the way of the record company. Speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival, he offered up college as the next in a long line of industries that Internet-enabled innovation is going to scramble. 

Okay, but why was Tyler paid to communicate this message by lecturing in person at the expensive Aspen Ideas Festival (run by The Atlantic, by the way) at a remote and costly location in the mountains? Why didn't his audience just read his insight for free on Tyler's blog?

Could it be that going to college is kind of like going to the Aspen Ideas Festival, but with less hypoxia?

86 comments:

DaveinHackensack said...

Pithy and on target.

Anonymous said...

One day we will have micro-chips implanted im our brains and formal education won't be necessary anymore.

Anonymous said...

Of course we all remember when that game-changing innovation, the local public library, led to the shuttering of colleges across the land.

I am curious to see what kind of recommendation letters these new internet professors write for their five hundred thousand students. And I wonder what kind of beer they'll serve at those internet fraternity parties.

Anonymous said...

Tyler Cowen is a total mediocrity.

Anonymous said...

"Pithy and on target."

Yes. HS has written about the same thing, and I agree with his arguments, but Steve's version is funnier. It makes that idea seem more ridiculous in a shorter amount of time.

Anonymous said...

I suspect that the point of free or cheap online education will be to create a pool of relatively skilled workers in some of the poorest countries in the world. You know, places with open sewers where people sleep on dirt floors and where lots of these people have Internet access! (The way things are headed, this might refer to parts of the U.S. soon.)

Now that there’s talk about these schools offering certificates, and, “connecting employers with students,” I think my suspicions are being confirmed.

So, companies will still be hiring people from slums and paying next to nothing for the labor, but, maybe a person who got a certificate in the free computer science curriculum from the College of Knowledge will be selected for a job over someone who doesn’t have a certificate.

In ten or twenty years, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the majority of paid work in companies, that is, work that isn’t done by machines, being done by these “certificate” holders. They’ll live in ever expanding slums, autonomously policed by RoboCops and drones. They’ll have fast Internet and there will be Superbowl commercials about how great all of it is.

I suppose that positive wildcard outcomes are possible from this. Some people will figure out how to start their own businesses with the knowledge they gain from the free online classes. Most, though, will just feel lucky to be able to show up for any paid work at all.

I have no idea what’s going to happen to people who are still attending classes on campus and buying those $200 textbooks. Sure, there will be a few slots somewhere up in the skyscrapers for engineers and managers, but the machine will always, and I mean, ALWAYS, be gunning for them. For most, it’s going to be like the house flippers who couldn’t find a greater fool that one last time as the Ponzi scheme came down. There are millions of people out there with $20K, $50K, $100K or more sunk into worthless degrees… How is that situation going to unwind?

Get busy, boys and girls. Your new career in a building with a suicide net awaits. If you’re lucky.

Free products and services usually exist to monetize, in some way, the people who use them. In this case, the goal of the free courses is to create a larger pool of qualified workers to fill a dwindling number of positions, driving labor costs down.

So, if you want to take free courses, go for it. But if you’re thinking that it’s going to give you an edge in the market, remember that the thronging, jobless hordes have the same idea.

Simon in London said...

I agree; I've run a distance learning course at my old job, but IMO there's definitely no substitute for being in the same room as the lecturer. This is even more the case with 1-1 interaction such as dissertation supervision.

Anonymous said...

Careful, Steve. Too many questions like this and Tyler's head might explode. We can't afford that - he is one of the most influential economists in the country. His unique insight is absolutely essential for our future economic prosperity (just ask Virginia taxpayers who pay him some good $$ so he can write books and blog posts).

Anonymous said...

If college *is* doomed by the Internet, then somebody should add that to the 100 reasons NOT to go to grad school:

http://100rsns.blogspot.com/

After all, where are all those PhDs going to work? Walmart?

Anonymous said...

I just hope the library never goes away.

Anonymous said...

I sure do miss second run theaters. I was willing to pay $1.50 for movies but not $10. So now I gotta wait for everything on dvd.

ck said...

People go to Aspen to be exposed to new ideas and discuss them with people of intellectual weight...I'd object to Cowen's argument if college were as well. In a world where the point of college is gathering credentials as expediently as possible, there is really no reason it shouldn't be replaced by the internet.

Anonymous said...

Its about gathering credentials and about building a network amongst your peers. Thats ever more the case surely?

eah said...

Why didn't his audience just read his insight for free on Tyler's blog?

Because then he wouldn't have gotten a speaking fee. And if that money wasn't spent, the event budget for next year would have been reduced (that's how those things work).

QED

Anonymous said...

Tyler Cowen is a total mediocrity

Not quite. He is incredibly good, top of the top, at several things:
- self-promotion;
- being a poseur;
- picking up other people's ideas and repackaging and reselling them as his own.

The man is playing the system brilliantly, gotta give it to him.

Auntie Analogue said...

