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What If We Ran Universities Like Wikipedia?

Soulskill posted about 4 years ago | from the voting-classmates-and-professors-off-the-island dept.

Education 380

Pickens writes "Do university bureaucracies still make sense in the era of networks? At the recent Educause conference, David J. Staley laid out the findings of a focus group he conducted asking educators what a college would look like if it operated like Wikipedia. The 'Wiki-ized University' wouldn't have formal admissions, says Staley; people could enter and exit as they wished and the university would consist of voluntary and self-organizing associations of teachers and students 'not unlike the original idea for the university, in the Middle Ages.' In addition, the curriculum of the 'Wiki-ized University' would be intellectually fluid, and instead of tenure, professors' longevity 'would be determined by the community.' Staley predicts that a new form of academic organization is emerging that will be driven by volunteerism. 'We do see some idea today of how "volunteer teaching" might look: think of the faculty at a place like the University of Phoenix. Most teaching faculty have day jobs — and in fact are hired because they have day jobs — and teach at the university for a nominal stipend,' writes Staley. 'If something like the Phoenix model is what develops in a wiki-ized university setting, this would suggest that a new type of "professorate" will emerge, consisting of those who teach or publish or conduct research for their own personal or professional satisfaction or for some other nonmonetized benefit.'"

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Degrees (3, Insightful)

Reilaos (1544173) | about 4 years ago | (#33940136)

Would such a University give out degrees? I'm not sure such a thing would hold much clout. I would have to stoop to actually getting to know a potential hire from this university rather than stare at their GPA and 'work' experience!

Re:Degrees (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33940226)

Your sarcasm aside, this actually would be a big problem. After all, think about how wikipedia works as a research aid--you can't cite wikipedia, but it works well because it links primary sources. With a major, accredited University, a diploma means that some level of validation has already taken place--that's what accreditation is for. Without that, you'd have to research each candidates classes individually, probably by talking to the professors.

If this ever does become the norm, there will definitely be a huge increase in HR positions. I wonder if we can start a rush for MBAs with this information, like the rush for CS degrees when the internet was going to be the "next big thing"...

Re:Degrees (3, Insightful)

cayenne8 (626475) | about 4 years ago | (#33940390)

Not to mention, exactly HOW many people would actually do this? We might end up with like 3 colleges left on the whole planet.

Most people ONLY order to get money. There just are not that many altrustic people in the world. I mean, if I won the lottery tomorrow, and never had to work every again, I would not.

The door would not even come close to hitting me on the ass out of the workforce on my way to somewhere tropical with a lifetime of rum drinks and beach babes in my future.

I'm definitely NOT in the minority here on this one.

That being likely a given, who exactly is going to be devoting enough time to plan coursework, do testing, and dedicate the time required for in-depth research? Who's going to pay for the facilities/equipment for research?

I dunno....I know many here give WAY too much credit for the human spirit, and doing work purely for the pleasure and satisfaction of the work itself. I think that is a very small number out there.

Sure, much of the college system out there sucks due to things like tenure...profs more interested in publish or perish than teaching students, but I sure don't see this as the remedy for the current systems' problems.

Re:Degrees (1)

qbzzt (11136) | about 4 years ago | (#33940788)

The accreditation would work like WGU's [] IT degrees. The degree will include a bunch of certification exams from trusted vendors.

FOSS anyone? (1)

RulerOf (975607) | about 4 years ago | (#33940792)

Most people ONLY order to get money. There just are not that many altrustic people in the world.

While you're definitely right, a crowd full of F/OSS enthusiasts who likely contribute their knowledge to mailing lists and their patches to mainline programmers isn't exactly the best place to make that kind of argument...

Just sayin' ;-)

Re:Degrees (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33940646)

Funny, we put so much faith in accreditation we don't even realize how bad it is. To the real world (for most degree programs, the top 1% ignored) they teach you how to operate their oldest equipment, with out of date methodlogies using theories that were sound 5+ years ago.

It'd give those of us with 10+ years of experience (and no paper) a way to teach.

I cannot reiterate my belief that the current education system overemphasises repetition while often overlooking, or outright ignoring, critical thinking and self directed research.

Or to put it another way: The best CS class I ever received was from a Borland Developer who had just gotten laid off, the best math class, an architect who got credentialed to supplement his pay in a bad economy, and the best History class a former District Attorney of the state of Indiana.

Teachers who go to school learning from teachers learn how to teach teachers, not professionals.

Re:Degrees (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | about 4 years ago | (#33940720)

This sounds overly bitter but to a great extent it's true.
There are some fantastic lecturers (though every lecturer no matter how bad seems to think they themselves are part of that tiny group) and then there's the rest.
The funniest one was a middleware class I took.
I later spent months working as part of a middleware team at a big company and not once did I encounter anything remotely like anything the course covered.
And when I mention it to engineers who work with middleware they always seem to respond with "... how they hell would you teach a course on middleware?"

its as if the university was trying to match a checklist from some HR departments so they could look at the transcript and say "yep, middleware"

Re:Degrees (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 4 years ago | (#33940766)

A university education is not about any of that. What you want is a tech school.

Re:Degrees (3, Funny)

HungryHobo (1314109) | about 4 years ago | (#33940656)

Also: []

I can imagine some kind of open university type setup catching on in a wiki like fashion.
As it stands there can be huge variations in graduates already.
A lot of the "validation" seems more like bluster.

I'm working with someone who graduated from the same CS course I did who can't even configure a wireless laptop on the network.
Others from my course are currently network engineers.

Personally I'd welcome hiring practices which focused more on testing the candidates actual skill rather than glancing at the name of the university which issued their degree.

Re:Degrees (1)

drcheap (1897540) | about 4 years ago | (#33940258)

Would such a University give out degrees? I'm not sure such a thing would hold much clout. I would have to stoop to actually getting to know a potential hire from this university rather than stare at their GPA and 'work' experience!

Hey, if the news media can cite Wikipedia as a reliable source of information all the time, then we must be able to trust the quality of education one gets from some Wikiversity.

Oh, and at the Wikiversity, the philosphy of student-generated content extends to degrees. When YOU feel you have earned your degree, YOU make it so. Personally, I plan to get my first 10 degrees within a month or so of them opening.

