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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Is it long past time to apply capitalism to our socialist educational system?

Given that a four-year bachelors degree in some particular major is de rigueur and pro forma for a young professional entering today's job market, what underlying inefficiencies and cost imbalances would a more capitalistic and competitive educational model eliminate?
Core Curriculum Requirements (Bachelor’s Degree)
XYZ University requires all bachelor's degree students to complete a minimum of 16 academic courses in the liberal arts and sciences and 1 course in physical education. In order to fulfill this requirement, all students must complete the following:

Skills Courses

Three writing courses (9 credits) ENG 191; ENG 192; an additional writing course, 210-level or higher, which may be in the major. One communication course. One physical education course. May also be fulfilled by a life skill or wellness learning course. (1 course, 1 credit). Completion of one season of a XYZ team sport will also satisfy this requirement. Only one credit may be counted in a student's total credit count. Computer Literacy Requirement. All students entering the University are required to successfully complete IS 144—MS Windows and Office Applications. Achieve a grade of "C" or better in an equivalent course as required by majors in Visual Communication Design; and Film, Video and Theater.

Distribution Courses

Note: All these courses must be outside of the discipline of the major, but they may fulfill secondary program requirements for the major. Fine Arts (3 credits) Art: Film, Music, Photography, Theatre, Social Science (2 courses, 6 credits, from two different disciplines) Anthropology, Economics, Geography, Human Services, Political Science, Psychology, Sociology, Mathematics and Science (3 courses, 10–12 credits, at least one lab science and one math at the level of Math 121 or higher, not including Math 132. (Math 201, however, may only be used as a second math course in this requirement.) Mathematics Biology, Chemistry, Physical Science, Physics, Humanities (4 courses, 12 credits, from at least three different disciplines) History, Literature, Philosophy, Religion

Core Electives

(2 courses, 6 credits) These two courses may be selected from any of the distribution disciplines or from foreign language courses, communication (CM) courses, English writing and language courses, or interdisciplinary courses that include one of the distribution disciplines. Both of these courses must be outside of the discipline of the major, and they cannot be used to fulfill any additional Core requirements, but they may fulfill secondary program requirements for the major. Foreign Language Candidates for the Bachelor of Arts degree must complete six credits of foreign language at the 200-level. They may use their two Core Electives (see above) to fulfill this requirement.
If you're looking at the outline listed above and don't see a problem, punch yourself in the head. Look in the mirror and notice the swelling. Admit that you've just punched yourself in the head, and then look at the outline again. Repeat this as many times as necessary until the self-evident problem becomes noticeable. At some point, as lumps continue to grow upon your head, you may begin to notice that nothing in the asinine litany of academic hoops that you must jump through listed above is there anything having something to do with your particular major—the particular field of study you desire to pursue, unless of course you are an English, art, or foreign language major.

The academic litany above represents thousands of your dollars, hundreds of hours of your time, but unfortunately it also represents absolutely zero, nada, zilch, bupkis to your ability to carry out your future career responsibilities. So you want to be a computer programmer? You'll also need Spanish, Anthropology, Chemistry, Film and some Philosophy...which will carry you through your first year...It's total bullshit!

These hoops represent the university's attempt to justify their fine arts program, their history program, their science program. You my foolish young student are subsidizing all the practically useless programs that your university offers. You're forced to subsidize these programs via the university's requirement to study these—to you—completely useless courses. It would be bad enough if they just charged you the money. But no, they grind salt and acid into your gaping financial wounds by requiring your time and attention as well. You'll be paying interest on the debt incurred for that philosophy class long after you've forgotten what the class was even about.

This system is outrageous, unfair, and inefficient, and as such requires a big what if. What if? What if you could spend four years just learning about your major. What if you could attend a school where you lived and breathed your major. Let's talk computer science. From Freshman to senior every course should be computer related. They should be teaching the ins, outs, and in-betweens with no bullshit. No Spanish, no fine-arts, no philosophy. It should just be computers. When and if you graduate, you should know as much about computer hardware, software, and the on-going trends in the field as an IT professional hard at work in Redmond Washington, for instance.

The prevalence of on-line courses suggests that the current university educational model is due for a huge upheaval. As they exist today, the huge and multidisciplinary universities will not be able to compete with the slim and efficient focused study path of the on-line educational institution. Given that a focused four-year degree would represent the state-of-the-art in a particular field of endeavor, what multinational corporation wouldn't be knocking insistently and eagerly at the door of a graduate from this kind of focused on-line university?

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