Face-on-face college has the advantage of giving its best students the face-time to network with other big shots, top guns, movers-&-shakers, and well-placed mentor-patrons. No such personal connections and networks, which for those who perform well above the average are the life gift that keeps on giving, are possible via internet education. Even if internet education will grant credentials, its only yield will be of huge numbers of individuals to the pool of temp labor that businesses now use - and dispose of without muss or fuss - instead of hiring full-time employees to whom they must grant vacations, benefits packages, and pensions; and internet ed will also yield a huge pool of grads qualified to work in government bureaucracies for which they will churn out massive volumes of additions to the CFR. Internet education may turn out the odd computer genius or video producer, but it won't turn out big finance titans or Goverment High Muckety-Mucks who still get where they need to go through human contacts.

Anonymous said...

The music industry should have been destroyed by the Internet. It's true, free downloads killed album sales, but live concerts are bigger than ever. Same thing I suppose: young people need somewhere cool to hang out, and will pay handsomely for it.

Gilbert Pinfold.

Peter A said...

The comparison of higher education to record companies is prima facie ridiculous. The experience for the listener of a record, a CD or a pirated MP3 remains the same - music coming through speakers or headphones. The delivery mechanism changes but not the final product. The increasing availability of on line education is probably more comparable to the appearance and wide availability of recorded music after the 1930s. Yes, live acts suffered somewhat but people still go to concerts in large numbers.

Anonymous said...

http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2012/07/07/scott-walker-prepares-to-reform-higher-education/

Scott Walker Prepares to Reform Higher Education

WALKING TALL

Anonymous said...

Anon just above with the link to the Scott Walker story is on to something. Granting the credential is the stranglehold the higher ed complex maintains. Change the way a degree is granted by focusing on students passing exams instead of spending time in classrooms (as the Walker plan does) and the whole rotten facade may just come tumbling down.

The doubters are right that this won't affect prestige universities; if anything, their position improves, since they're already working to push themselves forward as content providers for the great unwashed, via projects such as edX and Coursera.

But the great mass of ordinary academics in state universities and private liberal arts colleges face a very uncertain future indeed. They may end up as grading peons who simply mark the exams submitted by students who have prepared for them with online material from Stanford or Harvard.

guest007 said...

Most people seem to refuse to understand that very few college students attend a college where networking or credentially matter.

For most students, what is the difference beween sitting in an auditorium with 400 people listening to a lecture of biology or accounting versus sitting in front of the computer.

A better model would be for students who watch all of the video, do homework and drills, and then come to campus for a few days to work in practical exercises to demonstrate competence in a subject.

On another of Steve's pet issues, image how bad the cheating of asian students will be if everything is on-line.

NOTA said...

Back when I was at Big State U, the first couple years' classes were mostly lecture halls with a professor on stage, and maybe a once a week chance to ask a grad student a question in a 30 person per classroom session. That can probsbly be replaced with online learning with little loss.

The networking and experience can't easily be replaced, but there are already kids missing out on some of that--like the kids that live at home and commute rather than living on or near campus. I wonder if online learning will replace community college for poor or marginal students trying to get into a good college--follow your crapy high school careee wirh a couple years of getting through online proctored exams and such, and you get a shot at coming to the four-year school and getting a hihger prestige degree.

Anonymous said...

3:31 anon

But the great mass of ordinary academics in state universities and private liberal arts colleges face a very uncertain future indeed. They may end up as grading peons

We all end up as peons, except people like Tyler Cowen

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Piggybacking on NOTA -

The Aspen-type colleges are a different market, not easily replaced. You aren't just paying for the education, but the interaction and connections.

Sailer readers, who likely sought out idea-people and discussions in college, should consider that your experience and your memories are not the norm. Many college kids then - including graduate students - and most of them now, do not have the Groves of Adademe experience, nor even the meet-the-movers-and-shakers experience.

Think St. Grotlesex prep schools now. There's a market. Just not a mass market.

GMR said...

During apartheid, South Africa had UNISA or University of South Africa which was primarily a place where you could study through the mail. This actually educated a lot of blacks and whites. Then South Africa also had the traditional universities for the elite, such as Stellenbosch, Rand Afrikaans and University of Witswatersrand.

David Davenport said...

I agree; I've run a distance learning course at my old job, but IMO there's definitely no substitute for being in the same room as the lecturer

Defending your trade union, ye venerable cap and gown guild, aren't you? ... What if the student is in the same room with a crummy lecturer, who perhaps has tenure?

But the great mass of ordinary academics in state universities and private liberal arts colleges face a very uncertain future indeed. They may end up as grading peons who simply mark the exams submitted by students who have prepared for them with online material from Stanford or Harvard.

Well said.

David Davenport said...

Steve, I may have just submitted a duplicate post. Please don't post the duplicate.

--DD

Anonymous said...

During apartheid, South Africa had UNISA or University of South Africa which was primarily a place where you could study through the mail.

Yeah they're called correspondence courses. They've been around for a while all over the place.

Anonymous said...

I concur with the many who believe that internet college is really about building the global skilled labor pool and suppressing American wages, especially for entry- or low-level positions.

It's another kick in the teeth for the American white middle class.

