The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere Hardcover – March 3, 2015
|New from||Used from|
Preloaded Digital Audio Player, Unabridged
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
– The New York Times Book Review
"Thorough ... this is thought-provoking, fascinating material."
—The Washington Post
“In The End of College, Kevin Carey delves into some of the most complicated – and important – issues facing students, parents and educators today. This is a fascinating read."
—Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and A Whole New Mind
“Don't even think about going to college (or paying for it) until you have read this book. Kevin Carey has changed forever how I think about the modern American university. The End of College delivers a scathing indictment of the past and present—alongside a glorious prediction for what comes next.”
—Amanda Ripley, author of The Smartest Kids in the World
About the Author
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
I think this quote perfectly summarizes the entire book. Either you completely disagree with this statement or you wholeheartedly agree with it. I disagree with this. I think attending a lecture live and watching in online offer two completely different experiences, but I understand from an objective perspective it does not make any sense. The best argument I can offer is the difference between listening to a recorded song or going to a live concert. The recorded song will actually give you the best, most precise listening experience, yet going to a concert provides a communal, corporeal experience. The same can be said about watching a football game on television or sitting in the stadium. At home, you get better views, more information, and the ability to pause the game, but when you attend you feel a part of something bigger.
Now the irony, I would rather stream a song than attend a concert, but in most cases, I would rather attend a lecture than watch online. I had a traditional undergraduate experience and I learned a lot. I did a mix of in person and online for graduate school and the online features did not engage me. The online class made everything feel cold. I tried a MOOC in the past but I never finished.
College is way too expensive and (according to some research) is educationally ineffective. The author spends the whole book promoting the concept of the free, accessible college courses. Over and over again he shares stories of startups throwing millions and millions of dollars into resources online that can be available for free to absolutely anyone with an internet connection. He does make a lot of good observations, but I think there is a lot missing.
He talks about hundreds of millions of dollars coming from venture capitalists from Silicon Valley or from the endowments of the established elite college of Harvard, MIT, and so forth but the author also complains about how much education costs. Yes, it costs a lot to develop these programs but once they are up and running the maintenance costs are minimal.
I agree a college degree is incredibly expensive, but when you break down the budgets I don’t believe there is a lot of fat. Sure, you can get rid of the football or art history, but then you alienate students and donors who want those programs. College is expensive because of its expensive workforce. Can you streamline things? Sure, but there is always a risk to that. Consumers like inexpensive products but they love quality. This is where the author and I differ. I believe massive open online courses can offer an inferior product. He does not believe so.
I could go on and on about how I think this book misses the point, but I do think his arguments are valid though perhaps one-sided.
And of course, no book that is critical about higher education costs is complete without a reference to a rock climbing wall. You will find that references on page 47 of the paperback version.
It does not take aim at the higher education system in Europe, for example, where a college degree is not a prerequisite for the vocational training that leads into the much-prized legal and medical professions, where vocational training for less-demanding jobs starts in high school and where the funding for research (as part of all educational funding) is chiefly provided by government.
This is, rather, an attack at the 20th century phenomenon that is the US Bachelor’s degree, and includes a very thorough history of how it came to be, how the US universities were built around it and made it their cash cow, why it no longer serves anybody very well (except for tenured researchers and college administrators) and why now is the time that it will all unravel. The author builds his expose of what the future holds, based on
1. An account of his experience of the future as previewed by a biology course he attended via MITx
2. An invitation to ride with him on a whirlwind tour of tens of new tech enterprises that aim to disrupt the educational system
The origins of college as we know it today are established via a visit to Bologna, where the first university was founded in pre-Gutenberg 1088 (hello, lectures and lecture notes), followed by a visit to Harvard Yard, where we are treated to a (rather gratuitous, if you ask me) caricature of the “privilege” a bachelor’s degree is meant to bestow on its owner and then, a quick ride down Mass Ave, to a tour of the much more rational MIT campus where buildings have numbers rather than names and students are given the tools to learn, the way the author sees it. From there, he takes us to the founding myth of college as we know it today. In the mid 19th century, Charles Eliot, a prominent academic, realised that the educational system had a threefold purpose:
• First to teach to the American masses the necessary knowledge, provide the necessary tools and practical education to cope with the industrial revolution, along the lines described by the Morrill-Grant act whose explicit aim was to provide “mechanical arts and practical education for the industrial classes.”
• Second, to conduct research, of the type that would expand human knowledge, much as was practiced at the research universities that were springing across Germany at the time.
• Third, to teach the Liberal Arts, with the ultimate goal of “raising the intellectual tone of the society, cultivating the public mind, purifying the national taste, … , facilitating the exercise of political power and refining the intercourse of private life.”
