Keep Fighting Yellow Checker Syndrome

Keep Fighting Yellow Checker Syndrome


This post continues some thoughts I shared last week on higher education. Read the first post here.

Get Dematerialized

Last week, I drew an analogy between Uber and higher education. I argued that Uber did not make the taxi concept obsolete, it just changed the delivery. Like the taxi industry, higher education is failing to innovate and suffers from what I called “Yellow Checker Syndrome.”

This week, I’ve been reading Bold by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler. The authors make the point that Uber did in fact revolutionize the taxi industry by dematerializing it. Uber doesn’t need offices and fleets. Its infrastructure is largely based on individual drivers. This makes the taxi industry much less capital-intensive and more capable to innovate.

There is a connection here to higher education. The dematerialization of education means more integration between academia and the world. For example, MIT and other schools have released hundreds of courses online for free. Google Scholar makes it possible for anyone to check for peer-reviewed scholarship. The idea of higher education leaves the “ivory tower” as that tower won’t physically exist. 

Good Negotiators Help Others

Besides possibly an MBA class, most students graduate without learning how to negotiate. Yet this skill is important for everyone.

The bias against teaching negotiation in school could come from the zero-sum nature of grades. There are only 100 points. If you can argue up your grade, it’s really only to your benefit. The teacher doesn’t benefit (perhaps I’m naive — grade inflation), and your classmates arguably lose out as their higher grade becomes less unique.

Seen from a grading perspective, negotiating is a greedy, zero-sum game. No wonder it’s not taught! 

Good negotiators, though, identify what the other party really wants, and gets it to them. Not often is negotiating entirely-zero sum.

How do we adapt this to a classroom-based setting? I’m not sure yet. That’s what the comments are for!

The World Is Not Twenty

Students go years bonding with people on campus and of the same relative age and background. In the past, this wasn’t too different from what they’d see in their first jobs — in an office, communicating mainly with those directly around them, people who also went to college.

Today’s economy commands more diverse interactions. You might work with a self-taught computer programmer from India or a PhD-turned-consultant from Switzerland. The internet democratizes knowledge — your college degree in itself doesn’t make you valuable. Rather, the connections you build and the ideas you spread make you a linchpin.

Higher education needs to teach people how to collaborate in the digital world — a world that isn’t twenty, because on the Internet nobody really knows how old you are anyway.

What Is This All About?

I don’t want this all to sound ethereal, so here are some ideas on how to fight Yellow Checker Syndrome.

 Have students learn how to publish — and sell — their essays as a Kindle book. Give them a small budget to build a website to display their ideas. Offer a podcast recording studio at the library. These are lifelong assets that build the students’ brand and show them the complexities of today’s economy.

Education will never go away, but it does need to change.

Photo courtesy level17 on Pixabay.

Subscribe to my mailing list.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: