I remember a year or so ago when our small town Post Office installed a self-service kiosk. I refused to use it, even just to buy stamps. When I told a postal worker that I much prefer waiting to buy the stamps from her personally, she quipped that the kiosk had already resulted in a planned phase-out of her job. Today I received a CD disk from stamps.com encouraging me to forgo the Post Office altogether and do all my stamp and package dealings online (even though the Post Office is only a 3 minute walk from my home).
For some time now all of our local supermarkets have self check-outs (no human mess!). And, of course I gave up long ago picking up movies at the local video shop. As I walk along our quaint Main Street here in Keene, NH I see scores of ways to reduce or eliminate jobs: Buy your art supplies online, use Zappos rather than Ted's in town for running shoes (Ted, by the way, is an expert in fitting shoes for athletes), get your fleece from Patagonia's cool website (complete with the latest new age music offerings).
And now we see the efficiency police have arrived at Education's doorstep: Eliminate full-time faculty and force them to teach online for unscrupulous degree mills that pay a fraction of the typical rate for courses, use email to discuss students life and career goals rather than "F2F" meetings in an office, post comments on Discussion Boards using online courseware rather than exchanging ideas in a classroom.
A self-disclosure moment: I myself am a techie-type who uses Twitter and blogging in the classroom, is interested in use of online methods in teaching, invites speakers to class using Skype, and so on.
But, is it not reasonable to pause...to "unplug" from this way of thinking for just a moment and recognize that our iPhones and courseware and online technology do have a downside for real people who need real jobs? I'm not suggesting we go back to entering grades by hand, or cease purchasing clothes online, but instead am arguing that some "line in the sand" should be drawn. So, here's a couple of ideas that may actually save tens of thousands of jobs:
1. Don't buy in to the "Don't go to the Post Office" and throw the retro AOL-type disk the Post Office is sending you in the trash. Buy your stamps from the clerk who may be a Vet or your neighbor or just a person who needs that job.
2. Don't use the auto check-out at your supermarket. And, don't make yourself crazy trying to pick the shortest line...do the opposite: Pick the longest line and view the waiting time as a "welcomed opportunity" to resolve a personal issue, consider a philosophical problem, or simply take notice of your surrounds.
3. Don't get a degree from disreputable online degree mills that make empty promises of the high paying jobs that await you after you go deeply in debt making their private investors rich.
4. Don't bus your table at a fast food restaurant. Let these chains bring back the employees whose job it was to keep the place clean.
Finally, if you don't agree with what I have to say, please don't call me...just post a comment on my blog or tweet your comment on my Twitter!