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For me, what pisses me off most about MOOCs is the rhetoric. They're basically devaluing future reform by claiming it's here now... but this isn't education reform, nor is it even new. The novelty is in scale.

It doesn't surprise me that most people don't recognize this. Most people haven't actually thought through the nature of what they seek to replace. They've grown up on broken education--content delivery--so they think that broken education's problem is simply one of scaling the delivery system. They've grown up in a country where education is a minimal priority financially, so they think that the solution to its problems is economic.

Those of us who have been fighting for education reform since before Salman Khan are watching this and seeing the opportunities we worked so hard to wedge open slip away. Instead of breaking the classroom-as-church-sermon paradigm, MOOCs have enforced it with an iron fist. Instead of creating legitimate ways of evaluating student progress, MOOCs have doubled down on the worst methods of doing so. Instead of helping us recognize that education is not just a funnel for the job market, MOOCs have emphasized it as its only real purpose. This is anti-reform. It's like saying you're fixing Big Brother by installing more cameras and wiretaps.

Does it have a benefit? Absolutely. A lot of the technologies and methods being developed by MOOCs are things we could use if we actually had real reform. Khan is trying, in his own way, to do that; that's why he's working on a brick-and-mortar school.

It also has an interesting risk. The liberal arts of universities have been a refuge for political dissidents in developed, educated countries. They provide a decent level of security from which loud criticisms can be made. Arguably, the blogosphere has obsoleted such agitators, but what if it hasn't? How do we account for this in an age of MOOCs?




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