Americans embraced the marketisation of higher education, with profit-making colleges and debt-laden customers. The result has been corruption and failure.
Things get complicated when we liken students to customers. As early as 400 BC, Socrates understood that doing so was a mistake. Establishing such a relationship creates “merchants of knowledge,” as he put it, who are willing to give students what they want rather than what they need in order to keep the money flowing. Introducing this market-based exchange, explained Socrates, had a corrupting effect on the teaching and learning process. If only we had listened.
We’ve had this lesson again and again. In the 19th century for-profit business colleges in the US claimed to offer students the moon. But the British parliament blasted these institutions for “unprincipled exploitation” and called them a “disgrace and discredit” to an “honourable profession”.
A similar conclusion was reached by the medical (pdf) and legal professions of the late-19th and early-20th centuries. They too believed that for-profit, market-based strategies eroded professional, ethical and academic standards. The strategies, investigators concluded, produced shady institutions that were more interested in a quick return than anything else.
100% true. Read the whole. And, world, don’t do what we’ve done. Don’t. Do. It.