Shawn Warren

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Is the global state of higher education a more pressing concern than others such as the environment, energy, food, human rights,...?

This is obviously an ethical question. As I see it, these other concerns, while serious and pressing, are secondary to the crippled and decaying state of higher education (HE) - here and abroad. The reason is clear: the present and future health of the environment, supply of energy and food, adoption of human rights, or nearly any other matter of interest to us is utterly dependent on the health, supply, and adoption of the products of HE. We are wasting precious mental resources. If the products of HE are what allow us to effectively and properly manage our time time on the planet and with each other (and alone), then we need the optimal paradigm for its delivery. Education is a right because it is a necessity - and not even primarily for the individual. I hold the view, and I am not alone, that this global crisis is the one in need of our collective attention and resources. It should be the globes's number one priority. Cheers, Shawn

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    May 2 2012: If I had a choice to feed the bottom billion or revamp HE, I think I'd feed people first. Maybe that's just me. But I don't think it is yet an interest to most of us comfortable people. If natural rights and basic human needs were a priority for all of us, it would have happened. Seriously, only a small portion of humanity is what you or I would consider "comfortable." So it really does seem kind of whiny of us to complain about how dumb we are.
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    Apr 11 2012: Hi Shawn
    I'd say it's about a tie. Ramping up innovation toward sustainability can't come fast enough. Policy, lifestyle, design, and collaboration all need adjustment. So too, our empathy.
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    R H

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    Apr 11 2012: I'm glad you mentioned "We are wasting precious mental resources". More than 3 billion people - nearly half of the planet - live on less than $2.50 a day (according to certain stats). The probability of them getting to HE is very small. This could be viewed as a supreme waste. But we have had HE since Plato, and still half of the population is in want and has no access. So what has HE accomplished? It has accomplished only division, and an explosion of benefit for the 'haves'. The results of HE do not warrant further attention, in my opinion. It's taking care of itself quite well. We need a new paradigm of regard for one another. I have yet to see a discipline in the university dedicated completely to this subject.
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      Apr 11 2012: Hello RH,

      I agree HE has been around a long time and still the world suffers in inexcusable ways. I wonder though, if the ancient Greek civilization had not collapsed and been allowed develop along the (perhaps) idealized trajectory it was heading, whether we might share this complaint about the world and HE today? Or whether we would have finally a proper HE system that is world-wide accessible?

      If you want to ask what has HE done for me - or the poor lately - it will take little effort on your part to find countless examples from technology to medicine to philosophical and political analysis. I am afraid I find no merit in this rhetorical question. The benefits of the education and research products of higher education are endless. RH consider alone that we would not have he medicine we do were it not for HE. Notice I did not say, if we did not have universities...

      I wonder if your comments are not better directed at the use of HE products by the unscrupulous, greedy, the "haves"? Of course one can always argue that things like the splitting of the atom should never have occurred (a product of HE if ever there was one), since it has given us nuclear weapons and death, and then immediately notice that this advanced knowledge also gave us invaluable tools for medicine.

      No,I disagree with you. HE is in fact the cornerstone of civilization, if we fail to be civil in the use of its products, that is a separate question.

      I happen to think that increasing world-wide access to the goods of HE (including the proper reasoning, knowledge, and economic liberty, typically associated with it) will make a larger number of people in the world better off - in no small part because you are mistaken, HE provides invaluable products that make life on this planet better (and yes, worse). All you need to do to check the balance is ask yourself, after you have considered the goods HE provides, would we be better off without it?

      I say no way.

      Cheers, Shawn
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        Apr 18 2012: Ok. I agree with many of your points. BUT, the question I answered was 'was HE a more pressing concern than...'. Taken in this context, my statements were descriptive (and not rhetorical) of my stance that I don't think HE is the most pressing concern. Your original question that I responded to was very general, as was my response. When I wrote "So what has HE accomplished?", I was speaking in terms of the general results of the benefits worldwide - in relation to your very general question of the most pressing concern worldwide - not to specific accomplishments. I absolutely believe in education. I absolutely believe education is essential to the progress of mankind - one of it's greatest necessities. I just don't think HIGHER education is the most pressing concern right now. Partly because it has enough going for it already - relative to other pressing efforts, and partly because it's results to date as 'the ultimate benefit to mankind' do not warrant that status, in my opinion.
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    Apr 9 2012: Hi Natasha,

    I see your point now. Thank you.

    Funny, you mention one of the ways in which I imagine this experiment to be implemented: Keep the existing university campus facilities as they are, holding classes there, etc., but have the faculty walk in Monday morning (so to speak) as independent professionals leasing their practice facilities from the "university." This is plausible precisely because these institutions are publicly funded and so publicly owned. The more modest version is the one you identify (and the more likely of the two), where new faculty are affiliated with the existing institutions, but operate under the profession, not as employees of the university.

    Natasha, I see you have curiosity in this proposal and recognize it might prove of benefit to all. In order to get this social experiment underway, I need the word to get out and people to understand what I am suggesting (most do not, at first). If you have any means of informing those you think would care about or perhaps even be able to contribute to the realization of the experiment, then I humbly ask that you bring this proposal to their attention. If you know of any way you personally can contribute, please let me know.

    I sound like a salesman. I am sorry. But we agree (higher) education is crucial to our survival and improvement.

