Friday, January 13, 2006

Facing Down Malice And Morons


Readers may be aware that I am preparing, late in life, to pursue my Masters in Business Administration (MBA) degree. Because of my work and family responsibilities, I am not in a position to move to another part of the country and spend full-time studies at a prestigious university, nor does my resume suggest that such a commitment would be significantly effective in improving my career. Like many Americans, my career needs documentation to advance, but my position does not afford the luxury of full-time study. As a result, I began to research part-time study and Distance Learning. A large number of schools offer graduate degrees with evening and/or weekend classes, and of course the Distance Learning courses were designed with working people in mind. But in addition to the need to measure the reputation of each school and program, the working student must also consider the stupidity, prejudice, and hidebound fear of progress present in many places, especially as ‘brick-and-mortar’ schools find themselves ill-equipped to address 21st-Century realities.

As a case in point, there is a blogger by the nomme de plume of “Dead Man Blogging” (his real name appears to be Dean Domenico, first name unknown, college unstated, credentials nonexistent judging from this little piece of work), which seems an awfully petty inference to such a serious issue, especially given that this fellow has not posted even one article on the Death Penalty, but I digress.

This fellow claims to be a Department Chairman at “a New England College’s Business School”. Certainly he has the arrogance to match the claim, as he tears into Distance Learning with absolutely nothing beyond his prejudice and fear of new technology to support his insults. Even so, his claims are worth examining, as they demonstrate not only the false assumptions of the Brickhead set, but also their emotional refusal to examine the matter in detail, which practice is often fatal in the business world. That is, when an executive makes important decisions on assumptions and prejudice, he is often going to discover his error in the General Ledger. For a department head of a college to make such a mistake in dismissing the value and credibility of alternative degree programs, is no less stupid than Ken Lay’s repeated imitation of Sergeant Schulz about what was going on at Enron.

Dead Man”, as he wishes to be called, makes a series of blunders in his assertions, which should be considered in the light of reason, to which I humbly submit my efforts:

Dead Man: “Distance learning, where students essentially attend college online, seems to be a win-win for all concerned. Students get college credit from the comfort of their own home, and colleges have a high profit, high growth potential alternative revenue stream. Even make-believe colleges, like the University of Phoenix, can get in on the action in tapping into the large number of people looking for an easy degree and willing to buy the credential.”

So, beyond the obvious hatred for Distance Learning, what errors does Dead Man make here? First off, he implies that Online students are lazy and Online schools are greedy. The best refutation to that comes from the fact that the University of Phoenix is accredited, meaning that its practices and curriculum have been reviewed and approved by an authorized body of professionals. In UoP’s case, that would be the Higher Learning Commission, founded in 1895 and responsible for accrediting higher-learning schools in nineteen states. The HLC is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. Phoenix is also a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, one of eleven major regional accrediting agencies in the United States. The United States has no national accrediting body, but does recognize several national associations in specialized degrees.

As a result, not only is the University of Phoenix recognized at regional and national levels as a fully-accredited school of higher learning, it is entirely possible that UoP has better accreditation than the college where “Dead Man” runs a department. I think it is patently obvious at this point, that referring to an accredited university with clear and strict degree requirements and course curricula as “make-believe” is not merely a baseless insult to the professors and students at the University of Phoenix, but demonstrates the low intellectual effort made by Dead Man to determine the school’s qualities. Claiming that Distance Learning is an “easy” degree or that students are trying to “buy the credential”, appears to my mind to be so false and prejudiced as to tread on an actionable offense.

Dead Man has therefore established an intellectual laziness on his part, with more than a whiff of dishonesty and malice. One difference, after all, between the in-school and online studies, is that the student attending school can sometimes hide in the back, “attending” the class but not participating if he is not prepared, while the online student is required to participate and contribute – the system records his comments and questions, so there is actually a higher standard of participation required for the online student. Dead Man is oblivious to this rather plain fact.

Next, we read this from Dead Man : “I see a lot of students, especially those returning after some time in the work force, that are just looking to get their ticket punched and seeking the easiest path to the sheepskin.”

Now see, only someone so immersed in Academia and its Elitism for Elitism’s Sake mantra, could possibly address professionals seeking an advanced degree with such obvious contempt. It seems that we working folks are somehow sullying the halls of his Ivory Tower to seek a degree which we can actually use, or to presume that years of professional work can add practical value to classroom discussion would somehow diminish the wisdom of such sages as “Dead Man”. I rather suspect that Dead Man fears that theories which are touted in the classroom would have reason to fear close examination by people experienced in the real world, and so he would prefer to keep out those who might prove him wrong, unaware that his own arguments demonstrate his error.

Dead Man did make one salient comment in his article: “The two important issues are whether the distance learning experience delivers a valuable education, and whether a distance learning degree delivers a valued credential.”

