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Planned obsolescence

I want to make my job obsolete.  I mean, I love teaching.  I want to be a math teacher for the rest of my life (and also do math research, I kind of balk when people ask whether I want a teaching position or a research position--to me, they go hand in hand).  But I also think that our university system is antiquated and needs to be not just reformed but completely deposed and replaced with learning of the future.

It is no longer the case that information is hard to come by.  It is no longer the case that only a handful of people in the world understand calculus or Newtonian laws of motion.  It is no longer the case that numbers seem mystical with magic properties (ok, yes, there are those crazy numerologists, but I mean the general public).  One does not need to pay thousands of dollars of tuition in order to learn the basics of biology or astronomy.

I very much approve of all of the online learning resources that I have come across, particularly the free ones.  The Khan Academy is a brilliant resource for students to learn all kinds of things.  I recommend it to anyone looking to learn but not able to attend a school, or unwilling to pay the ridiculous tuition.  I am a big fan of all of the Wikimedia projects, and have made significant contributions to some of them, such as the Wikiversity class about Topology.  My advisor uses many different online learning resources, and we have been able to conference when he was out of town and still have a common writing pad that we could use to write down the math that we were talking about.  It was great.

I really think that what a person knows is far more important that what degrees ey has.  That learning something is more important than a generic certificate indicating that a certain curriculum has been completed.

The process of peer review is a process which should not be taken lightly.  It is a great boon to academia and the pursuit of knowledge.  One person may claim anything ey likes, but having someone with equivalent background in the field who looks over the work to determine its validity is crucial in verifying to ensure the work is beneficial and accurate.  This is probably one of the biggest things keeping academia going--that is, keeping the establishment of universities and professors.  I am so happy to see that even this process is becoming less proprietary and more "open".  I refer to the endeavor to establish a peer review network in connection with the preprint database arXiv.

The main problem that I have with scholarly journals is their exorbitant price.  They charge high subscription rates, under the (I believe false) idea that the information is valuable because it has been done by people who are experts in their own fields, having studied years about the subjects they write about.  Now, I don't wish to undervalue the amount of effort that goes into becoming an expert in a field.  I have been studying mathematics exclusively for several years now, and I still don't consider myself to be an expert in anything.  But, I also don't think that information should be so expensive.  In fact, I think it should be free.  I don't have any issue with any work that I write being made available to the general public for free.  (I know that virtually no one in the general public would be interested in any of my research, but if anyone is, I think they should have free access to it.)

I have been asked to peer review two scholarly papers thus far.  I was actually surprised to get these requests, since I still do not have my PhD.  However, I was honored to be asked and I gladly complied.  This was a service offered freely, as I believe is customary.  I don't feel a need to be paid for my opinion on someone else's work, nor do I believe I should be.  If I were to write an article and publish it, I would not make money from the publication, nor do I believe I should.  I also do not believe that the publisher should be profiting from printing the journal.

I will work as a professor of mathematics for as long as the job exists, which may well be the remainder of my lifetime.  But I will do what I can to make the position no longer necessary.  I will help in and encourage projects such as those I have mentioned, and others.  I will be active in online communities aimed at spreading mathematical knowledge.  I encourage people to learn things online as much as possible.  It would make me very happy to see student debt eradicated by a more practical approach to higher education which does not involve charging students vast amounts in tuition.  I enjoy teaching math not because I get paid to do it and not because I enjoy all of the prestige and glory (which doesn't really exist anyway, aside from the letters I get to add to the end of my name).  I do it because I think that education makes the world a better place, because I think that my students will go on to do great things with their lives, and it may well be that something I taught them will help them make a brighter future.  Yes, I like being paid to teach.  And I need the money.  But I imagine an egalitarian society where money is no longer a matter of concern and every member of the society simply contributes what ey has to contribute to improve the welfare of the whole.

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