Re:Degrees (4, Insightful)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | about 4 years ago | (#33940328)

Hey, if the news media can cite Wikipedia as a reliable source of information all the time

Just because a dying profession [] uses Wikipedia in a way that is irresponsible, it does not validate Wikipedia as a primary source of information. So, I hope your post is sarcasm.

Re:Degrees (1)

skyride (1436439) | about 4 years ago | (#33940586)


I think you missed the "Post Anonymously" box there mate

Re:Degrees (2, Funny)

Duradin (1261418) | about 4 years ago | (#33940360)

Sorry, your degrees were deemed to be non-notable and were flagged for speedy deletion.

Re:Degrees (2, Interesting)

bbtom (581232) | about 4 years ago | (#33940538)

Reminds me of the philosophy department at the University of Sydney which, during the heyday of the student movement split into two departments - General Philosophy (which was run as a little Communist collective, trying to live by the various French poststructuralist and postmodern theorists) and Traditional and Modern Philosophy (which taught mainstream Anglo-American philosophy in a normal way). From an article on the topic [] :

The Department was fully democratic, with all staff and students having the right to speak and vote on matters of course content, assessment and appointments. Meetings of up to 500 were known, though student apathy kept most down to some 20. Formal exams were eliminated, and in some subjects students assessed themselves.

IIRC, they also ended up assessing political philosophy modules by counting attendance at various political protests. The 'Traditional and Modern' department eventually 'won' in the 90s after poaching various other top professors over, and Sydney has gone back to being a pretty good department.

(When I see people trying to take what works on the Internet and apply it back to offline society, I sort of want to shake them and say "yeah, there's a reason we started doing it this way online - because it's online, duh. The mechanics and economics of it might not really work out in the same way if you are doing it in real life.")

Re:Degrees (1)

toastar (573882) | about 4 years ago | (#33940286)

Would such a University give out degrees? I'm not sure such a thing would hold much clout. I would have to stoop to actually getting to know a potential hire from this university rather than stare at their GPA and 'work' experience!

IDK If someone has 120 hours of course work in a field do they really need a piece of paper that says that? or is just saying you have 120 hours good enough?

Re:Degrees (2, Insightful)

bsDaemon (87307) | about 4 years ago | (#33940388)

Did they just show up for 120 hours, or did they actually pass all their graded assignments, and pass enough of the assignments in enough of the courses that the faculty determined them to have a reasonable knowledge of the craft?

Re:Degrees (5, Insightful)

Moryath (553296) | about 4 years ago | (#33940432)

Given the number of lawsuits against "University of Phoenix" - which is really just a big fucking degree mill - when people found out that their degrees were non-accredited in many cases, this is a key point to consider. "Wiki University" is more likely to be just like Wikipedia in general: corrupt, based entirely on "who you know" or "did your viewpoint contradict some corrupt loony with far too much crowd following or access to the delete/ban buttons."

Re:Degrees (3, Informative)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 4 years ago | (#33940516)

Many of those degree-mills have started to outright buy accredited colleges in order to piggyback on that accreditation.

Re:Degrees (1)

arcsimm (1084173) | about 4 years ago | (#33940634)

"Wiki University" is more likely to be just like Wikipedia in general: corrupt, based entirely on "who you know" or "did your viewpoint contradict some corrupt loony with far too much crowd following or access to the delete/ban buttons."

So, you mean just like a real university?

Re:Degrees (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33940296)

A B.S. might still mean something since it's essentially a certification like a vocational degree or a doctorate in medicine: it shows you passed the tests. But a PhD would not make any sense from such an institution since that is about defining a hypothesis, defining a scope, defining an approach, all of which are by definition supposed to be novel and advance the ring of knowledge. It's not just a subject matter buffet in which the guy that eats enough gets a PhD.

Re:Degrees (4, Insightful)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 4 years ago | (#33940440)

On the other hand, I think it would be nice to hand someone their resume back filled with [citation needed]s.

Re:Degrees (5, Insightful)

gtall (79522) | about 4 years ago | (#33940826)

I think it is worse than that. Let's look at theory of *whatever*. I do a lot mathematics. How many theoretical mathematicians would this new uni support? I'm guessing not a lot. So, if we were to have this back when number theory had no practical applications unlike as it does today in security, we'd probably have no number theory upon which to base our computer security that underlies our new web based companies like Amazon and countless others. How do we measure that loss before the loss can be seen?

What about physics? Quantum theory was developed because a lot of physicists and mathematicians thought it would be really neat to understand nature in a deep level. There were no applications obvious at that time yet it underlies much of modern electronic computation. Why would they get funded to do their research? How about Einstein and relativity...the use of which makes GPS actually work. No obvious use, why would yer basic Joe Gimme-a-Job schlump take a course in relativity?

How about philosophy? Descartes had some pretty neat algebraic one ever conceived of them before him and in their original text, they are very obscure. Yet much of modern mathematics is built on algebraic theories. I cannot imagine him getting a job. How about the logicians who worked on philosophical logic? Some of that spawned modal logic which in turn spawned Floyd-Hoare logic and the whole notion of proving programs correct with respect to some mathematical specification. It is used intimately in security arguments. How do we fund the philosophers now? How do we predict which philosophical theories will be of use in the future? What about Aristotle? He invented logic. How does he get funded when the common man couldn't see what use it would ever be as short-sighted as they were that they couldn't see modern computers?

The basic problem with numb-nuts ideas such as wiki-university is that it is spawned by Business School Product who can see no value in anything that doesn't immediately translate into increased sales of widgets. It pretty much consigns humans to no greater intellectual curiosity than what Business School Product can put a price on. And that price has nothing to do with any future value. It is a prescription for consigning the human race to extinction; it would merely become an experiment it how short term gain will doom long term sustainability.

Re:Degrees (1, Insightful)

Teancum (67324) | about 4 years ago | (#33940870)

Would such a University give out degrees? I'm not sure such a thing would hold much clout. I would have to stoop to actually getting to know a potential hire from this university rather than stare at their GPA and 'work' experience!

