Catherine Liu was kind enough to invite me to ruminate on for-profit higher education at UC-Irvine this week. I joined my twitter friend, Aaron Bady, in a free-wheeling discussion of MOOCs and for-profit higher education.
I often find it difficult to convince those in “real” colleges that they are in dialogue with for-profit higher education. After all, they’re not “our kind of students“. This juxtaposition of MOOCs and for-profits is the first time I think this has worked particularly well. As I said at the lecture, we get to MOOCs by way of the lessons venture capitalists have learned from for-profits’ uneven success in penetrating the real currency of higher education: prestige. As the founder of 2tor has been rumored to have said, they can’t build prestige so they’ll just borrow it from existing institutions.
I also took this opportunity to talk about something I do not often have a chance to discuss with social scientists; namely, how we cannot wall off inequality. The many issues we’re facing today are not naturally occurring phenomenon. They are the consequences of deliberate policy decisions that exacerbated inequality in K-12 with the foolish belief that poverty and its ill effects can be controlled. There is not a wall high enough or wide enough to protect us from the decisions we would make for other people’s children. Higher education’s issues are economic issues — a vastly unequal economy with stagnated wages and collapsing internal labor markets — and K-12 issues — residential segregation, tracking, and unequal funding. We thought we could send our kids to good schools and never have to reckon with how they benefit from someone else’s inability to attend those good schools.
I also remembered how important sharing space with brilliant people is to one’s own intellectual development. By the end of the first hour of engagement, I had furthered my thinking about the transformation of education from that of a social process — with legitimacy and authority residing in the institution — and the MOOCification/profitization process of transforming the individual into the education authority. That is, after all, the ultimate ends of a market, yes? Individual rational actors negotiating with organizations for needs and wants.
Hello MOOCs and for-profits.
See the whole talk here:
And see a response to the talk from a remarkable undergraduate who was in attendance.
And, as always, feel free to comment and share.