College Redefined at FigureItOut U

Pay for college

I have yet to pay a single cent of college tuition for my young ‘uns, and already I’m kvetching up a storm about the cost of higher education.  Rather than rant, rave, and spray paint hurtful words on a university building, I’ve decided to retool college with my latest epiphany.

Before we get into yet another amazing breakthrough, I want you to think back to your elementary school days.  How many teachers can you name from those formative years?  I bet nearly all of them.  Now think back to college, and try to do the same.

Not much of a comparison, is it?  In a recent study I fabricated for the purpose of this post, 9 out 10 college graduates remember more names of their fave collegiate watering holes then they do faculty members.

Coming from a family of college educators, that study should prompt some dander raising.  But its less a reflection on these fine educators, and more a summation of the messed-up model that is higher ed.

Here’s the problem.  Did you ever take a training program on a computer, and then completely forget everything you learned when you boot up your computer the next day?  Of course you have.  Everyone has.

College is no different.  All information learned there is immediately forgotten (except the names of those watering holes.)

So why plunk down outrageous amounts of cash for lessons that are either irrelevant to today’s world, or will be forgotten the millisecond after junior is handed a diploma?

Because to succeed in the real world, you can’t wait for someone to educate you.  You must educate yourself.  Today’s young have to figure things out on their own, which is is why my epiphany was to create a new college, one I called FigureItOut U.

The Institution of Higher DIY

Upon opening FigureItOut U, the first thing I did was recruit a kick-butt faculty.  Offering bountiful cash and guaranteeing tenure until the end of time, academia flocked to my school without even inquiring about its purpose.

Naturally, they were a wee bit surprised when I issued a single directive at our first faculty meeting: Stay hidden.  As in physically hidden.  I explained the rationale as their jaws dropped in unison.

When children are young, they’ll pick up any technological device and fiddle with it until it works.  We lose that inquisitiveness and fearlessness as we become adults.  We know more, but learn less.  It’s a direct result of all those years getting screamed at by your little league coach for screwing up.

You need that curiosity to survive in today’s world, I told the faculty.  “Think about trying to get customer support from any retailer,” I said.  “They’ll bury their customer support number in their website.  If you dare call it, you’ll spend two weeks navigating through their automated phone system.”

The companies want you to figure out your problem on your own. By hiding our faculty, we’ll employ a similar tactic with our students.  “They’ll get so pissed off trying to find you for the easy answer, they’ll just discover it for themselves,” I said.

This departure from the norm raised the ire of the faculty members.  Twenty of them launched into a simultaneous lecture on the evils of my idea.  The incessant lecturing brought back memories of daydreaming in collegiate lecture halls, and I felt the urge to bolt to the nearest watering hole.

After an hour of blah-blah, I ran to my car, sped out of the driveway, and hightailed it down the highway.  The faculty followed in hot pursuit, leaning out their Prius windows and lecturing at the top of their lungs.

This might seem like your typical car chase, but it was all part of my master plan.  As I lead my faculty away from campus, the first day of classes at FigureItOut U had begun, and now its professors were nowhere to be found.

Class, But No Classrooms

When the students at FigureItOut U showed up for the first day of class, they encountered a slight problem.  Not only were there no classes, there were no classrooms, and no faculty inside the classrooms.

“What the hell are we supposed to learn?” cried out one student.
“What are we supposed to do?” cried another.

“Where is the nearest watering hole?” cried a third.
Still being pursued by the lecturing professors, I was observing the students from the monitoring drone I flew over the campus.  I watched as students walked around with blank expressions.  Some shrugged.  Some openly wept.  Some did crosswords.

Eventually, they all gathered at a watering hole.  And they talked.  They talked about their dreams, about what they wanted to do, and where they wanted to go.  Then, much to my absolute delight, they resolved to take action.

One by one, they pulled smart phones from their pockets, and Googled, “How do I become an astronaut?”  and “How do I become an engineer?” and “How do I own and operate a watering hole?”

By the end of the day, they were feverishly learning what they needed to learn to pursue their dreams.  My college flourished, full of innovation.

There were occasions during the semester when some couldn’t think of an answer on their own. In these cases, they would head out on the road and find the FigureItOut U faculty, still in heated pursuit of me on the highway.

Pulling alongside a faculty member’s prius, the student would shout out a question, and the faculty member would shout back an answer.   Those highway lectures were the briefest, most productive lessons ever taught in the history of faculty-kind.  They were also the most effective.

At the end of the first year of FigureItOut U, all the students graduated with honors.  If you’d like to thank me for reforming higher ed, you’ll have to catch me on the road.  I’m currently doing 80 miles an hour across Tennessee, a convoy of Priuses right on my bumper.

photo by 401(K) 2013

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  1. Marc Heuer says:

    I am so proud to be on this faculty, Greg. Am I required to have course,descriptors, core standards office hours, syllabi, …?
    Oh, right, figure it out.

    • Greg Mischio says:

      Now you’ve got it! Please note I will be putting the entire faculty in the witness protection program to make you even more difficult to find. Say a quick good-bye to your family. A car will be stopping by to pick you up soon.

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