[p2p-research] College Daze links (was Re: : FlossedBk, "Free/Libre and Open Source Solutions for Education")

Paul D. Fernhout pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com
Mon Oct 26 19:26:07 CET 2009

Just giving colleges a little help going where they are going. :-)

Here are lots of links on big picture issues with academia posted by me 
yesterday in an out of the way place: :-)

But, consider them some background links to think about for adding here:
   (At least some of these are there already.)

   "The Underground History of American Education" by 1991 NYS Teacher of
the Year John Taylor Gatto

   "The Seven Lesson Schoolteacher" also by John Taylor Gatto

   "State Controlled Consciousness" also by John Taylor Gatto

   "The Big Crunch" by David Goodstein, Vice Provost, Caltech

   "Disciplined Minds" by Jeff Schmidt

   "What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream" by Noam Chomsky

   "University Secrets:Your Guide to Surviving a College Education" by 
Robert D. Honigman

   "The Kept University"

   "In Defense of Childhood: Protecting Kids’ Inner Wildness " by Chris
Mercogliano, who spent thirty-five years teaching at the Albany Free School

   "Teach Your Own" by John Holt (and other books)

   "The Teenage Liberation Handbook" by Grace Llewellyn (and other books)

   "The Emergence of Compulsory Schooling and Anarchist Resistance" By Matt Hern

   "Sustainable Education" by Jerry Mintz

   "Federated Learning Communities"

"College for $99 a Month" 

   "College is a Waste of Time and Money"

   "We’re NOT Off to See the Wizard: REVISITING THE IDEA OF COLLEGE"

   "The Three Boxes of Life and How to Get Out of Them: An Introduction to
Life/Work Planning" by Richard N. Bolles (also writes "What Color is Your

   "Is Higher Education in Need of a Moral Bailout? The Corporate 
Stranglehold on Education"

   "To fix US schools, panel says, start over" (a little too commercial 
oriented in their goals for me...)

   "Can the Right Kinds of Play Teach Self-Control?"

   "The Alternative Education Resource Organization (AERO)"

   "Un-schooling, Homeschooling, and Autodidactic Features"

   "Freeman Dyson on the PhD system and other things"
   "You students are proud possessors of the PhD, or some similar token of 
academic respectability. You have endured many years of poverty and hard 
labor. Now you are ready to go to your just rewards, to a place on the 
tenure track of the university, or on the board of directors of a company. 
And here am I, a person who never had a PhD myself and fought all my life 
against the PhD system and everything it stands for. Of course I fought in 
vain. The grip of the PhD system on academic life is tighter today than it 
has ever been. But I will continue to fight against it for as long as I 
live. In short I am proud to be heretic. Unfortunately, I am an old heretic. 
Old heretics don't cut much ice. What the world needs is young heretics. I 
am hoping that one or two of you may fill that role. ..."

   "Generation Debt; Wanted: Really Smart Suckers: Grad school provides 
exciting new road to poverty"

   A page with yet more links: :-)
   "Links About Academia"

General related:

There of my essays on this:

   "The true cost of a Princeton-style education in the OLPC era"

   "Post-Scarcity Princeton, or, Reading between the lines of PAW for
prospective Princeton students, or, the Health Risks of Heart Disease "

  "Towards a Post-Scarcity New York State of Mind (through homeschooling)"

Probably lots more links out there. I just added about dozen compared to 
what I posted yesterday from memory of stuff I had visited before.

The above links would take many days (months, years?) to digest, and I have 
not read each resource in its entirety, and in general these links would 
make the subject for a nice graduate seminar in education. :-) I took one 
seminar that from Patrick Hill as a 16 year old freshman at SUNY Stony Brook 
(what was I thinking? :-), but nothing I remember there was near this kind 
of radical. :-) But maybe I was not paying enough attention? But the (sadly, 
late) Pat Hill was inspirational none-the-less, and he tried his best to 
make the university work with a Federated Learning Community model (links 
above). But the issues of community and learning and how they are 
intertwined in universities (or beyond) that he was concerned with has 
stayed with me as a question. Universities can even adopt a Federated 
Learning Community approach for some improvements that stay close to what 
they are.

