Higher Education

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.
     -- John F. Kennedy
The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher regard those who think alike than those who think differently.
     -- Friedrich Nietzsche

The purpose of education is to prepare the younger generation to educate themselves.
     -- W Faulkner (?)


     Much of the history of capitalism can be written as a sequence of invasions in which the control of production in industry after industry shifts from crafts persons to capitalist enterprises ².... As one of the last centers of craft-based production, higher education has enjoyed an anomalous position within the capitalist economy....
     Capitalists have earned profits supplying goods and services -- from construction to textbooks to computers -- to these educational institutions. But there has been no profit in producing higher education itself. It has become part of the necessary infrastructure of capitalism, rather like a road system, and its operation has best been left to the state.
     This is about to change. The accelerating power and falling prices of computers; the Internet; computerized data banks; the proliferation of basic computer skills within the college-age population: all are factors making higher education ripe for invasion by capitalist enterprise....
     As higher education is presently organized, the computer on my desk -- even though it is owned by my employer -- is a tool which enhances the quality of my work. Neither I nor the administrators of my college expect the computer to either make education cheaper or to reduce the number of hours per quarter that I work. Its purpose is to make our product better, not cheaper or faster. [note]
     ...Wired editor Kevin Kelly puts it rather bluntly: "Any job that can be measured for productivity probably should be eliminated".
     And therein lies the difference: we cannot even define, let alone measure, the output of higher education. All we can measure are inputs: credit hours taught, faculty-student ratios, etc. If we define a goal very narrowly, such as teaching keyboard skills, we can measure the output. But we call that training, not education. Unfortunately, those who do not understand the difference between education and training believe that output can be measured. It is no accident that the movement toward computer-mediated education is coming at the same time as state legislatures are mandating measurable "outcomes assessment" as a condition of funding for higher education....

(2) For the purposes of this paper, I am subsuming professionals in general -- and college professors in particular -- under the category of crafts persons.
      -- Kit Sims Taylor, Higher Education: From Craft-Production to Capitalist Enterprise?, in [First Monday] 3:9

     "The Internet and its related systems represent a genuine revolution in learning, one that is having a deep and lasting impact on formal education in ways that other modern technological innovations (such as radio or film or television) have never achieved.
     [Such innovations as online library catalogs, electronic discussion groups, and the development of new digital course materials are already doing much to extend and enrich traditional forms of learning.]

    "Equally important, the Internet reinforces the idea of the student as an active, energetic agent in the process of learning. It places the student in the driver's seat, so to speak, and makes clear that very little will happen unless someone takes command. The student becomes an inquirer, discoverer, and apprentice scholar, engaged in a form of research, of learning by searching and pursuing -- as well as by communicating and collaborating."
      -- Harvard Pres. Neil Rudenstine, to the American Council on Education, reported in [The Harvard Gazette], 27 Feb 1997.


Note: Unnecessary quality leads to cheapening; thus the question is who determines adequacy and purpose, means and ends, container and contents, etc.]

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Prepared by Serchan Efi Mira for Hundred Flowers Publications          8918 9314: 90m