Gather ‘round folks!  Give a listen over here!  Outta work?  Feelin’ low?  Can’t getta job?  Confused by all the cuttin’ edge techno-mumbo jumbo of the modern workin’ world?  Then fret no more and pay attention, cuz I has the answer to ya woes!  All ya has to do is git yerself a education!  Take out a loan, borrow from family, work 4 jobs, but get that education!  Ya don’t even have to go to a campus—ya kin go online, who cares? The school don’t matter, just the piece of paper. It ain’t about learnin’, it’s about credentials!  Don’t waste yer time trying to start a business or work fer yerself!  Without that piece a paper, ya can’t accomplish anything!  Come an get it, folks!  The answer to all yer troubles—the Snake Skin diploma!

The rallying cry for America’s economic recovery is to “Invest more in education!”  That is the panacea, the cure all, the magic pill that will bring our country back to its feet and get everyone working again! Yet, the main area where jobs are actually booming in this mad rush for education is in the academic world, itself.

Traditional schools and newer cyber-based schools, alike, are exploding their ranks, hiring more teachers (many of whom are adjuncts lacking any scholarly background), expanding their programs, creating more and more online resources to tap into every last potential student, and raking in the money in record numbers.     

In the midst of this academic boom a new con has been born—the Snake Skin Diploma.

The Snake Skin Diploma is the modern day snake oil of old. Snake oil began as a trusted ancient Chinese product that was used to help relieve joint pain. Exploiting the ignorance of rural settlers in the 1800s into the early 1900s, unscrupulous salesmen rapidly distorted and exploited the benefits of this ancient remedy to rip people off with claims that this simple oil was a miracle elixir that could cure everything from an upset stomach to baldness to cancer. 

Like the Snake Oil Salesman of old, colleges and universities, both brick-and-mortar and virtual, are seducing consumers into believing their sick and hobbled careers will be invigorated by the new and improved bachelors, masters and even doctoral degree programs that can be earned in less time than “old school” programs and increasingly online at the convenience of the student.  These programs will get you a piece of paper—after your last tuition check clears—but don’t be fooled into thinking you’ve gotten a true education or a ticket to gainful employment at graduation. Too many of these degrees will be printed on snake skin—the sloughed off empty remnants left behind by the ever growing educational snakes feeding on a diet of helpless, frightened students trying to grab at a better future. 

As access to “education” is expanding, the quality of the education is rapidly deteriorating in the competition for student tuition dollars. Just as hard news programs have degenerated into infotainment to attract a greater number of viewers, and thus more advertising dollars, undergraduate and post-graduate schools have become obsessed with keeping students happy and entertained to increase their enrollment and revenue. If a student feels there’s too much to read, too many assignments, the information is too hard to understand, or, even worse, it’s “boring,” they’ll quit and go to another program where its more fun and far easier to get that piece of paper—and take with them cherished tuition dollars. 

Many academic institutions are destroying the quality of education overall in exchange for assembly-line expediency. The decline begins with a policy of “open admission,” which allows anyone with the money to pay the tuition to become a college student, even if they completely lack any basic writing or comprehension skills and shouldn’t have even been given a high school diploma. These students cannot handle the rigors of an advanced education, but instead of allowing them to flunk out, schools are lowering the criteria for earning a decent grade and passing them along the conveyor belt to graduation day.

The decline worsens as online courses and accelerated degree programs all truncate the actual learning experience and create graduates who are intellectual skimmers, unable to exercise true critical thinking skills and deft at doing just enough to get by—a strategy that will bleed over into their careers, if they should be fortunate enough to find a job.

A recent decade-long study by the Babson Survey Research Group indicated that more than half of the faculty surveyed expressed fear over the growth of online education. According to the study, one-third of all students, over 6.1 million, took at least one online course in 2010, a 10 percent increase over the year before, compared with only a 2% increase in enrollment overall. The study also revealed that 65% of all post-grad schools consider online programs to be a critical part of their growth strategies, despite the fact that the majority of faculty believed the quality of the education for online courses is inferior to those of face-to-face class-based learning.  

Educational institutions are shifting from champions of intellectual advancement to revenue-generating businesses dominated by the all-powerful student satisfaction survey. The rigors of reading loads, assignments, and in class performance are all being downgraded to make the “learning” experience easier for the student. While school administrations publicly boast of their high standards, privately teachers who adhere to those standards are punished if their students complain. Online-based courses, in particular, are moneymakers, and those teachers who can’t keep their students happy face losing their jobs.       

Though hailed as the new economic recovery cure all, education that produces useless diplomas granted after rapid-fire completion of emaciated degree programs will cripple the USA even faster. Employers can no longer trust that, just because a job candidate has a degree,  he or she actually has the basic writing, speaking, and critical thinking skills that an advanced education is supposed to represent. 

Worst of all is the scam being perpetrated on the students who are being given a false sense of competency, thinking they are educated, yet destined to discover that they are still unable to handle the responsibilities of a career. Yet, they won’t realize they are falling short. After all, they paid their money, they skimmed their way through, and they have this piece of paper. If they do manage to get a job, but it turns out they can’t actually be effective in the job, they can rest assured it must be someone else’s fault, not theirs. It’ll be the boss’ fault, the company’s fault, their co-workers’ fault, not theirs.  And they’ll have the degree to prove it.

