IntroductionWhen I refer to the Left, I'm referring to what I believe to be the "evil Left". I'm not saying that everything or everyone on the Left is evil or wrong, but I do think that many of the people and doctrines like Cultural Marxism and multiculturalism are primarily motivated by an animus to Whites instead of a true dedication to justice or fairness. So for simplicity, instead of constantly saying "evil Left", I'll just say "Left".
Higher education holds part of the "brain" of the Left that propagates multicultural, anti-White and other Cultural Marxist ideologies to our institutions and power centers, like government, Mainstream Media, Hollywood, corporations, non-profit organizations, ethnic activist organizations, the diversity industry, K12 education and others. The academic Left leads the Cultural Marxist indoctrination our intellectual and cognitive elites.
Many departments within the social sciences and humanities have essentially been captured by the Left with many of these "scholars" acting primarily as promoters and activists. Many departments restrict entry to like-minded comrades or blackball right-wing dissenters. Whiteness Studies is a particularly egregious example.
Weakening the academic Left should pay large, cascading dividends.
Higher Education is too ExpensiveTraditional higher education is ridiculously expensive for the learning it provides and is inflexible by requiring physical presence at a specific time and place. This expense has grown well beyond inflation for decades. One fraction of the high cost comes from the physical and administrative overhead of the modern university, while another is the subsidizing of faculty research using undergraduate tuition, which is usually unfair for the students, since high-powered professors usually leave most teaching to graduate students. Another portion of the cost arises from diverting money to fund the Left and its pet causes, including employing Leftist ideologues as "scholars" to formulate Leftist ideology and engage in activism, and funding activist campus organizations serving as training grounds for Leftists starting on their Long March through our societal institutions.
An Alternative: VECSHigher education is on the brink of a revolution displacing a noticeable fraction of existing academia with an alternative system we can call the Virtual Education and Certification System (VECS), since hopefully it will vex the Left. VECS will be an online alternative that is cheaper and more flexible by separating learning from the certifying of student mastery.
A major business opportunity exists to replace the current "manual" and "physical" education with "automated" and "virtual" education. This emerging business will be both profitable and save students money, time and inconvenience. Some businesses are already in this market but not with the depth and sophistication I believe possible. The University of Phoenix is probably the largest virtual university, while many traditional universities, like the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign actively court online students.
Some of the communications and collaborative technologies to fully implement the vision still need to be developed and deployed but should be available over the next decade or so.
VECS would dramatically extend the current online offerings by splitting the learning process from the process of certifying mastery of a subject. A quality education with nearly all the benefits of the current system plus additional benefits could be had more cheaply for most students. Statistically, most students don't really take advantage of resources like instructor's office hours or even lectures. Students would only pay for what they use.
There has been a recent trend favoring inexpensive community colleges for non-elite students that offers some lower cost competition to VECS, although I think VECS would offer better for less. Community colleges could also team up with VECS to provide physical facilities as needed.
The First Half: Student LearningStudents could learn at their own pace using whatever sources they desire. Extensive high-quality lectures would be available. Many different versions of each course could be developed by the most exceptional teachers targeting students of varying ability and diverse learning styles. Students can choose presentations that best match their needs, or a combination of lessons if needed. e.g. $50 for whole semester of lectures and $1-3 per individual lecture depending on how many are purchased (discount for purchasing more). An active, electronic book might cost $40, since no physical books need to be manufactured. Course costs would likely vary depending on popularity, lecture creation costs, size of target audience, etc.
Since this course content is sold to a mass audience and is electronic, it can be enhanced incrementally at relatively low cost and the scholars and staff creating it will receive higher status and monetary rewards than traditional faculty. The existing system is very labor inefficient where, typically, many non-stellar lecturers create many middling variants of similar course materials. VECS would encourage the most outstanding and effective teachers to create reusable learning materials.
There could also be some flexibility in coverage of materials so highly intelligent students could cover a broader range of material more deeply.
