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2ndClassCitizenPundit On March - 20 - 2011

 

We are seeing, around the world, a few troubling trends.

Governments are defunding education, by increasing the cost of tuition, shifting the cost of education onto already-overburdened local governments, and creating obstacles for educators. Educators are being denied the right to collectively bargain, their classrooms are being increased in student size, educational materials are not being provided (forcing teachers to pay for them out of pocket), teachers are being forced to “teach the test”, teachers are not allowed to confront behavior issues (or sued or fired when they do), disruptive behavior is ignored or condoned, curriculum is being re-tooled to adhere to political agendas, etc.

Governments are also taking other actions against their citizens, to quash dissent or public involvement in the political process.

There is growing concern that, in face of natural disasters, as well as disasters involving man-made installations (Chernobyl, levees, the Japanese reactors), governments are choosing to refuse help, delay action while politically-viable plans are debated, or pretending nothing is going wrong. Humanitarian efforts all over the globe are being balked by political processes that have no bearing on the subject at hand, or political processes designed intentionally to prevent humanitarian efforts.

The solution to this, that I propose, is immodest (insofar as it calls for a great deal of work and effort) and immoral (insofar as it calls for a lot of self-righteous people to shut their yaps). This proposal is also immodest and immoral in that it assumes that every person on this planet has inherent worth equal to that of any other person (let the death threats commence).

I propose the founding of a new University. A Global University, if you will.

Bear with me. I know that this does not seem to address the issues above, except perhaps the education issues, but I hope that further discussion will illustrate how the other issues are addressed.

Imagine for a moment a University that is not beholden to any government, religious authority, or political process. Think of a University that, by virtue of applying for admission, guarantees any student will be accepted for admission. Think of a University that does not charge for admission, tuition, books and supplies, room and board, health care, or any other fee or expense.

I am talking about a University that offers any course that a student requests, with no minimum class size (although I would fight to the death to maintain a maximum class size of 15 to 20 students). I am talking about a University so student-centered that the administration would be expected to consider themselves, every sense of the word, employees of the students.

I am talking about a student-owned University.

As far as I am concerned, the possibilities are endless.

Every person on the planet knows some subject well enough to teach it. Even it is only their own native language or culture, or even their second or third language, they could teach that to others, even if a little supervision is required. Imagine the benefits of learning Cantonese from a person who has been using it conversationally since, virtually, the day they were born, or various dialects of Arabic from a person born and raised in Tehran.

Imagine learning about a culture from someone who knows, lives, and breathes how that culture functions and what the taboos are. Imagine learning political science from a person who has experienced firsthand the consequences of the failures of a particular political system.

I’m not being unrealistic here. I know that there needs to be supervision of student-instructors, and perhaps I am being idealistic in believing that most student-instructors would welcome that supervision.

Imagine having a group of retired professors willing to teach and/or supervise a couple courses a term, in return for basic living expenses. No, that’s not a joke: I already have commitments from three retired professors (English Literature, Electron Microscopy and Genetics, and Religious Studies) who are thrilled with the idea of being surrounded by eager students from all over the world. And that is not counting the number of people who have committed to providing labor to build it.

Yes, there are logistical concerns. One is where to put it. And no, for this to work, an online University is not possible, as we have already seen governments decide to restrict Internet access to their citizens. What is needed is a physical site that no nation or political system may lay claim to, with guarantees of neutrality and security that are more than iron-clad, somewhat like Vatican City. And no, the Cayman Islands are not an option, as the only “residents” considered neutral are the ones printed on special paper and locked within bank vaults.

My suggestion would be the construction of an artificial island (or more than one), outside the territorial limits of any nation. There are a few ways to do this. I seriously doubt any nation on the planet would voluntarily sacrifice any acreage for the construction of a permanently extra-territorial space.

And the location must be large enough to allow for as much self-sufficiency, in the areas of food production, electricity production, clean water, etc., in case that need arises.

Another concern is transportation of students from their home to the University, and back again. I believe it is possible to blackmail a few airlines to provide free transportation to enrolled students, but it could take some time and publicity to do so. Perhaps it would be necessary to have a dedicated fleet of air-liners, belonging only to the University.