While insightful, this comment points out the main problem with a University education:

It isn't to teach or educate people but rather to come up with a method to allocate "union cards" to various professions and to restrict entry into those fields. If along the process somebody actually picks up some of the knowledge necessary to engage in that profession perhaps might have some use in society, but don't let anybody fool you into thinking that the role of a University has much if anything to do with actually passing knowledge along.

There are some professors who do enjoy sharing the knowledge that they have, and sometimes (rarely) an entire department of like-minded people do get together too where their students actually do pick up some knowledge that is useful to whatever it is that they are studying. There are also a whole bunch of professors who have an ego the size of the Moon and mostly want to show off their intellect at the expense of their students, or professors who don't have a clue about how to even teach in the first place (as if a PhD included a component about how to pass on the knowledge they've acquired over the years).

Any time a profession is talking about raising standards and insisting upon credentials like certificates or degrees, it is to throw out potential candidates in a job screening process. Perhaps a degree shows some persistence to get through the bull that some professors throw at you, and there is a certain aspect to life in general where you need to deal with bureaucrats and people who are out to tear you apart and kick you when you are down. I suppose the conventional university process does a good job at forcing people to deal with that aspect of life, and those that don't are thrown to the waste heap of society in spite of whatever intelligence they may posses or other skills in life.

gahahaha (0, Offtopic)

BitHive (578094) | about 4 years ago | (#33940152)

ahahahahahh. oh dear, this is going to be a doozy

It'd be like the matrix (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33940158)

You'd get deleted.

I'm not so sure. (4, Insightful)

bigredradio (631970) | about 4 years ago | (#33940168)

Most teaching faculty have day jobs — and in fact are hired because they have day jobs — and teach at the university for a nominal stipend

I would guess that they are working a 2nd job to make ends meet. Not for the "love" of teaching.

Re:I'm not so sure. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33940510)

Most teaching faculty have day jobs — and in fact are hired because they have day jobs — and teach at the university for a nominal stipend

I would guess that they are working a 2nd job to make ends meet. Not for the "love" of teaching.

Indeed, if they really were doing it for the love of teaching, why would they do it at a for-profit university?

Re:I'm not so sure. (1)

Pseudonym Authority (1591027) | about 4 years ago | (#33940738)

So they can do what they love and get compensated for it? So they don't have to wait tables outside of class time instead of writing papers?

Not all kindness has to be self-sacrificing.

Uh (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33940170)


Missing The Point (1)

spqr0a1 (1504087) | about 4 years ago | (#33940174)

It would be great, except that for quite a while now college has not been the best way to learn, it is about getting a proof of effort. It will take a long time for a wiki-style university to be widely accredited.

Re:Missing The Point (1)

gumbi west (610122) | about 4 years ago | (#33940212)

so, you are saying that learning does not go on at college? Just a way to prove that you can work hard?

Re:Missing The Point (2, Insightful)

spqr0a1 (1504087) | about 4 years ago | (#33940312)

Not that learning does not go on, just that most people use it to get a degree to get a job. This current trend is historically unusual, it used to be that most people who went to college would go to be cultured and educated. That was when learning resources were more difficult to acquire than they are now. Now there is a wealth of information on every subject that makes independent study as feasible as college, as projects like khan university and this show.

Re:Missing The Point (2, Interesting)

gumbi west (610122) | about 4 years ago | (#33940606)

When is "used to be"? I know people in their 80s who went to college to get a job.

I also don't understand how you could learn most advanced subjects without a mentor to walk you through. Learning quantum mechanics without a teacher who can interact one on one with you is... probably very difficult. Learning how to write also requires interaction from what I've seen.

Re:Missing The Point (1)

icebraining (1313345) | about 4 years ago | (#33940384)

That's not what (s)he said:

college has not been the best way to learn

And it's true: I rarely learn in college. What I do is proving I've learned, and that I can apply that knowledge in (limited) practice.

Re:Missing The Point (1)

skyride (1436439) | about 4 years ago | (#33940648)

I'm currently attending college in the UK, and planning to go to University next year to do CompSci. The course I am currently sitting involves such difficult assessments as: Installing Windows XP, Installing Windows 2000, writing a basic C++ application that barely breaks 300 lines of code, and formatting an Excel Spreadsheet.

This qualification (along with Higher Maths) is enough to get into a fairly large number of British universities, a significant percentage of which are not degree mills.

Where did we go so wrong?

Re:Missing The Point (1, Insightful)

DurendalMac (736637) | about 4 years ago | (#33940526)

It would be great, except that for quite a while now college has not been the best way to learn, it is about getting a proof of effort. It will take a long time for a wiki-style university to be widely accredited.

Okay then, I'll just go to this self-taught neurosurgeon. What could possibly go wrong?

College isn't necessarily useful in some fields of study. In others, it's damned well quite necessary. If you want to do interpretive dance for a living, then skip college. That liberal arts degree will get you minimum wage just like not having the liberal arts degree. If you want to be a doctor, then you need to go to school for it because, licenses and such aside, human lives are put pretty directly in your hands. In other fields, it's completely dependent upon how a person learns. Some people are great at learning through self-taught methods. Others do much better in a physical classrooms where they can work with the professor and classmates. The "college is not the best way to learn" argument is a very tired and ignorant blanket statement. It all depends on what you want to do and how you want to learn it. Some people do learn best in college.

It doesn't help that a lot of kids going into college are lazy dipshits and don't really go to learn. They go to get a degree because they think it'll guarantee a great job when they graduate. Then they get a hard lesson in the real world.

Re:Missing The Point (4, Insightful)

mr_mischief (456295) | about 4 years ago | (#33940830)

The undergraduate portion of an MD's education is mostly just qualifying that person to get into medical school. It's the specialist school, the clinicals, the internship, the residency, and the board exams that make someone an doctor. It's not the premed certificate.

Re:Missing The Point (1)

Pseudonym Authority (1591027) | about 4 years ago | (#33940784)

except that for quite a while now college has not been the best way to learn

Maybe if you want to be a mechanic who applies mostly things that can be seen and manipulated directly to put shit together. But without formal schooling based in theory you will never be an (good) engineer who can use abstract concepts that can't be manipulated directly to design the shit.

And we could call it (3, Funny)

kithrup (778358) | about 4 years ago | (#33940180)

The South Harmon Institute of Technology.

Re:And we could call it (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 4 years ago | (#33940362)

I knew some folks with "South Henrietta Institute of Technology" hats. The University they were mocking did not much like them.

Phoenix is the model? (2, Informative)

gumbi west (610122) | about 4 years ago | (#33940192)

The University of Phoenix is currently being raked over the coals for not graduating a sufficient fraction of students (16% by federal standards) (from the NYT) [] . Also, it is a for profit university, I'd just as soon volunteer at a local manufacturing plant as at a for profit university.

Re:Phoenix is the model? (1, Flamebait)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 4 years ago | (#33940386)

Isn't failing out a lot of people the job of University?

Re:Phoenix is the model? (3, Informative)

PCM2 (4486) | about 4 years ago | (#33940442)

I doubt most of those who don't graduate do so because of failing grades. According to the NYT article the GP cites, a great many drop out in frustration:

In recent interviews, current and former students in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington who studied at University of Phoenix campuses in those states or online complained of instructional shortcuts, unqualified professors and recruiting abuses. Many of their comments echoed experiences reported by thousands of other students on consumer Web sites.

Re:Phoenix is the model? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 4 years ago | (#33940522)

That sucks, but seems what I would expect out of a for profit business. They are really pushed to cut every corner.

Re:Phoenix is the model? (1)

gumbi west (610122) | about 4 years ago | (#33940580)

Most state college admissions offices will tell you it is their job to admit those students who can succeed at their college. Obviously they will not always be right, and sometimes they might take a chance on a student who they think can work their butt off, but usually their goal is to admit students who will complete a degree at the university.

Re:Phoenix is the model? (5, Interesting)

Ohio Calvinist (895750) | about 4 years ago | (#33940590)

The University of Phoenix has an interesting delima. They have a goal of offering as much opportunity as possible (lax admission standards), because it is profitable. I am an MBA student with the University of Phoenix, because I live in the middle of BFE, and drank way too much beer during my undergraduate program several years ago and graduated with a 2.5, which took a lot of schools off-the-table without a stellar GMAT score. Because of their lax standards of admission, they sign on a lot of students who simply cannot handle the program. I was enrolled on Academic Probation in which I had to maintain a 3.0 through the first four classes. During those classes, the quality of my classmates quickly improved as those who were not committed or incapable of the work dropped.

Phoenix gets penalized for giving students like me an opportunity to try to be successful in the program, but having a high failure rate when those students don't cut it in a program that is comparable to a lot of state-school MBA programs.

Re:Phoenix is the model? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33940758)

"Because of their lax standards of admission, they sign on a lot of students who simply cannot handle the program. "

Orrrrr they realize that the school offers nothing.

"those students don't cut it in a program that is comparable to a lot of state-school MBA programs."

Keep telling yourself that, dude. I wish you the best, but this sounds like a chiropractor/acupuncturist talking about how their education is TOTALLY more difficult than getting a MD.

I'm a Phoenix (yay) (3, Interesting)

Xaedalus (1192463) | about 4 years ago | (#33940734)

I got my Masters in Education from Phoenix, so I'll share my experience. Bear in mind, I'm not in IT, I'm just a finance analyst, so my experience is going to be different than what true IT workers have encountered.

To be honest, I went in because I needed a Masters degree to move up the corporate ladder. In my opinion and experience, a Masters takes ten years off the advancement clock in the corporate non-IT world, and I didn't want to do the fifteen year Sales grind, or having to change careers at 30 and start at entry-level with entry-level pay yet again. I already have a Bachelor's degree, but chose to go out into the real world and get my teeth kicked in for five years rather than jump to grad school (I had too many friends going to grad school straight out of college, getting their Masters, and then ending up as grocery store clerks or waiters because MBAs and what-not weren't guarantees of jobs anymore- this was in 2000) So I decided to do a Masters in something I thought would be interesting: education. I chose Phoenix because I didn't have the time to go back to a traditional school for two years. I also didn't want to do the night school option for an MBA, as I believe those degrees are overvalued due to market saturation, and not worth the debt. Better to study something you're interested in than following the crowd.

My recruitment, in retrospect, was something out of a boiler-room. The difference was that I was ready to commit, and my recruiter was actually pretty cool (she wasn't Mormon, unlike the vast majority of them). Anyway, I jumped into the UoP online program and went in.

Several things became immediately apparent: The GRE, MAT, and other exams are there for a reason-to weed out people who shouldn't be in grad school. Some of the students I saw in my initial classes were atrocious-they should have been kicked straight back to grade school, their academic skills were so awful. The emphasis was more on producing volumes of writing initially than on quality; and the textbook resources were customized for Phoenix exclusively.

Basically, I experienced every horror story you've read about or heard. And my Master's thesis was a joke. But here's the difference. I only had two truly godawful teachers that made me question the integrity of the program: a teacher in a class about a year in, and the one who managed the end step of my thesis. The rest of my teachers (aside from those two) were highly trained educators who worked in the fields they taught in, and they knew their stuff. Wow, were they good. I learned developmental theory, organizational theory, curriculum design & instruction, statistics, educational psychology, etc from people who lived it every day. And by that point, most of my fellow students were also working teachers who knew what they were doing. So I had to pony up and put in mucho hours of study and work in order to be taken seriously by my classmates and my instructors. THOSE people are why I learned what I did about education.

When I found out about all the scandals with UoP, I was devastated. Here I was, a 'smart' guy, who'd been conned out of two years and $50K. It was one of the most traumatic moments of my life. I gritted it out and finished with my degree anyway, but I was convinced that my life was over. I'd done all that work for nothing - a tarnished degree worth nothing. But then my wife (who's a teacher herself) would talk with her fellow teachers about some pedagogical matter, and I not only knew what they were talking about, I could describe it and solve their issue better than they could. I knew what the big issues surrounding Education in the US and worldwide were. And, my company transferred me from sales into finance at a much higher salary and more secure position because I went through what I did.

To wit, the scandals are valid because there are huge problems with UoP.The media says Phoenix is trying to fix the problems, and I've seen their commercials, but I'll believe they've reformed when I see it. I got suckered, and if I had to do it over again, I'd probably suck it up and do the night school MBA option ($50K in debt, or ten years of grinding away at the ladder... I'll take the debt). However, Phoenix's strength is that when they hire solid, experienced professionals that teach in the field they work, good things happen. You get an education in that class or field that's equivalent to anything in a traditional school. That part I don't regret at all. I only had two bad teachers, and the rest were outstanding. It's something to think about

Can I take my Radium now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33940200)

I don't think open-source crowd-sourced buzzword compliant solutions are a magic bullet for well everything. Making it open isn't necessarily good. It reminds me of the excitement around nuclear energy, people believed radioactive substances would have health benefits. Radium was once sold as a health tonic.

It would be like this: (3, Funny)

cosm (1072588) | about 4 years ago | (#33940202)

Job Interview:

HR: "So I was told you were valedictorian in your graduating class?"
You: "Why yes, in both my Theoretical Physics MS and my Nuclear Physics PhD."
HR: "[citation needed]"
You: "Mods!!!!"

Re:It would be like this: (1)

Barrinmw (1791848) | about 4 years ago | (#33940372)

I thought most Physics MSs were essentially handed to you when you pass your test qualifying you for the doctorate program?

Re:It would be like this: (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 4 years ago | (#33940834)

Not always. In some univs with direct admission to PhD from BS they might have structured the program that way. But not always. One can register for and pursue an MS alone and then decide to go for a PhD at a later date.

It already exists as Khana Academy (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33940220)

That all said, parents want to watch their children dress up in funny hats, put on a dress.
Kids want to leave home, make new friends and get wasted.
Real jobs want to see you actually went somewhere with a reputation.

Will never work.

Jaw-droppingly bad idea (5, Insightful)

Huntr (951770) | about 4 years ago | (#33940238)

The lack of real expertise on some (many?) subjects, the petty squabbles to protect inconsequential fiefdoms, zero accountability.

I fail to see how a wiki model could remove all that from universities.

Boom. Roasted.

Re:Jaw-droppingly bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33940260)

It would be the FOX News of education.

Everyone would be an expert in the statements they make, with no need to anchor those statements in reality.

Re:Jaw-droppingly bad idea (1)

MichaelKristopeit 18 (1916664) | about 4 years ago | (#33940416)

there wouldn't be "petty squabbles" anymore... only complete elimination of enemies, as anyone could get anyone completely removed from the system. same problem created by the morons that built slashdot 2.0... any time a person is allowed to control multiple "users" of a system, the concept of "individual" vs "community" is completely lost.

couple that with the concept of "the blind leading the blind", and anyone that would call themselves a "student" of such a teaching institution can immediately dismissed as an idiot.

Re:Jaw-droppingly bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33940476)

The lack of real expertise on some (many?) subjects, the petty squabbles to protect inconsequential fiefdoms, zero accountability.

These sound like problems both universities and Wikipedia share, which I think is exactly the reason why it wouldn't work.

Re:Jaw-droppingly bad idea (1)

MichaelKristopeit 18 (1916664) | about 4 years ago | (#33940544)

you believe universities share zero accountability?

you're an idiot.

Re:Jaw-droppingly bad idea (1, Interesting)

mmaniaci (1200061) | about 4 years ago | (#33940576)

Ha! You had me there for a second. Well said.

All jokes aside I think you are completely right. Universities are riddled with incompetence (a result of rampant bureaucracy IMO) and the text book industry may as well be controlled by the Mafia. I have a degree in Computer Engineering, and I must say my diploma is the last thing I cite as proof of my knowledge. Having a degree is simply stating, "I can put up with bullshit, fill out forms when needed, and listen to those with power," and really has nothing to do with actual, real-world ability. HR departments are starting to realize this (try finding a job with less than 3 years industry experience or some sort of certification being required) and the result is that having a college degree is as lucrative as just a GED a decade ago.

When it comes to learning: higher education < the Internet. I'm serious about this too, I've learned more from Wikipedia (no, not the sources... the actual wiki pages) than I could ever have lerned in college. If the information is out there, why pay for a professor to present it to you when we now have a machine that presents it to us for free?

Re:Jaw-droppingly bad idea (4, Insightful)

martin-boundary (547041) | about 4 years ago | (#33940632)

Having a degree is simply stating, "I can put up with bullshit, fill out forms when needed, and listen to those with power," and really has nothing to do with actual, real-world ability.

Errm, isn't that what working in a corporation is all about?

Re:Jaw-droppingly bad idea (1)

BitHive (578094) | about 4 years ago | (#33940810)

When a computer can answer questions from students who don't even know what questions to ask, design lesson plans, and help them improve their writing skills by helping them revise their papers then the computer can replace a teacher. Until then, the internet isn't going to replace traditional means of education any more than Microsoft Encarta on CDROM did in the 90s.

The teaching staff ... (4, Funny)

Krishnoid (984597) | about 4 years ago | (#33940274)

would probably look something like this [] .

Between the lines (4, Funny)

EdIII (1114411) | about 4 years ago | (#33940276)

that a new type of "professorate" will emerge, consisting of those who teach or publish or conduct research for their own personal or professional satisfaction or for some other nonmonetized benefit.

That "nonmonetized benefit" is access to college girls with loose morals.

Uh... (4, Insightful)

tthomas48 (180798) | about 4 years ago | (#33940290)

The future is the University of Phoenix? The one that has one of the highest default rates on student loans because it's graduates can't get jobs?

Sure. That's the future.

If we were really talking about the Wiki-ization of Universities I would image we would have boards of experts to decide who the professors were. It might resemble a university bureaucracy.

Phoenix Model (5, Insightful)

dasdrewid (653176) | about 4 years ago | (#33940302)

consisting of those who teach or publish or conduct research for their own personal or professional satisfaction or for some other nonmonetized benefit.

So, the University of Phoenix, a for profit university, is the model he's using to determine that in the future, professors and researchers will not be doing so for profit. Something seems really, really wrong here.

What about the research (3, Insightful)

petes_PoV (912422) | about 4 years ago | (#33940308)

Universities are as much about research and discoveries as they are about teaching. In fact most of the staff get their positions through their research qualifications, rather than their teaching ability (as is often painfully obvious to the students). if you go for an informal approach, there is no structure in place to enforce or even validate the quality of the staff and it will rapidly spiral downwards in both reputation and quality of graduates.

