Renowned intellectual and high-tech innovator David Gelernter devotes some thought in the Wall Street Journal to the future of higher education:
Many colleges do well teaching technical topics like mathematics, engineering, science. In the first phase of the big sink, local colleges will likely make a pitch for smart students by strengthening their tech sides, throwing out their arts and humanities departments—and offering better online-education options instead. A group of smaller schools might hire some big-name scholars who are good onstage, and produce a shared suite of internet courses in arts and humanities.
Students will need digital guides or mentors who are experts in online education and the rapidly growing range of online offerings. They would hire such a guide for the duration of an online college education. Bachelor’s degrees will gradually be replaced by certified transcripts. A student presents his final transcript to some admired authority with whom he has chatted occasionally throughout his studies. By signing it the big shot says, in effect: You rate a degree in my book.
What strikes me, here, isn’t so much the specific vision as the articulation of a paradigm shift. The world changes in these ways, and the best visionaries can do is to try to predict and, if they’re inclined to profit, get ahead of the curb. A glimpse into the process should raise skepticism about the government’s ability to shape and prepare for an uncertain future.
Meanwhile, Rhode Island’s Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo is attempting to lock in the notion that college is really just an extension of high school, to be operating under the same failed government-driven model. Here she’s quoted in an Associated Press article by Matt O’Brien:
“What’s the magic of 12th grade? Once upon a time, that’s what you needed to get a job. Those days are long gone and vanishing quicker every day.”
Given changes in technology and the economy, it’s not inconceivable that (as homeschoolers already have) society may conclude that 12 years of structured class time is too much. If our state and nation’s central planners continue promoting education as preparation for the jobs that politicians want people to have — while skipping the more-civically-significant subjects, like history, that people might not actually seek independently — then there’s no reason apprenticeships, for example, wouldn’t serve our children better.
The specific question of whether college and even high school might become antiquated institutions is speculation, though. The key point, here, is that we need to stop authorizing politicians to commit our future to the models of the past, especially those that are already quantifiably failing.