The End of Higher Education’s Golden Age. Clay Shirky’s fan­tas­tic post about the costs and struc­tural insta­bil­ity of our cur­rent higher edu­ca­tion model. The last line is killer:

Arguing that we need to keep the cur­rent sys­tem going just long enough to get the sub­sidy the world owes us is really just a way of pre­serv­ing an arrange­ment that works well for elites—tenured pro­fes­sors, rich stu­dents, endowed institutions—but increas­ingly badly for every­one else.

The Problem With Youth Activism:

Students are sur­rounded by pro­fes­sors rem­i­nisc­ing about the glory days of youth activism, when groups like Students for a Democratic Society, the Weather Underground, and the Black Panther Party really ignited social change. But the pro­fes­sors don’t seem to make the con­nec­tion that none of these were school-sanctioned organizations.

The post is from 2007, though is prob­a­bly no less rel­e­vant in 2013. Also does a good job of artic­u­lat­ing the prob­lem with­out just lay­ing blame at the feet of col­lege kids.

The Anti-Dropout:

It’s true (and excit­ing) that so much knowl­edge has moved online in the past decade. I can learn basic pro­gram­ming via Treehouse. I can learn web design in a course on Udemy. But what if I want to learn about the physics that drive hard­ware per­for­mance? The mate­ri­als sci­ence behind the next gen­er­a­tion of wear­able com­put­ing? Or what about how to bring elec­tron­ics man­u­fac­tur­ing back to the United States? There are real, fun­da­men­tal sets of knowl­edge that are still locked up in tra­di­tional academia.

I wish I had all my notes from col­lege in plain­text Markdown-formatted files. As I get back in to read­ing more dif­fi­cult texts I’m writ­ing up chap­ter notes in nvALT.

The more I do this, the more I find myself going back to them and search­ing for pre­vi­ously noted phrases, def­i­n­i­tions, or quotes. My rem­i­nis­cent wish is for nvALT to be a sin­gle data store for all my read­ing anno­ta­tions. The prob­lem is I have all these NeoOffice and Pages files from college.

Your Massively Open Offline College Is Broken:

In the acad­emy, we’re fine with any­thing that low­ers the cost of edu­ca­tion. We love those kinds of changes. But when some­one threat­ens to lower the price, well, then we start behav­ing like Teamsters in tweed.

Fantastic piece from Clay Shirky about why some of the biggest threats to col­lege come from within the system.

A moment of dream­ing about higher edu­ca­tion:

As uni­ver­sity edu­ca­tion becomes a more highly val­ued commodity-as you pay four­teen thou­sand a year for a UC edu­ca­tion, instead of nothing-the uni­ver­sity expe­ri­ence has, indeed, become more a plea­sur­able self-cultivation, since uni­ver­sity admin­is­tra­tors pre­fer cus­tomers to work­ers. This is why uni­ver­si­ties spend more and more money on new dorms, new cam­pus pro­grams, and new ways of mak­ing their cam­pus expe­ri­ence an attrac­tive prospect for incom­ing fresh­men: as uni­ver­si­ties tran­si­tion towards a customer-payment model, they mov­ing out of edu­ca­tion busi­ness into the pro­duc­tion of edu­ca­tion prod­ucts. They spend less and less money on class­rooms and teach­ers, the spaces where stu­dent work hap­pens, because they are, quite lit­er­ally, not inter­ested in stu­dent work. Their finan­cial inter­est is in student-customers, and it shows.

Really inter­est­ing essay.

College was my biggest mis­take:

$44,000 might as well have been a mil­lion dol­lars, because in my mind they were equally unfath­omable– with only $300 in my check­ing account, I had to make a deci­sion whether or not to bor­row $176,000. Makes sense.

I remem­ber fac­ing a sim­i­lar deci­sion at 18. I with­drew the $6,000 from my sav­ings account and wrote a $5,000 check to Whitman.

The other grand bought me a MacBook. On that MacBook I taught myself basic HTML, CSS, PHP, and even­tu­ally dis­cov­ered WordPress.

I wouldn’t say my time at col­lege was a mis­take. Too much good came out of it to say that. But, I do know what the more pro­duc­tive use of my time and money was.