Free Market Wikiversity
Problems with Academia
Academia is in a state of serious crisis due to the confluence of a number of pernicious factors. First, tenure: not awarded to the best teachers or most creative researchers, but to those with the most connections, who know how to "work the system". Tenured professors have no further incentive to make any effort at all, and it shows in their teaching, whenever they bother to do any. Tenure distorts the marketplace for professors, because it is such a prize when awarded, that armies of professors work for slave wages as adjunct professors, in the vain hope of attaining tenure one day. The very best teachers are rarely awarded tenure, because they are too busy really teaching!
Second: massive government funding, along with government meddling in everything done on campus at all levels. Instead of vision, reason, and common sense, everything is driven by bureaucratic rules and political correctness, especially that most central function, funding. But the government that disburses the funds, is not qualified to make judgments on how it is spent. So it appoints committees of distinguished professors to vote on the apportionment, which is thus decided on a committee basis. Interesting and challenging new ideas are routinely rejected for being too controversial (committees are a very poor tool for promoting novel and creative solutions) while well-connected professors crank out endless streams of worthless research because it has already attained the status of being accepted.
The problems of academia are well known. The question is: what to do about them?
Answer: Abolish tenure. Cut out the middle man. Open a free market between teachers and students, so that the best professors reap the best rewards. Open the whole accreditation process to transparency and scrutiny from the outside. Establish a system of "schools of thought" headed by visionary founders, who use their own personal judgment in promoting students, professors, and research ideas in their departments. Some departments are bound to go astray, and waste money researching nonsense like mental telepathy and homeopathy. But their error will be revealed by a reluctance of reputable departments to be associated with those whacky ideas. It is the collective judgment of the reputable departments of Wikiversity that will banish nonsense beyond its walls. But competing theoretical philosophies which cannot be shown to be clearly nonsense, can co-exist under the large tent of Wikiversity, where they will post warnings about each other, and why they consider the alternative approach to be invalid. Let us have in Wikiversity a mirror-image replica of the schools of thought that exist in the theoretical world, and let us use the tried-and-tested methods of Wikipedia to fashion a mechanism of collective accreditation and validation.
Wikiversity must announce certain standards for WikiProfessorship. For example: PhD in related field; published papers; teaching experience; recommendations from other established WikiProfessors; whatever. Professors who meet those requirements may post a shingle on Wikipedia and advertise for students. Professors with higher credentials and renoun will associate with other similar professors and select a dean from amongst them, and form an official WikiDepartment.
Everything is based on a hierarchy of accreditation. Professors vouch for their students, and students for their professors. Deans vouch for the professors in their departments, and they vouch for the credibility of other related departments. Higher deans might vouch for whole schools, like the school of psychology, or of philosophy. There may be competing schools of thought within Wikiversity, like the school of Gestalt psychology, v.s. the school of Gibsonian philosophy, who would validate each other as a valid school of thought, while criticizing each other for the flaws in their world view. Schools will rise and fall with the times, all in the free marketplace of ideas.
By eliminating the middle man, and having the student pay directly to their professor, we eliminate the danger of bloated corrupt bureaucracy, governed by the Annointed Lords of the Academic Establishment who are currently in charge. The potential for fraud and abuse is very much diminished when it happens on an individualized basis. And when fraud or abuse is discovered, the student sues their professor, not Wikiversity. And when fraud or abuse are reported, it is up to the individual deans of departments to expel the fraudulent professors, or dis-associate from fraudulent departments, otherwise they risk tarnishing their own reputation.
Research is funded by the same parallel distributed accreditation mechanism that governs teaching. Professors or departments that wish to engage in research post research pages that advertise the research project, methods, implications, budget, equipment, faculty, and so forth. The primary source of funding will be initially from private institutions and individuals, entities which are in a better position to make judgments than committees of experts appointed by the government. At first, there will be little role for government funding of Wikiversity. But when it becomes clear that this is the better model for apportionating funds for research, even the government will eventually come around to funding research on Wikiversity's terms.
Value of a WikiDegree
What will a degree from Wikipedia be worth? Initially it will be worthless. The WikiDegree will have to earn its value by first graduating a pioneer cohort of students whose demonstrable knowledge and ability are a credit to the institution. The cost of a degree at Wikiversity is going to be orders of magnitude cheaper than at any brick and mortar university with its enormous overheads and endless wasteful bloat. But Wikiversity can benefit from the hundreds of disgruntled professors whose excellence in teaching ability and creativity in research has barred them from a comfortable tenure position in established academia. I believe we will be tapping into a resource of great value by picking up what academia in its ignorance has been spitting out for decades. And Wikiversity will also be tapping into a vast pool of students who are bright, self-motivated, and eager to learn, but who cannot afford the outrageous costs of a university degree. It is only a matter of time before the world at large recognizes the high caliber of individual that is bold enough to commit to an emerging Wikiversity. If the members of Wikiversity play it right, I believe a WikiDegree will eventually come to be worth more than an equivalent degree from the bloated and incompetant brick and mortar academy.