Leens's Reviews > DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education

DIY U by Anya Kamenetz
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Oct 09, 2010

Colleges have been around for centuries and have become a part of the American Dream. However, with new technology over the years, we wonder if the traditional education learning approach will change as well. In the book DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education by Anya Kamenetz, she writes about higher education and how we got to the point we are in today including the history of education in America, economic debt, value of college degrees, and how we can reach a new learning method through the use of technology. With new forms of technology launching, the question of whether we should completely transform education with technology or keep it traditional is asked. Even though Kamenetz makes some good points when she says education should be through technology, combining traditional education with technology would be the best way to educate students. One of the most nerve racking times in a person’s life is applying for college in hopes that they get into their dream school. The problem is that the cost of a college education has dramatically risen from the time our parents went to school and hopes of it lowering in the future don’t look very promising. How did we get there? “For Universities, History is authority” (Kamenetz 1). Harvard is one the first Universities in the U.S. and is still the highest ranking elite school there is out there today. Kamenetz writes about how exclusive these prestigious universities are and says, “The nation’s top colleges seem to assent to the signaling hypothesis when they agree to rate themselves by how selective they are… that is how many people they reject...” (Kamenetz 34). Kamenetz writes about the history of universities and colleges and says, “Colleges never charged students the full cost of maintaining the institution, subsidizing them with the state money and donations much as they do today” (Kamenetz 5). She says how college institutions evolved and became extremely popular and sought after in the nineteenth century. College professors had a rise in their social status and wanted to get paid more money for their teaching. University professors were known as scholars with brilliant minds which also contributed to the prestige of higher learning institutions. Kamenetz quotes Federick Rudolph as saying “College funding was undertaken in the same spirit as canal-building, cotton-grinning, farming, and gold mining (Kamenetz 8). Due to this prestige, status, and advancing jobs, college education has definitely become more sought after. People want to know why education is so expensive and hard to acquire for some. Kamenetz says, “Our existing higher- education system, which ranks private above public, research university above teaching college, bachelor’s above associates degree, liberal arts above vocational and technical education, reinforces these historic inequities”( Kamenetz 25). She writes about how we live in a competitive world where the highly educated are highly rewarded. Everyone wants a college education, but not everyone can afford it. Why not? Money, supply and demand, prestige, and high costs can all take part in that. We need a shift and change from state funding of public universities perhaps through general funds to federal subsidies for tuition through student loans and Pell grant. Kamenetz says, “… Pell Grant used to cover more than 80 percent of the average public university's tuition, and now pays for less than a third (Kamenetz 61). Kamenetz makes it clear that all of these subsides tend to justify themselves as equal access to everyone and anyone regardless of their economic and social status. However that is not true, because people who have more money benefit from this a lot more than people who don’t. Kamenetz writes, “Colleges that serve rich students get more federal and state money than colleges that serve poor students” (Kamenetz 39). Colleges love federal money as much as they love prestige and status. Enrollment management is when a school can choose the kinds of students they want to accept. It is described by giving the example that even though colleges may claim that they want to help those less fortunate students, they also want to attract a huge mixture of elite athletes, and extremely high academic achievers with the use of merit discounts. Kamenetz goes on to say that since states have reduced public subsidies, colleges are responding by shifting revenues to students rather than by cutting costs. She says that in 2008 – 2009 taxpayers spent $117 Billion dollars on federal higher education aid. The high cost of this demonstrates how much education really is important in the eyes of the American public. America has recently gone through a tough time economically which makes some wonder if there would be a hinder in the desire for education, but there isn’t. Kamenetz writes that in the midst of the recession and students worrying over the lasting market value of their degree, “Economics assume that the demand for college grads is always growing, thanks to the forward march of technology that today requires store clerks, farmers, and auto mechanics to be conversant with computers” (Kamenetz 26). This is an example of supply and demand. Universities know that they can raise their prices and students will still pay, because it has been engraved into their minds that having a good education means having a good life. Kamenetz describes how back in World War II, a man with a single high school diploma could raise a family with little problem. That isn’t very likely today with the high demand of education from all employers and the American public who seem to never stop demanding more. Employers demand a lot more now and sometimes think a Bachelor’s degree doest merit as much as a Masters would, because everyone is getting more educated now than before. Jobs that involve technology need people with degrees who are trained in that field and with so many different applicants applying, employers want to hire the ones who are the most educated with the better resume. College tuition doesn’t