Online Education & The USG-Higher Ed Complex

I sat in on a pitch for a new and improved Executive MBA program that my employer is currently in the process of launching. Every aspect of the program will be streamlined and electronic, designed to deliver the product cost effectively and conveniently to busy executive level students and anyone else with an interest in obtaining the e-degree. In order to remain competitive on price and to attract talent from across the developing world, the program also adopts a Khan Academy-esque model, where American universities contribute copyrighted course material to a database that universities located across various Third World backwaters may access for a fee, then use for instructional purposes.   The presentation was delivered by an Indian fellow who extolled the virtues of the program, as it would increase access to higher education for folks in developing nations. There was especial emphasis on the value of this program to. . .India (naturally). The genius of the model is that it allows the universities to reduce costs while increasing enrollment (and thus income) through volume sales while also generating income through the bifurcation of content generation and content delivery, allowing a sell-off to the Third World.

There was much oohing and aahing, and audible self-congratulatory back patting. We are quite a clever institution! This will be remarkable!

Indubitably, online education is the future of education as it is more nimble, cost-effective, and adaptable and will only become more attractive, as traditional higher ed models become obsolete. Nevertheless, the inexorable corollary to this is the complete devaluation of the degree at every level. Once credentials become ubiquitous, they become worthless. But, in the absence of alternative approaches to gauging workplace fitness, there will necessarily be a constant upping of the credential ante to maintain the competitive edge: more education must be obtained, more bunk credentials/courses must be created for consumption.  Americans will spend more time getting an education only to have fewer options open upon graduation, as they find themselves competing against Third Worlders eagerly snapping up discount education made possible by material largely purchased from American universities.

This is the future. 

Realistically, that’s all this is about. Of course these programs are looking to hawk their wares in various global asscracks. This is all a part of the plan. It creates the perfect pretext to hire more of these folks who will be willing to work for less who are “just as qualified as Americans,” and have “comparable credentials,” and are ready and willing to “do the work that Americans won’t do.” This will only accelerate a process already underway. Educational disparity will no longer be a valid concern and American workers will find themselves vastly outcompeted. Ultimately, online education will benefit no one but the institutions pushing these courses, the open borders/free trade crowd, and the 3rd Worlders they import to replace (displace) Americans.

My gripe isn’t with online education per se. It’s with how it is likely to be weaponized and used against the average citizen. It is certainly valuable, but there are elements determined to use innovation in this regard to the detriment of Americans as a whole. They are determined to use it to create ersatz, temporary value for the global 1% at the expense of creating genuine, long-term value that would benefit the global 99%. Far from heralding the enlightened democratization of education, this push will only serve to diminish opportunity for Americans while concentrating power in the hands of a plutocratic elite.

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2 Comments

  1. I think at some level the very idea of corporations so huge that they have to officially publish formal hiring requirements instead of the small business type “yeah my cousin who worked with you said you are a good programmer and I found you sympathethic at the interview, so here as offer” absolutely informal process is at some level off. Humans are not meant to be that bureaucratic. A small business is a neighborhood a big one is like a friggin’ government. But since I spent all my life so far in the small business sector of EU my view is probably not very neutral. I am just saying I probably don’t even want to work somewhere that has formal requirements and basic sympathy at the interview does not matter much. I don’t even understand how it is not the most basic requirement ever that you and your future boss should find each other likeable. If there is no personal sympathy are people just going to work by rules, instead of genuinely trying to help each other out and making themselves useful? But it is not possible to design rules for every potential contingency.

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    1. It’s very alienating over here. Abundantly clear that every worker is a cog in the machine, completely fungible. I think that this is a byproduct of the U.S. populousness and its ethnic diversity. Diversity erodes trust, and it definitely erodes everyone’s desire (and ability) to seek informal solutions in hiring. For one, employers are required by federal law to create “diverse and representative” workforces. But the less you identify with an individual, the less concerned you are for their general happiness and satisfaction, and the less likely you are to hire them on the basis of simpatico. So employers just hire by rote and let the chips fall where they may. Secondly, with a population of 322 million (not counting our “migrants”), combined with the cronyism of Washington, the big corporations are fast becoming the only games in town. So yeah, a confluence of factors are accelerating the US’ transformation into a very inorganic, rules-based, corporate society that crushes the individual and makes everything rather colorless.

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