Are College Professors Redundant?
Foreign Students Sacrifices Parents Make
Foreign students convince their parents that a Canadian or American graduate or post-graduate certificate is a good investment, but what can universities teach them that is not found online? The internet cannot teach them how:
to do a heart transplant or caesarian section on pregnant women
to become effective criminal or human rights lawyers
to build electric cars and busses
produce antibiotics to arrest various illnesses
Parents eagerly buy into the idea of a foreign university education for a variety of reasons:
They like the idea that classes won’t be interrupted because the youth wing of a political party is forcing communism, which ironically is called ‘democratic’ ideas on the whole student body, as it happens in some African countries.
Classes won’t be interrupted because the student union has called a strike for better food.
They like the idea that their children won’t become prostitutes in order to buy cars, live in expensive apartments, have designer bags and shoes only afforded by women who work full-time ’or join murderous student cults.
Wealthy Parents and College
The internet has made great inroads into what is called ‘knowledge’ but, that has not stopped young people from attending university whether fees are high up on the pyramid or not. University education was and is still largely exclusive.
It was meant to be the inheritance of children born to a certain social class or certain bank balance. That is why we have a grouping called Ivy League universities in the United States and Oxford, Cambridge and Durham universities in the United Kingdom.
The internet made cracks into world universities and provided an inclusive learning free zone without borders. We now have a situation where university education is:
No longer exclusively book-based
No longer confined to brick buildings with climbing ivy or state of the art lecture halls
No longer relies on the ability to speak or write ‘properly’
Is no longer a passport to certain jobs
So-called scholars printed and bound knowledge in books and kept it on book shelves. Millions of people were labelled uncivilized or not educated because they could not access it. The understanding was that if it is not written down, it is not knowledge.
Traditional societies all over the world know the elements of wind, fire and water. They do not know their Greek or Latin terms, nor their chemical composition, but they are experts in harnessing wind, fire and water for their survival.
They have their own names for the stars. They know their movements. They incorporate stars in their mythology. They know everything about their piece of the world allocated to them by the Creator.
They can tell when it is going to rain by interpreting unusual behaviour from animals, they know how the male and female body works, how to build houses using local resources and how to recycle. That was before destruction caused by 'civilisation', the Coke bottle and plastic bags.
University education put all that in a book and called it astronomy, anatomy, architecture and environmental studies. Knowledge was therefore stolen from a collective and became the private property of an individual called an author/academic, and parents pay thousands of dollars and euros to study dead and living experts.
History of Education
Education used to be the ability to live in harmony with the environment that gave you fish, chickens, rabbits, other animals, rice, corn or blackberries to eat.
Education used to be teaching kids how to defend that environment.
Education used to be how information about this survival is passed down to future generations.
Education is not noble as it is mostly perceived. Education in British, French, Spanish and Portuguese colonies was based on validation. It had to validate how European settlers stole other people’s rivers and land.
They arrived on the shores of North America, Africa and Asia with guns and the bible. They left with title deeds to lands that were once free. Original owners of the land had to get used to the sign KEEP OUT PRIVATE PROPERTY.
Education is Specific
So-called cavemen hunted to feed their families. They did not kill animals in hundreds in order to make an industry. Education says mass production in factories or sweat shops, helps the economy and leads to exports.
Power generation. Traditional societies shared a spring or a river. Education and the economy fenced off certain parts of the land, installed huge machinery to provide water then forced people to pay for utilities.
Colonised people became servants and policemen. They thought education would improve their children’s lot.They did not like it but they saw it as the only way out economic bondage. Not all children. University education comes with a price tag and not all parents can afford it.
It is worse for foreign students because they pay more than students who live where the university is, be it Canada, The United Kingdom or Australia. Most international students are the butt of jokes because they work hard. They do because they know the sacrifices their parents made to send them abroad.
No longer book-based
The internet flipped the script and provided education for all.
It might sound like a cliché but the answer to most questions is ‘Google it,’ and the masters of the game are between 13 – 30 years of age. This is the age group that is still in institutions of learning, unlearning what they get online.
A visit to huge public libraries such as the Toronto Reference Library is a good example of how the computer screen is winning over book shelves. Students spend more time on their devices than strolling down book lanes in libraries looking for book call numbers.
Universities are aware of this. That is why they penalize students for lifting a book synopsis online instead of reading it and writing their own comprehension. Websites and blogs are not permitted either.
Even before the internet, not all knowledge came from books. Most knowledge is hands on. Electricians, masons, plumbers and other trades worked as apprentices before branching off on their own.
No longer confined to buildings
College education is now 24/7 (24 hours a day 7 days a week), a term coined by the streets and not academic institutions.
The cost of university education has one direction upwards, because universities have to maintain old buildings, build new ones, pay for electricity and water, pay staff, make academic policies, buy new technology to replace the one they bought three years ago and buy office equipment.
Online surfing does not even need a computer. The world is at your fingertips if you have a mobile phone.
No longer about writing
A university education has two pillars, reading and writing that support the whole structure. The internet needs reading even if, it is to read a Twitter message that says O.M.G. (Oh! My God.)
Writing is another story. Academics use to say Publish or Perish. That was one way of keeping them up to date about trends that affect their subjects. They published in academic journals and advised their students to read and quote them in their college papers.
Most students however, are permanently online, so universities decided that if you cannot beat them, join them and made some of the articles available online.
Much has been written about how social networking has affected formal languages. Universities feel the pinch more. Let’s say you must write something about sadness. Saying it in four lines, using pretentious and verbose words, used to show that somebody is ‘educated.’
The internet does not entertain that because of time and choices. People are in a hurry. They click in a heartbeat if they do not understand what the article is all about.
College Education And Jobs
I once saw a cartoon where a medical doctor asks a patient, ‘What does the internet say is wrong with you?’
The internet cannot replace university education for certain medical and legal jobs. State and country laws will not allow it, but there are jobs that are endangered species. What is the use of a Journalism degree when Twitter is breaking news? Countless bloggers get lucrative permanent jobs through blogging.
Somebody who is 25 years old has not been asked about hobbies, which used to be standard in job interviews. Your Bachelor of Commerce degree might get you to the interview for a national sales manager job, but expect the following questions:
How many friends do you have on Facebook?
How many Twitter followers do you have?
Do you have a blog on how people choose mobile phone brands?
Universities will not disappear overnight, but they must do some introspection.
What are we giving students that they cannot get online?
Should we still insist on APA, MLA, Chicago or Harvard in referencing?
Are we training students to be elite knowledge hawks or knowledge kittens that can be petted by everybody?
Universities should admit that the internet has put the car in reverse, and made knowledge what it was, an ocean where everybody could surf, fish and swim but leave the ocean for the next generation.