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The Manufactured Crisis in Higher Education: Part 2013, MOOCs

May 15, 2013

Everyone should read this essay by Aaron Bady. It’s the best I’ve seen on the recent history, present state, and deeper issues associated with MOOCs. Bady has fast become the best critic of the trend since the “MOOC Moment” emerged. Now that I’ve read his essay, let me summarize an important aspect of it for you—in four easy steps:

(1) Conservatives manufacture a crisis in public higher education by criticizing its perceived liberality (bias!) and also claim austerity (!) to underfund the same.
(2) Friends of conservatives, the corporations, step in to offer brass alternative (MOOC) as “free” without telling consumers that it is only free *for now* (because the “gift” is given by a for-profit corporation). Claim freedom of choice and access. Who could deny those noble ends?
(3) Siphon students away from gold-stand traditional higher edu to brass for an unnamed period of time (let’s say 3-5 years).
(4) At the end of that discount period, raise the price to reflect true cost, and pocket profit for Wall Street/Silicon Valley/Hedgefund Manager.

Results (intended and otherwise): The gold standard is destroyed and undermined (i.e. traditional in-person, real-life, conversational higher education). The corporation has sold a brass ring to aspiring college students who never understood that 75 percent of the cultural capital gained in college is via person-to-person connections and the name of the school on your diploma. Meritocracy and the common good have been further eroded in the name of profits and, ironically, equality as access.

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