    In fact, I am increasingly confident that the professional paradigm (this proposal) can be applied at the elementary and secondary levels.

    I agree, we will all be taking classes one day from the comfort of our homes, in virtual classrooms rich with sound, colour, smell,.... The campus university is being archived by technology. The proposal I have in mind fits this emerging fact of HE very well - better than the existing institutions.

    I would love to continue this dialogue. If you have any questions or criticisms please jot them down and send them to me. I will respond.

    Cheers,
    Shawn
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      Apr 9 2012: Hello Natasha,

      As I read you, we do not disagree. If people are educated properly and widely, then they "can figure out the rest for themselves, organize...." But to me that means education ought to be the first concern, getting as many minds as possible figuring out these other serious problems.

      I think I have a way to do that: https://sites.google.com/site/professionalsocietyofacademics/home

      If you would have a look at the proposal and let me know your thoughts, I would be most grateful.

      Sincerely,
      Shawn
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    Apr 8 2012: Hello Shawn! I agree that education is the most important key to the individual and collective surivival of mankind. However, I believe more funds and attention should be focused on early, elementary, & secondary education. Anyone who has spent a week or more in a public school environment can attest to what I believe. Those "precious mental resources" that are being wasted are most pliable during a child's early development. If we are going to continue to live as a species it will take education on varying levels, e.g., financial, medical, social, environmental. The colonies of mankind that are being driven through our elementary & secondary education systems are coming out able to produce very little (mental or material). Without getting into statistics (on a global scale), let's just say that when the serious cuts in our "lower" education systems began, it was made clear how important it was for the next generation "workforce" of America to know (on all levels).
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      Apr 8 2012: Hello Maranda,

      Absolutely, the mental resources I speak of are being tapped a little late in the cultivation process - and are utterly dependent for quality on earlier stages of education.

      I also agree about the quality of student people at my end are receiving from people at your end of the process of citizenry education is less than desirable - and that this is almost exclusively a consequence of the system under which elementary and secondary education are provided, not your people.

      Have you seen this? Chomsky on education: http://www.zcommunications.org/education-for-whom-and-for-what-by-noam-chomsky

      Maranda, this is going to seem an off the wall question, but I have been entertaining it lately: Some background: I developed a proposal to convert HE to the professional paradigm - for lots of reasons (having to do with the ethical question I posed) I am promoting the professional model (e.g, law, engineering, medicine, etc.) as the preferred social institution/paradigm for the delivery of HE goods (education and research). My website explains the proposal. But I am interested in this from you: Do you think that the same paradigm could be used for elementary and secondary education?

      Forgive me, but most do not understand what I am suggesting, but I would be happy to answer any questions you have to better inform you answer. I can say that applied to the post secondary level, the changes are profound and extremely positive.

      Both levels of education suffer from nearly identical problems: lack of funding, both are crippled for change and responsiveness by a "hybrid" organizational structure (institution-government-union), unacceptable teacher(professional)/student(client) ratios, limited curricula and pedagogy, limited accessibility and questionable quality....

      The professional paradigm addresses all of these (and more) for post secondary education.

      Please give it some thought at your end, ask others, please. We need to correct this - now.

      Shawn
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    Apr 8 2012: You are likely quite right about the huge importance of higher education. It does not necessarily follow, though, that the issue of the *accessibility* of higher education is an important issue.

    To answer whether it is, you need to consider the benefits of having certain amounts and types of people with degrees of different types. You also need to consider what sacrifices need to made for every amount more accessible we make degrees.

    Though access to opportunities for higher education may be unfair, and this should be addressed on the basis of fairness and getting the best people into important positions, it could be the case that we have *enough people* (or even too many people) getting higher education (at least in some areas) right now.

    What do you think?
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      Apr 8 2012: Hello Adrian and Amy,

      I sincerely thank you for your contribution. I am glad you take it seriously too.

      I think this...

      I agree that fine-tuning the production of degrees to the needs of society is a responsible and necessary function of a HE system. I would further fine-tune your point and say that this is true of the society in the short-term but also true of civilization in the long-term. This means we must have a system that produces as many quality PhDs in as many fields AS POSSIBLE - the valuable lessons of we have derived from interdisciplinary research and education underscores this point.

      [Also since you are discussing, with some import, what should or need be the case with respect to degree production, by implication you are also speaking of the importance of "access to higher education," as an issue. (Sorry, that is the philosopher in me...)]

      I think this...

      My tack is not really that access to the invaluable social goods of HE is not equitably distributed across the resources of the planet (that is, the minds) - I agree this is a separate question. I am saying that access to HE should be based on "fairness (I assume merit-based) and (with the aim of) getting the best people into important positions," but that we need to have a system that optimizes this outcome - produces as many AS POSSIBLE.. Succinctly put, we are more likely to find those of merit and importance (and not thereby lose the resource) if HE is more widely distributed - and that those mental-resources could then be quickly and uniformally discovered and put to their (I agree) very important uses (like saving the environment).

      This reasoning is based more on the laws of large numbers as a piratical and foundational basis for the moral argument. Further I have a alternative paradigm - in substitute for the current university paradigm that severely limits our ability to increase access (on this a smaller scales).

      What do you two think?

      Cheers,
      Shawn