Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

MOOC as Right-Wing Plot?

with one comment

Salon goes there.

After some reflection, it’s become clear to me that there is a crucial difference in how the Internet’s remaking of higher education is qualitatively different than what we’ve seen with recorded music and newspapers. There’s a political context to the transformation. Higher education is in crisis because costs are rising at the same time that public funding support is falling. That decline in public support is no accident. Conservatives don’t like big government and they don’t like taxes, and increasingly, they don’t even like the entire way that the humanities are taught in the United States.

It’s absolutely no accident that in Texas, Florida and Wisconsin, three of the most conservative governors in the country are leading the push to incorporate MOOCs in university curricula. And it seems well worth asking whether the apostles of disruption who have been warning academics that everything is about to change have paid enough attention to how the intersection of politics and MOOCs is affecting the speed and intensity of that change. Imagine if Napster had had the backing of the Heritage Foundation and House Republicans? It’s hard enough to survive chaotic disruption when it is a pure consequence of technological change. But when technological change suits the purposes of enemies looking to put a knife in your back, it’s almost impossible.

One Response

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  1. Yeah, this is what I mean by “the house of cards the American Academy has become” in my previous comment. It’s similar to the 401K fiasco — on one front, defund social security and public employee pensions and yell about how they’re bankrupting the country, while pushing people to purchase inferior, risky personal finance products; on the other front, defund higher ed institutions and yell about how they’re not meeting the needs of a modern workforce, while pushing people to purchase inferior, risky personal education products.

    Alex Chaffee (@alexch)

    February 22, 2013 at 9:21 am


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