Closing the Niche

One of the best things about distance education is the way it can be used to fill all sorts of gaps left by the traditional education system. Despite all of the problems in my industry– it’s been an ugly, messy birth– we do reach students that were not being reached otherwise. One day, I think, this will be something that the public universities do as well. That’s a necessary part of the puzzle, although the slowness of the public response to these possibilities is, well, bizarre.

This lethargic response is both economic– public systems don’t have cash reserves that allow them to keep up with rapid technological change– and ideological. After three decades or more of anti-government propaganda the ideals of public service, or of public services, has eroded beyond all recognition. There’s a thick vein of corruption ruining through the higher education system, rooted in an administrative culture not unlike the corporate culture at large.

Administrations preserve their perquisites like any other corporate executives. In this environment, innovations arise from the periphery rather than the center. Wall Street works on financial con games, while alternative energy folks slowly build a new industrial system. The public universities focus on making their athletic programs even more marketable, while the military builds a flexible school system (“Virtual High School Opens ‘Doors’ to Learning“).

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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