The virtual approach wouldn't work well for a few specialized subjects or classes, like laboratory intensive courses, hands-on engineering, etc, but ways to get around this could be devised, including sophisticated computer simulations, partnering with existing institutions, corporations, government or creating regional campuses that students can visit occasionally to perform capital-intensive work. Some subjects can be left wholly to traditional universities if they're too hard to virtualize.
Fortunately, the virtual approach works well for ALL the politicized humanities and social sciences, and all of the general curriculum courses that such politicized instructors currently use for indoctrinating non-majors. The displacement of part of traditional academia with VECS would starve funds from an important fraction of the Left. For example, if over 30% of current Whiteness Studies and ethnic studies professors had to find new jobs, they couldn't use academia to leech off of the non-elite Whites they despise and want to marginalize.
By creating new virtual institutions, many non-Leftist scholars currently shut out of market, might be employed and spend part of their time doing anti-Leftist and alternative research. Also, because fewer of our intelligentsia would be marinated in Leftist dominated environments, hopefully more non-Leftist scholars and professionals could be cultivated. A goal to is provide a traditional, high-quality education emphasizing communication and reasoning skills, so the student can work and think independently.
A functional online library could be created or licensed either directly from content publishers or existing libraries. If they refused to do so, either minimal fair use sources could be created for instructional purposes or the internet and local libraries could be used as needed for library research. Once VECS became large enough, existing libraries or content producers would eventually compete for this market share. e.g. student library fee of $25-$300/year, with the $300 fee referring to serious scholarly use of library resources by a graduate student. I consider that number an high upper limit. Google Books, before it was partially locked down recently, demonstrated the feasibility of digitizing millions of books and making them easily searchable and browsable. In fact Google Books already provides a large usable library if you restrict your sources to those having expired copyrights.
New Tools for Student Teacher InteractionOne part that existing online universities don't really get right are the various interactions between instructors and students. I imagine a sophisticated set of tools to create learning networks that link students with peers and varying levels of grad student or professor for one-on-one or group discussion and projects. Students could build long-term relationships with preferred teachers or they could contract out as needed with anyone available. Commonly students would choose a set of teachers as special mentors who would take an interest in their progress and act as mentors and possible career references.
Tools could be created to match student to teacher very flexibly. For example, if a student or a small study group wanted to ask some questions at 3 AM they could put out a search request for anyone available for a certain subject with a proposed price. The teachers could've set their profile ahead of time to match the appropriate courses, minimum acceptable price and their availability. The student would only see the results of available teachers without necessarily being able to browse the teachers availability (to protect privacy if desired). The student could then look over the teacher's ratings and decide whether to hire the teacher. Procedures could be devised to deal with student dissatisfaction. Records of the interaction could be kept to audit complaints. Most would behave reasonably to protect their reputations because both students and teachers could be rated as troublemakers if they act up too much.
For example, students could pay $10-$200/hour for instructional consulting depending on desired expert level, ranging from a junior or senior tutor, graduate student, postdoc, or OK, good, great or outstanding professor and so on. All these folks could have ratings like on Amazon based on student satisfaction and they could market themselves to different categories of student (e.g. very patient with slow students, average students, outstanding high-IQ students, etc).
Since most students don't spend much time directly interacting with professors, such one-on-one time can be purchased as needed. For example, during a course a student may spend $190 for one-on-one time as follows: $30 for 2 hours with a $15/hour senior plus $160 for 2 hours with a $80/hour professor. Notice that this is more exclusive time than most current students get and the cost is modest compared to traditional course costs. The student has complete control of how much money to spend and how to allocate their spending.
For recitations, a small group of 10 students could split the costs of a one hour weekly discussion session with an $100/hour professor: $10/student over say 12 weeks yields $120/student for the class. Of course, instead of being constrained to a single one hour recitation, it could be broken up into two 30 minute sessions per week so people who can't always make the live session could submit questions that might be addressed by the professor or group.
