Friday, August 11, 2006

National Databases, or You May Say That I'm a Dreamer

I am usually a states' rights kinda guy, but I ran across this interesting article in the New York Times dealing with a recent report approved by the Commission on the Future of Higher Education.  The report discusses what the Commission thinks "institutions of higher education" should be doing to improve how themselves.  An intriguing idea toward the bottom of the article suggests:
develop[ing] a national database to follow individual students’ progress as
a way of holding colleges accountable for students’ success.
As a states'-righter, I generally oppose national databases like this, but I think it might be a good idea in the fields of higher education and health administration.  If you're like me and recently applied to grad school, you've gone through the trouble of obtaining transcripts from all the colleges you've previously attended.  All of us have sat in a doctor's office trying to remember whether anybody in our family has had pneumonia and when it was.  How easy would it be if there were a database dedicated to keeping track of that information for you?

Of course, this is a trade-off between convenience and privacy.  It also represents more evolution toward Big Brother, so the idea would have to be refined in order to protect freedom and privacy.  But imagine the possibilities!

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