seem to really have a bright side, because when the economy is good, colleges expand by raising their tuition, but when the economy goes bad, state subsidies atrophy and tuition goes up. Along with all of government debt, universities themselves have spent a lot of money by trying to brand and market themselves as prestigious and exclusive institutions. Campuses have received inside out makeovers with new fancy halls, organic food, stadiums, and dorms to attract more students while spending millions of dollars. However, this is their way of telling students that if they want to live with all of these perks, then they will have to pay for it which is another example of supply and demand. I don’t think all of these perks should be cut off to save money, however some of them don’t need to be as lavish or glamorous to be useful. There should be an equal balance between quality and quantity of education. The U.S. is lucky enough to offer students different forms of education that can work for different students so why only choose one? While Kamenetz is fully supportive of online learning, she seems really put off my any other form of education. She doesn’t seem to think much or know a lot about community colleges when she says, “Community colleges fill the gaps by taking all comers, yet the product they offer is generally acknowledged to be a substitute for the real thing” (Kamenetz 16). She later goes on to say that “Expanding access to higher education begins at community colleges...” (Kamenetz 40). This is confusing, because earlier she harshly described community colleges as not being the “real thing” so would this change that starts with them not be the “real thing” either but instead just a substitute for it? What would be the point of that? Community colleges can be useful to a lot of students, especially the ones who have financial problems. They offer a great place for students to explore their interests and talents, offer transfer programs to 4 year universities, and are not expensive. Kamenetz brings up a good idea when she writes about Judy Barker at Foothill-De Anza community college district where they see a whole new model for education. They think we should step outside the box of a classroom and use different ways to educate students. They don’t believe students should be piled up with courses to end up at the career you want. Judy Barker says, “Someone will identify your gaps and then you address your gaps, in whatever way possible” (Kamenetz 133). This idea of focusing on what career you want and getting there without taking the traditional path but bringing new technological methods of learning is actually a good idea for many students who want go down that path and sheds a good light on community college. However, it might not work out for a learner who prefers the traditional form of education over the technological way. Kamenetz’s main point in her book is that higher education should be more self- controlled and based on technology instead of traditional education which has been used since the beginning of educational institutions. How do we get there? Anya Kamenetz lacks in giving a lot of suggestions which still leaves questions asked. She does give a technological plan that involves, online lectures, video lectures, hybrid courses, software programs, but she didn’t really go into full detail about ways someone can achieve that. In my opinion she is dead on when it comes to hybrid learning courses. Hybrid learning is a mixture of a course where students get educated online but also have time in class for face to face interaction. This way students can take advantage of technology without having it be solely online since they also get facet o face time in a classroom. If education is only online then students won’t get the same face to face interaction and opportunity to ask questions and bounce ideas off one another online as they would in person. She says, that by using the internet, students can teach themselves therefore learn how to make informed decisions on their own, however I think formal education teaches students the same thing. Professors teach students how to critically think themselves through real life situations. Students get the same thing out of both it just depends on what kind of learner you are, which is another reason why there shouldn’t only be one form of education. Some students are very independent learners who can read instructions given to them over the internet while others need face to face time with an actual professor there who can help them verbally and guide them on a more personal level. Education should be able to satisfy both of these types of learners which is why having a mixture of online technology and traditional education would be a better idea. I both agree and disagree with Kamenetz main idea, because I think there should be a way to bring in her idea of technology based education and combine it with traditional education to mesh the two together. In my opinion, I think that would be the perfect way to educate students. I don’t think we should mainly support one way and put all of our eggs in that basket. I agree with Kamenetz when she says that colleges need to change the way they are run. She is right when she says that we should take a stance in support that a 4 year college is not for everyone and we should support appropriate training programs and vocational schools, but she always refers back to online education. This book is mainly if not totally aimed at online education. Even when Kamenetz puts down community colleges, the one time she refers to one that is good it is because they integrated online into their education system. She thinks traditional learning is old school and we should all be new technology reformers, but everyone is different which means they all have different educational goals and aspirations that need to be satisfied. A lot of her ideas are good, save money, and can be the right path for some individuals, but again, they would work perfectly if we could combine both forms of education together which can make different options of education open that can accommodate all different types of students.

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