May 15, 2018

By Gonzalo López Martí  - Creative director, etc. /

In the first two installments of this meandering essay* I compared higher education to organized religion: the latter is bleeding credibility and relevance following a quite similar path to the former.

Mostly due to two factors:

  1. Technology: which allows mortals to cut the middleman and become pretty accomplished autodidacts, the same way the printing press allowed laymen & laywomen to read and interpret the Bible sans the filter of priests.
  2. Cost: at some point or other, both higher education and organized religion hiked their prices to unbearable levels, literally and figuratively.

Let’s put it this way: university as an institution needs to fix a lot of things in its “business model” to remain relevant.

  • At times it seems that university top brass and faculty are overly devoted to raising money and being tenured whilst relaxing educational standards in the process.
  • For instance, there’s been a quite some disgruntlement around the issue of Chinese students who can barely speak or write English getting extremely deferential treatment from faculty at Ivy League institutions.
  • Because?
  • Because they pay retail.
  • And don’t get me started about sports.
  • March madness.
  • College football.
  • I know, it is invaluable marketing and advertising.
  • It is an American tradition.
  • But the price some colleges are paying in the form of highly embarrassing public scandals with its athletes seems a bit too high.
  • Plus, lots kids live under intense pressure from their parents to excel at sports with the ulterior motive of getting a scholarship.
  • Seems like cheating at solitary to me.
  • See, I was a “college professor” once.
  • I did stint as an “instructor” at the Miami Ad School for a few semesters (to use their own verbiage).
  • My take after the experience: there are driven, committed, hard-working &/or talented kids that will succeed in life whether they go to college or not and there are other who will fail regardless.
  • Anecdote: during one of the course I had a few bad apples whom I wanted to get rid of.
  • They were a bad influence over the other kids.
  • I spoke with the school’s authorities and offered to give them good grades in exchange for their skipping my classes.
  • The response: don’t make waves, just ignore them, these kids pay a hefty tuition to be here, we cannot afford to alienate them, let alone kick them out.
  • Anyhoo.
  • The Miami Ad School has a clever business model though.
  • They are a de facto creative boutique.
  • They pitch their services to clients big and small: for a quite competitive fee they will put dozens and dozens of students to work on a brief and present dozens & dozens of ideas to clients.
  • An advertising mill.
  • Mainstream agencies should look over their shoulder.
  • The go-to source where they harvest their creative talent is angling to eat their lunch.
  • Mind you, I’m not criticizing the Ad School.
  • Madison Avenue deserves to be torpedoed on its floatation line.

Coming up next week: have college campuses become daycare for brittle post-adolescents with existential tedium?

*Part 1:

Part 2:



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