DJF said...

Money is the reason why the present system of colleges are going to change, more and more people don't have the money to attend and the amount of debt they take on is going sky high.

However this will not effect the people with the money or who get others to pay, basically the same kind of people who attend the Aspen Ideas Festival, they have the money to attend or they are being paid to attend by some corporation, foundation, charity or whatever.

The internet college will be used by the same people who can’t afford to go out to live concerts every day and instead use recording for most of their listening. They reserve the big live shows for special occasions just like they will attend a real college for a few hours to learn something they could not learn online.

Anonymous said...

Off-topic, but there's a MASSIVE new Toxoplasmosis study out, and the results are simply disastrous.

Bottom line: Ditch your cat, and get a dog.

Anonymous said...

We all end up as peons, except people like Tyler Cowen

Which, in a nutshell, is a very good description of the neo-feudalism [or the dream of which] that motivates the Aspen elite.

Anonymous said...

Wikipedia and YouTube have been around a while now, why aren't we all scholars and high level technicians? The answer is motivation and guidance. Motivation is as simple as creating learning games that have a leader board and they might even bestow monetary rewards for solving real world problems - a type of scholarship. Guidance can be provided by programs like ALEKS which Steve has mentioned before. The trouble comes when you're dealing with non-math problems, but technology can have a answer to that also, create a program which tracks your eye movement, when paragraphs get re-read or when one's eyes begin to stray from the screen, it will know the student is running into obstacles and then present a more rudimentary explanation of that material. Some governing body can remain to hear dissertations and to prevent cheating.

This might be a better program for Grade School and High School, where there are plenty of kids that you might prefer your child never encounter.

Let college remain traditional college, or else where will serious Affirmative Action begin?

Anonymous said...

Without college sports programs, where will SWPL folks get that brief window of opportunity to show affinity for macho black men, before they spend the rest of their lives avoiding them.

elvisd said...

"Yes. HS has written about the same thing, and I agree with his arguments, but Steve's version is funnier. It makes that idea seem more ridiculous in a shorter amount of time."

To borrow a phrase, HS "vibrates to a narrow range of stimuli".

Bostonian said...

Some tech companies are hiring CS majors for long-term positions well before they graduate. They recognize that getting a B.A. after 4 years does not suddenly make someone more qualified. There is the risk that the job does not work out and the hire has neither a job or a degree. I will encourage my children to take a lot of AP exams so they have the option to graduate from college faster.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303360504577408431211035166.html
Revenge of the Nerds: Tech Firms Scour College Campuses for Talent
Companies Woo Best Students With Equity, Fat Salaries and Free Food
By SPENCER E. ANTE
Wall Street Journal

...

The technology boom has created an acute shortage of engineers and software developers. The industry has responded by taking a page from the playbook of professional sports: identify up and comers early, then roll out the red carpet to lock them up.

With the social media frenzy in full swing, promising students are now wrestling with decisions about whether to stay in school or turn pro. Meanwhile, those who stay on campus are enjoying a bonanza of free food and other goodies as companies rush to win their hearts and minds.

"It is pretty good for my ego, frankly," said Mr. Hawkins, who decided to stay in school and take an internship offer from YouTube this summer.


MAXWELL HAWKINS

Starting salaries at leading companies for average computer science grads from top schools range from $75,000 to $100,000, plus signing and relocation bonuses worth $5,000 to $15,000, according to venture capitalists and recruiters. New hires may also get small equity grants, with stars getting additional cash bonuses or larger grants worth as much as 1% of the company.

Professor Woland said...

While we are at it, the four year college degree is probably in need of changing as well. One new degree that might be worth trying would some sort of IQ test disguised as a short online learning course. The SCOTUS disparate impact ruling has forced companies to avoid testing job applicants directly but having a third party do it in the name of education might be one way around it. Rather than getting an A, B, or C they would get the letter grade equivalent of 85, 100, 130 … Rather than a four year course just make it one month.

Another huge population in the US that is ripe for a die off is the medical specialists. The current system of fee for service has been THE primary driver of cost increases. (The other two big ones being the monopolization of providers such as hospitals and the extension of patients on pharmaceuticals). Currently, the US rations health care based on money. As our country fills up with mediocres, or worse, and our country / medical system becomes more neo-socialistic we will begin to ration on the basis of politics. If the gay community demands more money for Aids they will get it. If women demand more money for their Ta Tas they will get it. If black people and Hispanics demand more money for free stuff they will get it. But this cannot be sustained in a fee for service model so we will either get some sort of glorified national HMO or worse. This does not bode well for doctors who spent an additional three plus years specializing in their field of practice.

My wife is an epidemiologist and GP from Russia. Their medical education system is designed to bring in as many minimally trained clinical GPs as possible. Her degree is not transferable to the US although Germany now allows them to practice there. It makes sense in a country where the per capita is far less than ours. You don’t need to have gone to medical school for 10 years to treat someone with alcoholism or tuberculosis.

Anonymous said...

On another of Steve's pet issues, image how bad the cheating of asian students will be if everything is on-line.

