A Free College Education? I doubt it.

In so many ways, college is a big, massive waste.  From offering useless and expensive degrees in soft subjects to relentless leftist indoctrination, many of our college students are made worse off for their four years of effort and their massive and permanent student-loan debts.

But will technology save us from the cretins running our universities?

Here’s Forbes on the issue:

Colleges, designed for the world in the 1960s and 1970s, have not changed with the times. Colleges are still run as top-down bureaucracies rather than bottom-up communities. Outside of government, few other organizations operate this way. Anybody can publish and sell a book at Amazon.com. Google and Apple let their customers determine most of their content. Walmart empowers even its most junior employees to order products and set prices. Wikipedia allows any reader to write or update an article. Higher ed’s institutional structures aren’t like that at all, featuring top-down, inefficient, bureaucratic command management. Maintaining this old-fashioned system is ever more expensive and increasingly impossible.

The article goes on to to discuss the various ways in which the academic cartel can be broken.  But there are a few glaring omissions.  Khan Academy, simply the internet’s best source of free instruction is not mentioned.  Also, the following paragraph simply isn’t true:

These already exist for languages. A quirky company called Rosetta Stone has largely put college foreign language instruction out of business. For approximately $200/semester one can learn almost any language one wants—not quite free, but much cheaper and (apparently) more effective than the college classroom. Rosetta Stone is a good example of winner-take-all; it has cornered the market not because of some government license, nor because only their employees know languages, but because they are better and cheaper.

Why is this paragraph not true?  Because there is a product out there that is far cheaper and far more effective than Rosetta Stone.  It’s called Super-Memo, profiled in the article at this here link.  Here’s what it has to say about Rosetta Stone.  (It discusses lab-tested techniques for maximizing recollection and how Rosetta Stone does not exploit these techniques as it probably should):

The most popular learning systems sold today — for instance, foreign language software like Rosetta Stone — cheerfully defy every one of the psychologists’ warnings. With its constant feedback and easily accessible clues, Rosetta Stone brilliantly creates a sensation of progress. “Go to Amazon and look at the reviews,” says Greg Keim, Rosetta Stone’s CTO, when I ask him what evidence he has that people are really remembering what they learn. “That is as objective as you can get in terms of a user’s sense of achievement.” The sole problem here, from the psychologists’ perspective, is that the user’s sense of achievement is exactly what we should most distrust.

I learned more Hebrew in a month using Super-Memo than I did using any other method I tried, and I tried them all.  I’m also teaching my six-year-old Hebrew using the Super-Memo method.  The author of the article could be forgiven for not knowing about that obscure program.  But as your politically incorrect author and resident factotum, I’m cluing you in to a fantastically useful technology.

But anyway…

Personally, I’m pessimistic about the chances of superior technologies giving everybody who wants one a free and excellent education.  If companies were to rely on technology for hiring decisions, they would probably get sued for using methods to select employees that have a “disparate impact” on certain groups.  Better to subject everybody to an expensive and wasteful four year experience.  Why?  So that inferior performance can be masked by subjective grading.  Objective criteria expose the pretty lies that leftists love to tell themselves.  Government will prop up the failing behemoths until it runs out of the money to do so.  Until then, it’s jumbo student loans and PC piety for all.

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