CopyrightX, MOOCs, and Education

I read the Boingboing* article about it being on offer, which lead to the New Yorker article, which lead to me applying to enroll in CopyrightX. I just got my acceptance email and it got me thinking about higher ed in general.

Why is education so closely tied to employment? Why do we take it for granted that education should be tied to employment at all? Much like the unholy alliance between employers and health insurance in the United States, it’s starting to seem more than a little twisted.

I think that some of it is rent-seeking. For example: You can’t even take the bar exam without going to law school- which teaches you little about how to pass the bar, or even how to be a good lawyer. Meanwhile, I have no doubt that anyone could pass the bar given sufficient materials and preparation. “Anyone” in this context is anyone smart enough. I am convinced that the primary reason this restriction on bar exams exists is to protect the interests of lawyers already practicing law, as well as law schools. Certainly we want to protect the public, but there are ways of doing that which do not require aspiring lawyers to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on education.

Why can’t education be about education? What happened to the perhaps too-romantic notion of learning for learning’s sake? Why do you now need a bachelor to push papers in an office job that any sufficiently motivated and trained human can do? I’m denigrating the idea that a company somehow gets a better employee and doesn’t have to train them as much if they have a college education. I cannot begin to express how old it got for me to hear people whining in classes about what they “need to know” to work a chosen profession. I agree: You don’t need to know jack shit about Homer’s Odyssey to work a programming job, or anything about matrices to be a nurse. If education is in fact about employment, as the existence of college “career centers” seems to indicate, then why not dispense with the fantasy? Why do we insist on offering liberal educations at increased cost with little practical value?

Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with learning things that have no practical value to me. I enjoy it. I am just trying to get a discussion going on these ideas we have about what education is for, and what it should look like.

I think that MOOCs might be the only way a liberal education survives in higher education. Increasingly higher education is more like 13th, 14th, 15th, and 16th grade- just a way of making it to the bare minimum in our job market. Increasingly in some fields, you’re almost to middle-age by the time you’re finished getting a formal education. Thoughts?


* Trying to avoid in-caps in “Boingboing” just looks funny.

MOOCs? This has been a recent topic of conversation around my campus, in part due to the $7000 MA in computer science that our neighbors over at GA Tech are offering. The argument for is that more people will have access to an affordable BS degree. The argument against, as I see it, is two fold–it leads to less tenure track jobs (in computer science, but this can/could be applicable to any discipline if this becomes the new model of higher education) and two, it would likely flood the market with BS students, looking for programming jobs, and I think it will drive down salaries for those jobs, probably more so than workers coming on work visas. I have a stake in both of those, so I’m probably biased (I’d like a tenure track job and my spouse is a programmer). Our president immediately jumped on the MOOC bandwagon after Tech made their announcement. So we had to figure out what that meant, and how we might think about implimenting such a thing if our university decided to run with it (and it’s not clear that they would, although it is pretty clear that have a centralization plan to take as much autonomy away from the departments as possible–especially the “luxury” departments in the humanities - obviously, I object to that, but I’m just a lowly grad student).

I think the questions we need to ask is what should a university be and what should a liberal arts degree be in the 21st century. A liberal arts education emerged directly out of the enlightenment and trained middle class people to be… well, middle class. The working classes were not expected to go into a university, but to go directly to work, in a factory or a farm, where they learn on the job more than any where else. There were of course all sorts of ideological implications to this, but that’s the facts as they are about the roots of the modern university. This is still the model we’re on, but obviously, as you state, more people go to school, because, the BA is the new high school diploma. I get to teach some of these kids. And you’re right, especially where I am, it’s more like 13th grade, etc. This is doubly true because we take more than Tech or UGA or Emory, and often times, these kids are not fully prepared for a college education. I often have to teach a course required by the university, so many of the students have no real interest in what I have to offer. Why should they care what happened after the civil war or during the cold war? They don’t see how it impacts their ability to get a job. So I have to try and convince them that knowing how the world works and how we got there actually matters and in some cases this is an uphill battle. I want them to be able to question everything they hear and see, but of course, this is a tough thing to teach–anti-authoritarianism. But the thing is, most of them are smart kids, even if they aren’t “ready for college”, and I think they deserve the chance to do something in this world and this is now their chance, because as we’ve established, getting a job requires a BA now, except when it requires an MA or PhD. As such I think at least a BA should be a public education now, but that’s an argument for some other time.