Bitchun society & adhocracy (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | about 4 years ago | (#33940310)

It's not a new idea anymore.

Whether or not it's a good idea or ever will be, is a different question.

Middle Age Universities now?? BAD IDEA (5, Insightful)

dr-alves (1612081) | about 4 years ago | (#33940314)

In the middle ages interested (and I mean wealthy) people would be able to grasp multiple areas of expertise (think leonardo da vinci).

Since then things have gotten a WHOLE LOT more complicated, i.e., Would we want civil engineers building bridges if they could skip structural courses?

Professional expertises are narrower and narrower and with that the margin for freedom in terms of what is required to finish a degree is smaller.

The world is more complex, society is more complex, and while there is certainly some wiggle room for each individual the bottom line is that highly specialized workers require a highly specialized, structured, education.

Wasted $80K (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33940316)

I spent $80,000 back in the early 1980's going to college. Plus the lost wages from that time. In today's dollars that is a lot more. Ironically NOBODY has ever asked me for my degree or even if I had one. It has never made a difference in my income, my work or my life. I have advised my children that going to college is totally optional and probably a waste of time. There was a short span in history when it was a requirement for advancement but now it is a waste. You can get a fine education and do excellent work without it.

Re:Wasted $80K (1)

DurendalMac (736637) | about 4 years ago | (#33940556)

So you never put your degree on a resume? Really?

Re:Wasted $80K (3, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | about 4 years ago | (#33940846)

Can you? Yes. Will you? Almost certainly not. The percentage of the population with the intelligence, ability, and drive to learn a complex discipline on their own is extremely small- low single digits. That's if you can even figure out what to study- there's an awful lot of self taught programmers out there who learn a language but never make it to data structures, much less higher level study. Which is why there's so many shitty programmers out there- too many of them think learning the language is all there is, when that's the lowest level of competency there is. Oh, and lets not forget that you have to learn it correctly- reject the outright wrong information out there (or worse, the partially correct) without picking up sloppy habits or deeply ingrained misunderstandings. Even most intelligent people fail that.

Now try that on something truly difficult- civil engineering? Medicine? Law? Physics? No way in hell.

Try it and see (1)

LoudMusic (199347) | about 4 years ago | (#33940330)

Sounds like an interesting science experiment. I suggest a group of people try it out and see how it goes. Likely there will be lots of revisions to make, very little funding, and most people will thing that they should be in charge.

Wikipedia University
An Almost Entirely Accurate Education

Re:Try it and see (1)

Pharmboy (216950) | about 4 years ago | (#33940436)

Wikipedia University
An Almost Entirely {{weasel words}} Accurate Education {{dubious}}

Fixed that for you...

Hey, it can work for internships too! (1)

Trip6 (1184883) | about 4 years ago | (#33940334)

While we're at it, why don't we let Doctors intern on WebMD?

Um, how about we don't? (5, Insightful)

Pharmboy (216950) | about 4 years ago | (#33940344)

Run universities like Wikipedia? So you can have tenured nazi's running around like they own certain subjects wholesale, like some Wikipedia admins do? So "truth" is only relative to what the most powerful group of professors (admins) that give a damn about the subject matter?

No thanks. The USA has one of the best university systems in the world, flaws and all, but running it like Wikipedia would just insure that the most incompetent and most vocal (who are often the same) will have an even larger voice.

Re:Um, how about we don't? (1)

careysub (976506) | about 4 years ago | (#33940688)

Run universities like Wikipedia? ...

Indeed. I don't think that even Wikipedia should be run just like Wikipedia! The ability of Anonymous Cowards to change (almost*) anything on Wikipedia is a fatal flaw that is holding it back from ever being a reasonably reliable source of information on anything even slightly controversial. Requiring the creation of login (which would still be anonymous) before being able to make any change, and using user histories to make assessments of reliability to manage reversions, which edits "stick", etc. would have done a world of good to allowing Wikipedia to mature into something more than what it is.

*Used not to be "almost". The fact that this restriction was imposed demonstrates the fallacy of the idea. Locking down some content does not go nearly far enough.

We can already start building this now... (4, Interesting)

dominion (3153) | about 4 years ago | (#33940356)

This is basically a model of public intellectualism, and popular education. It has three components: 1. Creating a culture of learning which is not dependent on structure, but which is interwoven into life's fabric. 2. Pushing access to information to everyone, with no prejudices about who it will benefit best or who should be prioritized. 3. Encouraging a culture of healthy debate, humility, and a collective struggle for answers, instead of an individual struggle for superiority.

We're already seeing this on some level: Wikipedia, Kahn Academy, Amateur Astronomy, Open Courseware, etc. But I think it's not enough to just keep doing what we're doing, I would advocate that we need to go further. There is no reason that, for instance, a university doing research, no matter how obscure, should not be pressured to put their work online in an accessible fashion. Videos of conferences and presentations, notes, theses, etc. Beyond that, we need to actively break down prejudices about who benefits from this information. We cannot claim to know how people will use information, and determining the importance of their access based on condition, geography, poverty, gender, etc. should not be tolerated. Someone who does studies alternative energies should not dismiss the notion that a teenager living in Nigeria might not want to pour over everything they know, either in order to use that knowledge to create a DIY solar or wind generator, or to create something they hadn't even considered. We cannot keep an international presentation on evolutionary biology within a circle of privileged academics, just because we hold to the myth that if you aren't in a university, you aren't interested in being an intellectual.

And once we have that, or maybe concurrently, we need public spaces, free of charge and open to anyone, that people get together to talk about what they've learned, and to learn more. Like a library where talking is encouraged, or a pub without beer.

This is something I feel very strongly about, that the delineation between the academic and the non-academic, the intellectual and the non-intellectual, must be broken down and done away with. Here, then, is an RSA animate which talks about the structure of the current education system, and touches on the stratification within it. []

Re:We can already start building this now... (1)

hike2 (550205) | about 4 years ago | (#33940618)

The pub without beer -> a coffeehouse
A library where talking is encouraged -> Something like The Royal Society []

Re:We can already start building this now... (1)

dominion (3153) | about 4 years ago | (#33940630)

Unfortunately, coffeehouses in the U.S. aren't particularly social places.

