Friday, November 29, 2013

Whopping University

The USA is in chains. The chain stores are all over the USA, draped everywhere like kudzu.  In the drive for efficiency everything has been automated, standardized, homogenized and cheapened. In doing so all that is left is unskilled minimum-wage jobs operating easy machines. Society is indeed on the way to a utopia where only university professors and entertainers need to work? Wait. Professors? We can downsize them, too! And make billions.

It has started already. Online courses are multiplying. Large lecture courses are being taught by low-paid adjuncts rather than faculty. Here's how to finish the job, once and for all, with the creation of Whopping University.

Firstly, you make sure that WU is created  by the same banking conglomerates that  own the present  chains. You know the types;  Goldman Sachs, Bain, 3G Capital, Falfurrias etc. They have the dosh to kick-start this and they know how to quickly standardize.

Then, you drive all other colleges out of business, retaining only their football and basketball teams. How do you do this? You offer good-looking, well-packaged degree courses for $10,000. And how, pray,  is this miracle to be achieved? Using a single team of highly charismatic professors you produce online lectures for all subjects in demand and at all levels. These syllabi are well crafted, easy to follow. The lectures are good and cheap. Every student in every state has the same selection. Perfect core curricula. All lectures are  followed by the students at home on their computers. The accompanying tests are fair, securely computerized, multiple choice. No more need for lecture halls, libraries, classrooms etc, anywhere in the land. No books required, everything kindled.

What about the interactive sessions? Well, you need a few of these, but these can be online, too. And you don't need professors for them, either. Students form interactive groups amongst themselves. And, a few graduates can be employed online at minimum-wage levels to provide a bit of expertise at some of these discussion sessions. Same for essay grading in the few subjects that still require those: all done via e-mail.

What about lab sessions/field-work? Hum. Indeed. Not easy to get rid of localizing that. We'd have to set up highly uniform entities, but this could be done cheaply no doubt. Little  purple Whopping Lab Huts dotted over the nation with little purple WU vans taking students out to corporate-owned fields.

And there we have it.  5 million students graduating per year at $10,000 per degree means $50bn of  annual revenue to be taken over. OK, that's about a tenth the size of Walmart but that's just counting the USA. Whopping  University International could doubtless at least double turnover. And we can expand into high schools, too, replacing teachers with low-paid minders who just need to keep the kids watching their screens. An initial investment of about $100bn should suffice to create an unbeatable, irresistible entity capable of folding the 2000 or so colleges presently leaching students' pockets in the USA. Let's lobby congress to keep funding the scholarships though - even WU degrees need to be taxpayer funded, don't they? Those old colleges with high reputations (Harvard, Stanford etc) can franchised into the WU structure - their names would be useful - indeed, by a click and an extra debit you can say your WU degree comes from Harvard. Massive profitability after 2 years. Education for the masses! Let's take over with Whopping University!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Science on Shaky Ground

Listen to Sally Ellingson and myself on NPR's "All Things Considered" as we discuss possible effects of recent government funding reductions for science.