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So I was in a facebook discussion with my tea partying father-in-law today (I love him dearly, even though we disagree on almost everything political). We go through our more civil and our less civil phases--we're in a more civil phase, and I'd like it to stay that way--and the conversation wandered to the Oxford Casino, a fairly recent and no-longer-so-controversial addition to the local economy in this part of the proud state of Maine.  My father-in-law wrote that downtown Rumford would've made a much better site, having superior value as a tourist attraction, and several hotels which could be rehabbed to accommodate the casino clientele.  And that got me to thinking...I dislike the proliferation of casinos in this country (or anywhere). They sell addictions and produce broken lives.  But what could be made of a dying paper town in one of the most beautiful valleys in eastern North America?  After a few moments' musing, I thought...of course! A college!

Rumford was founded in 1779 at the location of Pennacook Falls, the largest waterfall in North America east of Niagara. In 1893 the first paper mill was founded near the falls, beginning Rumford's more than one-century as a paper manufacturing site.  Rumford was one of three principal mill and industrial towns, the others being Berlin, New Hampshire and Lewiston, Maine, located on the shores of the Androscoggin River.  (Thanks to the paper mills in Berlin and Rumford, the falls in Lewiston were long known as Root Beer Falls.) Rumford's population peaked around 1930, at roughly 10,340; since then the local population has declined steadily, following the fortunes of the paper industry.  The 2010 census counted 5,841 in the town. The original Oxford Paper Company was bought out by NewPage Corp., itself likely soon to be bought out by Verso. Earlier in the 20th century over 2,000 people were employed at the locally owned plant; now the total stands at fewer than 850, and the plant is corporately owned. (Wikipedia)

My wife, daughter and I moved up to Rumford Point, about ten miles west of the falls along Route 2, at a bend in the river where a long, rickety bridge spans the Androscoggin.  About 10 houses make up Rumford Point. Before we'd even moved in I was hearing dismal stories about the decaying state of downtown Rumford Falls. A few visits confirmed this.  Next to dying giants like Detroit, small towns like Rumford are insignificant, but doorway by doorway, the emptiness and sense of faded fortunes are the same.  Much of the town, especially the neighborhoods, is boarded up and unoccupied.  Along the main street, you can walk into a gift store and look at the monumentally tall ceilings, the impressively deep store area, and the broad archway leading into an adjoining room with a soda fountain.  Only, the adjoining room is full of empty cardboard boxes and fold-up chairs, and the deep store area is mostly full of unused furniture and more boxes.  The active store occupies the front half of one room, and the very nice gifts and decorations are surrounded by an almost palpable darkness and gloom.  Rumford is, like so many other river mill towns, a dying place with a grander past.

Drug use, alcoholism and poverty are common here. It meets most any definition of a depressed economy, despite its natural beauty and being surrounded by much wealthier locales such as Bethel, with Gould Academy and the Sunday River ski area, the outdoor mecca of North Conway not too much farther to the west, and the well-to-do lake town of Norway to the south.

A local banker told me that within ten years the paper plant will be closed.  The paper plant employs about one-quarter of the town's remaining residents.  Its closure will mean the functional end of Rumford as a municipality.  I began thinking of ways to maintain some industry in the area.  An environmentalist and an oceanographer, I am very much aware of global warming.  Whatever severe climatic changes are headed our way, I know mankind is not about to go cold turkey off of oil and electricity.  So given that I'd like to help society maintain itself and do what we can to transition to more sustainable methods, I wondered about building a wood chip-fired electricity generation plant there.  It would use the existing system of logging trucks supplying the plant--part of the extended economy which will fail once the paper plant closes.  But this bright idea had (at least) one huge flaw--a decent-sized wood chip plant requires fewer than 50 employees.  It would do little or nothing to help the unemployment in the town.

But a school...yes, tradesmen with perhaps little more than a high school education wouldn't be doing such things as teaching.  And any college, as a start-up, would be small enough that the total number of jobs might be only one or two hundred.  But the students themselves would bring an economy.  They would need places to live, they'd need food, they'd want entertainment.  A school, even a small school, could revitalize the economy.

Many superb diarists at this site have chronicled the slow and outrageous demise of American education, at the primary, secondary, and university levels.  Assault by private interests has decimated what was once the world's finest educational system.  One college cannot change all of this, but I think it's possible to make a beginning, even a modest beginning, at genuinely educating people to help them improve their own lives, and the lives of people around them.  I mean the opposite of the online for-profit scam schools, which are designed to take advantage of their students.  I mean a real college, whose philanthropy is its teaching.