It would look like this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33940358)

University is not about learning per se. (4, Insightful)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | about 4 years ago | (#33940404)

The businesses I've been in cared about the degree because it showed
1) you could finish a 4+ year project
2) which had lots of jerks along the way and you didn't melt down
3) that had ridiculous hours at times
4) that had absolutely inflexible deadlines at times and you made them.
5) you had to communicate a lot with others.


Other that than, I can't count how many times someone is moved laterally away from their degree within 18 months of being hired.

Uhhhhhhhh (4, Interesting)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about 4 years ago | (#33940438)

How would this be useful again? Let's remember that if the objective is to self educate, you can already do that quite well in this day and age. The Internet makes almost anything available to you, there are libraries (including the ones on Universities) open to the public, and indeed you can sit in on classes at some universities, even if you aren't a student (some have to allow that). Learning when and what you choose has never been easier.

However that's not the point of a university. A university is about providing a structured program, with some verification for people that complete it successfully. That has value above and beyond just the education received. This is by no means a complete list but some of the major things:

1) It provides some proof of what you've done. When someone is self taught, they could well be full of shit. You have no idea. If they have a degree, at least you know that they did well enough for the university to consider it ok. I'm not saying that is a guarantee of competence but it is a whole lot more than just "Trust me, I know what I'm talking about."

2) It shows the ability to stick with a lengthy, difficult, endeavor and succeed. That is a worthwhile personality trait to have.

3) It hopefully means you got a broad base of knowledge in the subject. When someone self teaches they often focus just on what interests them or is relevant to the task at hand. A university can mandate a broader range of study on things, and focus on theoretical backgrounds to practical items where the use might not be readily apparent, but important later on.

4) The accredited ones are held to some standards. Not only is the university itself examined, but individual programs are. It isn't just all up to whatever they feel like.

I can't see how such a "Do whatever you want," kind of university would be at all useful. Sure you could learn things, but as I said, if all you are going to do is learn what you want, attend the classes you want, then it really isn't any different than you just teaching your self, watching lectures online, etc.

This doesn't mean university is the be-all, end-all, but the point of the institution is more than just teaching people whatever they happen to be interested in.

comparing a wiki-U to phoenix?... (1)

bleedswhenshot (1924046) | about 4 years ago | (#33940444)

...almost complete opposites. A wiki-U would be composed of people working at the university for some extra cash (like gumbi west pointed out) or for the sake of teaching, whereas the asshats at Phoenix only serve to rip off the providers of Pell grants and other financial aid, with barely any care given towards an actual education. Anyway, as cosm humorously said, the major problem of a wiki-U would be that the very nature of a volunteer organization of this nature would make for a questionable education experience. The teachers can come and go as they wish, leaving once they loose interest. Sure, it's possible for a student to learn if they work hard at it, but with a dynamic staff that changes out frequently, and where the volunteers have varying levels of knowledge, I doubt most students would benefit from it. It may seem like a fun experiment, but in the end of the 4 years at wiki-U, it would be hard to prove your worth. I'd rather have a professional (as in they teach in their field of study, and work there full-time) teachers at respected and, if applicable, accredited (like ABET for engineering programs) degrees. If I wanted to learn in a wiki environment, I'd rather go to Wikipedia, etc., than a wiki-U.

Noooooooo! (2, Interesting)

Scotty L (1873912) | about 4 years ago | (#33940474)

Education by concensus would make obtaining the truth even more difficult. Neils Bohr would roll in his grave if he thought answers would have come from popular opinion on whether electrons orbited a nucleus or not, not to mention poor old Galileo!!!

Awful (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33940484)

The quality of education would be LCD and all minority opinions would be silenced.

Poor teachers (1)

WinstonWolfIT (1550079) | about 4 years ago | (#33940500)

They're already overpaid -- now they have to work for free?

Certified as Clever (4, Interesting)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about 4 years ago | (#33940508)

Here in Canada, an undergraduate degree from a respected, accredited university is in effect a 'certificate of cleverness.' It says to potential employers that you're smart enough to have completed four years of full-time course work at a place that is reasonably hard and that you've produced the requisite outputs. With a few exceptions (undergraduate engineering etc.), it's not considered 'job training.'

It may be different in the USA, I'm not sure...

Universities are not just for teaching (5, Insightful)

cjonslashdot (904508) | about 4 years ago | (#33940582)

Universities that sponsor research provide a more important function than teaching. Fundamental research is not done well by private industry. Throughout history the arts and the sciences have always needed benefactors. This is still true today. A professor in a science is paid to perform research with no known benefit. Such research is extremely important, because fundamental research seldom has a known benefit. However, eventually benefits become apparent, much later. Private industry does not like to sponsor fundamental research for this reason because the ROI is unclear. That leaves universities with NSF grants. A wikipedia-like university would not be able to pay scientist professors, since the assumption is that work would be volunteer. Then who would pay for the salaries of these highly skilled people as well as the research labs?

Resume of the future (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33940608)

Resume of Anonymous Coward
2010 Bachelor of Medicine* - Wikipedia University

*Citation needed

University tenure (3, Informative)

br00tus (528477) | about 4 years ago | (#33940612)

"In addition, the curriculum of the 'Wiki-ized University' would be intellectually fluid, and instead of tenure, professors' longevity 'would be determined by the community.'"

Yes, universities want to get rid of tenure due to their desire to be "intellectually fluid". From every case I know about, universities don't want to replace long-time professors with teaching assistants (called "teaching fellows" at some places) due to desire toward being "intellectually fluid" but due to the fact that it costs a lot less for them. It is almost always about short-term budget concerns, not some goal of greater intellectual achievement

At my college, there are a few core courses which every CS student must take, and they are all taught by long-time, tenured professors. These professors have published papers, really know their stuff, and have excellent ways of teaching about backtracking algorithms, linked lists, stacks, queues and the like. In other classes we get these teaching assistants who are often going for their Masters, don't have a good grasp of the material, don't know how to teach it, and usually seem harried between their teaching and their studies. The only positive for me from my non-CS classes is some of the young, female TAs are attractive and pleasant, although often also incompetent as teachers.

Another thing that professors often mention - professors are usually not judged by how highly they are rated in teaching undergraduate classes, but by how many grants they bring in, what journals their articles get published in, and what they are doing in research with their graduate students. So if universities wanted professors to be better teachers, simply giving their teaching ability some more measure in how they stood could improve undergraduate teaching. If you're paid by publish-or-perish and your undergraduate classes count for little, who is surprised if teaching suffers? It's amazing how many professors put effort into their classes even though it does nothing for them financially.

Also, tenure has already had many nails pounded into its coffin. How many tenure-track positions are there nowadays in a department of a college? And how many classes are being taught by people not in a tenure-track position? It's cheaper for colleges to eliminate those positions, and then tell graduate students they don't have to pay tuition and will get some negligible pay to teach classes.

Despite the idea that universities are outposts of Bolshevism, I know of many, many cases of left-wing professors being booted from their colleges, who the administration tries to boot from college, or fight over tenure and so forth. Paul Wellstone, Howard Zinn, David Graeber, Norman Finkelstein, Joel Kovel, Ward Churchill, Cornel West, these names spring to mind and there have been many more. One of the ideas of tenure is to allow for a free intellectual culture where one can not be booted out of the university for their opinions. I should note that this idea arose a little over a century ago, things used to be much worse, where American scholars who said something some college donor disliked would expect to find themselves out of a job.

Practical Work (4, Insightful)

Alcoholist (160427) | about 4 years ago | (#33940614)

How does that work in such a college.

So guy shows up on campus and says he's a electrician and he's going to teach anyone interested. All kinds of students flock over looking to learn a trade. He's got a whole bunch of references, but half of them don't answer the phone and at least a quarter of the rest are just references that lead to the other references.

He explains that this course is just a stub and hopefully some better electricians will come along and make it better and safer. But hey, let's go and get you your ticket!

Start with a Medical School? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33940682)

An entire university might be a bit too much for a pilot project. How about just a medical school?

university need some change but Wikipedia to big j (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | about 4 years ago | (#33940692)

university need some change but Wikipedia like? To big of a jump. You need work it in to smaller ways as you don't want a Wikipedia like system to look like a joke.

But university and HR need to change there views on higher ed.

* Costs needs to go down books as well. Having Wikipedia like books may work good at a much lower price and is able to keep up with newer technologies

* There seems to be to much filler college courses that push costs up. Some Basic courses are ok but chemistry or history for all? Some filler courses are fun but why should I have to use more time / funds to get a Degree with filler for stuff out side of by field?

* 2 Years is fine for most jobs and wanting 4 years or a MS to just get a level 1 job start is to much and just leads to high school loans.

* Look at tech schools (not the on line ones) There courses planes are more on topics then board CS courses at some of the big university and the tech school are more up to date on newer technologies.

* To many collages put to much in to there Sports teams over education.

Having been at a University for 10 years... (1)

eepok (545733) | about 4 years ago | (#33940694)

... for my own education and career, I have to laugh at the suggested volunteerism... mainly because it takes a massive amount of effort and resources to teach large numbers of people. Even if you could remove bureaucracies attached to HR (since everyone's volunteering time) and fundraising and JUST focus on the teaching aspect, anyone to suggest such a notion is beyond naive

Here are two, extremely important facts about education:

1) Most people can't simply learn on their own. They can't even bother themselves to be interested in the world immediately in front of them. They need to have some sort of pressure to sit down, shut up, listen, analyze, and output. VERY FEW people actually get sufficient inspiration to seek out information and discussion on their own with sufficient vigor to actually become some sort of specialist in a field some time in the future. This is why we have classes and why attendance is taken.

2) It is difficult being a teacher. Considering the above requirements to get people to learn, imagine striving to do the above while staying relevant to a curriculum with 30-400 students in a single room day-in and day-out. That is a full-effort position... and the only people willing to do that FOR FREE are those who are not in need of money. Good luck getting a quality education from a series of rich, volunteer professors.

Ya, it's a great idea... a free wiki-cation. But it's not possible in a world where housing, food, health care, and entertainment costs money. It's not possible in a world where people have other things more attractive to do than sit in a class room on a regular as-needed basis to learn any topic well. Anyone tell you otherwise is trying to sell you a product that will be DOA.

College Is Essential (1)

NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) | about 4 years ago | (#33940700)

Where else could I have learned both the managerial skills to organize a toga party AND the technical skill to tap a keg, keeping foam to an absolute minimum? Did I mention that I got laid, too? Wiki that!

Cause professors WANT to work for free! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33940754)

..this would suggest that a new type of "professorate" will emerge, consisting of those who teach or publish or conduct research for their own personal or professional satisfaction or for some other nonmonetized benefit.'"

Yeah, because research doesn't cost anything, and professors don't really want to be able to afford to buy food.

People don't have day jobs at UofPhoenix because they want to have two jobs. They have day jobs because UofP pays shit and this is the only way the faculty can make ends meet.

goatse (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | about 4 years ago | (#33940794)

so a wiki university would be on that you could go to class any day and instead of course work, be given a neo-nazi screed or a gigantic projection of goatse?

Wiki Univ is there already! (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 4 years ago | (#33940816)

Why do we need to create a new Wiki Univ. Just get a cheap PC, photoshop (or Gimp if you want to scrimp), design your own degree and get the thing printed at home. Done!

Higher learning or higher pandering? (1)

Scubaraf (1146565) | about 4 years ago | (#33940838)

What if we ran universities like Wikipedia?

Then education would work like the media does today. The loudest or hottest or most in-line with what you already think "professors" would dominate those that actually know more about their field. You wouldn't be learning as much as concreting your world view - exactly the opposite of what higher education should do.

In fact, why not skip the university concept and meld education into the media entirely? Sign me up for the Daily Show Community College.

Admins (1)

Windwraith (932426) | about 4 years ago | (#33940874)

Seeing how Wikipedia moderators/admins go on insane power ventures, and many seem to want more and more power to abuse, I don't see how this can be positive AT ALL.

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