Friday, February 07, 2014

The Revenge of Aristotle....

My Good Friend and Longtime Collaborator Jon Haber has completed a bachelor's degree in philosophy in just one year entirely thru the agency of MOOCs, Massive On Line Courses...literally a college education you can download. Herein he details some of his adventures for Slate.Com. MOOCs are very controversial to be sure, there is a high drop out rate, and the nature of the final degree, the proverbial sheepskin is ambiguous to say the least. But that is what intrigues me to say the least. Much of education today, is merely training to enact a series of economic relationships, much of the palaver about education at the level of legislation is intimately linked a malign notion that a "good education" ends with "a good job". In effect education policy has been corrupted by the entirely dubious notion that "a good education" is a nice painless way to redistribute income that all the political factions can back sans demure. But MOOCs, maybe maybe might be a way around that whole edifice...restore scholarship to it's throne, or at least give the scholar in training some new some ways the ala carte aspect of MOOCs reminds me of medieval universities where squads of students simply rented professors to deliver lectures. The formless nature of the ultimate degree is also what point do you stop? At what point are you certified, indeed what is the point to a terminal degree save to provide a vital datapoint on one's resume? THAT to me is the subversive part of MOOCs, the degree datapoint could well end up completely decoupled from any purely vocational context. Well, that would be my hope anyway...likely Veblen's "Regression to the Mean" will take hold and the whole thing will become one more overhyped "vocational training opportunity". Seems a shame...because all this is a marvelous opportunity for everyone out there who wants to study astronomy, gothic architecture and or German Expressionism divorced once and for all from market considerations in a "safe space" so to speak. At the very least the extremly competitive cost factor (Haber collected his "degree" for almost nothing), rebalances the cost of education scales very nicely in a era that may well be facing a "tuition bubble". I am FOR almost anything that adds to the arsenal of today's budding scholar, anything that gives him or her better faster or cheaper access to Real Learning, is aces high in my books. Anyhow, Jon Haber has struck a blow, a philosophy degree in one short year....think about that, choosing your classes with complete freedom and pursuing pure academic excellence from a pure love of knowledge, truly Aristotle would be proud.

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