I'm an ancient lit wonk. My wife is homeschooling our now 4-year-old daughter, and soon to join her will be the 2-year-old son.  I look forward to reading Vergil and Homer with them when they're teens.  My kids will learn the classics and I'd like something like that at any school I help to found.  The University of Maine at Orono has a fine school of oceanography, as does the nearby University of New Hampshire.  Orono also features an excellent school of forestry (as you'd expect in Maine).  So what could a tiny start-up school offer as a distinctive discipline, when surrounded by such world-renowned departments?  Well, my father spent a few years as VP admin at another start-up school in New Hampshire, Belknap College.  And they had a good little meteorology program. (Boston Channel 5 meteorologist Bill Hovey graduated from Belknap. According to my mother, Bill coined the phrase "We woke up to six inches of partly cloudy on the ground.")  I'd like a school to contribute scientists able to participate in worldwide exchange of ideas. (And this meteorology program would not live in denial of climate change as so many meteorologists do.)

These are a few somewhat organized ideas I have on how to make a start at improving education in the area where I live, while also helping out the local economy.  I'm looking into ways to make this happen.  If anyone has any interest, or ideas to contribute, I'll be very happy to start a discussion.  Maybe Daily Kos could have its own college?

Originally posted to agramante on Fri Mar 07, 2014 at 07:04 PM PST.

Also republished by DAILY KOS UNIVERSITY and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tags are comma separated. (4+ / 0-)
  •  Sounds like an interesting idea (5+ / 0-)

    keep us informed.

  •  I've had the same kind of idea... (7+ / 0-)

    ...driving through dying small towns in rural Georgia.

    The state of Georgia is expanding its already-large state colleges. And I understand that a large size allows a greater variety of classes, all in one place. But I'm thinking the internet would allow small colleges in remote rural areas to offer a huge variety of classes, which probably would be no more impersonal than a 150-person class at a big school. Then the students could take smaller classes for their upper-level courses.

    Take a look at Columbus, GA, a city of about 100,000. Columbus State's main campus is in the suburbs, but CSU put their performing arts program in the old downtown a few years ago. It's been GREAT for downtown, and the students seem to like it, too.

    "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

    by HeyMikey on Fri Mar 07, 2014 at 07:48:43 PM PST

    •  Yeah, Urban Renewals Have Happened That Way... (5+ / 0-)

      About twenty years ago, a school in Boston known for it broadcast and performing arts programs, Emerson, bought a decaying old theater on the margins of the former Combat Zone and turned it into the college's new performance center.  As far as I know it's been pretty much a success.

      These days it's almost irresponsible not to consider internet access to classes, even if the school has a brick-and-mortar presence.  My feeling is to shy away from the internet format, however, because it reminds me too much of Phoenix and similar scams, and it reduces or eliminates the town revitalization.  Besides, a liberal arts vet like me believes that you don't learn online nearly like you do when surrounded physically by people. And if physical sciences are to be an emphasis of the program, as I'd intend, then the internet format simply won't work.  I'll need lab space.

      So what kind of curriculum have you considered?

      •  I haven't thought that deeply about it. (0+ / 0-)

        Just dreaming in the car while driving through small towns in the rural south.

        "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

        by HeyMikey on Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 09:57:56 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  a good idea (6+ / 0-)

    Dailly Kos University was here before I joined the GOS and I only kept the name alive when DK4 went live in case folks wanted to continue it.

    Frankly there's a lot of knowledge and professorial experience in DK and DK could be a good platform for an MOOC, an LMS or a partnership with a progressive on-ground institution, although if you know about New England colleges, there are a lot of shoestring operations, especially the ones trying to keep their non-profit status.

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013 (@eState4Column5).

    by annieli on Fri Mar 07, 2014 at 08:08:07 PM PST

    •  Thanks. (6+ / 0-)

      Good tips like this are exactly what I'm hoping for. I'm really in the very-beginnings-of-the-idea stage, unsure of exactly where or how to begin, other than my own daydream.  I'm a vet of one of those small New England liberal arts schools.  I was too young to know what my father did at the startup Belknap College, and besides, that was forty years ago. Times have changed a little.

      •  start with the (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        belinda ridgewood, PeterHug, weck

        Chronicle of Philanthropy, perhaps as well as all those horror stories of failed colleges in the Comical of Higher Education

        Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013 (@eState4Column5).

        by annieli on Fri Mar 07, 2014 at 08:15:49 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  you should talk to these folks (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lujane, belinda ridgewood, PeterHug, weck
        The University College at Rumford/Mexico is a learning center part of the University of Maine system. University College delivers courses and programs through a variety of modalities, including the traditional classroom, interactive television (ITV), video conferencing, online, and blended classes that use a variety of these modalities.

        Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013 (@eState4Column5).

        by annieli on Fri Mar 07, 2014 at 08:32:12 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Market failure... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tarkangi, weck, JamieG from Md, Odysseus

    I keep on wanting to do math...

    Too many universities charge students what works out to $1,000/class to attend, put 20 students in the class, then farm the instruction to adjuncts of TAs who get paid at most $5,000 to teach the class (with $1700 - $4300 being more common).  Where does the other $15,000 go?  

    Where I work, average class size is 20, tuition and state subsidy work out to $550/class (total $11,000) and the instructor gets at most $4,500.  Where do the other $6,500 go?  

    It's as if the supply of colleges and universities is kept deliberately small by accreditation agencies, but outside the main agencies diploma mills and scams seem to predominate.  

    "Politics should be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage." -- Lucille Ball

    by Yamaneko2 on Fri Mar 07, 2014 at 10:05:48 PM PST

    •  Let's look at how these agencies operate (6+ / 0-)

      If they are restricting supply. The number of unenployed PhD's I know indicates they are. We can point that out, if they have a pattern of varying laxity and strict adhereance in order to control the number of eligible colleges, point that out.

      They are only screwing us because we let them.

      •  Court will soon look at two lawsuits challenging (6+ / 0-)
        City College of San Francisco ... revocation decision by the western regional branch of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges.
        claiming that
        the commission violated the state's Unfair Competition Law by evaluating the college with unfair, biased or illegal procedures.

        Among other claims, the lawsuits allege the commission was prejudiced against the college's mission of "open access" to the public and that two evaluation teams lacked adequate representation by professors. They contend Commission President Barbara Beno engaged in a conflict of interest by appointing her husband to one of the teams.

      •  This seems appropriate (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        annieli, orestes1963, tobendaro

        to be honest, I can't tell you how many 'college graduates' I run into who have skills and understanding of basic education that just baffle me.  

        A college degree does mean something to me, but let's be honest, even many 'real' universities are quickly turning into diploma mills.

        Gandhi's Seven Sins: Wealth without work; Pleasure without conscience; Knowledge without character; Commerce without morality; Science without humanity; Worship without sacrifice; Politics without principle

        by Chris Reeves on Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 07:09:28 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Do you think the ones I would engage (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          fall into that category?

        •  What's the video BTW (0+ / 0-)

          I can't figure out my phone settings. Pages keep saying my java is off but my settings say on.

          •  Final scene from the movie 'Accepted' (0+ / 0-)

            It's cute.. unrealistic, but funny.   If you want to see a VERY young (and horribly overweight) Jonah Hill, that's the one.

            Gandhi's Seven Sins: Wealth without work; Pleasure without conscience; Knowledge without character; Commerce without morality; Science without humanity; Worship without sacrifice; Politics without principle

            by Chris Reeves on Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 09:12:11 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  Well, I Can't Find Online Text... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          ...because the copyright is too recent, and Piers Anthony is clearly still making too much money off of it.  But one of the stories in his superb collection of shorts, "Anthonology", is titled "University".  He writes that it was inspired by his attempt to gain admission to the University of Miami (as I recall). And being Anthony, it's as hilarious as you would expect.

          On a more serious note, I'm a veteran of both wasted (parents paid, majored in Greek and Latin)  and useful (student loans, night school, physical sciences toward my oceanography grad school admission) college educations.  Obviously the majority of the degree's worth is a matter of the student's effort.

          That said, for-profit, borderline fraudulent diploma mills have become the favored child in the education industry today (it chilled me to read Rick Perry refer to health care and education as "businesses" that the government should get out of). Of course a school needs to mind its dollars and break even.  But maximizing profit for shareholders is the opposite of a school's purpose, and leads to the same shortfalls in schooling that it does in the insurance industry.

          That's why in my prospective school I want to avoid online fora, and focus on the students' physical presence.  That's critical for physical sciences.  Being together in an actual group improves the learning process (like being together with friends beats chatrooms and facebook). And there's my ulterior motive of helping revitalize a dying town (and unless I'm putting a corporate campus there, that ain't gonna happen with an online gig).

    •  Well, there is (0+ / 0-)

      overhead to running a school.  You have to pay for the building itself (mortgage payments), utilities, maintenance expenses including a person to clean and fix stuff. You have to pay for the infrastructure of the college, too: staff to support the faculty and run the business side of the house; durable goods like furniture and computers; and "intangible" things like the specialized software systems colleges use for student records and course management.  Staff and any full-time faculty will probably get benefits in addition to salaries.  Depending on how the contracts are worded, the school might have to pay FICA for the part-timers as well.  Specialized classrooms and equipment like those used in the physical and biological sciences cost more than regular classrooms.  Some of the training mannequins used in undergraduate Nursing programs cost upwards of $100K.  Each.  And you generally need several of them per program.