Exams could be proctored, like the SAT.

Anonymous said...

Snarky, Steve, but not a refutation at all. LOL.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
If college *is* doomed by the Internet, then somebody should add that to the 100 reasons NOT to go to grad school:

http://100rsns.blogspot.com/

--------------------------------------------------------------------

What a terrific blog. It could have been written by Charles Murray.

Dirty Tricks said...

Many black students at Duke switch to easier majors. Steve - did you cover this?

Google What Happens After Enrollment to see research paper.

The authors–professors Peter Arcidiacono and Kenneth Spenner, and graduate student Esteban Aucejo – suggest that the switch to seemingly less rigorous majors suggest that black students who benefit from affirmative-action programs are less prepared for more difficult majors, and therefore switch to less demanding areas of study. They also argue that “attempts to increase representation [of minorities] at elite universities through the use of affirmative action may come at a cost of perpetuating underrepresentation of blacks in the natural sciences and engineering,”

"Students who initially expressed an interest in majoring in economics, engineering and the natural sciences, 54 percent of black men and 51 percent of black women ended up switching to the humanities or another social science.

By comparison, 33 percent of white women and just 8 percent of white men made the switch to majors that are considered less rigorous, require less study and have easier grading standards.

68 percent of Duke’s black students but less than 55 percent of white students ended up majoring in the humanities or social sciences other than economics.

Anonymous said...

High quality, affordable internet education is a beta's dream. How many of them (us), crumble under the social pressures of a conventional college e.g. Ted Kaczynski.

Colleges are a laboratory for government social programs, somebody needs to pop their balloon. Colleges are the most anti-HBD zones in the world, everyone here should be offering ideas on how to make Internet Ed work and how to keep it from being dominated by the accrediting agencies of the Elite.

Henry Canaday said...

Colleges offer four years of pleasure, free of parental restrictions or work burdens, among thousands of young attractive people of the opposite sex. What does the Internet offer? (Sorry I asked.)

That's related to the reason all those young PhDs work long hours for modest wages on the chance of getting tenure someday. American universities, especially the better ones, are extremely pleasant and interesting places to spend your life. (And they are not going to screw it up by upsetting their political masters or media monitors.)

Whiskey said...

Cowen is an idiot, but even a broken clock is right twice a day.

College in the standard model is doomed. Why?

Outside of maybe Harvard-Yale-Stanford and a few others, the high cost of tuition and ruinous debt for those non-connected (99.99% of Whites) does not pay off for most jobs like accounting, HR, engineering, etc. Meanwhile Stanford, MIT, and others are providing internet courses (webcasts of their lectures) and for-fee exams and credit for many majors. It will soon be possible to get an MITX certificate in say, accounting, for far less (around $15K maybe over four years or less vs. say $150K) than competing graduates.

This means MITx types can take far lower paying jobs, and employers will FAVOR them since the debt load of these applicants is far less if anything.

Harvard, Yale, etc. will retreat to their historic mission of connecting elites to one another like the ENArchs of France. Big State U will lose since you can get the same ticket punching for cheaper. Yes low-wage-a-palooza, ever downwards, but feminists and the ethnic studies folks depending on Joe Average White person attending college and taking a big cut of fees paid will be hit hard. That whole feminist-liberal-ethnic infrastructure depends on vastly inflated college fees/tuition depending on in turn relatively cheap student loans paid off relatively quickly. Remove the supply of full-price middle class applicants and that stuff collapses quickly.

It is not as if Chicano or Feminist Studies bring in actual money on their own.

Big bill said...

What Cohen (only viscerally?) recognizes, is that our current college system does no better than distance learning.

First, other than drunken binges and Greek culture, you get little more than proctored undergraduate exams from a modern industrial college.

If, after 4 years, you are as likely to be unemployed with a "State U" degree as with an "Electronic U" degree, why not be unemployed with a pile of cash (Electronic U.), versus unemployed with a pile of debt (State U.)?

Second, college diplomas serve more and more merely as racial filters. One can as easily filter racially with a diploma from "Electronic U." as one can from "State U.".

Third, as far as recommendations, one can use one's grades from "Electronic U.", and the recommendations from one's employers in the community. Most employers know the college professor recommendations are mostly BS anyway, since undegrads spent little time with any of the students they recommend over the four years of undergrad.

Anonymous said...

Having gone to UC Berkeley in the mid-aughts, I honestly don't think I would have lost anything if I had just taken the classes online and showed up for the finals (and to turn in papers and the like).

If I had to do it over again, I'd take the CHSPE and get an associate's in nursing fro a CoCo or JuCo.

Thomas O. Meehan said...

Distance learning arrived long ago. It was achieved by paying an army of adjuncts to provide a comfortable distance between students and tenured faculty.

Anonymous said...

Steve Sailer and I graduated from the same university. My immediate circle included the son of a sitting U.S. Senator and the son of a Pakistani general. George and Barbara Bush attended my commencement ceremony, because their grandson was in my graduating class; he and I were in a couple of classes together.