So, I guess the main question is if there is value in the model of a liberal arts education. I’m loath to give it up, because I see value in the humanities and if we give up a liberal arts education, THAT is what you’re really giving up. STEM fields are sort of being bandied about as the solution to all our problems, and I have no quarrel with STEM fields, but that doesn’t mean that knowing how to write a good paragraph, or knowing how to do historical research or some knowledge of human psychology is unimportant. It tends to be the humanities that often teach us the value of questioning the way the world works. And I think, as a consequence of that, the humanities are more often under attack than STEM because they are seen as having a political edge to them. But these departments are in some ways pretty conservative. Department heads, especially now, are loath to rock the boat, especially if it means their own security. In some ways, the heads of the sciences can be more radical, but even there we can see the university trying to curb that in it’s centralization drive. The humanities, meanwhile, want to be seen as progressive bastions, yet they want to circle the wagons and protect what they have, even if it means throwing the rest of us to the wolves known as endless adjuncting. This is what neo-liberalism in the university means–more focus on what creates a profit and less funding and support for the things seen as “luxury”. Learning about history is now deemed a “luxury”. Sure, we can fill our knowledge holes with MOOCs on history, but that isn’t the same as being in a class room and learning history from a professor who is passionate and welcomes debate. Too many people treat the lecture course as that–a lecture. I think most of us want it to be more of a discussion on the topics at hand and as such, I don’t think a MOOC can fill that hole in the same way… but I digress.

And honestly, it seems many of the MOOCs are run by private corporations (the ones administering the Tech ones are, I think… though they may be non-profit working with big corporations like AT&T–I do know that AT&T is involved), much like many of the charter schools that are taking over some school districts. I think we do well to question the motivations behind such initiatives–are they really about the benefits of education or about the bottom line. Many people have been asking this about for-profit universities and they have often been found wanting–deeply indebting people and then those people not being able to find work as promised. In other words, should education be commoditized in this way? Is there a value to education outside of fattening wallets? If so, we need to figure out a way to spread the benefits of an education out across as much of society as possible. I realize this is communistic mumbo-jumbo, but that’s the way I see it.

So, that’s my $.02 on these issues. Take them with a grain of salt, because of the position I’m coming from, but that’s it.

You’re at GSU, aren’t you? I used to go there. I could be wrong, but this more than anything else you said feels like it. I often felt like the quality of the students and the quality of professors were mismatched.

I’m not unsympathetic, but I think tenure is going the way of the dodo no matter what we do. It’s been around less than a century from my understanding. While its value is indisputable; financially, it’s a luxury. This is true whether MOOCs exist or not. As for programming, it is becoming more necessary and more ubiquitous as everyday objects turn into computers, but programming has an odd quirk: It is an incredibly democratic field. There’s a long tradition of computer programmers being largely self-taught. With programming, the problem reveals itself to be social. It’s what anti-capitalists have been saying for a while now. If everyone goes to college and “does the right thing” we’ll have a lot of doctors and engineers scrubbing toilets and serving Starbucks. The solution isn’t to engage in rent-seeking, the solution is to dispense with rent-seeking at the societal level. It’s rent-seeking in part that contributes to the inequities that make this economy so bad for the middle class in the first place.

Do I think MOOCs will replace a traditional classroom setting? At GSU, many people don’t attend math classes anymore unless they have to. Basic math up to calculus is essentially farmed out to Pearson Publishing in the form of interactive computer assignments- and they work. Students hate them, but I’m confident that it’s because they’re not used to them, and the technology hasn’t worked out all of its bugs. Humanities is more difficult because “right” answers are difficult to assess, even for humans. That being said, the formal university system as we know it is still somewhat young. Universal literacy is still young, as is universal secondary education. I don’t claim to have the answers here. It’s a giant tangled can of worms complicated by the interests of various classes and professions and heavily peppered by a mythological 1950s idea of a level playing field.

