by RJ Bailey
Monsters University, the prequel to Monsters, Inc, opened this weekend. I brought the kids to see it. As a faculty member at what is generally thought of as America’s most monstrous university, I was naturally interested in seeing how higher education worked in Monstropolis. What sort of pedagogical techniques are in vogue there? Is the flipped classroom all the rage? What’s the structure of the curriculum? These are natural questions to ask of a children’s movie about imaginary creatures. Do I have to say there will be spoilers? Of course there will be spoilers. (But really, if you are the sort of person who would be genuinely upset by having someone reveal a few plot points in Monsters University, I am not sure I have any sympathy for you at all.) As it turned out, while my initial reactions focused on aspects of everyday campus life at MU, my considered reaction is that, as an institution, Monsters University is doomed.
Read the entire post first.
While written in a satirical style, the post holds some real insights. Higher education is being tremendously disrupted and is dealing with that disruption poorly.
Here is the key point that the movie demonstrates (spoilers).
Our heroes are expelled from Monsters University – whose reason for existence is to train and certify employees who can produce the power needed to run their society by inducing fear into children.
They then get a job at Monsters Inc and rise to be the foremost employees at the company, even though they do not bear the proper certifications. Then, in an act of total disruption they discover a new source of almost unlimited power – laughter.
Here is how the post puts it:
The consequences for Monsters University are obvious, and chilling. Two expelled former students have gone on not only to rise to a level of occupational success that ought to be impossible without an MU credential, but have discovered new fundamental facts about the world that completely undermine the knowledge base of Monsters University as an institution. It’s as if Jobs and Wozniak were also Fleischmann and Pons. The School of Scaring, which we hear early on is the “crown jewel” of MU, is now completely outmoded and also, surely, entirely delegitimated.
Why should this institution of higher learning exist if its training is no longer relevant. It has spent all its energies on a School for Scaring. How will it deal with the new disruptive needs for Laughter Learning?
This is a simpler version of what is really happening. Massive Open Online Courses are opening up learning to anyone and producing education with an entirely different system of credentials than a simple BA.
We are seeing High Schoolers who are producing innovations that already have the interest of large companies, perhaps willing to hire their creativity directly without the need for college.
The latest winner of the Intel Science Talent Search actually is developing a new source of energy – algae that produce oil. She did all the work in a homebuilt lab. Another student built a cheap pulsed plasma device, bringing this technology to the masses.
And it is not only from America. At the recent Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, a student from Romania figured out a way to accomplish for $4000 what cost Google over $70,000.
Either of these kids could simply work for a lot of money or even attarct capital to start their own. All without needing a certificate from a University.