A Modest Proposal, or How to Break Down the Barriers to Graduation

by Swifty Johnson[*]

It is a melancholy object that has come to our attention; namely, that there are a number of barriers to graduation in the state of California that could easily be eliminated. These barriers are, in ascending order: the obligation to learn to write; the necessity of learning to do sums, the onerous requirement to think analytically, and finally, professors themselves. We have come upon a solution to this nagging problem in public higher education; it will result in a four-year, 100 % graduation rate. It is as follows:

Present the first-year student with a tuition bill for the next four years of his or her university education, said bill becoming due immediately and to be paid through grants, loans, the student’s own accumulated inheritance from recently and timely-deceased grandparents, or the third mortgage his or her parents can negotiate as a lien on the family’s ancestral suburban home. Alternatively, it may be possible to garnish the student’s wages at Starbucks for the next fifty years. Immediately upon the check’s clearing and being deposited in the coffers of the state university, issue the baccalaureate degree to the student in question.

Subsequently, provide the student a PIN number that will allow him or her to gain access to unlimited massive, online training courses which, at his or her discretion, can be pursued for enrichment, skill-building, and virtual laboratory experimentation. Or not.

The outmoded concepts of “seat time” and required courses having been replaced by a completely elective and at-will higher education system will also provide the added benefit of freeing up acres of university buildings and property to be leased, at great profit, to the private businesses that have developed these wondrous online tools for their use in team-building seminars and golf tournaments.

Professors will no longer need to be retained; most professors will have been transformed into holograms. A robust administration, however, is necessary to be kept in place so that the system can be centralized and regularly assessed and so that, on the first day of classes, which will also be the day of commencement celebrations, someone can be present in full academic regalia to distribute the diplomas and to smile for the cameras of proud aunties and uncles while doing so. At all costs, graduation celebrations must proceed as usual in order to mark this singular, significant event in the lives of these proud undergraduates.

Make no mistake: this is as foolproof a plan as solving the Irish famine by telling the populace to devour their own children.

[*] Swifty Johnson is the nom de plume of Prof. Susan Gubernat, Professor of Creative Writing, California State University, East Bay.  Prof. Gubernat was kind enough to give me permission to reprint her writing in my blog.  If I have inadvertently introduced any mistakes, I apologize (and will correct them asap).

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About Tony Lima

Retired after teaching economics at California State Univ., East Bay (Hayward, CA). Ph.D., economics, Stanford. Also taught MBA finance at the California University of Management and Technology. Occasionally take on a consulting project if it's interesting. Other interests include wine and technology.

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