Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not those of St. George News.
OPINION – We live in an age of miracles. Think about it. Most of us carry with us a cell phone that allows us instant contact with others virtually anywhere in the civilized world. This device allows us to find answers to almost any conceivable question within a matter of seconds. It allows us to correspond with others via text or email. It allows us to enjoy our favorite music or videos. New applications are created daily that make the advances of even five years ago seem outmoded.
This is just one example of the remarkable changes brought about by the dawning of the Information Age. Most of us have seen a significant change in how we do our banking, our shopping, and even how we do our jobs. The shift that is underway is changing the world as thoroughly as the shift that took humanity from the agrarian age into the industrial age. Even the gateway to success has been widened as the flow of information has increased.
But not everyone is rejoicing at how the Information Age is reshaping our world.
In particular, the ruling elite whose power has depended upon maintaining control of information, is being bypassed by the digital revolution. But, as Dr. Gary North explains, this elite includes more than just the news media: “Also vital has been control over the schools — compulsory attendance laws, teacher certification, tax funding, and school accreditation. Above all has been control over textbooks.
This control is ending in the area of printed media, especially newspapers, which are dying. Control over TV news is fading. Digits are killing them. Now control over education is about to be undermined. Same reason: digits.”
Academia has long been the path to success and status in our society. Author Stephen Pink describes in his book “A Whole New Mind” how those who wish to attain status and success in society are expected to pass through certain tollbooths along that path. These include the various aptitude tests that must be taken to gain admittance to college, medical, or law school. They include paying the increasing costs of attending accredited schools and receiving an undergraduate or graduate degree. But the information superhighway is now allowing a means of bypassing the academic and corporate system.
This development couldn’t come at a better time for those who are seriously weighing the costs and benefits of attending college. Under the current model, the roughly 55 percent of students who actually finish four or more years of college often find themselves saddled with tens of thousands of dollars of unforgivable student loan debt and dismal job prospects.
But high debt and lack of employment are only part of the reason that many are questioning the wisdom of following the traditional higher education path. Sociology professors Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, in their book “Academically Adrift” claim that 36 percent of college graduates demonstrated no progress in critical thinking, complex reasoning or writing even after four years of college.
One young man named Dale J. Stephens has founded a movement called “UnCollege” to challenge the notion that “going to college is the only path to success.” Stephens, at 19 years-of-age, was awarded the prestigious Thiel Fellowship. This is a two-year, six-figure fellowship that is essentially a golden key to Silicon Valley. But it comes with the proviso that its recipient cannot attend any institution of higher education during that time.
Stephens readily agreed since he had long since figured out that the main function of graduating college today is to signal a readiness to go to work. In an article titled “College is a waste of time” he notes, “The Internet is replacing this signaling function. Employers are recruiting on LinkedIn, Facebook, StackOverflow and Behance. People are hiring on Twitter, selling their skills on Google, and creating personal portfolios to showcase their talent.”
The Information Age has created multiple paths around the traditional gatekeepers of knowledge. This has led forward thinkers and innovators like Salman Kahn to challenge conventional wisdom regarding the corporate and academic institutions. Kahn’s online math and science courses are quickly becoming legendary in that they not only teach difficult concepts well—but they do it for free online.
The collegiate cartel’s monopoly is being broken up and more government-run schools have begun offering online courses in hopes of maintaining their advantage over the long-overdue competition. Don’t expect the higher education establishment to relinquish its control without a fight. The battle lines are currently being drawn around the issue of accreditation; the cartel’s tool of last resort.
For those tempted to cast this issue in terms of mere price competition, Dr. Gary North has this sage advice, “The tools of this fight are digital. The basis of this fight is ethical: the right of parents to control the content of their children’s education.”
This is why preventing government control of the Internet will be more important than ever.
Copyright 2012 St. George News.