MOnOpoly CapitaliSm and Invasive Species
And teaching jobs in the academy of the future with its hundred thousand students per course? An expanding industry, right? Forget about it. If you are one of the preternaturally lucky people, you will still vault into a job teaching well-prepared (if privileged) students at one of the ten or twelve surviving institutes of higher education that may be allowed to continue. For the rest, MOOCs have all the biome-destroying capacity of a Walmart (there go the mom-and-pop markets), an Amazon (there go the bookstores, new and used, and the record stores), of kudzu and crabgrass. Why, in the minds of the specialists in efficiency (we do so love efficiency in this country), should there be more than one Edu-Store? Why should there be more than one course on Homer? If it’s different from Professor Nagy’s course, people will reason, it must be either worse, or better. What are the others charging? No one can compete with Nagy on the likely combination of low price and high reputation, and the MOOC companies have enough venture capital to last them the years it will take to eliminate the competition, as Amazon went through years without a profit, all the while steadily grinding down the traditional bookstores with shallower pockets. The idea that it is a good thing for there to be thousands of classrooms in which people approach the texts in their hundreds of thousands of different ways, not passively receiving the prerecorded standard course (no matter how good that is, and I’m willing to believe Greg Nagy’s is as good as they come), seems to have eluded us.
From a printculture piece on MOOCs last month. I like this bit, too, about student debt:
A figure I’ve seen bandied about in these sometimes heated discussions is $26,000: the average debt level of the college graduate today. People ask, why should they take on such levels of debt to obtain a degree that may not help them get a job? To put things into perspective, the average buyer of a new car pays $30,500, much of it in the form of medium-term financing, for an object that starts to lose value the moment it’s driven off the lot and needs periodic repair. But I don’t hear anyone screaming for car dealerships to be replaced with driving RPGs.