Clay Shirky observed at the Awl last week that he and I disagree over whether the trend toward MOOCs in higher education is reversible—he says no, and he says that I say yes—and I suppose he’s right, so far as that goes. But I don’t think that goes very far.There were a few cheap shots about “teamsters in tweed” that were worth noting. A lazy trope that depends on the belief that unions are essentially illegitimate, selfish, and retrograde, it’s a sly dig that lets him insinuate without directly asserting that anti-MOOC academics are self-interested and conservative luddites, that we are somehow positioning our own self-interest in opposition to the deep public spirit of Silicon Valley. It also passes along the insinuation that academics are powerfully unionized, which is far from the truth; as Jonathan Rees points out, would that we were more like teamsters.
But I’d just like to note the cheapness of that critique before moving on: as if self-interest is some unique academic perversion, as if Shirky himself lacks bread and a knowledge of which side it is buttered on, and—most importantly—as if the drive to make money off of students isn’t the only reason Silicon Valley is getting on the MOOC bandwagon. Because, of course, this was my original critique of Shirky’s language of “we educators”: he rhetorically inhabits that position in order to pooh-pooh its legitimacy as an opinion. He signs up for team education in order to run up the white flag on our behalf. Thanks, but, please, no thanks.
Via Ana Cristina Pratas