I had a great time there, but as far as I can tell, the "networking" aspect of that experience did not amount to anything for me. I wonder if Steve had the same experience.

My life since college has remained in the academic world, and my cynicism has grown enormously. Would I sacrifice like my parents did to send my children to a private college? Knowing what I know now, I don't think I would.

Anonymous said...

In 2004, 2,100 doctorates were awarded by universities in the United States in the fields of mathematical statistics, botany, optics physics, human and animal pathology, zoology, astrophysics, geometry, geophysics and seismology, general mathematics, nuclear physics, astronomy, marine sciences, nuclear engineering, polymer and plastics engineering, veterinary medicine, topology, hydrology and water resources, animal nutrition, wildlife/range management, number theory, fisheries science and management, atmospheric dynamics, engineering physics, paleontology, plant physiology, general atmospheric science, mathematical operations research, endocrinology, metallurgical engineering, meteorology, ocean engineering, poultry science, stratigraphy and sedimentation, wood science, polymer physics, acoustics, mineralogy and petrology, bacteriology, logic, ceramics science engineering, animal breeding and genetics, computing theory and practice, and mining and mineral engineering. Not one of these 2,100 doctoral degrees went to an African American.

Evil Sandmich said...

What's mildly interesting is that the audio quality off an audio CD is vastly superior to nearly every consumable audio standard. In the end, except for audiophiles, people didn't care as Internet compressed audio was "good enough" and the price the market could bear for produced music dropped (though bootlegging certainly helped).

So too with college. The product at a "brick and mortar" might be superior (for a lot of "brick and mortar"s even that's dubious), but in the end a vastly cheaper, "good enough" product will swamp them. People will still go to "brick and mortar"s due to social inertia if nothing else, but eventually they'll be viewed like people who buy audio CDs at Best Buy: "Oh you went to Brown? How quaint!"

Anonymous said...

Colleges offer four years of pleasure, free of parental restrictions or work burdens, among thousands of young attractive people of the opposite sex. What does the Internet offer? (Sorry I asked.)

The girls in the Ivy League and other elite universities are generally unattractive. Guys go there to land an attractive girl after graduating.

Anonymous said...

The gap is smallest for black engineering phds vs white ones, interestingly.

Anonymous said...

Around 75% of American labor's budget is financialized. There is no way in which an economy with such a high monthly break-even "nut" can compete with less financialized ones.

Rent or home ownership costs are around 35% to 40%.

FICA wage withholding (Social Security, Medicare) is around 15%.

Other debt service (credit cards, student loans, etc.) is around 10%.

Other taxes (income and sales taxes) are around 10% to 15%.

That's a total of about 75%. Only about a quarter of family budgets remains available for spending on current output.

Creditor interests will never write off these debts and give up these claims short of bloody revolution.

Anonymous said...

Some tech companies are hiring CS majors for long-term positions well before they graduate. They recognize that getting a B.A. after 4 years does not suddenly make someone more qualified. There is the risk that the job does not work out and the hire has neither a job or a degree. I will encourage my children to take a lot of AP exams so they have the option to graduate from college faster.

Tech is still a crappy career. There is no real job security. You have to deal with insourcing and outsourcing. You only get about 15 years before having to move on to a second career. So you basically have to plan on a different career as soon as you start your first one. Even at top firms like Google:

"What I learned from Google – You Get Fifteen Years"

http://itknowledgeexchange.techtarget.com/unchartered-waters/what-i-learned-from-google-you-get-fifteen-years/

"During my interview at Google, I realized something very important: You get fifteen years.

That is to say, your half-life as a worker in corporate America is about age thirty-five. Around that time, interviews get tougher. Your obligations make you less open to relocation, the technologies on your resume seem less-current, and your ability find that next gig begins to decrease.

Notice I said half-life. By thirty-five, half the folks who started in technology have gone on to something else — perhaps management, consulting, on to roles in “the business” or in operations. Some have had a full-on career change, got that MBA and gone into management consulting, or perhaps real estate, education, or, well … retail store management. Who knows? A few might go into journalism.

Yet a few stick it out. Half of the half-life is fifty, and, sure, perhaps 25% of the folks who started as line technologists will still be doing that when they turn fifty.

But by the time you turn thirty-five, you’d better have a plan.

That gives a new college graduate fifteen years to build some savings, to get the house paid off, and to find a second career. That’s plenty of time."

Anonymous said...

What would you call this thing of ours if not distance learning? Where shall we have our conference?

Anonymous said...

"This does not bode well for doctors who spent an additional three plus years specializing in their field of practice."

Professor Woland,

European countries with single payer systems still have medical specialists. Whether young American docs would continue to spend 4-10 years after medical school specializing if they anticipated receiving European-level compensation is open to question. It's far crappier to be ordinary middle class in the U.S. than it is in Western Europe, for instance because of the need to pay more for real estate to avoid much larger numbers of NAM's. Probably, American students would start to shun medicine, but the terrible job market could soften that response.

Anonymous said...