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Yep, that’s me. Good old GSU… I think at times that at least some of the profs underestimate their students–like I said, I find many of them smart, just they lack the skills they should have gotten due to being in a crappy school district in the more rural areas of the state. Profs tend to want to find the easist work for the survey classes, because they know they are dealing with a cross section of ability; but often I’ve discovered that many of them actually rise to the occasion when given more challenging work… They sort of resent it when you talk down to them and treat them like children. It’s kind of a fine line.

I didn’t think otherwise. But GSU can afford a football team, new buildings, and major remodels (they are talking about revamping Kell, which I don’t know how that will be possible, given the age of the building and what is supposedly in the walls regarding health/environmental risks), but they can’t give profs a raise in over 5 years, and they can’t give graduate students a raise in over 10 years, while our fees have been continually leaping upwards–it’s over a grand and that doesn’t include the mandatory insurance. They have money–they just don’t want to spend it on the humanities. They have conflicting goals, they want us a major research university, but they don’t want to sink money into academics. part of creating an attractive program is having an attractive package for graduate students, and at least in the humanities, they just don’t have that. It’s better in the sciences, but that’s because they get funding from places other than the university (grants and the like). My field needs money for research travel and traveling to conferences to present our work–the more we are out there, the higher the profile is for the university. I’ve been lucky to work with some incredibly talented and smart people who are fellow grad students–the university would do well to invest in them, and make sure they get placed in good jobs, yet they just aren’t willing to put in the money to do so, at least as I see it.

As for tenure? Well, it’s tenure that makes the university professor a middle class job. What I think you mean is that middle class jobs are going away more broadly. Is that something we want as a society? What replaces those jobs? Is the middle class just becoming obsolete? If so, what does that mean? The university system in california actually has two tracks for jobs–traditional tenure, with a focus on research and the teaching track, which has it’s own tenure like system, but has a strong focus on teaching evals and the like. I kind of like that. Not all people in humanity programs want to end up doing research later on, but are interested in teaching, just not K-12. I’d also like to see more MA/PhD programs in the humanities that gear people for non-academic jobs. Public history is getting pretty popular, so sink more time into teaching how to do public history… or think about gearing people for various kinds of public service jobs–being a state historian, for example or even becoming something like a corporate historian…

I think this more complex than that–it can be democratic, but access to computers, books, and the like was until recently pretty costly. I think the field has gotten more accessible and democratic, but not entirely. My husband still notices a serious lack of diversity in his field (which is admittedly, anecdotal a small slice of the profession, but he’s been at it for quite a while). It still tends to skew middle class, relatively white (though I think south and east Asians are represented pretty well, from what he says), and male. Plus, we’ve all been discussing recently how sexist “geek” culture is and this is certainly related to that.

Can you clarify what you mean by “rent-seeking”? I think I know what you mean here, but want to be sure before I address that point…

I think that’s a key point–humanities are less about right answers and more about talking about different answers and how you get there. I feel like I’ve done my job if they come out of my class with more, but better crafted questions than answers. I’m not sure you can effectively do that in a MOOC? It might be a more effective structure for classes that have definitive answers, but even there, I think you have shades of grey that might get lost in a MOOC structure.

From your mouth to the FSM’s ears!

Oy. Don’t get me started.

I have a soft spot in heart for that building’s absolute insanity. I always thought it was kind of delightful in a tear-your-hair-out-how-do-I-find anything sort of way. While I’m reminiscing, I want to ask if Professor Blankenship is still there (He was in the history department, so you might know.) One of my favorite professors, though I don’t think he’d remember me.

Sadly I see this as the current trend, and there doesn’t seem to be any stopping it. I personally don’t doubt the value of teaching and studying the humanities. No need to preach to the converted on that one. I don’t think it’s immediately useful to many skilled professions, and I think that’s the problem. Universities are becoming about training and employment. As long as this idea of what a university education is for continues along this path, I expect more of the same. The humanities just don’t present the same number of directly-related job opportunities, even when they should. God knows we need a few more historians and anthropologists in government, but that leads to a whole new discussion about the shrinking public sector.

It also leads to the denigration of non-technology oriented scientific research- but it will at least survive.

Yes, I am saying that the middle-class is disappearing. I’m also saying the tenured positions may not survive even if middle-class status for professors might. Tenure has always provided very secure employment for some but never all or even most academics. I might be wrong about that, but tenure is a poor job-security mechanism. It entrenches elites and presents a kind of barrier to entry. It’s only good if you’ve got it, and it’s highly political, which bodes poorly for people who are traditionally disenfranchised.

I understand why tenure is important, but I’m just not that impressed by its promise. I want middle-class status for most, and at least good living conditions for all. I’m radical enough to believe that food, shelter, medical care, and now the Internet should be a minimum debt society owes all people. So I want professors to at least be middle-class. I want them to be free to explore ideas without worrying about it affecting their employment. However, I think there’s an opportunity here for academics in the US: If they free themselves of this desire for an old-school notion of tenure, they could find an even better arrangement that isn’t so much at the mercy of fickle funding. I think “tenure” is a dirty word in university administrations, or at least a tired one, and maybe it’s time to find a better solution. Do I have one? No. I’m not a professor, I don’t know what your needs are. If you organized maybe you could track down a solution. (I say that like it’s easy. Getting a bunch of professional thinkers to agree on anything is damn near impossible.)

For the reasons stated above, I think of tenure as a rent-seeking behavior: At a point, it’s about barriers to entry and security for elites at the expense of everyone else. Is that a simplification? Yes, but not an over-simplification.

I wouldn’t trust technology not to solve a problem over a long enough timespan. It may well introduce new problems, but questioning the efficacy of MOOCs in pedagogy is going to produce diminishing returns over time.

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Don’t get ME started… :-/

Both sparks and kell are the oddest of buildings, but yeah… I think Blankenship was a phd student, and I think he was gone well before I was even around.

I think that they may not seem usefully, but are sneakily useful. Writing well matters, as does understanding how the world and peole function, all of which the humanities can give you a firm foundation on.

But should they? That’s my question–should universities only be glorified welding schools, or should there be a deeper purpose to the pursuit of education…

I think that is actually where many end up, just not in any place where they can make a functional difference. I’m not entirely sure the public sector is shrinking all that much.

Marx theorized that the capitalist economy was the bourgeoisie economy–if that’s true (and I’m not necessarily saying it is, but IF it is)–than the lack of a middle class means the whole house of cards comes down. You need a middle class to support an ever expanding economy, because you need people to buy stuff, because the way that an economy can continually expand is to create an endless variety of stuff, and that can only happen if you have a large number of people who can spend a surplus… I think the capitalist model will only function if we live in a consumerist economy, which endlessly creates… stuff. No middle class, no one to buy that stuff. The working class only has so much surplus. So, if Moglen is correct, and we now have an information economy, whose backbone is information, not steel, well, how do we have a middle class based on the commodification of information of all kinds–art, culture, literature, knowledge, software, etc and so on. I think I’m rambling now… thanks cabernet…

I think this is a tough question and I can see your point about tenure entrenching one class, and not providing opportunities for all in academia. If there is a better arrangment, I’m not sure what it is, but I’m also aware that a tenure track job is going to be tough to come by. I think this is something that those of us up and coming are going to have to think hard about. However, I will say the direction of the majority of colleges and universities now is something that will not expand opportunities for those of interested in the production of knowledge–the new mode of operations is endless adjuncting and that does not allow for the sort of creative thinking you and I value. All it does is create bitter academics.

[quote=“ActionAbe, post:5, topic:19200”]
If you organized maybe you could track down a solution.[/quote]
This is something I would dearly love to do. There are some things I’m working on in regards to cross university representation for grad students… needlessly to say, this is Georgia, and it’s uphill battle. Anything that smacks of unionism is hard to bring to fruition…

Maybe I’m something of a luddite, but I’m not necessarily onboard with technology as the solver of human problems. I think it can, but it can also cause problems as well. Technologies, especially those for profit, are a double edged sword.

On rent seeking… I think maybe the issue is that not all things are going to create wealth on their own. Maybe not everything should? Somethings are just not suitable to creating wealth and I think that should be okay.

Like I said, no need to preach to the choir. But demonstrating that it’s worth thousands of dollars in extra non-dischargeable loans is a stretch.

