Why Take a Detour…

…on the road from youth to career?

Another story about “alternatives” to college.  Those of us who toil in the fields of conventional academe don’t much need to worry about direct competition here; our “product” and the one described here are not direct substitutes yet. But the ideologies, if you will, expressed and implied and strange-bed-fellowed here, should give us pause. Some snippets:
  • “‘It is like a university,’ he told me, ‘built by industry.'”
  • “… many disadvantaged students are left at the mercy of unscrupulous degree mills”
  • “Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project, Harry J. Holzer of Georgetown University urges states to provide incentives to universities to steer students toward higher-wage occupations”
  • “… the evidence so far suggests that online education may do better in giving low-income students a leg up if it is directly tied to work. And companies, rather than colleges, may be best suited to shape the curriculum.”
  • “It may not offer all the advantages of a liberal arts education, but it could offer a plausible path to young men and women who may not have the time, money or skill to make it through a four-year or even a two-year degree.”
  • “… an alternative approach to the ‘four years and done’ model of higher education, splitting it into chunks that students can take throughout their lives.”
We need to do some hard thinking (and actual investigating) about what “all the advantages of a liberal arts education” really are. It is simply not sufficient to yabber on about “critical thinking” and to be complacently certain that producing graduates who are cultivated sort of like we are is the be all and end all.
And, too, it’s not enough just to be against the “corporatization” or “vocation-alization” of higher education. We really do need to be rethinking curriculum in terms of the question “what kind of education will it turn out, say, 50 years from now to have been a good idea to get?” or “what education will really prepare a young person for the part of the 21st century that you and I won’t be around for?” 

From the New York Times

ECONOMY
A Smart Way to Skip College in Pursuit of a Job
Udacity-AT&T ‘NanoDegree’ Offers an Entry-Level Approach to College

Could an online degree earned in six to 12 months bring a revolution to higher education?
 
This week, AT&T and Udacity, the online education company founded by the Stanford professor and former Google engineering whiz Sebastian Thrun, announced something meant to be very small: the “NanoDegree.”
 
At first blush, it doesn’t appear like much. For $200 a month, it is intended to teach anyone with a mastery of high school math the kind of basic programming skills needed to qualify for an entry-level position at AT&T as a data analyst, iOS applications designer or the like.
 
Yet this most basic of efforts may offer more than simply adding an online twist to vocational training. It may finally offer a reasonable shot at harnessing the web to provide effective schooling to the many young Americans for whom college has become a distant, unaffordable dream.
 
Intriguingly, it suggests that the best route to democratizing higher education may require taking it out of college.
 
“We are trying to widen the pipeline,” said Charlene Lake, an AT&T spokeswoman. “This is designed by business for the specific skills that are needed in business.”
Read more at NYT.com

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