 
 
As anti-gun activists attempt to exploit this morning’s shooting at an Aurora Colorado movie theater as another reason to restrict gun rights for private citizens, the spotlight should be directed onto the true cause of such grotesque assaults on innocent people -- the 1st Amendment protection of violence on TV, in movies, and in computer games, not the 2nd Amendment right to own a gun. 

Within hours of the shooting, ABC News reporter Brian Ross wasted no time in attempting to connect the shooter, James Holmes, to the Tea Party.  The only information ABC had was that a Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colorado, was listed on the Colorado Tea Party website as having joined last year, that’s it.  Victims were not even out of surgery yet, and ABC News was already irresponsibly trying to politicize the tragedy.  Shortly after reporting the connection, Ross retracted his comments and clarified that the person listed on the site and the shooter were not the same person.

Perhaps ABC should look to its own programming before pointing fingers at other causes for senseless violence.  According to the non-partisan education organization Parents Television Council, not only did violence on television increase at alarming rates between 1998 and 2006, but ABC had an increase of 309%, the biggest increase in violent content of all the major networks.  ABC is not alone, however, with violence increasing overall by 45% during the Family Hour at 8:00 p.m., by 92% during the 9:00 p.m. hour, and by 167% during the 10:00 p.m. hour.  See www.parentstv.org for details on their report, Dying to Entertain: Violence on Prime Time Broadcast Television 1998-2006, by Caroline Schulenburg.

If the statistics reported by PTC are correct, 24-year old Holmes would have been between the ages of 10 and 18 as television programming grew increasingly more callous and violent. During the most sensitive, morally formative years of Holmes’ life, the lessons he got from ABC programming and the other broadcast channels, not to mention the even more violent and sexually exploitative cable channels, are far more responsible for creating a mass killer than the right to keep and bear arms. 

Add to the barrage of violence in broadcast and cable television the rise of violence in blockbuster movies and computer games, and the corresponding rise in violence in our everyday lives is no mystery.  Any simple Internet search will produce countless credible studies from the last 10-20 years indicating a direct connection between violence as entertainment and increased aggression. In contrast, you would be hard-pressed to find credible evidence connecting responsible gun ownership and the teaching of safe gun use as promoting aggression.

Cries to restrict this inescapable violence polluting our entertainment are blocked again and again by the 1st Amendment that protects this orgy of violence as free speech, despite the undeniable fact that it is harming the public welfare.  

Entertainment providers are not working alone, however, because they are serving the demands of their advertisers who blindly pay huge sums of money to reach the greatest number of viewers without any concern for how those numbers are gathered. 

The path of blame goes even further, though, and reaches us, the viewers, as well.  If we watch these shows, play these games, and become increasingly lost in violent fantasy role-playing, producers will keep producing, because advertisers will keep advertising, paying higher and higher fees to reach us, the ones who ultimately drive the demand. 

It’s not guns.  It’s us, it’s morally and ethically disconnected advertisers, it’s the peddlers of violence as entertainment, who all contributed to creating Mr. Holmes.  Don’t expect to see ABC doing a story pointing a finger at its own violent programming, though.  They’ll be too busy exploiting their 1st Amendment right to claim the 2nd Amendment is to blame.

 

 

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    Back Off My Rights is about showing each other where to draw the line between doing good and doing harm.  

    This blog is about having a chance to understand all that we need to know about each other so we may come to informed conclusions and decisions that work to resolve problems, yet respect fundamental rights.  

    Each post will examine an issue and invite a discussion on what it means to you, what your opinion is on it, and what others should understand about you and your experiences that go beyond the cold hard facts, so that, as a country, we can back off each other's rights and address these issues more effectively.  

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    Please join in the discussion, but keep it a forum for  ideas--not for indulging in attacks. Disrespect for the feelings and ideas of others is un-American. 

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    Author/Facilitator
    T.M.Y., Esq.

    Don't blindly adopt any posted ideas or suggestions. That would be the exact opposite of what this site is about.  The goal is to facilitate the discussion, provoke ideas, and help us educate each other.  

    The author's ideas come from a love of the U.S. Constitution developed during years as a criminal prosecutor, a college professor of Constitutional law and ethics, and even early beginnings as a top level executive in marketing and public relations for both the private sector and non-profits.  

    The author has lived and worked in and at every social and economic level and has learned that, fundamentally, we all have the same goals: a happy, safe, healthy, successful life for us and our families.  Where we get off course is when we expect we can impose burdens on others as a means to promoting our own end. We expect we can impose our sense of right onto others, or expect others to pay the price for our agenda. 

    To succeed together, if that is truly our goal as a country, we need to understand and respect each other. We need to pull our own weight. We need to understand that doing what is right includes not doing what is wrong--no matter how well-intentioned the rationale. 

    On a final note, no matter how convinced you may be that you know what is best for others, you cannot truly do anything of value for others if you don't take the time to really listen to what they have to say about it.    

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