By Matthew Yglesias
If you dislike annoying techno-utopian hype, you’re going to love Jonathan Rees’ anti-MOOC rant that Slate recently published. And I think it’s fair to say that Rees raises a number of very legitimate concerns that MOOC-timists are giving short shrift to the benefits of in-person education. At the same time, as Jonathan Chait points out a lot, of Rees’ piece also seems to consist of naked appeals to the class interests of college professors. There are some interesting dynamics around this because academia has long been a stronghold of left-wing political ideas, and many people have savored the irony that you’re more likely to hear the case for socialism from a professor or a graduate student than from an actual member of the working class. But there was a very recent interesting N+1 article making the case that the growing precarity of university labor means that it now does make sense to explicitly construct left-wing politics as the class politics of professors and intellectuals.
My own feelings about the MOOC boom are always complicated by the lack of a reliable way of measuring the state of the conventional wisdom. I sometimes feel like “everybody knows” that MOOCs are going to completely revolutionize higher education and create a new utopian horizon and they’re actually ignoring some very basic problems. Other times I feel like “everyone knows” that the only real answer to the college affordability crisis is a massive increase in direct government subsidies, and they’re actually ignoring the very real potential of technology to create a productivity boom in this field.
[ Full article available at Slate: http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2013/07/26/mooc_wars_and_the_golden_age_of_journalism.html ]