Friday, June 23, 2006

Leapfrog University--Higher Education for the Next Level

Higher education in North America is badly in need of an overhaul. The modern world is crying for solutions from our brightest minds, yet universities are spending more time indoctrinating students in political correctness and politically biased anti-western multiculturalism, than in teaching students to learn, solve problems, and face the world as it is.

At the University of Minnesota, scholars Arthur Harkins and John Moravec are proposing just such an overhaul. Here is the most recent version of the "Building a Leapfrog University" memo v 4.0:

In this memorandum, our focus is placed on the undergraduate education required to produce knowledge and direct it toward continuous innovation. We call for an entirely new undergraduate education mission –one that requires a different vocabulary and mindset compared to the now globally-distributed education missions for agricultural, industrial, and information-based societies. We believe that reforming undergraduate education to lead the competition in knowledge production and innovation is accomplishable; that it is appropriate, harmonizes with workforce needs, and better prepares students for post-graduate work.

....Knowledge production results from the conversion of information to actionable form. Routine knowledge production at the undergraduate level would constitute a major paradigm change for tertiary education and would constitute the backbone of a world-leading Leapfrog University.

We contend that creative knowledge production by youth is essential for societies planning to compete and collaborate successfully in the global economy. Knowledge production results from the transformation of information into formats suitable for actionable decision making. We believe that undergraduates who learn to participate in knowledge production can help catalyze a shift from curriculum consumption and mass education to knowledge production, meaningful personalized education, and innovation.

Below, we define six types of creative knowledge production which we assert are critical to successful participation in the work and civic forces of the 21st Century. The six types of knowledge production, driven by constructivist theory and supported by continuously available advanced technology, are:

* Mode 1: rigorously developed scientific and scholarly knowledge;
* Mode 2: rigorous, collaboratively developed knowledge that is intended for highly practical applications;
* Mode 3: subjectively developed knowledge intended for personal applications;
* Mode 4: experientially developed knowledge that defines the capabilities and limitations of human contexts, including cultures;
* Mode 5: machine developed knowledge beginning to emerge from expert systems and very early artificial intelligence;
* Mode 6: integrative and chaordic knowledge that fosters the most effective uses of knowledge Modes 1-5.

While only the first two of the six modes of knowledge production are routinely employed in undergraduate education, the full range of modes offers students many opportunities to demonstrate the goodness of fit between their studies, their lives, and the demands of everyday life in an innovative global economy where knowledge production is increasingly socially distributed.

In order to avoid the perpetual game of “catching-up,” we offer nine quite different archetypal undergraduate development futures. These types permit institutions to strategically place themselves within or beyond the confines of historical practice.

All nine of these archetypes may choose to employ the six modes of knowledge production and utilization in different, market-centered ways. Every such choice can readily manifest the characteristics of Leapfrog University by helping to create variety, new strategic alternatives, and new innovation potentials.

1. Genius-Centered Future (Individuality Product). Focus on uniqueness development creates graduates capable of functioning as articulate, proactive individualists, in other words as human intellectual leaders.
2. Think Tank Future (Knowledge Worker Product). Students invent most of their own education experiences, evolving graduates capable of joining the workforce as full-fledged knowledge workers bent on innovation.
3. Development Teams Future (Collaborator Product). An business opportunity focus creates graduates who have worked in teams to produce patented or copyright materials, have started companies or non-profits, and have joined or created professional societies appropriate for their interests.
4. Student Services-Based Future (Student Culture Product). Students are matured within a culture nurtured by redefined and upgraded student services. Graduates leave college able to work well with as creative assistants in similar programs.
5. Global/International Learning Future (Globalized Individuality Product). This holistic approach creates students who can work within existing and emerging global cultures. The students utilize language translation devices and in-country experiences within local/global systems development models.
6. Old Economy Personnel Development Future (Student Employee Product). A talent/interest development approach permits business and industry the opportunity to locate potential star employees earlier in life. Chosen students are financially supported throughout college while acting as apprentices.
7. Home College Future (Family Culture Product). The domestic venue permits wide age-range access to services, including co-generated curriculum choices, domestic experiential learning options, campus- and age-independent services, and assistance from learning consultants.
8. Experiential Innovation Future (Context Worker Development Product). Students are selected for their capacity to integrate knowledge products. Their education is experiential in advanced design and innovation contexts. They may be paid to engage in tertiary education, and/or they are charged nothing on their loans while in school (e.g., Tony Blair’s recent student loan plan).
9. Chaordic Systems Future (Chaordic Systems Design and Management Product). Students are selected for their capacity to work in the phase-shifting contexts of uncertainty, unpredictability, and limitless diversity. They are provided the latest in simulation software, including advanced games, to hone their skills at coping with chaordia. Students are helped to develop the skills to work primarily in virtual space and time through simulations, games, and prototypes.

We believe that the above-mentioned nine scenarios allow for innovation based on the continuous rejuvenation of knowledge resources based on attention to the creative, inventive, and innovative individual. Even the several more traditional approaches require applications of innovative social capital to help them survive and evolve. We contend that, in particular, the production of Mode 3 knowledge offers stakeholders very appealing returns on investment in tertiary education, since most innovation begins in the mind of the creative individual. We also heavily favor Mode 4 knowledge production, or the creation of appropriate contexts or cultures to help students competitively leverage their futures.

Required: A New Emphasis on Undergraduates as Creatives

The Leapfrog University will invariably need to rethink its approach to undergraduate education to develop and cultivate the creative potential of its students. To this end, University leaders need to address several questions:

* How can the University vastly expand its impact on undergraduates and vice-versa?
* How do undergraduates routinely produce tacit and explicit knowledge, and then employ it innovatively?
* Can the University move to create expectations of innovative leadership among its undergraduate students?
* How can this daily expression of personal capital growth become part of expected services delivered by the University?
* How can the University expand both personal capital and social capital, in part by making the substance of each more individualized and purposively developmental?
* Can the University of Minnesota shift from industrial/information-age models of human capital preparation to knowledge/innovation models?
* Can the University seriously focus on recognizing and developing the uniqueness and variety of undergraduates through technology-supported, individualized learning services?
* Can the University focus more on student innovations as opposed to context-free testing and rigidly constrained paper topics?
* Can the University become more experiential and experimental as it moves toward knowledge based, innovation-supportive learning services?
* Can the University support development of the innovative individual through lifelong subscription services?
* Can the University provide new subscription networking for its alumni, productively linking them to one another and to undergraduate students?
Much more in the original memo.

Changing the university from an indoctrination center to an institution that helps students learn to create solutions to society's current and future problems, is a daunting task. Current politically correct thought police and multicultural nutzis will fight this effort tooth and nail. But it is becoming clearer that PC multiculturalist indoctrination is merely making the west more vulnerable to conquest from the outside. What is needed is more problem solvers, not more internal saboteurs bent on destroying the only halfway enlightened human civilisation planet earth has ever produced.

Leapfrog University may actually succeed in Minnesota, or it might be sabotaged by the reactionary establishment. Either way, it is a courageous attempt to outline what is needed from moder universities. It is important for others to build on these ideas, to actually create the generative educational system that the western world has needed for several decades.

The modern university is actually a throwback to the middle ages--particularly given the indoctrinating nature of the increasingly oppressive mindset of university faculties and administrations. Insuring that students escape that indoctrination is truly one of the chief hopes for western civlisation.

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