"High quality, affordable internet education is a beta's dream. How many of them (us), crumble under the social pressures of a conventional college e.g. Ted Kaczynski."

Ted Kaczynski was a mentally ill omega, not a beta.

Roberts said...

"In 2004, 2,100 doctorates were awarded by universities in the United States ... Not one of these 2,100 doctoral degrees went to an African American."

That was then. Used to be that at least PhDs were the last bastion of meritocracy. You still had to pass prelims on your own and exhibit an expert-level depth of knowledge and comprehension of your field, demonstrate creative and intelligent approaches to solve problems, show some mastery of public speaking, and complete a serious project with peer-reviewed publications arising from it.

Now however, a number of universities have programs in place specifically designed to assist "underrepresented and disadvantaged" minority graduate students that literally hold their hand through the entire process. I witnessed this in action including seeing my own professor coaching underrepresented students one-on-one on days before exams, as well as holding their hands through projects, doing the critical thinking for reading journal articles for them, etc. Good luck getting 5 minutes with the guy to discuss anything about the class or your project if you were a white male, though.

All at the taxpayer's expense. Like all of these hand-holding efforts for minorities, this new approach really just kicks the problem further down the road- what will these swarthy geniuses who couldn't hack it do when they have to compete at the next level- solving real problems as an expert on their own in their field? Well, at least the University can proudly say they graduated X # black PhDs! Never mind that it wasted resources on what could've been more talented minds. Never mind that it ultimately cheapens the reputation of the University when the graduating class performs more poorly than before. Never mind the blatant unfairness in it all. Gotta have those black faces on the department flyers!

Anonymous said...

".
High quality, affordable internet education is a beta's dream. How many of them (us), crumble under the social pressures of a conventional college e.g. Ted Kaczynski."

Ted did not crumble. Here is is college record:

Kaczynski was accepted into Harvard University at the age of 16, where he earned an undergraduate degree, and later earned a PhD in mathematics from the University of Michigan. He became an assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley at age 25, but resigned two years later.

His manifesto is right on the money.Too bad he had to kill people and lose credibility. Nobody takes him seriously because of that.

Anonymous said...

High quality, affordable internet education is a beta's dream. How many of them (us), crumble under the social pressures of a conventional college e.g. Ted Kaczynski.

He went to Harvard and grad school for math. Those aren't really conventional college environments as far as social pressures go. Extreme nerds aren't that unusual there.

If you read his writings, it's clear that he's quite lucid. It isn't clear at all that he's mentally ill.

Kylie said...

"What would you call this thing of ours if not distance learning?"

I'd call this thing of ours La cosa nostra but I tend to be literal-minded.

"Where shall we have our conference?"

Anywhere other than New York state.

Anonymous said...

That's a total of about 75%. Only about a quarter of family budgets remains available for spending on current output.
a money lender's economy.

Anonymous said...

Well, if your thesis is gonna be on Buffy the vampire Slayer, why not just stay home and write as a blog post?

Anonymous said...

Ted Kaczynski was a mentally ill omega, not a beta.

The thing is, he's probably "alpha" now and gets lots of mail in prison from women. High profile, infamous male criminals (including serial killers, sociopaths, etc.) get lots of female admirers once they're in prison.

Anonymous said...

Elite colleges will remain, but I think many lesser colleges, especially community colleges, will have to become more creative.

I recently visited a local community college to see what's up. I checked the library. It seems like NO ONE is checking out or reading books.

Anonymous said...

First they came for the card catalogs, then they came for the books, then they came for the dvds, etc.

Anonymous said...

In the future, would it be possible to hold 10,000 books, 1000 rock albums, and 1000 movies in a device the size of an iPhone? Does that mean no more bookshelves? No more books?

Anonymous said...

I skimmed Kaczynski's manifesto. He doesn't mention overpopulation or immigration. Major omissions. Was he PC? Those features of society have only been possible due to science and engineering. So he is right that they are central to some current discontents. But I don't think Kaczynski's revolution would help things. On the other hand a clear HBD point of view would help quite a bit.
Robert Hume

Anonymous said...

What's mildly interesting is that the audio quality off an audio CD is vastly superior to nearly every consumable audio standard.

What are you comparing it to? To LPs, to cassettes, to MP3, to iTunes-bought music?

Anonymous said...

Worst thing about college is dorm life.
Unless you go to some rich college, it's like prison cells.

Anonymous said...

"I skimmed Kaczynski's manifesto. He doesn't mention overpopulation or immigration. Major omissions. Was he PC? "

He does mention over population. See later quote.

I found these quotes from his manifesto.



This also underlies the rejection by many leftists of the concept of mental illness and
of the utility of IQ tests. Leftists are antagonistic to genetic
explanations of human abilities or behavior because such
explanations tend to make some persons appear superior
or inferior to others

"12. (fr) Those who are most sensitive about “politically
incorrect” terminology are not the average black ghettodweller, Asian immigrant, abused woman or disabled person, but a minority of activists, many of whom do not
even belong to any “oppressed” group but come from
privileged strata of society. Political correctness has its
stronghold among university professors, who have secure
employment with comfortable salaries, and the majority
of whom are heterosexual white males from middle- to
upper-middle-class families.