Unfortunately, this “Department Chairman” completely fails to answer the first question honestly, and so fails on accuracy as well. His article places the value on what Dead Man calls “traditional college educators” and “sophisticated employers”, never observing the false premise contained in those groups. First, a reasonable querant looks for objective responses to significant questions, not consensus among partisans. Dead Man apparently asked some people with backgrounds and environments similar to his own, and wonder of wonders, discovered that they share his prejudice. Dead Man reinforces this blunder by claiming, again on no evidence whatsoever, that Distance Learning means “low-level entrance requirements (which are essentially a pen and checkbook)” [the man simply cannot be bothered to go dig up the facts on this point], and “the lack of a classroom experience replete with interactions with instructors and other students”. This second statement is even more outrageous, when one considers real-world examples. I have already outlined the accreditation of Phoenix, but Dead Man also blows the point by failing to observe that a number of very fine traditional universities also offer Distance Learning graduate programs, including Arizona State University, Boston University, Colorado State University, Drexel University, Gonzaga University, the University of Iowa, Loyola Marymount University, Pepperdine University, Purdue University, Quinnipiac University, Syracuse University, Temple University, Tulane University, Villanova University, Wake Forest University, and the University of Washington. Dead Man manages to falsely insult over a hundred universities offering online degree, including many with AACSB accreditation – the highest tier of accrediting associations for business schools. Dead Man once again proves himself to be either exceptionally dense, or exceptionally malicious in addition to being recklessly stupid.

Dead man dismisses the online discussions as “canned”, which I find distinctly hypocritical and pretentious. I recall my undergraduate days at Baylor, in classes which sometimes exceeded a hundred students, so that asking the professor a question during class was simply impossible, and many professors were notorious for not being at their offices during posted hours. The online experience, on the other hand, is specifically engineered to create conversation including all students, where every student has access to the professor and classmates, and where questions and observations are not limited to a set schedule, but are posted and answered both in real time and as different individuals see the posting. This provides not only for more response, but better information and a deeper understanding of the material discussed. Once again, Dead Man’s prejudices blind him to perceiving the true state of things.

Dead Man sniffs at the very notion of Distance Learning, saying “This is not a defensive posture germinating from a desire to preserve our jobs and the status quo; quite the contrary, distance learning (and for some, even web-ct, i.e., distance learning lite), would make our jobs immensely easier. We are philosophically against it, and see it as a matter of ethics and efficacy.”

Having cited evidence that shows Dead Man is not only unaware of the educational advantages of the online classroom, clearly biased against fullly-employed students pursuing advanced degrees, and totally out of touch with not only the failings of old-style classrooms, but also the teaching gains to be had by using new technology, this statement is worse than self-serving – it is no better than denial, and once again falsely implies a lower standard to Distance Learning. Further, the exponential growth of Distance Learning degrees from schools ranked as among the very best for business degrees by such publications as Business Week and U.S. News and World Report, demonstrates a rank hypocrisy by Dead Man and his like-minded cronies. No, he and his ilk demean Distance Learning, even as some of the very best schools in the country pursue such options and excel in their results. Dead Man says “When we get applications from those with distance learning degrees, for instance, they are immediately discarded. Many of the employers we talk to have the same perspective, and in fact a distance learning degree is sometimes viewed as worse than having no degree at all.”

That is simply the hate speech of a delusional bigot, and at this point only reinforces the sad stupidity of this claimant. Dead Man demands that students “work in the right way and get the job done. A distance degree signals sloth with the faint scent of artifice, a desire to take the easy way out.”

I dare say sir, that a graduate from a school like Syracuse or Drexel with an online MBA is far more competent in his field than you can pretend, especially as your inability to support your claims with evidence, or even notice the explosion of quality programs, so coldly displays a refusal to do your homework or consider evidence from the real world. And speaking from my writing perspective, Dead Man is also a distinctly poor blogger.

My point in this denunciation of such recalcitrant hypocrisy, is not only to take apart this slander against a sector of the student population, whose work is equally as good as the old-style schools could claim, but to point out that a key responsibility for the modern commentator includes challenging the prejudices and old-world bias that still stain progress and injure honest people. Whether correcting the bias of Mainstream News or the malice in Hidebound Academia, we must pursue open discussion, correction, and redirection towards Reality, away from the assumptions and hypocrisy of the past.


kimsch said...


I am currently a student at UoP. I am a stay at home mom. I don't have to leave home, or find a sitter, in order to go to "class". UoP has been a God send for me.

I graduated from high school 26 years ago this coming June, so I am also a "late in life" student.

Regarding your comment about a 100 student class at Baylor, here at UoP I once had a class with just 5 students. A class with that few students would have been cancelled at a bricks-and-mortar university. For us, the 5 member class worked out very well.

If you are going to pursue your MBA at UoP, I congratulate you. You will enjoy it.

Dead Man Blogging said...

Hi DJ:

Thanks for the read and comment, and good luck in your studies.


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