Students that wanted to save some money might prefer to spend somewhat less to view prerecorded recitations. Students and professors who offered their recitation for sale could receive some compensation for any use of their recitations.
Of course recitations aren't mandatory. They're just a way for a group of students to encourage group learning with a high-value expert at a lower cost since they're sharing the bill. And there really is no specific timetable for learning, but many students might prefer to adhere to a rigid schedule to avoid procrastination and laziness.
Students can also create peer support groups that are essentially free, or perhaps they periodically hire a senior or a grad student to answer some of their questions or discuss the material at a very low per student cost (e.g. $16/hour divided by 4 students is $4/hour). So 15 hours of this assistance over the course of a class would cost only $60 per student.
Some Rough Cost EstimatesMost traditional universities are charging about $800 to $4000 per class when total costs are included (excluding room & board). The high-end numbers represent expensive private universities, including the big-name elites like MIT and the low-end numbers represent state subsidized universities. Those numbers leave a lot of room for undercutting. A basic package of training materials, instructional time and certification test might run $300-$800 so it would usually even undercut the in-state tuition of many state supported colleges. Poor students can trade off the costs of assisted learning for using free course materials and more individual and peer work to eliminate all instructional costs. But most students probably would prefer to benefit from top-notch commercial instructional materials and the personal assistance from experts for a few hundred dollars per course. Of course if students are not prepared for the certification test, they would likely fail and need to retake it. That is no different than the current system except that retaking a certification test would be much cheaper than retaking a traditional class.
Student NetworkingAnother facet of traditional education missing from current online universities is the socialization and human networking which is probably the most significant factor in elite education, like the Ivies. Part of this could be recreated through collaborative online communities working through common projects and having an infrastructure for peer support and socializing. It may also be possible to create or frequent local meeting places for students to study together, socialize and network, at least within or near cities. Also, there could periodically be regional meetings allowing some socialization with peers. e.g. having periodic meetings 100-200 miles away. Modern social networking technologies will likely partially replace socialization from attending traditional universities by allowing similar peers to be discovered locally and cultivated.
Since students passing certifications would also be proven achievers (discussed below), there would likely be interest from the local business and professional community in mentoring or networking with these students.
The Second Half: CertificationNow let's consider the certification half, since we're separating training from the certification of student mastery, unlike current universities. It's well known that current universities are suffering a plague of grade inflation since they've relaxed traditional educational standards in favor of profiting from the "educational industry complex" which can't afford to disappoint high-paying customers. So modern college transcripts really aren't taken all that seriously by the business world, since, typically, most students are getting A and B grades for showing up for class and making a modest effort, unlike fifty years ago when higher education was more restricted to the cognitive elites and grading was more severe.
Objective and Trustworthy TestsHigh-quality, reliable certification tests would provide a far more objective and trustworthy measure of student mastery than the current unreliable system. Different certification vendors could exist, and based on the quality of their result, they might have varying acceptance by the marketplace. I'm most interested a vendor providing genuinely reliable and competent assessment of the student's mastery in many subjects. The tests could include fairly elaborate testing processes including multiple choice, short answers, essays, work products, problem solving, computer demonstration, audio and video answers, creative works and oral exams. I fully expect that for nearly all certification tests professionals would grade exams requiring a demonstration of student work or essays, just like at a good university, with only a modest fraction of a test being machine gradable answers. This would make student cheating much harder, because even though there may not be an infinite set of questions, if they're able to master the very large set of questions, they essentially know the subject anyway. Small details can be changed for many sorts of questions to make memorization nearly impossible. And over time additional questions can be added into the wider pool eventually creating such a large set that it wouldn't really help most students unless they had an eidetic memory.
