"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Birthday Today - Art Blakey (and a digression)

I'm on a run of jazz birthdays lately.   Today it's Art Blakey, born in 1919.   Blakey was perhaps the greatest of modern jazz drummers, playing first with Billy Eckstein's band in the 1940s, and then later leading his own group, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers for 30 years.   Along the way, Blakey played with most of the greats, including Miles Davis, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Horace Silver, Wayne Shorter, Lee Morgan, Hank Mobley.  Here's one of his greatest moments, on "Night in Tunisia":

God, the cultural education you can get from YouTube if you bother to look!   It's like having the greatest video library in the world, and it's at your fingertips.   What are you waiting for, you autodidacts out there.   If jazz isn't your thing, try classical music:

Or opera:

Or Shakespeare:

Or, hell, try a lecture on quantum physics:

And, after you've done that, and perhaps browsed a little in areas you're interested in, answer me this.... why exactly with all the world's information at our fingertips, do we need to spend $150,000 or $200,000 on a college education for our children?  Education historically was a way to access knowledge where there was no other way to do it.   You went to colleges because they had libraries filled with books and professors to explain things, and you paid for the privilege because those places had a monopoly on the knowledge you wanted.   Now, however, the computer on your desk is filled with more books and more information and more data than you could ever hope to learn, and there are people sitting there on YouTube or elsewhere waiting to explain it to you.  (Go here for myriad free online college course.   Go here for lesson-by-lesson free math lessons for your high school and middle school children.)   So why exactly, if the cost of the ability to access information has plummeted to the point where getting information is practically frictionless and costless, has the cost of college education skyrocketed?   Why should it?   Why shouldn't it have come down, like the cost of laptops, or the cost of television sets?   Viewed this way, aren't colleges and universities simply rackets, extorting money in exchange for a degree?   Because a piece of paper is all they're selling.... the information, the education, the learning, is free.  

The revolution is coming.   But I digress.  

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