Archive | April, 2016

54. Free Public College

6 Apr

Recently, there have been proposals of a free (or low-cost) college education system. Having the government support the costs of a traditional college would be far too expensive. However, with some restructuring and innovations, three or four years of quality education and a degree could be provided for motivated high school graduates.  Different ways of developing a free college system could be explored in several localities and then generally implemented in the best way.

The goal of a public college would be to make the participant an “educated” person. This person would have reasoning and logic skills, could further self-educate, could research and fact find, would have good reading, writing and speaking skills, might acquire some specialized work skills, and would have a good understanding of the world that he/she lives in.  If the student has high grades in public college and is motivated, he/she would be eligible to enter a graduate or professional school. Transcripts of course-work and grades would be available, the same as traditional universities. Every public college would need to have USDE-recognized accreditation.

Here are some ideas that could be used in the first trials.

1. The public college could be an add-on to high schools. Administrators and space could be shared, with huge savings in cost. For example, high school ends at 2:30pm and college takes over for the late afternoon and evening.

2. The overall program would be federally administered, but state and/or local agencies would also participate. Nearby traditional universities might also provide help. Although some would consider free college a competition, most well-educated people are quite sympathetic to more education for the general population.

3. The public college would be focused on education and would not include research, sports, and other social programs, unless they were cost-free or paid for by students or contributions. Only courses in traditional subjects, such as mathematics, anthropology, physics, chemistry, computer science, economics, biology, business, history, etc. would be provided. Very specialized new departments such as found in some universities would not be included. To save money, art and music courses could be eliminated and would only be available from private institutions.

4. A small number of well-credentialed professors would be in charge of the courses. Most of the actual teaching would be done by advanced graduate students from nearby universities. Private universities also use graduate students for much of the teaching. The professors would provide some lectures. Volunteers from industry and elsewhere could provide additional lectures.

5. Duration. There would be three or four years of public college education. A student could choose an ordinary four years or a condensed three-year program by taking courses in the summer. An alternative would be the first two years tuition free and a low cost for the next two years. I have no special ideas at this time, about graduate school.

6. Instead of requiring students to pay for expensive textbooks, material for study could be a collection of Internet sites. Resources such as Khan Academy and Internet-published college lectures could be used without cost. I have logged thousands of hours of research using the Internet and am certain there is much more than enough free information to provide a complete four-year college education in every traditional subject. Existing “Federal work-study” programs would also help support the students.

7. There would be the usual regular testing in classrooms, administered by the professors and/or advanced graduate students.  Course grades would be recorded in the usual college transcripts, which would be available to potential employers.

The first trial of this low-cost Public College should be located next to a large state university. This would provide a supply of advanced graduate students for help with teaching, and if desired, students could take specialty courses as special students at the university. A source of administrators and professors might be retired university staff, that would help out at little or no cost. Recent Ph.D’s that have not immediately found jobs could spend a year or two teaching at the Public College — similar to the Peace Corps concept. Many foundations interested in improving education, would probably want to provide grants for this endeavor. There are brilliant young people that want to make contributions that benefit the world (and are not overly interested in wealth), that could start a project like this. To get this rolling, location in a desirable vacation area would be a good way to attract staff.

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53. Global Dysfunction

3 Apr

To understand the major world problems, we must first separate two important levels of analysis:
Level-1: Morality and ethics (in a practical sense, MOST important).
Level-2: Understanding the way things work, apart from value judgments (also necessary).

In our everyday world and when we vote, we must observe Level-1, Morality. When we try to understand “basic causes”, we need to use bodies of objective knowledge like history, anthropology, and science. And the method must be unbiased reasoning.

The major “basic cause” for global dysfunction (wars, corruption, poverty, etc.) is a natural process of evolution. There are other causes, but I consider the following to be most important. Evolution is a Level-2 consideration and is independent of values and morals. It would be nice if nature included morality in evolution, but it does not. Governments, political parties, corporations and various social groups have a tendency to become more powerful and rich, as a natural process — OR — they simply fade away (like unsuccessful extinct species). Success often involves subtle or hidden corruption, because evolution is morally neutral.

Let’s start with an important example. I believe that the wars in the Middle East are a result of corrupt government evolution. Government leaders, if left alone, will tend to become more powerful and rich. As governments become richer, obviously, the people will lose out and poverty will grow. Any country with a large population of poor people is unstable and is subject to violent correction: revolution. Why is this happening now? Because technology has promoted communication and people are better able to see the corruption and unfairness of their governments. They also see other countries where the people are living better than they are. Rising corruption and improved communication reach a bursting point and violence ensues.

UNREGULATED INSTITUTIONS TEND TOWARDS CORRUPTION

Here are some other examples of natural, but corrupt evolution, more close to home. Banks tend to become larger and richer through mergers and questionable competition. As they develop greater size, they can better influence government bank-regulations to promote their profits.

Insurance companies evolve so that if unregulated, premiums rise and benefits diminish. Some politicians assert that we should not let government come between our doctors and us — but are perfectly happy to let profit-hungry insurance companies do just that. The assertion that competition among insurance companies will correct their corruption is not supported by history.

Educational institutions like universities, also evolve to create impossible high costs for education. The solution for this problem is complex and perhaps we need a total revision of the system. One of my thoughts on this matter is have three or four year public (tuition free) colleges where the learning functions are the total focus, and research, sport, and social functions are mostly eliminated. This will be detailed in my next blog.

Manufacturing corporations become gigantic and control Congress through campaign contributions. Enron Corp. a great example of the corruption of corporations that are not properly regulated. Many people in corporations are good and responsible, but it’s often the case that the most clever and greedy people rise to the top and cause horrible problems.

WHAT IS THE SOLUTION ?
Generally, more education is helpful. More people speaking out about injustice, lies, and corruption is helpful. Changes to campaign financing are essential because political contributions have a choke hold on our officials. But this is difficult because our current congressmen are a product of this system. It will take a major (non-violent) revolution to break this harmful cycle so that the greatness of America can be restored (yes, a poke at a common political sound-bite). The press could play a bigger role in identifying lies and corruption, but reporters and publishers seem somewhat controlled by fear.

The founding fathers, President Dwight Eisenhower and other great leaders have recognized these problems, but the leaders that profit from corruption are already so rich and influential that change is difficult. Some presidential candidates are obsessed with following the original constitution but disregard the fact that checks-and-balances were included to fight this very evolutionary pitfall, which is a problem as old as the rise of civilization. Final thought: It’s really more complicated than I have presented above, but I think these ideas emphasize an analysis commonly overlooked, and contribute to the ultimate solutions.