You are probably still wondering where I am going with this, and what this has to do with natural and man-made disasters and governments suppressing dissent.

Time to turn on that imagination again.

Okay, we have a student body of, for illustrative sake, five thousand students. Students do not spend a majority of their time in class. A full-time student is usually one that has 12 or more credit hours per term (quarter or semester). That’s 12 or more hours of class time per week. The common wisdom is that a student spends twice that amount of time on homework and studying, per week. Even accounting for sleeping and eating, the majority of their time is still “free time”.

One of the requirements that would be written in stone would be that students agree to donate part of their free time to the world. In other words, disaster relief, humanitarian efforts, election monitoring, reporting on events, education of non-students, etc.  And they would receive course credit for it.

Students would receive course credit for doing administrative or support work at the University as well. It is possible that, by the time an individual student graduated with a Bachelor’s degree, they would have more course credits than a “regular” university would require for a doctorate degree.

Not only does this “raise the bar” for student achievement, it also raises the expectations for student involvement, and provides the world with a constant stream of people whose allegiance is to the world and not a particular ideology.

Yes, I know, there are probably many laws of nature being violated just by the very idea.

There are a lot of facets that I have considered over time:

Health Care – provided for free. I would require immunizations, because too many people from different cultures and locations would be mingling and sharing germs that others would have no defense for. I would also recommend that no health care options be ruled out, except those with miniscule chances of helping, or those that pose a significant risk to the patient or others.

Housing – I would like to see a variety of housing. Dormitories over time have stretched from 8-person suites to 1 person rooms (sometimes sharing a bathroom between two residents). Some universities provide small apartments or small cottages to a small group of students or a student with a family. I have seen houses where more than ten students lived together, most with their own room or sharing a room with one other person. All are legitimate housing options.

However, most colleges seem to think it is a good idea to house students in groups for the first year, and then students may opt for sharing space with a steadily-decreasing group of students, with the option (usually in graduate school) of finally being able to have a private space. I think this is wrong. Freshman year is not the time to suddenly plunge a student into a living situation with 3 to 7 strangers, all with their own culture, quirks, habits, and personality disorders. It’s no wonder that colleges suffer huge drop-out rates during the first two or three terms of a student’s college experience.

Let’s reverse that. Start students out with their private space, to themselves, perhaps with a shared bathroom. Their first year, they will be making friends, so finding someone (or more than one) to share a larger space with isn’t a big burden. Perhaps it would be possible for a few students to opt to keep a private space instead, with the understanding that incoming students get first pick, and the second-year student may have to arrange for a roommate at the last minute.

This eases students into the joys of shared housing slowly, and makes roommate matching a lot easier task than my first semester at a large campus.

Civil and Human Rights – Every student must understand that their rights are no more important than those of any other individual. No student has the right to threaten the well-being of another student (or staff). No student has a “right” to force others to believe the same as they. If a question of competing rights occurs, the facts must be considered first, and opinions considered last.

Course Offerings – I touched on this before, but a few things need to be discussed.

Around the world and definitely within the United States, there is a push to lower expectations for students. In the US, a particular President went so far as to push an educational agenda which makes learning unimportant, and emphasized the ability of students to parrot what they are taught. No understanding of subject matter is necessary, as long as one can repeat it back, word for word, virtually.

Some colleges are being forced to not only offer remedial courses, but to give college credit for them. Partly this is due to primary and secondary educational institutions pushing an “automatic pass” policy, where students are passed on courses that they may never have participated in. The other part of this is that primary and secondary teachers are no longer allowed to teach students what they need to know to attend college or even function within adult society; the curriculum no longer allows for that.

At Global University, I would suggest that, if a remedial course (such as primary-level literacy or composition) is offered, no credit will be given. If a course is suggested by a student, careful consideration must be given to whether the suggested course raises or lowers expectations. If the expectation is lowered, the course is given no college-level credit. This would extend to “arts and crafts” courses, current events courses, and others as well. There need to be clear-cut expectations of what incoming students need to know, and what graduating students need to know. Courses that do not foster either one are, at best, time wasters.

