Cultural Manifesto for the Millennium Generation
Edu-Hacking is the term for the unconventional sourcing of education. We are living in a post-digital era where hacking conventional norms now spurns social and creative innovation. Smartphone technology revolutionized personal productivity & socializing. Middle Eastern political revolutions are being underpinned by RSS. Digital literacy is a newly essential resource for acquiring more education & improving personal quality of life–for the boon of a higher American collective intelligence, at a fraction of the inflating cost.
In fact, traditional institutional schooling arguably hinders this turn towards more economic, media-based learning:
“Students in the K-12 system have never known a world without the Internet. No question, some kids have had more access than others, and that digital divide is something that we must address with more focus. But for the vast majority who have access, information and answers are a Google search away. They expect to use their technology to get their answers…except in school. In school, we ask them all sorts of questions that they could answer with their phones or laptops, but we don’t let them. So, I think the biggest difference is that our children are connected to people and to knowledge in ways that no other generation before them has been. We have not fully realized all of the ramifications of that, and in large measure, those who oversee our education systems have not yet begun to understand that this is a much different time for learning.” –Will Richardson via his TED.com profile
Anya Kamenetz unpacks this reformation of educational opportunism by investigating the traditions, progress, & resistance within US higher education. What follows are 10 crucial facts from the introduction of Kamenetz’ “DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, & the Coming Transformation of Higher Education,” from Chelsea Green Press. The facts presented are pertinent for every Millennial currently hobbling through college or at Starbucks chiseling down student loan debt while debating to take refuge in grad school. If you’re suspicious of the worth/cost of an institutional education, or crave a truthful perspective on the college product, visit Amazon or the library for an elaboration of the facts below.
For further interest in taking education & professional credibility into your own hands, also visit Kamenetz’s site: The EduPunk’s Guide to a DIY Credential.
1. The American university has become a mass-consumer product.
Like healthcare & Internet technology, American higher education has been molested by competitive economics. Education, information, & healthcare are basic components for personal, & therefore social development. If society is in competition for these resources, national progress halts. And then America falls behind in every social category, from academics to subsistence, as it already has. We have the most expensive post-secondary education system with the least potent academic capability in the first world.
2. Within an approximate decade, there has been a 53% increase in university enrollment.
Why do 9 out of 10 adolescents want to go to college? To be in debt? Put off entering a shitty job market? In her research on American poverty, sociologist Dr. Ann Swidler states that it is culture, not personal interest, that structures our individual capacity to achieve a happy, productive life:
“In repeated surveys, lower-class youth say that they value education and intend to go to college, and their parents say they want them to go (Jenckset al., 1972:34-5). Similarly, lower-class people seem to want secure friendships, stable marriages, steady jobs, and high incomes. But class similarities in aspirations in no way resolve the question of whether there are class differences in culture. People may share common aspirations, while remaining profoundly different in the way their culture organizes their overall pattern of behavior (see Hannerz, 1969).” (Swidler, Culture in Action: Symbols & Strategies, American Sociological Review, Vol. 51, No. 2 (Apr., 1986), pp. 273-286)
Someone lacking an advanced education is not indicative of their lack of want. Higher education, as a commodity, is appropriated towards advantaged classes with built-in cultural tools that enable lucky progeny with benefactors to acquire higher ed. Online resources, such as open courseware, bring education to anyone with the interest, time, & WiFi. Because they can do something with it, regardless of their lack of resources.
3. Currently 5% of Sub-Saharan Africa is enrolled in college, approximate to the 5% of American college enrollment in the 1920s.
This fact denotes world progress. Progress is driven by innovation & a high quality of collective intelligence. Unfortunately, innovative minds don’t grow out of the dirt like turnips. We must enable these minds in order to direct future progress. Ghettos, famine, & poverty would evaporate quicker than the diminishing American middle-class if everyone were enabled to thrive.
“Faith in the universal power of higher learning is at the heart of modernity. From enhancing our basic humanity to preserving culture, economic, & technological development to social equality, and redressing ills from global warming to AIDS, there are very few needs for which more education has not been prescribed. As HG Wells famously put it, ‘Human history becomes more and more a raise between education and catastrophe.’” (From intro of Kamenetz’s “DIY U”)
4. 30% of American adolescents drop out of high school before graduation.
And on top of that…
5. 50% of college students don’t finish their degrees.
Culminating into the US representing…
6. The 10th most educated nation in the global community.
Remember the inaugural episode of The Newsroom? America could be better.
7. Only 1 in 10 students, a minority, enter university immediately after high school and complete their degree within 4 years.
As a university student, I’ve felt self-conscious of my own academic experience’s dissimilarity to Rory Gilmore’s. But Kamenetz’s presentation of the above statistic forced me to reflect on the new average time it takes working students to complete their undergrad: 6 years. By the time Millennials complete their degree program, break out of Starbucks & into a job contingent to their degree field (if they ever do), they’re 30+ years old. Families are started later, debt accrues more interest, & the individual capacity to meaningfully participate in society is diminished. This set-back is built into the current university model. And it is not assessed nor improved because it yields 50% more expected tuition from the working student. That’s profit. Thus, I am the norm, Rory Gilmore is the exception.
8. Although inflation has risen only 2%, college tuition has escalated ~250% since the 1970s, “more than any other Consumer Price Index.”
“Colleges, like hospitals, have little incentive to conserve resources or compete on price. They can actually gain prestige by raising tuition. They shift costs to students to make up for gaps in state funding, and then hand out grant money to the applicants they want the most, not the ones who need the most help. Community colleges dedicated to serving the poorest get a fraction of the public money that goes to flagship state universities. One in five of the nation’s eighteen million college students took at least one online class by the fall of 2006, according to a study by the Sloan Consortium, but technology hasn’t yet changed the prevailing model or brought down the costs in higher education as it has for so many other industries.” (Kamenetz ix)
8. Minorities as well as older working adults comprise 85% of the recent growth in higher education.
Sub-Saharan Africa is changing. So is the West as more dissimilar individuals from unconventional backgrounds arrive at & hustle to stay in college. Status quos will be upended–not because more rich white boys are being educated, but because more women, minorities, & adults (with a grasp of the machinations of society) are able to voice, “This is not what was promised.”
9. Digital technology will force higher learning institutions to restructure their costs.
The Internet undermines the stability of traditional learning institutions. The cost of landscaping & new dormitories needn’t factor into tuition prices if students are telecommuting & independently sourcing their course materials. I myself always check iTunes U & open courseware databases for free, stupendous knowledge. I’ve also followed Scott H. Young’s MIT Challenge, in his near-achievement in obtaining an MIT quality education for only $1K. This is the future of knowledge, frankly. Digital resources exacerbate the unnecessary costs of “learning” that institutions & textbook publishers can no longer account for.
10. Self-learning is the higher education of the future.
Become familiar with the term “autodidactic.” Social media & blogging, applications like iTunes U, & the magnanimity of university open courseware are spurning on new, different higher learning. Higher learning will be collaborative vs. institutional. Kamenetz expands further on this potentiality in “DIY U,” which I recommend to anyone wanting to be already situated in the future when it actually arrives.