      "Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom." -- G.W.Carver

      by northbronx on Mon Mar 10, 2014 at 03:08:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I wonder what a Daily Kos curriculum (7+ / 0-)

    would look like. Real economics, for one thing, including the economics and politics of income inequality in the US and around the world.

    I would suggest an emphasis on Open Educational Resources under Creative Commons licenses, with incentives for faculty to write them on every subject they know and make them universally available.

    I write OER textbooks and software manuals myself as part of a global anti-poverty program, One Laptop Per Child, and have friends working on the college and university-level parts. I would be delighted to work on this with you.

    Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

    by Mokurai on Fri Mar 07, 2014 at 10:56:57 PM PST

  •  we need to create new colleges (5+ / 0-)

    because the best educated professors are retiring, often in disgust with the commodification of american higher education.

    how will we fund them?

    with retired professors who themselves are poorish but who still have a lot to give.

    the entire model needs to fall down.

    but frankly, i can't get stuck in super cold Maine because of my health.

    put me on your list of people interested.

    we might be able to set up medieval institutions where students pay what the faculty member seems worth with no hope of a certified degree.

    we would need to teach real world skills like how to analyze our economic choices as individuals and locale, state and federal government.

    if we don't create these colleges, we will lose the accumulated knowledge of several generations of academics who are no passing on their skills because to do so would be to downgrade undergrads who demand As no matter what.

    •  I was Thinking... (6+ / 0-)

      ...of asking Richard Branson for money, and offering to name it Virgin College.

       (joking of course.)

      Though not entirely. I would like to keep this college private--that doesn't mean price it way the heck out of people's reach, not at all--but I'd rather not become part of the much larger UMaine system, where I and anyone else working on it would lose most (or all) control of the development of the school itself.  So if it's private, it needs a private endowment...which means, yes, asking some very rich philanthropists for start-up money. That's just the way it goes.

      My own alma mater, Dartmouth, was named by its founder, Eleazar Wheelock, after one Lord Dartmouth, in hopes of getting the guy to give money. He didn't--he gave money instead to the Foundling Hospital in London.  So much for naming rights.

  •  This is such an intriguing idea to me. (5+ / 0-)

    Partner and I are both former educators, I have business and marketing and GED background and his experience is in the trades.  We have talked about moving to Maine, possibly within the next 10 years.  

    He admires the small schools that teach unique woodworking skills in a short timeframe, like "build a canoe" or joinery.  

    If you go in the direction of the trades with your idea, please keep us in the loop!

    If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever. &

    by weck on Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 06:49:57 AM PST

    •  You bet! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      One thing I'd be doing as I refine the concept is trying to get input from people around here about what kind of trade-level education would be useful in a new school.  Ideally I'd like the school to not only contribute intellectuals capable of dealing with some of the biggest issues facing us today, but also contribute professionals able to move right into the surrounding community and improve people's lives.

      Maybe those two goals are too mutually opposed; I don't know.  But it's something I have in mind as part of the mission.  (I mean, Dartmouth was ostensibly founded to minister to the native Americans...and aside from admitting a couple, I really don't know how hard anyone there ever tried. It pretty much remained a school for the well-moneyed prep boys.)

  •  Love your idea to use existing sites (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    weck, scomber, orestes1963, Alden, tobendaro

    in once-great small towns.

    There are no VocTec schools north of Concord, NH and i am sure this is true of rural Maine.

    We need to shore up the lost skills that cannot be outsourced- welding, machining, electrical engineering, plumbing, auto mechanics- solid blue collar skills that provide a good living.

    How about combining these homely skills with a liberal arts curriculum in a new type of college.

    Every student would graduate with a solid skill and an enhanced world view.

    'How like fish we are: ready, nay, eager, to seize upon whatever new thing.......And how we rue our haste, finding the gilded morsel to contain a hook". ALDO LEOPOLD - A Sand County Almanac

    by flowerfarmer on Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 06:56:25 AM PST

    •  Weck, we posted at the same time :>} (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      It is time for a new vision.

      'How like fish we are: ready, nay, eager, to seize upon whatever new thing.......And how we rue our haste, finding the gilded morsel to contain a hook". ALDO LEOPOLD - A Sand County Almanac

      by flowerfarmer on Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 06:58:01 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  By the way, i am on board (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        annieli, weck, tobendaro

        to teach organic farming/ sustainable agriculture.