Ethics – This can not be stressed enough. Students must be aware at all times that the consequences of unethical behavior will be swift and firm. Whether it be plagiarism, extortion, proselytizing (which is just another form of extortion), refusal to comply with the “practical/service” component that they agreed to as part of their admission, etc., such infractions must be corrected quickly and firmly, in an appropriate manner.

And that goes for acts of violence as well. If I were to be head of the University (which would be a mistake), I would be happy to send a student’s slap-happy ass home in a heartbeat.

Diversity – It seems odd to talk about diversity, when we are talking about student and staff from all over the world, but in situations like this, it becomes a priority to preserve diversity.

What I am talking about is the “normal” human reaction to opposing viewpoints or different lifestyles, namely the urge to force others to act and believe the same as you. A Muslim may not try to enforce his or her morality in the case of the presence of GLBT students ( or even bare-headed women, or women who can read and write, etc.); nor can a Christian professor require a Muslim to attend a class during prayer time; nor can a Jewish staff-member decide to force the campus to observe kosher dietary restrictions; nor can a Chinese student expect a Tibetan student to renounce the Dali Lama or a Nietzschean require others to denounce Kant . Not on my watch. Not in my backyard.

This extends to politics, religion, human rights, and every other aspect of life. Period.

Privacy – Every student and staff member has a right to their privacy and private space (even within a shared room). Violating a person’s privacy should be considered an ethics violation.

 

The one concern that I hesitate to discuss at this time is the need for security against outside forces. It is quite likely that, at some point or another, the University would be attacked in some way. After all, we are talking about what could possibly be the most subversive idea ever proposed (if I may be excused for being so arrogant). The University could be viewed as a target of opportunity for any regime that wanted to hold a large number of people hostage, whether that regime be a terrorist group or a national government. It could be, as the United Nations has been on many occasions, a frequent target of various political factions around the world that despise the concepts of cooperation, tolerance, and acceptance (not to mention peace).  I am not being pessimistic; we have seen educational institutions, from primary to collegiate, attacked by those with an axe to grind.

The only defense that I can see as being ethical is the presence of the University, and the diversity of its student body. However, I am not so naïve as to think that will deter any crackpot (I can’t think of any political, religious, or other “leader” that would be swayed by the presence of students from his or her own faction).

However, it is the best that I can offer. Any military-grade installation for defense would be seen as provocation by someone insane enough to attack it. Only the wide-spread publicity of the existence of the University, and immediate press releases if problems arise, can protect it while protecting the principles under which it would be founded.

Thank you for your time. I will immediately go into hiding, under an assumed name and after extensive cosmetic surgery, to prevent reprisals from every political, religious, and educational faction in the world.

Categories: Education, Society

Written by 2ndClassCitizenPundit

45 year old gay man, ordained minister, veteran, writer, living in Vancouver WA (previously Palm Springs) About the time you assume I am serious, I will post something humorous or snarky; about the time you assume I am a clown, I will hit you with rational thought - don't assume. Read what I write, not what you think I write.

38 Responses so far.

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  1. Chernynkaya says:

    Hey, I just came across this:
    “Khan Academy and the Effectiveness of Science Videos”

    This guy Khan(?) has made 22,000 educational videos. The article is no by him, and reviews his science viddies, but he reminded me of your proposal.

    https://fnoschese.wordpress.com/2011/03/17/khan-academy-and-the-effectiveness-of-science-videos/#

  2. KQuark says:

    Ugh a fundamentalist Christian group already co-opted the name.

    http://www.globaluniversity.edu/

    • KQ: That’s okay. I have a thesaurus, and I know how to use it.

    • choicelady says:

      Yup. And would coopt this entire idea, too. So would any crackpot who saw these students as a powerful body into which they can insert their own ideologues. Objections to that would undermined the principles of open and free discussion. That is WHY the public schools exist. Once upon a time they offered balance. Maybe we need to remind legislators of the Common Good, the general welfare, so we can get back to funding the diversity of ideas we once had?

