How One College Uses Crypto, and why it’s genius
WE all know the story: University education basically forces students into massive debt especially in the USA, Canada, the UK and Ireland. There’s a logic behind this debt-education trend, of course, a logic that to some was so ominous that philosophers and intellectuals back in 2013 felt they had to create a different model for education altogether. The model they created took Karl Marx’s 11th Thesis on Feuerbach pretty damn seriously.
“Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.”
GCAS College Dublin is by no means your average college, far from it. Just look at their founding faculty, which includes some world renowned philosophers and artists (Jean-Luc Nancy, Bracha Ettinger, Lewis Gordon, Tere Vadén among others) and their affiliates include folks like Alain Badiou, Luce Irigaray, Chris Hedges, Oliver Stone, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Jack Halberstam, and Slavoj Zizek who have all lectured for GCAS. In other words, they’re damn serious.
They have a PhD programme, in Social and Political Thought, which includes some serious researchers who hail from BAs and MAs programmes in Ivy League schools such as Columbia University, the London School of Economics and other similar schools. It’s hard to get accepted into GCAS College as the acceptance rate is 10.52%.
They’re launching new BA, MA and PhD programmes this coming fall, 2019. They have an E-School that’s pushing the boundaries of education. Indeed from the beginning they created the first school that brought together leading philosophers with anyone in the world with an Internet connection on their platform. They organized a conference that has become legendary: “Democracy Rising” in Athens in July, 2015 that was covered by The Nation Magazine, the Real News Network and Greek national television.
But is such a thing even possible? There were many who were skeptical about this model: debt-free (5,000€/ year tuition), “Ivy League” level quality, online and in person seminars seems impossible especially because every student received financial aid of some kind. As if this wasn’t enough, they are committed to including students who are outside the “American-European” zone. Their incoming PhD cohort has PhD students from China, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Pakistan and the USA.
On top of that they have opened or are launching new centres all over the world in such places as Santiago, Sydney, an organic farm in France, and Santa Barbara.
In the higher education world dominated by forced student-debt, and compromising policies surrounding academic freedom, that is essentially, let’s be honest, a for-profit “corporation” GCAS College, by contrast looks to the eyes of a serious thinker like an oasis in the neoliberal desert wasteland.
But how are they doing it? BACK to MARX’s 11th Thesis….
“It’s the economy, stupid” was a slogan made famous in Bill Clinton’s run for US president in ’92.
What if philosophy, or more basically, the act-of-thinking (and doing research and teaching) was the mode-of-production of a college itself? This question in short is the eco-system through which GCAS College reproduces itself.
In two ways:
First, students at GCAS College pay low “debt-free” tuition once accepted. When they graduate their tuition funds are converted into ownership shares (Yes, you heard that correctly). Yes, graduates don’t just receive a degree, they become owners of the college itself with the faculty and staff, and they literally have an investment (ownership shares) in their pocket. GCAS College Dublin, is a limited co-owned company. The genius of this is they just inverted the mode-of-production education paradigm. So, instead of the college forcing students into debt, they open the door for that student to one day become an owner so that instead of debt and banks awaiting them at the college gates after the graduation ceremony, they are welcomed into a life-long community where they receive a stock certificate not a bill from a bank.
Now that’s simply Genius!
As if that weren’t enough…. The second way GCAS College does it is through their own Crypto-economy based around their token called “GCA$¥”. I know, I get it. Crypto currencies have taken a hit lately with all the “pump and dump” scams, and a lot of cryptos have largely been premised on an ideology of hyper-libertarianism, as Corin Faife has pointed out. Crypto is like a decentralized neoliberalism (scary right?).
Just like they inverted the current neoliberal education paradigm as explain above, GCAS College’s crypto also took a radically different angle from the “Bitcoin” approach. They partnered with the Economic Space Agency co-founded by Dr. Tere Vadén who is on GCAS College’s faculty and Board of Governors. With this partnership, they put together a crypto-economy in which students, faculty, or community members (there are over 150 core community members at present) can help with operational tasks (marketing, teaching, filing forms, running the eschool, answering phone calls, doing the financials etc.) and, in exchange they receive GCA$¥ tokens. These tokens don’t have any value to them, actually, except for using them to pay down tuition. In other words, not only is the tuition already super low in cost, but now a student can help with operations and pay even less tuition. Another stroke of genius!
As for faculty, and other members of the community who are not students, there are plans in place to internally “value-ize” GCA$¥ tokens in the future through other means. For example, when a professor or student writes a book or an article they receive GCA$¥ tokens. When they give a talk anywhere in the world, they get GCA$¥ tokens.
In fact, GCAS College created a journal, The GCAS Review, that may be the first peer-reviewed journal in academia that gives authors crypto tokens.
In these ways, GCAS College actually unites thinking with action in a way that turns thinking, teaching, writing, and speaking into it’s own mode of production. Just think what this can do for academic freedom when resources don’t come from foundations, the state, or corporations but come internal to the college itself.
In this way, GCAS College is by far the most innovative economy in education to date. Marx would be proud. Welcome to a new world.