15. (fr) Leftists tend to hate anything that has an image
of being strong, good and successful. They hate America,
they hate Western civilization, they hate white males, they
hate rationality. The reasons that leftists give for hating
the West, etc. clearly do not correspond with their real
motives. They SAY they hate the West because it is warlike, imperialistic, sexist, ethnocentric and so forth, but
where these same faults appear in socialist countries or
in primitive cultures, the leftist finds excuses for them,
or at best he GRUDGINGLY admits that they exist; whereas he ENTHUSIASTICALLY points out (and often greatly
exaggerates) these faults where they appear in Western
civilization. Thus it is clear that these faults are not the
leftist’s real motive for hating America and the West. He
hates America and the West because they are strong and
successful.

Revolutionaries should have as many children
as they can. There is strong scientific evidence that social attitudes are to a significant extent inherited. No one
suggests that a social attitude is a direct outcome of a
person’s genetic constitution, but it appears that personality traits are partly inherited and that certain personality traits tend, within the context of our society, to make
a person more likely to hold this or that social attitude.

) The trouble is that many of the people who
are inclined to rebel against the industrial system are also
concerned about the population problems, hence they are
apt to have few or no children. In this way they may be
handing the world over to the sort of people who support or at least accept the industrial system. To insure
the strength of the next generation of revolutionaries the
present generation should reproduce itself abundantly. In
doing so they will be worsening the poonly slightly. And the important problem is to get rid of
the industrial system, because once the industrial system
is gone the world’s population necessarily will decrease
(see paragraph 167); whereas, if the industrial system
survives, it will continue developing new techniques of
food production that may enable the world’s population
to keep increasing almost indefinitely.

Professor Woland said...

One reason young doctors were less rosy about ObamaCare than older ones is that they were facing a full career of diminished pay while still having to deal with their student loans. 75% of US docs are specialized so clearly it pays to invest the extra 3 years after residency. In Germany, it is the exact inverse with only 25% of doctors specializing. With a fee for service payout from private insurers, the higher fees comes back in spades but in a scenario where revenues are collected on a capitated basis the opportunity to perform an unlimited number of procedures and charge an unlimited number of fees disappears. Furthermore, it becomes much easier to take an epidemiological approach when there is a stable patient base and revenue source. This means that the justification for a particular procedure is made by someone else other than the patient and his or her doctor.

Anonymous said...

"Worst thing about college is dorm life.
Unless you go to some rich college, it's like prison cells."

Who cares what they look like when you're hanging out with smart people, getting fucked up and having sex regularly?

Soumynona said...

Who cares what they look like when you're hanging out with smart people, getting fucked up and having sex regularly?

Great point. Are you a White House strategist? Cuz it sounds like something you could adapt to Barack's "Betting On [X or Z piece of Fantasyland]" trope

Anonymous said...

Professor Woland,

You are likely right that physicians in training will try to cut as much time as they can out of the residency and fellowship period as possible. People who aren't already committed to medicine will likely shun the field as it will be miserable and thankless. A fully capitated system carries too much risk for the generalists. It replaces an incentive for providing too much care with an incentive for the GP gatekeeper to deny care to preserve his earnings. But even this won't solve the cost problem. Physician reimbursements have been stagnant for years while costs have been rising. Placing all of the blame on physicians neglects the blame that should fall on patients for unhealthy lifestyle and demanding care, sometimes against the advice of their physicians (e.g. antibiotics for colds, spine surgery, etc.)

ben tillman said...

Cowen is an idiot, but even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Stopped clock.

Anonymous said...

A fully capitated system carries too much risk for the generalists.

How so?

guest007 said...

Steve,

Walter Isaacson was on MSNBC Morning Joe (7/9/2012) to discuss the "big ideas" that came out of the Aspen Ideas Festival. I watched to see if a the Cowen talk was mentioned.

Of course, higher education was not mentioned but the big idea that came out of the conference was "national service."

http://www.todayonline.com/World/EDC120709-0000019/Could-NS-be-the-glue-America-needs

The elite see forced national service as a way to teach the lower classes to do what they are told and to respect the elites of the U.S.

One can watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UzQBV4h1VtU

NOTA said...

One sideline about medical training costs: Doctors in the US do medical training as graduate school, so they've already done a four-year degree. I think in Commonwealth countries, at least, they do it as an undergrad degree, so they spend four years less time and money on their education before starting their careers. In the US, it seems like a lot of medicine is being taken over by NPs and PAs, who have much less training (the good news is they don't cost as much, the bad news is they don't know as much).

Any change in compensation that happens is going to screw over the current crop of doctors, especially the ones just out of their medical school, residency, and fellowship, who have just spent a decade being trained and now are looking to make back some of what they spent and lost. If we ever go over to a single-payer plan or some such thing, we ideally ought to work out some way to wipe out the debts incurred by doctors for their training.