        Beekeeping, boat building and Chaucer....what a world we could create!

        'How like fish we are: ready, nay, eager, to seize upon whatever new thing.......And how we rue our haste, finding the gilded morsel to contain a hook". ALDO LEOPOLD - A Sand County Almanac

        by flowerfarmer on Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 07:19:51 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I Love All Of This. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          tobendaro, flowerfarmer

          I think that a small new school would have to be modest--not too many programs, focus on being really good at one or two things--but the philosophy I absolutely agree with.  But I don't want the school to be limited to voc/tech.  I want cutting-edge science there too.  Like I said above...maybe too much to ask.  But that's the idea I'm starting with.

  •  Why stay in College? Why go to night school? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Will it be different this time?

    As someone who's officially overeducated, I don't understand why we feel that sending everyone to college is a good idea.  What is college for?  To teach us to actually think and write?  And then what?  Find a corporate job to chew us up and spit us out?

    I hear people say that we must have higher education in order to compete in the global marketplace.  Oh yeah?  Why would we want to compete in the global marketplace?  China competes in the global marketplace and have you seen their air?  The future lies in re-localization.

    The reason to start a school is because you have something that needs to be taught, not because you have some empty buildings.  Assuming a long economic decline based on resource depletion and the buffeting of climate change, what needs to be taught?  Is bringing students to a remote spot in the Maine woods the most effective way to teach these things?

    If you're going to do it, I'd say teach the Trivium and Quadrivium, or maybe just start a classics reading program, in the original languages.  The advantage of the place is how disconnected it is.  Capitalize on that.  Throw in a residence program that teaches basic life skills:  Gardening, wildcrafting, practical mechanical and building skills, food storage and cooking, sewing, knitting, shoe making, and other domestic arts.  Make it a place where the mill kids can learn things that will improve their lives and self-sufficiency.  Balance the ivory tower classics with the reality of rural Maine.

    •  Why Education (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      weck, Alden

      As a scientist, who has contributed to advances that have made The  World a better place because of His Brain, and in No Way denigrating the contributions All The Others who have contributed:

      I think it would be wicked awesome to live in a world where everyone went to college, except for the 7% who do the productive jobs upon which our civilization depends: providing that those 7% are exhalted as princes of labor, and paid accordingly.

      o caminho d'ouro, uma pinga de mel: Parati

      by tarkangi on Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 08:11:14 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes but... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tarkangi, Alden

        Education is achieved through many different contexts.  I think everyone should get as much education as they're comfortable with, and then maybe just a little more that they're uncomfortable with.  It should be broad in places and deep in others.

        College is only one way to get it, and the primary thing you pay for at a college is a diploma.  Otherwise you could do four years of self directed reading from a standard syllabus, plus personal enrichment exercises and self study quizes, and call it good enough.  You could organize  A system of on line students' guild discussions to round it out.  It would be much cheaper.  

        One of the reasons I'm a little down on college is that I don't know how most students will ever pay back their student loans.  Sure, college can be fascinating and fun, but is it worth being in debt for the rest of your life?  In this economic time, you can't assume that your career prospects will be good enough to justify the expense in the long run.  The only alternative I see is a pay-as-you-go situation, and keeping expenses way down.  If that takes the form of college, fine.  If that takes another form, that's also fine.

        •  Self-directed learning (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          is generally not effective, particularly at the age of 18.  There is a huge difference between reading and quizzing oneself and engaging in debate/discussion about a subject matter.  Although I would agree that far too many schools are diploma mills (particularly with the increased antagonism between instructor and student over grades, etc.  But I have always believed the greatest educational value is in learning to read, write, and think critically.  With those skills, one can accomplish anything.  

        •  We are of course in complete agreement (0+ / 0-)

          I posited my dream world as a delightful fantasy because there are (count count count) about twenty people like me on Earth who would enjoy organizing the global economy to my taste.

          Tuition is a scandal.   Fees are a scandal.  Top heavy administration is a scandal.  The PhD lottery is a scandal.

          Things that can't go on forever won't go on forever, and if we do not smarten up NOW we are going to lose our world class system of higher education.

          o caminho d'ouro, uma pinga de mel: Parati

          by tarkangi on Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 01:01:40 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  that is a nice part of Maine (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I go to the Norway area a lot to train at the Celebration Barn in South Paris.

    there is a community of circus artists, mimes, and physical comedians in the area.

    if you went liberal arts, you could prob. find a dance and theatre dept just from nearby residents.

    i'll see if I can check out the town next time I'm there, which I am every few months or so.

    great idea!

    and graduates could brag they were educated in "Europe".

