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I am a Lord Jeff of course:

Yet Burgard is not alone in his concerns. Last month, when Amherst College turned down an invitation to join edX, it was by a faculty vote of more than sixty per cent. A lot of teachers, some of whom had been browsing Harvard moocs, worried that they threatened to centralize higher education to an uncomfortable degree, and that their giant scale clashed with Amherst’s small-class style. A single mooc could exceed the number of alumni, dead and living, that Amherst has seen in two centuries.

“I was surprised at the outcome,” David W. Wills, a professor of religious history at Amherst, told me. “It seemed to come down the road as something that was going to happen.” Wills started out being open to moocs, he said. But the more he heard the more his concerns grew, and none of edX’s representatives seemed able to address them. “One of the edX people said, ‘This is being sponsored by Harvard and M.I.T. They wouldn’t do anything to harm higher education!’ What came to my mind was some cautious financial analysts saying, about some of the financial instruments that were being rolled out in the late nineties or early two-thousands, ‘This is risky stuff, isn’t it?’ And being told, ‘Goldman Sachs is doing it; Lehman Brothers is doing it.’ ” The language he heard from edX, he said, was the rhetoric of tech innovation—seemingly to the exclusion of anything else—and he worried about academia falling under hierarchical thrall to a few star professors. “It’s like higher education has discovered the megachurch,” he told me.

He and others worried about what this might do to smaller preachers. “I have to say, it turned my stomach to think that we were going to be making decisions about other people’s jobs in a discussion to which they were not party,” Adam Sitze, a member of the department of law, jurisprudence, and social thought at Amherst, told me. “Some very brilliant people are at institutions that are not wealthy.” In a meeting, one of Sitze’s colleagues, the political theorist Thomas L. Dumm, described the conveyance of moocs to weaker universities as “eating our seed corn.”

It’s entirely hilarious that a fantastically enamored group of central planning navel gazers are defending themselves against the march of online education by appealing to the problems of centralization. By the way, the workers in the typewriter factors did not have a say when Bill Gates was tinkering in his garage.

2 Responses to “Good Enough for Thee But Not for Me”

  1. Harry says:

    The guilds are alive.

    Indeed there are some great courses out there, but I wonder about whether the soft environmental courses from Berkeley are worth wasting time on.

  2. Harry says:

    I think it took around $3000 a year for room and tuition and five days of food for a really expensive education, and I am embarrassed by not being able to say exactly how much it cost my parents to the nearest $100. I do remember thinking that each class cost as much as a ticket to a box seat at the Met. This was in the days when most professors thought themselves as professionals like real doctors, as opposed to laborers belonging to a union. Tenure meant you could not be fired for holding any view, which then encouraged professors to be tolerant of everything, including something that was not Marxist doctrine, despite a clear progressive bias.

    One of my professors (who was a Lord Jeff) started out at my college, and became a dean. He got corrupted with PC, and I could not believe how this man with whom I had discussed broad philosophical ideas freely had changed. When it got time to send my daughter to college, I did not try at all to recommend my alma mater, which I think was a shadow of the place I went to, reading the alumni magazine.

    But they have no trouble filling the place up, charging twenty times what it cost my parents for me. I bet, though, that they may be mindful of the competitive threat of online education, not just the Monica.

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