By Ian Bogost
"One night recently, it was raining hard as I drove to pick my son up from an evening class at the Atlanta Ballet. Like many cities, Atlanta's roads are in terrible condition after years of neglect. Lane divider paint is so worn as to become invisible in the wet darkness, potholes litter the pavement. But this time the danger was magnified: on large stretches of Interstates 75 and 85, two major freeways that intersect the city, the streetlights were completely extinguished.
"There are ways to fix such dangers. One option would involve allocating public funds to repair and revitalize the infrastructure in question. Of course, such services are difficult in an era of reduced tax revenues and massive public resistance to financial support of infrastructural projects in the first place. So another option might involve hiring private companies -- not to repair the broken roads and streetlamps, but to provide separate paved surfaces and illumination services to those who might choose to drive in conditions of wetness and/or darkness. After all, we're living in an age when traversable roads have become fiscally unviable. What choice do we have?
"Such is essentially the logic the state of California has adopted in its plan to offer online classes in the California State University System, a deal the state has struck with "massively open online course" (MOOC) provider Udacity.
The startup, which has received more than $15 million in funding from Silicon Valley venture capitalists, will provide online classes in remedial and introductory subjects for students at San Jose State University (SJSU), in exchange for an undisclosed sum from the state.
"In essence, San Jose State will be allocating funds that would have otherwise been distributed to the school from state coffers or student tuition or both and routing it to a for-profit company for outsourced teaching services. SJSU's provost struck the deal because of a "crisis" in which, according to The New York Times, more than half of the school's entering students lack basic knowledge in subjects like elementary math and English."