Since most of the grading would involve some subjective judgment, sets of 3-5 independent graders would typically each score these subjective questions and an overall grade would be calculated. If there is unusual disagreement between graders, more attention would be applied to the deviations. Auditors would periodically review the full grading system to make sure it is reasonably consistent and fair. Questions would be designed to eliminate the need for students to inject any personal details, like race, ethnicity or sex, unless that was important for the subject. Fairly detailed grading standards would be developed and published to make the system as objective as possible. Full records would be privately kept for long periods to help insure the system is as consistent and fair as possible.
College Curricula Define Standard CoursesModern college curricula could be used as a baseline for standardizing certification test coverage. Some states are already creating standards to systematize in-state transfer of course credits. Detailed specifications of course content and test expectations could be published. There might be some flexibility in the range of material covered so that as long as the student showed they had a reasonable mastery of a good subset of the material, that would be adequate for passing. For example, in one block of 10 questions the student must choose 5 to answer. Scores could be assigned based on the proficiency demonstrated. Also, the student could choose among a few variations of the course that emphasizes different sets of material if that makes sense for the subject matter.
Different tests could be targeted to different levels of student (e.g standard, superior, elite) and the level would be included in the transcript. This corresponds to the quality and difficulty range of existing universities and regular versus honors courses. The upper reaches of student achievement could also be tested if desired. e.g. proficiency at the 99.9 percentile level, by having fairly difficult tests that spread out the full range of student mastery. Certification tests could be spread out over multiple sittings, like two three hour exams, or classes could be certified in smaller units, e.g. certifying each half of a semester course separately.
Standardized Testing CentersThere would be standardized testing centers where the student is filmed while taking the test to prevent cheating (that record would be deleted after the results are certified and the student approves the result, thereby waiving rights to sue, etc). Typically the tests might be $150-$300 per class. Since the certification costs are not staggeringly high and some tools would be provided to help the student assess whether they're ready to take the test, the pressure shouldn't be overwhelming, since they can always take the test later. Some accommodation might be made for students who have severe problems with high-stakes testing, although they should bear that extra cost and that should be noted on their transcript.
Complicated Certification Tests Just Cost More (and are Rare)In some cases it might make sense for the certification to include ongoing supervised work or testing, for example, for a project involving significant initiative or creativity. Again, this is likely to be statistically rare so the higher costs wouldn't be too burdensome compared to the total educational costs. For example, some supervision and testing demonstrating that the student created a large computer program. That might be needed once or twice for a computer science degree. Technology may be usable to record the student creating their work product as proof of authorship.
There can even be high-value oral exams before three professors using the high-quality video infrastructure normally used for student/teacher collaboration. Complicated exams like this would be the exception and might cost over $500 since, for example, it may involve one hour from a $120/hour professor and one hour each from two $80/hour professors, plus additional costs. Again, this sort of test would be rare.
Certification has the virtue of allowing self-motivated students to achieve recognition of their mastery at any time with no overhead other than testing costs.
Some General ImpactsVECS would probably impact the lower tiers of academia more than the elites, although I would hope several non-Leftist elite virtual universities would be created, supporting many scholars critiquing the Left and formulating alternative ideas, as well as supporting non-partisan objective scholars. Hopefully, scholars could create new virtualized and localized educational communities where they could perform their research while making money training and certifying students without all the soul-draining administrative tedium required by current universities. Hopefully they could recreate much of the value of a research community through gathering in common localities or using the new collaborative and communication tools. They could also be adjunct at traditional universities, particularly as VECS gains acceptance and traditional universities want a piece of the pie.
If scholars could be paid around $50-$200/hour for around 10-20 hours per week for one-on-one teaching or recitation with very low adminstrative overhead, and received funds for student certification, their research, e.g. by foundations or the government, and consulting out their intellectual skills, then they could still have some reasonable time for academic research while living a reasonably comfortable life. Many scholars don't have that opportunity today given the shenanigans Big Education pulls like using legions of adjunct faculty. Popular teachers may be able to make salaries like $300+/hour for teaching groups (e.g. weekly lectures or discussions with groups of 15 for $20/hour per student).