  3. whatsthatsound says:

    This idea seems very Platonic to me. One would hope that it’s graduates might become akin to “philosopher kings”.

    • KQuark says:

      The president of the college I went to for my undergraduate degree was big on civics. To graduate you had to take logic or ethics (depending on your degree natural science degree students had to take logic and social science and even business degree students had to take ethics) and two semesters of Western Civ.

      My little nephew graduated last year from his “hippie” school, his words not mine, that had a very progressive curriculum. He got his degree in sustainable technologies and has a day job teaching troubled kids, kinda long story, but grows organic veg and raises organic livestock on the side. I could not even imagine seeing a degree program like that when I went to school.

    • WTS: I’d settle for “philosopher legislators” -- in other words, those that think instead of use Military Crisis Procedure.

      “When in trouble, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout.”

  4. Caru says:

    But seriously, this is a fantastic idea, in both senses of the word. I absolutely think that you should at least try to make this Atlantis a reality. I’ll support you in whatever way I think that I can.

    Too often great, even if improbable, things never enter this world because people give up on them.

    • choicelady says:

      Caru -- it would have to be more than one Atlantis otherwise it would be utterly inaccessible to the majority. But many such sites open the possibility of take over by whatever “authorities” live on the adjacent mainland. An Atlantis off the coast of Libya, for example, would NOT be my first choice for an open and free place of discourse…

  5. Caru says:

    If Sealand can work then so can this!

    I’m behind this 100% and I offer to only thing of value that I have to you: My vacuuming abilities.

  6. jkkFL says:

    2ccp- I like it too, unfortunately, you are running into the old real estate adage of location, location, location… would it be feasable to start online and then grow from there?
    I would love to have access to courses, not for a degree, but just to learn something new.
    Can’t offer anything but moral support, but I think it’s a fine idea!

    • Mild Bill says:

      Most institutions of higher learning allow auditing of their classes, so long as you’re not disruptive to the paying students. Of course, you’ll never see an exam or turn in papers to be graded. You can’t raise your hand or ask a question of the professor. Normally, classes are taught by associate professors or even fellow students! But this does fit the criteria you mentioned.

      Good luck.

      • choicelady says:

        Hi- My experience as a TA at a major CA university is that those who audit have the right to ask questions, turn in work, etc., but just are not formally graded. I’ve had auditing students, and that’s what we did with them -- it was very satisfying to have people there who were present because they wanted to be! Kind of refreshing.

    • jkkFL: How would you ensure access, when it is now an established precedent for nations to block sites they deem offensive or politically untenable?

  7. ADONAI says:

    So you want to create a new “Library of Alexandria”? I tell ya 2ccp, I’m with ya on that one but the last two were burned to the ground.

    If you attempt to provide universal education you will be a target. Hiding would become a very real thing for you.

    This is an old idea tried by many different rulers and it always ends in devastation because education is the first step to freedom and every person looking to control us knows that. Whole areas were wiped out simply because they chose to seek education as a means to improve themselves.

    So, good luck to whomever attempts this idea. It’s far more subversive and feared than most may believe.

    • Adonai, The Library was not destroyed by fire -- it survived. At one point, the contents were moved to a warehouse to preserve them.

      The Library was actually destroyed when an earthquake struck and it fell into the sea.

      Yes, I agree that ideas are pernicious things, they insist on persisting and surviving.

      • ADONAI says:

        2ccp_ i know some books survived but I have never heard about the earthquake part. Just it’s destruction by Caesar and then again by some other guy.

        Either way, it set the scientific world back centuries.

        • The second fire was set by Cyrus’s monks.

          People think the Tea Party is a new invention. Cyrus and his followers were the same thing -- smelly, unwashed fanatics scared out of their britches that someone else might be smarter, nicer, or having more fun.

          • ADONAI says:

            2ccp, Indeed. History is full of people trying to ruin it for everyone else.

            Love your idea though. A real true global center of academics and shared knowledge would be a great great thing.

