The Intergalactic Poontang and Klingon University

Common Sense Takes Academia by Surprise

When Willy Jack Fergweiler of Bluefield, West Virginia founded the Intergalactic Galactic Pooontang and Klingon University, which came to be called simply Poon U., no one paid attention. Willy Jack was eighteen years old, and had just graduated from Bluefield Senior High. Bluefield had not hitherto been a hotbed of technological revolution. This was about to change.

By a rare confluence of recessive genes, Willy Bill had a measured IQ of 193. He loved computers, and wanted to go to Stanford in computer science. But Stanford charged tuition way beyond Willy Jack’s resources, even when he worked weekends chopping cord wood. When the Admissions Committee saw “193″ next to “West Virginia,” they took it for a misprint and trashed the application.

Willy Jack began thinking. Since you could do everything on line (except that), and since it made him mad that schools discriminated against the impoverished, even when they worked weekends cutting cord word, he decided he would put them out of business. It just seemed like the right thing to do.

Twenty years earlier, the idea would have been ridiculous. A kid with an IQ of 193, however, could avail himself of the distributed cognitive stratification made possible by the internet. The web made everywhere the same place. Which meant accessible to anyone with a server. He had one.

Among his many email contacts from Santa Clara to New York was Heinrick “Smoked” Salamon, a professor emeritus who had taught Medieval French Literature at Harvard. Salamon, something of a maverick, was known around the Ivy League as just “Fish.” Willy Jack Skyped him and broached his idea: Put a university on a server in Bluefield and shut down the brick-and-mortar schools. Such as Harvard.

They pow-wowed. College cost way too much, agreed Salamon, which created a market for a cheaper approach. (Being a geek, Willy Jack spoke of the “slope of the swindle gradient.”) Fish further noted that the quality of education on most campuses was abysmal. This included Harvard, which had gone multiculti, touchy-feely, and addicted to Victims’ Studies. Fish was, in a word, pissed.

Fish in particular knew the scam. Students, having been told that a college education was essential to their futures, went into lifelong debt-slavery to pay outrageous expenses at allegedly reputable universities, where they found classes of 250 being taught over a PA system in an auditorium by third-rate graduate assistants and adjunct professors. They also had to listen to endless droning about rape cultures and the oppression of left-handed lesbian Guatemalans. It was a rip.

This accentuated the swindle gradient. The universities, the conspirators agreed, were ripe to fall from the tree.

Fish had reservations, though. He thought “Intergalactic Poontang and Klingon University” didn’t sound solemn enough. Neither did listing Darth Vader as founder, which Willy Jack wanted to do.

Willy Jack, who after all was male and eighteen, replied, “Yeah, but don’t we need name recognition? Who can remember things like Northern Iowa State? But… Poontang U.?”

Fish had to concede the point. Poon U. it was.

The conspirators set to work. Willy Jack, a techy wizard, would provide the software, and Salamon, the content.

Fish called other retired profs, most of whom were sick of what had been done to their beloved universities. Weary of having to give high grades to diversity that could barely read in courses the renegades regarded as idiotic, they were ready to revolt. They flocked, electronically, to Poon U.

Fish bought a camcorder and wireless microphone and they began recording the lectures they had given at MIT, Yale, Harvard, and so on. Meanwhile Willy Jack had written a program that turned a large-screen tv into a virtual classroom. It was easy coding. The prof could see all the students, and they could see him. He could click on a student who had a question, and the questioner would appear on everyone’s screen. It was just like a real class.

Fish then called the president of a struggling liberal-arts school in Pasadena, Coastal Community College.

He said, “Here’s the deal. You offer our courses on line for credit. The kids watch the lectures and then the discussion part our profs do from home on WillyJacknet. We call it Ivy on the Cheap. It’ll attract students. When we have enough courses, you can offer a degree at a quarter of the cost. The universities will scream like gutted banshees, but what can they do? You’re accredited. You can’t lose.”

“But what about our professors now, if the kids study with you?”

“Pension them off. I hear Starbucks is hiring. You can’t make omelets without breaking eggs,” said Fish practically. “Once we get this thing rolling, you won’t need a physical university, just the server. Sell the campus and pocket the take. Pay off the profs. What’s not to like?”

The idea took off. The universities duly screamed, which did no good. Then Willy Jack, by now something of a student of higher education, said, “This is fun. Let’s eliminate law schools too.”

“Won’t work,“ said Fish. “You can’t take the bar exam if you didn’t finish law school.”

“Gotta be a way,” said Willy Jack, who knew not of law schools.

There was a way, though it took Fish a couple of weeks to come up with it. They would have their own bar exam, twice as difficult as the real one. Employers would learn of this and take Poon grads seriously. They would hire them as law clerks, pay them as lawyers, and have a bar-licensed hack who would sign off on the work as his own.

“Geez,” said Willy Jack, who having the 193 IQ favored the smart, whom he saw as an oppressed class, as they were forced to go to stupid schools. “Why make them go to classes at all? Smart dudes can, you know, like just do the lectures and read the books. Professors aren’t really good for anything, except to make you do your homework.”

Willy Jack was becoming insightful.

The final shovel of dirt on the coffin were the Intergalactic Record Exams. The absolute hell-borne wake-up-screaming nightmare of the universities was that employers might start hiring by what students knew instead of where they had spent four years drinking beer. Willy Jack began coding like an obsessive-compulsive with Asberger’s, which in fact he was, this being the key to software development. He later estimated that he had consumed 580 packs of Cheetos and thirteen cases of Jolt Cola during the effort, which lasted three weeks. The Renegade Professors fed him questions. The result was a multi-disciplinary, intensive, unholy bear of a test. If an eleven-year-old passed it, as several proceeded to do, they clearly had a university education.

After Microsoft agreed to accept scores instead of degrees, the dam broke. The rest is history. Fourteen years later, thousands of professors were on food stamps, along with diversity counselors, featherbedding administrators, and football staffs. Traditional universities had been replaced by a roomful of servers in a former garden-implements factory in Bluefield, now the home of WillyJacknet. Harvard itself, with its huge endowment, had sold the buildings and reconstituted itself as the Greater Boston Hedge Fund.

Willy Jack anf Fish Salomon smiled like Cheshire cats.

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Book of the Week: Go Down Together, an actually factual (!), unglamorized, well-written, well-researched and, to me anyway, fasincating portrait of Bonie and Clyde, who they were, who they were not, and the times they lived in. Should be required reading in sociology classes.

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