Let’s start with the numbers. 4.1: That’s the grade point average of a high school student entering the University of California, Irvine this year. 450,000: students on the waiting list for community colleges in California alone. 74%: the percentage of students from the richest quartile of households enrolled at the top 150 colleges in the US — even though high-income students make up only a third of high-achieving high school graduates. While the G.I. Bill and the Great Society were founded on the principle of higher education as the ladder to the middle class, in 2013 state schools are so starved of funds, and private ones so expensive, that higher education is becoming the province of the high achieving and the wealthy global 1%.
I don’t want a society that massively excludes so many students, nor one where you have to be better than perfect to gain admission to your state university. For 20 years now, anyone with access to the internet has been able to publish ideas to anyone else in the world with an internet connection. That’s an amazing opportunity and a formidable responsibility. Yet our antiquated educational system rewards a hierarchical form of silo’d, standardized teaching and learning that was designed for the Taylorized Industrial Age. Our over-emphasis on standardized testing undermines the intellectual skills of critical thinking and productive contribution needed to thrive in our interactive Do-It-Yourself era.