By Anonymous (not verified) on September 28, 2012

As a teacher at a community college, I welcome the transformation in higher education that online technology brings.

For my courses, I post handouts, useful links, research supplements and study guides online. I no longer accept printed papers, only document files uploaded to our course site. And I no longer administer tests in the classroom, but create them online, allowing students a larger window in which to complete them.

Maximizing the online possibilities in my classroom optimizes my teaching in multiple ways.

The cost of the reading material has evaporated in the ether. Students are also less likely to make excuses for missed work after an absence, since materials are usually posted the same day we meet. I have more time in class to spend teaching. And online discussion boards help continue the conversation long after they file out of class.

My classroom is a microcosm of what’s possible. Places like Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, Harvard, UCLA-Berkeley and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are embarking on ambitious and transformative online education projects. The latter three launched EdX, a nonprofit that offers hundreds of courses free of charge online.

Already, more than 10 percent of all college students are enrolled in fully online degree programs, according to the Department of Education. The next crucial step is to move toward offering entirely free online degrees. We don’t have much of an alternative.

Only 40 percent of adults in the United States between the ages of 25 and 34 had earned an associate, bachelor’s or graduate degree in 2010, as reported by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. We ranked 16th in the number of young adults with college degrees, trailing countries like Russia, Canada and Japan.

As tuition keeps going up faster than inflation, and federal financial aid is not enough to assist every college-ready student, we’re likely to fall further and further behind.

Other superpowers are already ahead of us.

China’s government gives grants to universities to put undergraduate teaching materials online. The Ministry of Education gives professors incentives to post course materials online.

India keeps its focus on students, asking its most rigorous technology universities to post videos of lectures so millions of students across the country can access them.

President Obama has proposed increasing the amount of campus-based financial aid to $10 billion annually. That’s good news for students who qualify.

But millions more will accrue debt in the form of student loans. It would better serve students, and the country, to make a multibillion dollar investment in offering entirely free online degrees through existing programs.

By offering free online degrees, colleges here could open wide the doors of higher education. In doing so, they would help the United States become truly competitive in the international race for talent.

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams teaches writing at Naugatuck Valley Community College in Waterbury, Conn. She writes about current issues for the Progressive Media Project and can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

You can read more pieces from The Progressive Media Project by clicking here.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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