Eliot was offered to run Harvard based on the premise that he could build an institution that would accomplish all three at the same time. And this is, in author Kevin Carey’s opinion, the foundation of today’s American educational impasse. The way Eliot skirted around this compromise was by establishing completely autonomous departments. One for Math, one for English, one for Philosophy, one for Natural Sciences etc. These departments sought to hire the best possible researchers, with the implicit (and eventually explicit) promise that they would be well-paid to do research rather than teach. And that’s where an escalation started that could only ever spiral one way:
The best researchers don’t just conduct research, their usefulness to the college is that they advertise the excellence of the school, much as the average student might never come in contact with the average Nobel-prize winner. And if he ever does, it will most likely be in some abstruse elective the top researcher will deign to teach. Which brings us to the electives system. According to the author (and my personal experience, as I did my undergrad in the US and hold two graduate degrees from the UK) the electives system is there chiefly to serve the purposes of the autonomous departments that strive to maximize their size as they compete with (i) the equivalent departments of other research universities for academic status and (ii) other departments within their university for power, though obviously the admissions department also likes to brag about the multitude of courses on offer, when in reality the students in their vast majority only ever register for a hyper-limited number of mega-classes and would benefit most if those classes were taught well. And funnily enough the mega-classes are taught from massive, hyper-expensive textbooks authored by a professor from the university’s faculty. Moreover, students often simply do not pick the classes they need to pick. I graduated with an Applied Math degree, magna cum laude, from Harvard and could not tell you what the definition of a group is.
So colleges teach poorly, are run in the interest of research departments and compete on measures that don’t matter much to students, like the number of stars in the faculty and the number of electives that nobody will take. And that’s only the start. Along the same lines, colleges compete in sports, which started as part of the general spirit of the all-roundedness that comes from having a liberal arts education but have within less than a century evolved to the point where the Supreme Court is having to adjudicate on the pay of the professional athletes that are now harboured by the alleged learning institutions they play for.
And the students who are urged to choose among colleges on the basis of the star professors and star athletes might want to visit the school, where they will of course judge the college on the size of the library and the number of books it houses, the size of the athletic facilities and the luxury of the dormitories.
So before you know it, it costs a bomb to attend college, because somebody has to pay for all this. And what do you get for your money? You learn how to drink, mainly. Not really worth it. Except somewhere along the way, college became the necessary passport not only to law school and med school and the school of design (to say nothing of divinity school, the original purpose of Bologna, Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard!!!), but it also became the passport to the upper class, to the job on Wall Street and the good life.
What is to be done?
The author is very optimistic on this front. The way he thinks about it, college as we know it is lucky to be alive. It only really survived till 2015 because of three major historical accidents: first, the GI bill sent millions of servicemen into education from 1948 into the early fifties. The idea was chiefly to keep them out of unemployment (to avoid the experience of malaise that followed demobilisation after WWI) but the only institutions that were set up to collect the government’s largesse were the colleges and they truly thrived. Next, came the massive post-Sputnik spending via the ONR etc. that rained billions and billions on American universities’ research departments to invest in the new technologies that would help fight the Cold War (and which you can find today on your iPhone). Finally, the decimation that visited the employment status of the blue-collar worker between 1970 and 2000 drilled it into the head of the American that while a college degree is not a panacea, not having one is an unmitigated disaster.
But that was then and this is now and a college degree today comes hand-in-hand with a hundred thousand dollar loan that could signal indentured employment with whoever deigns to offer you your first job, a delay in climbing the housing ladder and starting a family and potentially total ruin at the hands of the college-loan loansharks if you get ill or unlucky.
The beauty of it, however, is that not only does there seem to be a cheaper alternative, it’s also a better alternative. Using modern technology, you can “Learn like Alexander” who was tutored by Aristotle himself. The author registered with MITx and learned the secrets of biology form Professor Lander, the very same man who untangled the human genome. If the lecture was going too fast, he could pause and go back, a luxury he did not have when he went as part of his investigation and sat in the audience one day. He was given problem sets to ponder and he had them graded. He was given learning resources that were unimaginable a few years ago: he watched populations of flies grow on a computer model that would take years to evolve in real life, he toyed with molecules to see how their properties would change and he conferred with classmates from across the world. FOR FREE. For less than a thousand dollars, MIT will sell you the same seven classes that constitute its core programming course. It has to be the future, no?
There’s lots to be done still, of course. Point is, people are working hard at doing it. Motivated by the enormous potential profits, a full industry has materialized that has the potential to democratize education and achieve the trichotomy that Charles Eliot refused to countenance: Some are putting together the campuses where you can meet, for much cheaper (spare us the million volume book library) the like-minded students you seek. Others are putting together the electronic accreditation services that you will carry around in your electronic wallet (rather than having to write to your college to get your transcript). Others again are designing the classes. The author really takes you door-to-door to all the entrepreneurs who are effecting this change. This is in my view the most fun part of the book.
Most importantly, the top schools have thrown in the towel and are joining the fray. Perhaps because it has another 16 schools to draw income from, perhaps because it’s sitting on a multi-billion dollar endowment and perhaps because it’s seen the future and it recognizes it for what it is, Harvard is now on the side of the innovators and it’s not alone. Carnegie Mellon has been there from very early (it never really succumbed to the temptation of being all things to all people according to the author), MIT, Stanford, everybody is in on the revolution.
Revolutions have many false starts, of course, but I really hope Kevin Carey (and the host of innovators/disrupters he presents us in this book) is not jumping over the parapet too early. This is a citadel that deserves to be stormed.
Top international reviews
But more than that, it traces the whole history of the university system -- both in the US and abroad -- and explains how the US ended up with a system that is neither research nor trade nor liberal arts, but a mish-mash of the three with poor vision and aim.
It also traces the rise of electronic contributions to education, culminating in the internet revolution today of options like EdX, where one can get an Ivy League education for free, but just not with the piece of paper to go with it.
This is where the book leaves off -- at the cusp of a huge revolution, when society realises that universities shouldn't have the monopoly on qualifications.