That’s easy: no. It’s not within my control, however. I think that’s what they’re becoming, and to a certain extent, that’s what they want to become.

Adam Smith also pointed out the same thing. Welcome to the clusterfuck. I don’t think we have an information economy. I think we have an economy where information is cheaper, and easier to convey. I think we have a lot of people writing books and not enough people reading them. For me, it’s about surviving capitalism as we know it: A pragmatic endeavor. If we want to abolish it, I’m fine with that too.

I certainly don’t believe in the status quo. In the words of Dr. Horrible, “Because the status is not… quo!” I don’t know how to solve the tenure problem, I just feel like yearning for the golden era isn’t getting anyone anywhere.

Sure technology creates new problems. I don’t know if you’re a Luddite. But, I think the sin you
commit is far graver: You underestimate technology’s capacity to upend models and markets. It doesn’t matter if MOOCs (or something else) introduce a whole new set of difficulties and controversies- they might still replace traditional face-to-face pedagogy effectively. I think insisting it won’t is sitting on your hands.

In this economy, the value of an education is becoming less commensurate with its cost. People by-and-large aren’t getting educations to enrich their souls but to increase their income. You know that and I know that. They’re my classmates and your students. I think we’re going to keep coming back to this connection between education and employment, I think that’s a strong indication of the problem. I don’t want education linked to employment more than is absolutely necessary. I think we can replace this link with testing. Let people who want work train and test. Let people who want an education get an education. I doesn’t have to be bifurcated quite this way, but I think it’s an improvement on models that require four or six years of study when two could easily do.

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This was the first hopeful thing I’ve seen someone write about the humanities in a while:

Humanities are ESSENTIAL for creating people who are actually worth having in your field, whatever that field might be.

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That’s true… I always thought the best way to describe Marx is a mix between Smith and Hegel.

Yes. That’s true. A friend of mine was recently talking about how he thinks our field should not require books, but journal articles. Academic books, at least in history, often repeat themselves as they reiterate their point and many times could be summed up in 40 or so pages, at most. No one makes money off writing books in academia and really important books go unread because they get lost in the shuffle… I’ve seen the number of sales for some of my friends… it’s not pretty.

I’ve struggled with this question, which seems like it’s been a core question of revolutionaries, radicals, leftists, and reformers: reform vs. taking it all out. I think Zizek is one of those folks talking about how it’s so hard to imagine anything else, so we fall back on imagining the end of the world, especially in popular culture. We have problems coming up with alternatives to modernity, that we can only embrace the cleansing fires of the end of the world. Whenever I watch Walking Dead, I do find myself thinking… well, maybe living in a prison, with zombies outside wouldn’t be so bad… Yet, despite the availability of the alterantive–living more off the land, engaging less with the system, modernity, technology, etc–I’m more than willing to admit I’m lazy. I think my love handles will attest to my laziness. Besides, if I didn’t have the net, I could have nice conversations like this one.

I am an infidel… all religious say so. Except maybe Buddhist? And Pastafarians for sure embrace me. :wink:

I think being skeptical of the model as anything other than supplemental to education is not the same thing as rejecting it out of hand. Do I think we need to think critically about education in this country, from the top down, sure. Should we accept new technologies uncritically… I’d say no. I’m not saying it can’t be effective as a teaching tool, but that doesn’t mean it is or will be. Plus, I have a double layer of skepticism since large corporations looking to make a profit are involved. Education is and always has been dependent upon the culture that it comes from–society has collectively decided what is needed, and figured out how to deliver it. Despite the dire prognosis many have, we forget that we are an incredibly literate society compared to the past. People spend far more time reading and writing than ever before–they might not be reading literature and they might not be writing grand epics, but as a culture we do read and write more than ever. I think that while the economy should help shape how education looks, we should think about trying to shape the economy to our ideal education. I realize that a utopian vision is out of the question, because those have a tendency to end poorly (I’m looking at you, Stalin!!), but I am suggesting that we should as a society decide what sort of society we want to have–market centered as the libertarians like to argue, or as Polyani and Papa Francisco argued, people centered–and then figure out a way to craft our education around that. I think that education should be one of those things that are free to all, and yet not forced. I like for people to have options, frankly. You want to send your kid to a Catholic school, go for it, you want to homeschool, cool, you like a Montessori, great! Actually, there was some public library that started offering HS degrees recently–offering classes to patrons, and that’s a great idea. But I have just about as many answers as you do to fixing anything.