The overall effect would likely be to reduce some employment of scholars in academia and education, since some previous labor would be eliminated by automation. But this may also free up student funds to support more one-on-one and small group discussions built around a standardized lecture package, so employment may not drop precipitously but instead be redirected to higher-quality interactions for the students. Education would be more affordable, efficient and flexible. Particularly effective teachers would command a larger consulting rate and be in high demand.
VECS works particularly well for training undergrads since they normally don't get that much attention from professors at many universities. With this model they could get that attention if they needed it at a lower cost than traditional universities. Adult and non-traditional students would be drawn to the flexibility and low cost, since they may have commitments precluding traditional full-time attendance.
Since this new form of education could deliver better training and better measurement of mastery with significantly lower costs and greater flexibility, I would expect market pressure to draw some significant fraction of students toward this option. And since business would gain a much better estimation of student abilities, they would have more confidence in these certification results. Market acceptance of certification would provide all the needed legitimacy to increase market share. Small business can lead the way in accepting these new certifications, since they would have practical value and small businesses may want to help weaken our out-of-control elites.
Communities should be strengthened since fewer youth need to leave to get a quality education, and career transitions will be easier and cheaper, which is helpful in dynamic and unstable economy.
Also, the same logic and some of the same infrastructure could be used to provide a wider set of pragmatic career training. As suggested by Charles Murray in his book Real Education, too many students attend four year colleges that aren't good fits for their abilities, interests or career prospects. It makes more sense to channel lower ability students into more pragmatic, focused training that doesn't waste their time and money.
In fact this entire scheme might be transferrable to K12 education and might point the way to reducing the baneful influence of the Cultural Marxists and teachers unions.
Some ConcernsOne concern is student and instructor privacy. For example, a politician wouldn't want his fiery student discussions about overthrowing the system and reeducating the masses to leak out on the web. There can likely be both legal and technical approaches to mitigating privacy concerns.
For example, all audio and video streams could add a wide set of dynamic watermarks that vary per user, so if the data is leaked in the future, there would hopefully be way to track down the source of the leak, even if it had undergone some distortion trying to mask the source. By a wide set of dynamic watermarks, I mean that hundreds or thousands of relatively insignificant changes are made to the data in such a way that intelligibility is preserved, but the data has been customized in a way that is hard to hide even with substantial data transformation. This is a speculation on my part; I don't know if this is technically feasible.
Legal protections for networking privacy could be established to restrict use of any leaked data with penalties for people who misuse illegally leaked data, e.g. to humiliate someone.
Students could choose to maintain more privacy by not disclosing their real names and using an avatar instead of live video. There may soon be photorealistic or cartoon-like video avatar technology that monitors your behavior and causes your avatar to mimic your motions, like facial expressions or lip movements. Voice obfuscation could transform your voice to be unrecognizable or to sound like Bugs Bunny or Jack Nicholson.
Another concern is that the contract instructor labor will be fulfilled largely by cheaper foreign labor, e.g. from India, China or Eastern Europe, undercutting American scholars. That is a distinct possibility.
Another objection might be that a few corporations will dominate VECS and enforce Leftist ideology in the training materials. e.g. engaging in biased grading of essay exams if they don't regurgitate Leftist shibboleths or subtexts. As long as a certification system delivers high-quality skill, ability and knowledge assessments, the market will accept it, so traditionalists could create alternatives if needed. My hope is that non-Leftists can get a foothold in these emerging fields and prevent them from being politicized. The main goal is to break the current ideological near monopoly in academia.
Another concern is that widespread adoption of VECS would seriously damage our University R&D. This is a valid concern. Our R&D has been under strain for many reasons, including outsourcing of R&D by corporations, offshoring of manufacturing, insourcing of many foreigners at lower wages to act as research scientists and engineers, and other factors. So this is added to the massive list of indicators of decline we need to oppose. Academia should not believe they'll be spared while the rest of society goes down in flames. Average students and their families will fight against the current research funding rent-seeking done on their backs.