    •  Heck, You Might Know Some of Our Friends. (0+ / 0-)

      Big in the arts community, husband and wife, of the Dubois clan. (We're going to see a concert in a couple of hours together, actually.)  And yes...I have no doubt there's a lot of local talent to supply a drama, performance and music department.

  •  I would Love to Build a College (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annieli, Alden

    For decades I have joked with mis companheros that a college needs a professor of English and a professor of Chemistry: from that foundation, all can be taught.

    What we need to make this work is the understanding that a college is its faculty.  Proven smart people teaching other people how to be smart.  Administration could help the smart people be smarter, but that stops when it becomes an end in itself.

    So fire up a place where the faculty can eat decently, and sleep in the comfort of something approaching an undergraduate dorm, with no fears about that looming retirement, and sign me up!  I am currently disputating with a master from 1127: any help with giving the conversation forward would be roundly appreciated.

    And my Dad in Law worked in the Rumford paper mills, between that and Georgia.  Thanks for the context - I had thought that the greatest falls east of Niagara were in Cohoes, once the Saudi Arabia of water power.

    o caminho d'ouro, uma pinga de mel: Parati

    by tarkangi on Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 07:40:32 AM PST

    •  I Would Say... (0+ / 0-)

      English (or perhaps Latin) and physics.  But I think our ideas are close enough.  ;)

      I'll say this for Rumford: there's a lot of available space.  Said father-in-law bought a house for about five grand last year and flipped it for twenty.  There are neighborhoods of places like that--it's not unlike Detroit that way.  The town still smells of paper manufacture, a definite turn-off while the plant is running.  And there is a lot of poverty there.  

      But the bones of a grand town are still there, plain to see, and if this school were to really succeed, in a couple of decades it might start to have a real impact on the general downtown.  I would love for that to happen.

      I grew up in Moultonboro, New Hampshire, near Lake Winnipesaukee.  A few miles north of us was the town of Ashland, on the Pemigewasset River.  Ashland is another faded-glory town, where textile and wood mills on the river were the basis of a booming economy through much of the 20th century.  By the time I was in high school, not so.  We'd play Ashland in JV basketball (they had no varsity), knowing it was an easy win.  The school was tiny and they had little talent.  

      But while we were laughing amongst ourselves on the way to another 55-25 win, I'd look up at the rafters and see the state championship banners in basketball, from 1955, 56, 57, 58, 59...they had a Celtics-like run of dominance in the 50's and 60's.  Then the economy moved on.  

      While I was in college, I heard that Ashland lost their high school and was absorbed into, I think, the Plymouth district.  The town fought like crazy but the state refused every appeal.  Smaller than Rumford but another similar circumstance.

  •  Three comments (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annieli, orestes1963, Alden

    1) The wood chip idea is sound. One of the mistakes we made in our rural community when we lost our factory was attempting to replace all the jobs at once. It proved very difficult. We now have a few small businesses that have started and are helping to pick up the economy. 50 jobs might not seem like a lot but that is 50 people who would be working.

    2) The college idea is also sound. Tie it to the local economy if possible. Perhaps start small and hire a small staff. If things go well then the school could grow. Provide 50 jobs at a small college and another 50 at a wood chip factory and that's a good start.

    3) The demise of public education has been vastly overstated. It is a manufactured crisis IMO designed to privatize education and break unions.

    A proud member of the Professional Left since 1967.

    by slatsg on Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 08:49:01 AM PST

    •  Thanks. (0+ / 0-)

      Mind if I ask what town you're referring to?

      •  It's a small rural town in north central Michigan (0+ / 0-)

        We were hit hard by the recession in 1980 and again by the the 2008 disaster.

        Our factory closed in the first recession. One of my former students started a wood pellet plant and another has upgraded a machine shop and also makes archery equipment. We also had a physical therapy clinic open. OTOH, Walgreens bought out our drug store and closed it down.

        Things are getting slightly better but it is a slow process. FWIW the taxable value of our home went up this year after declining the last three.

        A proud member of the Professional Left since 1967.

        by slatsg on Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 08:46:21 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I think any plan (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    would have to focus on meeting a local need first, which might mean focusing on nontraditional students instead of 18-22 year olds.  For nontrad students, I think that a Dewey-style program (learn by doing) would be useful.  There are skills that are no longer taught in the schools- arts, shop, home ec, etc.- that are both useful skills and that provide an opportunity for learning the sciences and arts.  I think there is likely a significant group of people looking to learn, but not in the traditional classroom (for monetary and time commitment reasons).  So, a class in some form of woodshop, for example, would include introductory physics, algebra, and geometry, the principles upon things function.  Once they're hooked on the learning process itself (I think many people hunger for knowledge but don't know where to get it outside of the traditional college; this could explain the popularity of history and home improvement shows), they could move on to more advanced subject matters.  