I think there is some value in this. I have a cousin who is in school to become a mechanic. Obviously, this is a specific skill set, which requires a specific sort of education… he’s not doing the same sort of things as me, but he’ll likely have better job prospects at the end of the day. I think the danger in this sort of model you’re suggesting is that it creates class divisions. I’ve never seen my getting a PhD as being worth more than my cousin who is going to work on cars—he’s fantastic at it. He took his brother’s dash off to do some work in like 5 minutes flat… I could NEVER do anything like that.

So, I don’t know man. We should start our own university. What do you say? We can fix ALL THE THINGS!!! :slight_smile:

I’ve always had this fantasy that everything will collapse and those who survive will be those who can turn the detritus of production of an earlier civilization into useful tools for sustenance. Of course my fantasy also includes living inside an abandoned and well stocked library with a member of the opposite sex who finds me inexplicably irresistible and a pet bear named Gomez.

I think you and @Elusis make the same mistake in assuming I’m evaluating these things. I’m not. I’m prognosticating. What I think doesn’t matter. What you think doesn’t matter. What the whole of Boingboing thinks doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if we value the humanities or think MOOCs suck, or are great, or need mustard. The people who ultimately end up having the power to make these decisions will do so largely despite any objections we may have. I think MOOCs will iron out enough of their own problems to become a viable and possibly common form of education. It doesn’t matter if they have problems. I’ve never seen a business let perfect be the enemy of good (left-wing activists are another matter, sadly.) If you look at how our society values anything, all that matters is that it’s business-friendly. Again, I’m not being prescriptivist here, just descriptivist.

I’m not here to say it’s right, or good, or awesome. I’m only here to tell you it’s coming, gird your loins because it’s gonna be one hell of a ride. Throw a wig on me and call me Cassie if it helps you to understand the point I’m trying to make here. See, from my perspective, we’ve already lost some of these battles and can’t fight yesterday’s battles unless we’re prepared to lose tomorrow’s.

Can’t. Don’t have a degree yet. It might be a while before I can pay for one too. The irony.

Why is the bear named Gomez? I’m really curious to know. If it was a dog or a cat instead, would you name it Gomez, too? SO MANY QUESTIONS!!!

I kind of agree, but not 100%. I think collectively, we have more power than we do as individuals. If enough people make enough noise (and sometimes, you don’t even need that many), you can get the leviathan to change direction. it’s hard, and there is constant pressure not to do it, but I think it’s the only way we can do it.

But there is still the question of if MOOCs are good as the PRIMARY form of education–especially if they are profit driven. At the end of the day, the whole purpose of business is to make a profit, no? This doesn’t mean that positives can’t come out of what business does, but it does color their activities with a particular tint of green–and that CAN be the enemy of good, just look at the 2008 crisis, where profit drove the housing market and what seemed like a positive–more people owning homes–turned out to be a shell game, at best. Sure some good things can come out of the drive for profit, but bad things come out of it too.

I’m all for being descriptive (Ta-Nehisi Coates was making that point just this week, but at some point, you do need to tackle the moral and ethical questions as well. I also don’t know if MOOCs are inevitable, especially if they don’t prove profitable. Which, if that were the outcome, and the only people doing MOOCs are those who are truly interested in the dissemination of knowledge to the largest audience possible, I could get behind that and I do think it can be a net positive for society. I’m not sure it’s MOOCs I’m against, but the notion of that as our only option. I think the GA Tech MS might be the test we need to see if this is a possible pathway for higher Ed or not.