An example one from the past at SUNY Stony Brook on Globalization (the one I 
was in was on "Human Nature"):

But it would seem that simple reforms like Federated Learning Communities 
can address all the deep issues with academia discussed in the links above 
(even if they may help some, and don't require that much change to academia 
to adopt). But they are an easy start compared to everything else. :-) 
Basically, you have the usual individual courses, but the same group of 
twenty five or so people take them, and you have one core course just for 
the community where people meet and talk, plus one faculty member acts as a 
learner as well. There is more to it than that, but even that can seem too 
radical and too "interdisciplinary" for many universities.

Another possible point, even as the market has problems, especially 
affordability for many, is to look at "free market education":

But, peer-to-peer education might seem able to transcend the market most of 
the time?

With all that said, there were a lot of things about college I liked. :-) As 
a place to just live near, and take courses of specific interest 
face-to-face with others or involving special equipment, a college campus is 
a great idea (even as the course model itself is breaking down compared to 
mentorship, apprenticeship, and lightly guided or independent study). It is 
the other social and economic and hierarchical aspects that surround college 
mythologically which make for the most problems. Of all the places to hang 
out, I still think a college campus has the most promise in many ways. :-)

Just a note: for someone who is in high school now, I can see the argument 
that a good place to sit out the next decade of tumultuous changes in the 
economy is piling up debt in college, because it is possible the debt may be 
worthless (with a devalued dollar or a major economic transition to 
post-scarcity) in ten or twenty years. If your mentally prepared to not take 
schooling it too seriously and not let it interfere with your education. :-)

But here is the worst part of academia, from inside one of the resources 
linked above:
"Lost faith-- Poor housing and lack of community have undoubtedly hurt many 
students, caused many to drop out, and some to commit suicide. But there is 
a deeper tragedy than poor housing or a lack of community. Generations of 
students have lost faith that human problems can be solved by human 
institutions. Worse yet, the institution that has failed them is the one 
that promised to teach them the humane and rational sciences. It told them 
that wise and good people were in charge. It said that everything that could 
be done for their benefit was being done. It took their money and years of 
their lives and gave them back empty promises. "

"The third reform-- The third reform I recommend is that we pay equal 
attention and devote equal resources to our non-college students -- if 
necessary, giving them enough money for a car or a home if not vocational 
training -- to show that we love and value them equally. This is what we owe 
them, but it's also what we owe ourselves. The fundamental assumption of 
higher education is wrong -- we don't owe brighter students extra attention, 
only equal opportunity.  I believe this is the most important reform of all. 
It came to me after many years because I kept asking myself why higher 
education keeps separating students into alphas and betas at almost every 
stage and level of the system. Gradually I began to realize that this notion 
of tracking favors established social classes. It makes the university one 
of the most powerful institution in our society, a kind of temple that 
selects and perpetuates a ruling class. It elevates academic ability into a 
distorted test of human ability and citizenship. It plays a Social Darwin 
role in separating society into wealthy and poor -- especially as education 
grows longer and more expensive.  ... Another impression gained from this 
work is the importance of maturity. Institutions don't want us to grow up. 
They don't want us to form emotional attachments beyond the institution. 
They seek ways to retard emotional growth and encourage dependency. 
Certainly the university is a wonderful producer of narrow and naive 
technocrats. I must repeat that students, faculty, administrators and the 
public are adversaries, not enemies, of each other. For the university to 
serve all, there must be a deep and respectful partnership between these 
groups and their competing legitimate interests. Of course, only through 
non-violence can anything of lasting value be achieved. "

So, there is a lot yet to be done to fix all that, especially in the face of 
active resistance by this type of place:
"A scientific body to which had been confided the government of society 
would soon end by devoting itself no longer to science at all, but to quite 
another affair; and that affair, as in the case of all established powers, 
would be its own perpetuation by rendering the society more in need of its 
government and direction (in Curtis 2:317)."

Langdon Winner said much the same thing here in "Autonomous Technology: 
Technics Out-of-Control as a Theme in Political Thought"

Gatto says something similar here:
"Before you can reach a point of effectiveness in defending your own 
children or your principles against the assault of blind social machinery, 
you have to stop conspiring against yourself by attempting to negotiate with 
a set of abstract principles and rules which, by its nature, cannot respond. 
Under all its disguises, that is what institutional schooling is, an 
abstraction which has escaped its handlers. Nobody can reform it. First you 
have to realize that human values are the stuff of madness to a system; in 
systems-logic the schools we have are already the schools the system needs; 
the only way they could be much improved is to have kids eat, sleep, live, 
and die there."

I'm glad peer-to-peer is on the job. It's a big one. :-)

Some humor to go with a serious topic of creating obedient academic 
supermen: :-)
"Monty Python - Bicycle Repair Man

--Paul Fernhout

Ryan Lanham wrote:
 > Interestingly, in the face of change, higher ed appears to be hunkering down
 > and fighting any and all changes...
 > This suggests to me that the organizations are brittle and endangered if
 > government and business experiences are any prior indicators.  In states
 > where money cannot be forked over to higher education from government,
 > expect institutions to start shattering fairly soon.  The UK in Europe comes
 > to mind where there is tremendous reliance on state funding and little
 > cushion without it.  In the US, systems like the University of California
 > and states schools in Florida, Arizona, Nevada and other cash-strapped
 > states will be stretched to the breaking point.
 > In the US, at least, rapid raises in tuition simply aren't an option.  The
 > UK has a bit more room on tuition, but not much.  Borrowing there to pay for
 > school is far less standard than in the US.  I don't know about the
 > continent or Asia.  I assume Asia is a cash business with little government
 > support, but the Chronicle lately has suggested huge cash flows in China and
 > India to some of their institutions (in comparative terms).
 > My guess is this will contribute to a rapid rise in open source tools, open
 > source methods and low cost research strategies--particularly in areas like
 > the social sciences where funding is always a challenge.
 > When universities start to change, I'll know the crisis is fully ripe.  That
 > seems to be 3 or 4 years off.
 > Ryan
 > On Mon, Oct 26, 2009 at 2:05 AM, Michel Bauwens 
<michelsub2004 at gmail.com>wrote:
 >> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
 >> From: Chris Smith <csmith at csmith.info>
 >> Date: Mon, Oct 26, 2009 at 10:54 AM
 >> Subject: FlossedBk, "Free/Libre and Open Source Solutions for Education"
 >> this weekend in Bangkok
 >> To: WOICT at googlegroups.com
 >> FlossedBk
 >> Free & Open Source Solutions for Education -- KIS, Bangkok Oct 31-Nov 1,
 >> 2009
 >> http://flossedbk.flossed.org/
 >> Here is the information quoted from the website ....
 >> FlossedBk, "Free/Libre and Open Source Solutions for Education" is a
 >> two-day
 >> gathering of both new and experienced users of FLOSS, Free/Libre, Open
 >> Source Software, for education.
 >> During the two days, there will workshops on everything from why schools
 >> should consider using FLOSS, to what the options are, and how best to make
 >> the transition, partial and/or full.
 >> This is our first conference, but we are calling for representatives of as
 >> wide a range of needs as possible: teachers and principals, secretaries and
 >> technicians are invited to share and learn, as well as computing teachers,
 >> system administrators and programmers
 >> All workshops are presented in both Thai and English (with the help of
 >> translators). Thus each workshop is listed twice, once in English and once
 >> in Thai. Sign up for the one in your language to help us plan for
 >> translation help.
 >> http://flossedbk.flossed.org/
 >> Hope of interest .... please pass on to any education colleagues who may be
 >> interested.
 >> Chris

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