Gene Berman said...

Ben Tillman:
"stopped"

Yes--that's the saying. And your comment reminded me where I first heard it, a June day in 1956.

I was hitch-hiking north on the NY Thruway to a summer job. Getting out of a car, I thanked the driver and asked him the time. "Three oh seven or eight" was his response.

Waiting for the sporadic traffic, I began investigating some of the edge-of-the-highway terrain and vegetation, turning over pieces of cardboard or wood (I was an amateur herpetologist). While doing so, I found a completely empty wallet, then, not far away, a watch, crystal cracked, reading exactly 3:00. It was a Gruen--one of the better makes of watches in those days.

Alarmed that some accident or even foul play had "just" occurred, I spent the better part of a half hour (neglecting hitch-hiking) in searching; I imagined someone lying unconscious, concealed by vegetation. After a bit, I gave up
and resumed my trip.

Arriving late PM, I was received by my employer, owner of a tourist attraction (reptile zoo). During a lengthy conversation, I told him the story of the watch, curiously stopped at just a few minutes prior to the actual time.

"Well, you know what they say--even a stopped clock is right twice a day." Yes--it's true, I'd heard it before and could even have been said to understand it in some academic sense. But that's when I really came to understand it's practical significance. Sorta like "Close--but no cigar!"

Anonymous said...

With rise of the internet, why do we need highschool?

Anonymous said...

NOTA,

Arguably the best of those undergraduate medical degrees, the ones provided by the British universities, last longer than 4 years. Very few students have taken all of the prerequisites necessary to function in clinical training while in high school, so a few years are tacked on to the basic science portion of the curriculum in place of the premed requirements that American students take in college before medical school. There is still a time savings of roughly 2 years, b ut then the British system heavily restricts who can go into what specialties. Just about every trainee spends at least a few years doing the equivalent of a general internal medicine internship/residency before they are allowed to specialize. I knew an ethnic South Asian physician trainee in the UK who truly hated the British training system.

Chris said...

Whatever happened to the meme of if-you-want-to-be-rich-next-century-buy-farmland? Dovetails nicely here...

I don't think anyone would seriously argue that online learning is as good as a classroom. The question is whether the online learning experience is good enough that the loss of classroom is offset by the gains in sloughing off all the inefficiencies of college life. I think the answer is clearly yes.

I haven't read a lot about this, but it seems to me the direction will be in increasingly narrow education online. The whole gen ed idea that underpins the American ed system comes out of Anglo-American assumptions. Why does an Indian working in biochemistry need proof he has some mastery of English literature or world history? Certificates won't be online degrees but proof of knowledge in narrow subjects.

Her degree is not transferable to the US although Germany now allows them to practice there. It makes sense in a country where the per capita is far less than ours. You don’t need to have gone to medical school for 10 years to treat someone with alcoholism or tuberculosis.

That's why we have PAs and NPs now.

Anonymous said...

You don’t need to have gone to medical school for 10 years to treat someone with alcoholism or tuberculosis.

Perhaps not tuberculosis, unless it's multi-drug resistant or disseminated and the patient is on death's doorstep. However, most alcoholics hang around a while and develop a lot of complicated chronic medical problems. A smart alcoholic with liver, pancreatic disease, neuropathy, cardiomyopathy or cancer (e.g. of esophagus or liver) would be wise to seek out a seasoned physician, not an NP or PA.

Anonymous said...

Of course, higher education was not mentioned but the big idea that came out of the conference was "national service."

LOL. These are the brilliant ideas our most brilliant "elites" are coming up with? These are stale retreads of old ideas - correspondence courses from the Victorian era and 19th century nationalism.

Prof. Woland said...

I am not saying that it is better to be personally treated by a NP or a PA than a GP, let alone a specialist. But when you look at outcomes over thousands of patients, it is often much smarter from an epidemiological basis to deskill the positions. Kaiser Permanente, as well as the rest of the HMOs, operate on this exact principal. This is why the first person you see when you walk in is a NP. I don’t belong to Kaiser but a lot of people do including moderate income people who cannot afford to go elsewhere.

The real trick for doctors is being able to accurately diagnose a disease. Nowadays, with the dissemination of information it is fairly easy for providers to apply care using the latest protocols. This will become even truer as more and more specialized drugs hit the market. Roughly 5% of the population eats up 50% of the medical care. And of those, approximately 70% are preventable illnesses. Although counterintuitive, the secret is to put more care into this group not less. But as several people have eluded, that care is not meeting repeatedly with a specialist but receiving rigorous follow up care with various lower lever providers to make sure the patient is compliant.

One reason France does a relatively good job is that they are fairly good at getting doctors in front of patients early and their doctors tend to be good clinicians. American doctors, while smarter and better educated, tend to be overly reliant on technology. However this is not such a bad thing. The technology to diagnose medical problems is getting better at light speed and pretty soon even a goof ball will be able to diagnose illness that till now only Marcus Welby could figure out. This is also true for cancer which is notorious for having very few reliable markers.