    Another possible hook would be to try to develop an arts program that would bring tourists, particularly during the summer months.  So, a summer theater season and art classes could bring people to town, thereby helping in the revitalization as well.  I don't know the area, so I have no idea how feasible this would be, but if you could get something like that off the ground, you might be able to carve out a niche here.

    This discussion reminds me of the alternative education movement that was so big in the 60's- schools without walls, no grading systems, focus on the arts, etc.

    •  You Know... (0+ / 0-)

      ...that's an amazingly good idea, especially in light of one of the above commenters--consistent with what I know of the area--saying that there's a lot of native talent to run that kind of program.

  •  great idea (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    however colleges are very hard to start up. There is one in the city I work in that started up about 10 years ago and is struggling. you'd have to decide if you're going to be public or private. Private (like Patrick Henry) enables you to be free of federal requirements if you want, but then your students have to either be really wealthy or you'll have to have a hefty endowment.

    You'd also have to deal with competition. There are almost 3,000 colleges and universities in the US. What would make your school stand out?

    Dawkins is to atheism as Rand is to personal responsibility. uid 52583 lol

    by terrypinder on Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 11:20:48 AM PST

    •  Yup, Right On. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Can't disagree with a word you wrote.  Right now, I'm thinking private, to be free of said state and federal regulations.  So lots of private donations will be essential (hence my Branson-Virgin College joke in a comment above--a reflection of reality).

      On your second thought, yes, yes, yes! The school must be good at one, or at most two, things.  Like, be a top-notch voc/tech school in one or two (woodworking, organic farming?) programs.  And I'd like to have a good cutting-edge science program, or at least something legitimately intellectual (since I'm a proud egghead and all).  Resource economics, or meteorology...something that, should the school succeed and begin gaining a reputation, people would think, "If you go to Virgin College (heh) and major in (resource economics, say), you're getting a good degree."

      •  i think that's great but (0+ / 0-)

        some of those fields are overstuffed. meteorology is one of them. Media isn't hiring or for everyone. NOAA just lifted its decade long hiring freeze but they at minimum require a master's now. those awesome computer models we all love? they are why the meteorological technician no longer exists. my great uncle was one.

        the voc/tech programs are more where it's at. we'll always need plumbers, and someone's gotta repair the sewer systems, for example. i shoulda been an electrician.

        Dawkins is to atheism as Rand is to personal responsibility. uid 52583 lol

        by terrypinder on Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 06:16:13 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Even private schools are regulated (0+ / 0-)

        I work for a Large Private University.  We're regulated up one end and down the other by the state and the feds.  The state department of education has to approve all of our degree-granting programs: we have to prove to them that we're teaching what we say we're teaching, to their satisfaction.  And they have guidelines about everything down to how credit hours are calculated and what we can even call courses.  State guidelines will also govern many trade and technical programs, if the goal is to train students to the level of being a state-certified [fill in the blank].  Federal regulations govern our ability to offer financial aid to students, and the baseline for this is accreditation: if you're not accredited, you can't offer federally-guaranteed student loans.  Your students are at the mercy of the private loan market.  Basically, without accreditation a degree from your institution will be worthless to your students, because no state agency will issue a license to a grad of a non-accredited school, and no accredited school will give them transfer credits.

        "Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom." -- G.W.Carver

        by northbronx on Mon Mar 10, 2014 at 03:26:13 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  And why, pray, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    wouldn't "...tradesmen with perhaps little more than a high school education... be doing such things as teaching..."?

    I'm a longtime veteran of a university admissions office, and academically, maybe 25% of the kids I admitted belong in a university.  The rest need a craft, a trade, a skill, not the college education their parents steer them towards.  They'll scrape through, maybe, but what then?

    I think universities should be steering resources towards trades/crafts teaching, awarding vocational diplomas that have a scale of equivalence to academic studies.  The UK does this with some success.  These departments could operate alongside chemistry and history, just the way craft/skill programs like nursing and PT do now - programs that started vocationally, but were embellished to fit into a university curriculum.

    "Republicans are poor losers and worse winners." - My grandmother, sometime in the early 1960s

    by escapee on Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 01:18:01 PM PST

    •  Yes, You're Right. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I have a bad habit of coming across as a real snob.  My oldest sister Lisa could spend hours going into more detail on this.  It's a bad failing I have, especially in my writing.

