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  • Sunday, March 19, 2006

    New U
    By Sean Ripple

    In the fall of 2008, 12 high school seniors decided to form an educational collective. Twice a week they would commit to studying a few subjects of mutual interest, using an online encyclopedia which offered a self-study program that had been developed a year prior.

    The 12 seniors quickly discovered that the online encyclopedia offered much in the way of course description, but did not offer course outlines or syllabi for the majority of the courses listed. Undeterred, they chose 6 subjects (that had a facilitator at the helm) to study over a 5 month period.

    The 12 seniors determined a facilitator's merit by examining his/her credentials, reading his/her student rating (which was provided by the online encyclopedia) and by cross-referencing the course reading material required by the facilitators to customer rating feedback provided by online bookstores.

    In all but 1 case, the facilitator claimed to be a professor in the subject they were facilitating. Of those who claimed to be a professor, 5 of them did not give their true name or university affiliation. Of the 5 that did not give their true name or University affiliation, only 1 person was not an actual professor. The 1 person that was not a professor, but who claimed to be, was in fact, a celebrated child prodigy in the field of biology (He facilitated the class for much of the same reasons a child might decide to join a rock band...out of a desire to let free the larger sense of life not found within the rigidity of academic endeavor). The 1 facilitator that did not claim to be a professor was actually quite knowledgeable in his area, but simply lacked the skills needed to convey his knowledge clearly.

    Initially, because the majority of the facilitators did not provide their true name or university affiliation, the only substantiating factor that the knowledge the 12 gained was accurate or credible, was the knowledge itself. It is easy to see the difficulty the 12 must have had proving that the understanding they had acquired was to be trusted, as the essence of knowledge is more a flame than it is concrete. This is true even in subjects where the assumption is that the concepts are unbending.

    The school system that 12 were a part of devised an SAT-based test to evaluate whether the knowledge they were equipped with by the online encyclopedia was credible and accurate. All 12 scored at the mastery level.

    Over time, there developed a contingent of educators who did not see the 12 senior's self-education initiative as a threat to traditional educational models, but instead saw it as a new model by which to instruct students who possessed a similar drive. These educators facilitated educational collectives outside state funded school systems.

    Our university is comprised of only these students.

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