Educational Boomerang?

OK, I am up and have run the usual errands and now am ready to cope with using the brain. Maybe. Earlier this week I started a bit of a thread on college and education and what with all the stuff flashing through like neutrinos I have not resumed.

One of the consequences of the colleges entering into the democratization of education has been to shift their role in the marketplace. Before they held the status of sacred shrines or temples, funded largely by unconvinced governments torn between undermining the privilege of the elite and funding an unappreciated service, both of which harmed their chances of maintaining office and by the donations of bemused alumni or higher calling charities. Now they are as much a part of the money-fer-stuff proletariat as Mal Wart or any of the other corporate masters of Amerika.

This means that the colleges are now locked into a kind of Target-Mal Wart competition, sorting themselves into two categories: those who care whether their students have any intelligence and those who care if their students can qualify for course funding. Regardless, the nature of the competition is the same – grow and dominate. Where before colleges coexisted as members of the same ghetto, now they are members of the same Hobbesian environment. No longer are niceties such as honoring each other’s courses universal, at least within social order. Only courses the student paid the college for are appreciated to contribute to earning that slip of heavy paper that is the icon of an education in these consumerist times.

Now a surprising (?) thing seems to be happening. I ran across an article [Link] entitled “What good is a ‘Certificate of Mastery?'” One strange wrinkle of all this collegiate competition has been that the mega-colleges have complicated the playing field by placing their courses, in electronic form, on line and for no charge beyond that incurred from the equipment and the ISP. The return initially was seen as reducing the competition with the second raters who have little to offer now other than human presence and thus denying them cash flow. On the surface the certificate of mastery seems to be little more than the cementing of this effect, providing a negligible cash flow but basically marginalizing the second raters.

But is there any meat to this bun? Yes, we may see that it will attract the bright but lacking in worth or worthiness enough to attend the first rate college who consider themselves slighted by the mediocrity of the second raters. But will the attraction adhere? Certainly the certificate will help, providing something more than the fish story of passing off lecture viewing as a cover for porn or FaceScroll. But does it have any more value. Will it generate economic status and even cash flow?

The pundits, none of whom I have heard of before, seem generally negative, at best likening them to the existing IT certificate programs. These, of course, are a reality of the IT workplace, the modern equivalent of a trade shule certificate. I suspect that they portend a similar blue collar differentiation.

There are basically two types of jobs. Those that require tasks to be performed in a prescribed fashion and those that require imagination, creativity, and adaptability. The latter pay better and are traditionally associated with both experience in the former and an education, lately a diploma. It is unclear what these certificates offer in this environment other than a sorting among candidates for the prescribed jobs. Will it offer entry to the others? Only in a world where real diplomas are in too short supply.

Which may actually be good, getting us back to what education is supposed to be.