      My only point is that I'd like to have a strong intellectual program--something scientific (even a social science like economics) to pair with the trade/voc-tech aspect.  I hope it's not too awkward a pairing for a start-up school to try to pull off both.  I guess it comes down to how much money I can scare up.

      But none of my glibness should detract from your very sound point. A good voc/tech component to the school might actually enable it to survive in this part of Maine.

  •  University Without Walls (0+ / 0-)

    You might want to look at the old University Without Walls models from the 70's.  The idea of creating a community of learners (and teachers), with the resources available now via the net, could be a powerful base for your dream college.  

    "The world is too dangerous for anything but truth and too small for anything but love." ~William Sloan Coffin

    by samoashark on Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 07:31:27 PM PST

  •  I'd start small and focus on basics (0+ / 0-)

    A  2 year Community College offering math, writing, literature, history, physics, chemistry and several arts strands like drawing, ceramics, theater, music. Maybe some voc ed like woodshop or construction.

    Avoid ideological entanglements until the school gets off the ground. A Daily Kos University sounds like a great idea until you try it and wind up with a tiny target market.

    It might even be possible to start it up as an extension program, offering a catalog of short non-credit classes at night and on weekends.

    "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

    by Orinoco on Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 09:45:39 PM PST

    •  Well... (0+ / 0-)

      ...I was partly joking about the Daily Kos University--that name would be instantly polarizing. But I want a school which teaches liberal arts and unflinchingly teaches science--no dumbed-down right-wing versions.

  •  Ideas from a Disgruntled Educator (0+ / 0-)

    This is an inspiring idea.  I'm not really sure if I'd have anything to contribute, but as a fairly rootless young educator I might be able to contribute something in some way at some point in the future.

    I'm not really sure if any single institution, on its own, could do all that much to address the rot at the core of American higher education.  I'm not sure if any institution would be allowed to function if it did not partake of that same rot.  But I suppose it's worth thinking about.

    The things I think that any new institution would need to address first and foremost are the structure and function of the faculty position, and the relationship between faculty research expectations, grant expectations, and teaching expectations.

    It seems that full-time, teaching-oriented faculty positions are a vanishing rarity in the modern academic world, and that's a serious problem for everyone.  It's not for lack of potential faculty, lord knows, but of a perverse structure of incentives and institutional expectations that push teaching and student interaction to the very bottom.

    `Under my command, every mission is a suicide mission.`

    by Zwackus on Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 11:58:11 PM PST

  •  Competition for Academic Elitist (0+ / 0-)

    We are failing as a nation because we are pricing the majority out of advanced education. Building a college or colleges from "scratch" will be a most exciting endeavor and a less cumbersome one than trying to reconstruct the Administration's and progressive educational architects' vision of what 21st century education should encompass in these blockades of established and entrenched institutions of higher learning.
    ( I have some serious disagreements with Duncan's secondary ed. initiatives)

    Let Duke University, and other types, continue to charge $60,000 per year but, draw away the students who will be our backbone and doers by constructing curricula that is an organic approach that connects research students to applied science, to technician, to the hands on implementer, to the budding small business major who could pick from this reservoir or network of budding expertise to start up a business and hire students who     are being instructed to build run and maintain the apparatus associated with a defined  particular business or service. Create the businesses right there in the same neighborhood  of the New College.

    Higher Education should be free like secondary education and both should receive a large chunk out of the current budget for defense.    

  •  What about a prep school that really (0+ / 0-)

    emphasized the classics?  Return to the liberal arts.

    The fruits of the toil of millions are boldly stolen to build up colossal fortunes for a few, unprecedented in the history of mankind; and the possessors of those, in turn, despise the republic and endanger liberty. - Omaha Platform, 1892

    by Rikon Snow on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 08:04:37 AM PDT

    •  I'm Biased Toward (0+ / 0-)

      A college-level environment.  Besides, there are some really, really good private/prep schools around here.  Gould in Bethel, Bridgton Academy, Fryeburg Academy.  Even Hebron, a cut below them, is pretty good.  And they're all within 40 miles.

      •  Makes sense then to focus on the college. (nt) (0+ / 0-)

        The fruits of the toil of millions are boldly stolen to build up colossal fortunes for a few, unprecedented in the history of mankind; and the possessors of those, in turn, despise the republic and endanger liberty. - Omaha Platform, 1892

        by Rikon Snow on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 08:45:38 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Late in coming to this diary (0+ / 0-)

    But I very much like the idea.

    Perhaps a curricula very intentionally modeled after a traditional liberal arts education, but with dashes of science, technology, and even engineering on this side.

    A place for the person looking for the kind of broad education too hard to find these days.

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