Kevin Carey of the Washington Monthly suggests that it's time to rehabilitate an age old educational scam:
Deep in the recesses of my spam filter, among phishing lures and ads for unregulated “enhancing” pharmaceuticals, vaguely named online universities occasionally promise to transform my valuable personal and professional accomplishments into a convenient and inexpensive college degree. The pitch has been around for decades, quickly migrating from one form of cheap, marginal media—matchbook covers, the back pages of men’s magazines—to another. “Credit for life experience” is well-understood shorthand for “sketchy diploma mill that could get you fired from a real job in twenty years if you’re not careful.”
It may also be a great idea whose time has finally come.
The U.S. economy desperately needs more Americans with college credentials: by 2018, more than 60 percent of U.S. job openings will require some form of post-secondary education, according to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Unfortunately, our existing system of colleges and universities doesn’t appear up to the challenge. …
Which is why more people are starting to ask: Is there a way to get students legitimate college credit without the college itself?
Enter “credit for life experience,” or, to use the currently popular phrase, “prior learning assessment.” Legitimate organizations are increasingly offering innovative ways of assessing the skills and knowledge that prospective students, especially working adults, already have between their ears—the human capital they’ve accumulated though past schooling, work experience, or independent study—and building on this preexisting knowledge base with carefully tailored coursework.
(via The Washington Monthly)
What this represents is an abdication of our responsibility to provide an education for our young people. This sort of thinking represents a lot of what is wrong with so-called progressives. The right-wing demands, and when it doesn't get its way, it continues to demand until gradually, and lately inevitably, it gets its way. One of those demands is the destruction of public education, and slowly but surely that is happening. Too many of us, on the other hand, see such changes taking place, and rather than demand, as we should, that the cost of education be borne by all, we seek to accommodate by buying into proposals like this that, no matter how well intentioned, will inevitably further widen the distance between the elite and the masses. One system of education for our masters, one for the rest of us. (The article actually speaks approvingly of degrees conferred by Wal-Mart on its employees: “The process will include granting credit for work experience and on-the-job training earned in various Wal-Mart job categories”.)
Another point: There is a distinction between education and training. That is not to denigrate training, but it does not confer the tools one needs to think critically, and that is the area in which Americans are woefully deficient. Education should be about more than job skills, the process should create thinking citizens. If we thought critically, we’d be voting right, and we wouldn’t need degrees for life experience, because we would not have allowed the conditions to develop that seem to justify them. We would have, as we once did, free or cheap public universities, with a middle class that can afford to pay what should be reasonable education costs. We don’t have that anymore, and this proposal assumes we never will. It’s an abject surrender to the right wing. I’d rather go down fighting.