Two Steps Forward, Three Steps Back

Most college students today do not live on campus, go to school full-time and have their tuition bills paid by their parents. According to Complete College America, 75 percent of students juggle their classes with a family, a job or a commute — and local colleges and universities are responding to their needs by making more degrees available online.

Online classes are seen as a key to increasing the number of Americans with a college degree. Distance learning programs provide adults the flexibility they need, which could help close the gap between the 57 percent of new jobs in the state that will require a college degree by 2018 and the 36 percent of working-age Ohioans who currently have that credential, according to the Lumina Foundation.

More students, adults turning to online for college degrees” Meagan Pant

My economics professor, Dr. Cleaver, used to laugh when someone complained that he saw the class war in everything. How could it not be in everything, he’d say. It’s easy to think of the class struggle or class war in theatrical terms, as if it could only happen like a scene from the Terminator movies. It isn’t only politics in the simple sense, either; the struggle over the control of wealth happens in every realm and often in very indirect ways.

Sometimes it is very dramatic and violent, of course, although less so in the U.S. in recent years. Most often in industrialized countries the class war is more quiet, a steady erosion or evolution more than a revolution, and, while in some sense capital always has the upper hand, there’s no final victory. Online education is an almost perfect example. On the one hand, it’s a victory for labor that’s made education (and information) more accessible.

On the other hand, online education is also a kind of workplace speed-up, forcing labor– us– to do more work in less time without any short-term compensation. We could once take off a few years, or delay our work lives for a time, while we went to college. More and more, though, we are asked to go to college part-time, while we work. There’s no reason this has to be so but it won’t change until the balance of power shifts in favor of labor.

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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