Economist: Expect big changes in education

Photo courtesy of Century College
Economist Dr. Arnold Kling told an Century College audience recently that individualized education supported by technology and affirmed by credentialing agencies will revolutionize the current higher education system.

WHITE BEAR LAKE — Individualized education supported by technology and affirmed by credentialing agencies will eventually revolutionize the current system of higher education, economist Dr. Arnold Kling predicted at a recent Century College lecture.

Kling, who earned his PhD in economics from MIT and is the author of five books, said the most effective educational process requires students to keep asking questions. Technology such as “miracle tablets” with software that adapts to a student’s needs and moods would enable this scenario.

“If a person can’t think of good questions to ask, I do not want them working for me,” said Kling. “You have got to show a love of curiosity.”

Currently, he said, earning a college degree shows employers that you have cognitive ability, you are able to conform to organizational expectations and you have the drive to finish what you start.

But Kling said feeding more people into a higher education system with low completion rates and a high level of graduates working in jobs that don’t require a college degree is not the right solution and too expensive. Kling told his audience of about 200 people that we need separate credentialing services that will verify a student’s ability regardless of where or when a student took a set of courses. He predicted that alternative certification with adaptive textbooks will make a significant difference in education. Massive online courses, such as those currently available for free from MIT and Stanford, are not the answer, he said.

Kling advised students that it will be increasingly important to go into a field that requires some amount of creativity and social skills as opposed to jobs that are routine and automated.

“The world belongs to the self-motivated learner,” said Kling.

In addition to teaching at both the K-12 and college level, Kling was an economist on the staff of the Federal Reserve Board from 1980 to 1986. From 1986 to 1994, he held a number of positions at Freddie Mac. He is also a prolific blogger. On the topic of big banks, Kling told his Century audience that both Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae should be broken up.

“They should not exist,” he said. “It is unlikely that that will happen. The large banks are too symbiotic with the government.”

About the growing national debt, Kling said, “It would be nice if it just stopped growing compared to GNP (Gross National Product). We are in unprecedented times in terms of the inability of the US to get control of its budget. I do worry about inflation.”

Over the next 10 years, he expects inflation to be much higher than the 2.4 percent predicted by others.

Looking ahead 30 years, Kling said he thinks it will be less and less of an advantage to be someone born in the United States. In the future, he said, the differences between countries relative to economic opportunity will be reduced while the differences within countries will grow.

Kling’s appearance was part of the Century College Speaker Series, which brings national speakers to campus several times a year and invites the community to attend free of charge.