And you’re right on the left wing. I think that is one of the things that tore apart the paris Commune, alienated various activists from one another in many other cases… they let ideology cloud their practicality, always a bad thing. But the left is often hamstrung by ethical and moral debates, which make practical solutions sometimes tough to formulate…

[quote=“ActionAbe, post:10, topic:19200”]
Throw a wig on me and call me Cassie if it helps you to understand the point I’m trying to make here. See, from my perspective, we’ve already lost some of these battles and can’t fight yesterday’s battles unless we’re prepared to lose tomorrow’s.[/quote]

I agree about fighting today’s battles, not yesterdays… I just don’t think the MOOC stuff is over and done. I’m all for looking to the future, but we really can’t tell what’s coming. I don’t think the struggle over higher ed is over and done…

Also, I don’t know why the cassie thing made me think of this, but it did:

Me neither, though I’m ABD now. Let’s do it anyway, because fuck the system, that’s why… I know, we’ll start some MOOCs… I hear they are the wave of the future from some smarty pants dude around here… :wink:


Well, let’s see if I can answer them. First of all, all bears have Spanish names. Either that or Italian or Scandinavian (where the Russian thing got started, I’ll never know, but I’ve never met a bear with a Russian name). This is just like all cats have Welsh, Latin, or Arabic names; and all birds have Bantu, Japanese, or German names. As for dogs, I’m not really a dog person. I don’t know how you can be ABD and not know this, but PhD programs aren’t what they used to be.

That said, the name Gomez goes deeper than that. It belongs to my ancestor, a double-great grand uncle on my mother’s side. He was a Spanish privateer known as the Red Gomez, or Gomez the Red, so called not so much for his vicious habits but his drinking ones. Still he was greatly feared.

One day on a resupply in Lisbon, he was pickpocketed by a rapscallion and gave chase through the city. He never caught the boy, but found himself lost in the middle of the city. He asked a young lady named Adelina if she could help him find his way. He found an excuse to stay in the city for another day, then offered to whisk her away on a life of adventure. She agreed, and by the end of the year they were married. One day she found some old maps and journals that belonged to her grandfather, Ponce De Leon (Her mother was his illegitimate child, it’s another story for another time). The journals outlined some of his findings during his quest for the Fountain Of Youth. By then, Adelina was a skilled quartermaster, and somewhat versed in nauticisms, and she puzzled out a location for the Fountain. She took her findings to Gomez.

The Fountain turned out not to be in Florida, but the Caymans, and Gomez became bent on finding it. Adelina was more prudent, questioning the right of mere mortals to partake of such power. After a lengthy dispute, she refused to go with him, and he left her and their two year old daughter in Valparaiso. When Gomez got to the Caymans, he found a Dutch ship blocking his way. This was during the midst of the Eighty-Years War, and Gomez was forced to fight. After a lengthy battle which left most of his crew dead or wounded, Gomez found the site of the Fountain. Mortally wounded himself, he drank of it without thinking of the consequences. He was healed, but found to his horror that the Fountain did not grant immortality or youth such as we know it. It permitted one to live beyond the normal life of a human, but never again as a human. Gomez would die at the age of 55, only to be resurrected as a grasshopper. He was constantly reincarnated over the ages until one day, I discovered this legend in my travels. It turns out Gomez’s spirit can be imbued into the animal of his descendants’ choosing, and only his descendants can communicate with him.

He has been a parrot for a little while, but we had an argument recently, and now he’s a sea monkey. (I won.)

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That’s a very cool story. +100 internets to you.

Also, @Mindysan33, well done with Cardgage Mortgage.

Keep up the good work. This is a good thread. I’ll go back to lurking now.

This… just makes me smile… I mean, sea monkeys.

What did you win?

I’ve slowly amassing a stash of awesome gifs… I like to deploy them judicially to make our lives more cheerful… because:

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I won the argument. It’s official: The Truth is in the top ten of the Discworld novels.

Oh… because of Sea Monkeys? That wasn’t part of the argument, that was a story that had nothing to do with the argument… besides, who decided it was an argument as opposed to a friendly discussion of topics that matter to us both…

I won because I turned him into a sea monkey.

I never claimed to be a gentleman about the whole thing.

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Oh, I see… but sea monkeys don’t live long, you know.

He flits from sea monkey to sea monkey. Kind of like Azazel in that movie Fallen. I was going to move him to something warm blooded, but he’s kind of liking it. Lots of sea monkey sex. I don’t judge.