            It’s done in many places on a small scale but it would be nice to see everything brought together under one roof.

  8. Buddy McCue says:

    2CCCP- What a great idea!

    I love it. It’s like Open Source Education. You’re right; everybody probably DOES have something to offer, something to teach. I like this idea the more I think about it.

  9. Abbyrose86 says:

    2CCP…Thinking outside the box! I love it. I too, have been thinking of ideas that are outside the norm or the accepted version of how things ‘are’ or how they should be, but I have not come up with such a specific and well thought out one as this.

    As with all new or very different concepts, there will be those who point to all the reasons why it ‘can’t be done’ instead of looking at how it can be done or the merits of making it happen.

    I would think the biggest difficulty in such an endeavor would be finding the start up funds. After finding the money or raising the money to get things started, the rest probably wouldn’t be as difficult to create as it might seem at first glance.

    I totally think you are on to something with this idea.

    • Abby, there are a lot of people out there who control large amounts of money, who can be blackmailed or shamed into donating.

      My biggest concern is the location.

      • Smedley Butler says:

        Creating an artificial island isn’t necessary I think as there are already a number of them vacant or semi vacant some of which are already inhabited.

        I’m talking about offshore oil rigs. There are a few hurdles to doing this or creating an artificial island nation. Some of these are discussed here.
        http://www.worldislandinfo.com/Starting%20island%20country.html

        My thought is; Why would you need or necessarily want an island? Converting and old cruise ship would be cheaper easier and have the benefit of mobility should the political situation wherever it’s anchored become untenable.

        I believe that starting with a ship would be much easier as all the infrastructure is already in place. You would not have to start from scratch building power generation and transmission, water, communication, sanitary facilities, dormitory’s, class rooms, kitchens and recreational facilities as all these things would already be there.

        • Mild Bill says:

          Being an old Salty Dog, I have a feeling that all it would take is one good-sized storm to blow and you would see many people jumping “ship” after it passed. You’re at the mercy of the wind, rain and waves and would need nerves of steel to stay after the first one.

          Not everyone is cut out to be a sailor or an islander!

          But if you have been called by the sea, there’s no stopping you!

          Anchors aweigh!

        • Mild Bill says:

          General Smedley Darlington Butler! My hero!

          He knew a lot about islands! He conquered a few in his day. In the name of Corporations, of course. But he soon learned he was a pawn and mended his ways.

        • Smedley, that is a good point.

          However, it would be difficult to be self-sufficient as far as food. Water, through a desalinization process, would not be an issue, of course.

          However, you can expect the MSM to make jokes about raising the Titannic or Andrea Doria.

          • Mild Bill says:

            Has anyone ever lived on an island? A small, wind-swept, far from civilization island? The ones that are close to a mainland are already occupied. But, I will testify that “island fever” sets in quite quickly. It wouldn’t take long for some to go stir-crazy. So, the bigger, the better.

            Happy island hunting!

      • Abbyrose86 says:

        Good point. Location is an issue, but liked your idea of CREATING such a location, which again does require money. BUT I think it makes the most sense.

        • A few years ago, the federal government was auctioning off a “shoal light”, a lighthouse built along the same lines of an off-shore oil platform. It eventually went for about $25,000, I believe. It had space for at least 12 people, plus the small lighthouse and top platform, with sanitary facilities, a big honking diesel generator, kitchen and dining room.

          I regret not being able to purchase that thing. Constantly.

          I’m not sure what the oil companies do with their rigs once they are done with them, but I have a feeling that BP and others could be shamed into donating them, and possibly moving them someplace.

          • Artist50 says:

            What about Haiti? Is the real estate too high even though it’s demolished? They could certainly used a boost to their economy. Alas, their leadership is in turmoil, but it seems like it would be cheap.

  10. agrippa says:

    Good idea.

    Go for it.

  11. JackRusselTerrier says:

    No, don’t go into hiding and don’t believe you are second class. You have a good idea. I did something on a smaller scale with a wilderness camp for kids. Your idea is not new; it is timeless. We all need to be there for each other in whatever capacity we are capable of.


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