Wednesday, March 13, 2013

This is about digital capitalism, not digital democracy


This is not about digital democracy. It is about digital capitalism.  I woke up this morning to my usual New York Times and was astounded to read that my state senator, Darrell Steinberg, is proposing a bill to require the CSU, UC, and community colleges to grand credit to massive on-line courses, known as MOOCs.  Senator Steinberg is working with former Senator Dean Florez who is financed to promote such arrangements ( usually known as lobbying).
They claim that this is a response to lack of courses in the universities.   Note. This is not about offering more educational opportunities.  It is about making money for private corporations.
There is much to be said about this direction.  Future posts will develop several ideas in detail.  But, let us begin.
This move is a part of a much larger assault on public education including the massive expansion of Charter Schools.  See the post below by Stan Karp.  The state- ie. Senator Steinberg, creates a problem by underfunding the universities and colleges, and then offers a technological alternative-  one that will make certain corporations such as Pearson’s  very wealthy at state tax payers  expense.
This run at public education by offering what claims to be open education is primarily a corporate run for public funds- similar to the mass expansion of the Univ. of Phoenix and other for profit schools that get up to 80% of their funds from taxpayers while giving great profits to their owners and poor service to their students.  (See the Harkin committee report of the U.S. Senate). http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/browse/committeecong.action?collection=CPRT&committee=health&chamber=senate&congressplus=112&ycord=0
Steinberg’s proposal will enrich the well connected with state funds while not adequately funding the state universities and colleges.

This drive to substitute technology for instruction is well funded and poorly understood.  Professor Mark Brown of CSU Sacramento says,
“But the notion that MOOCs are the solution to our alleged pedagogical malaise is not only insulting, it also amounts to a naive techno-fix that distracts from more fundamental obstacles to improved pedagogy. As in an earlier column on this subject, Friedman says nothing about the massive defunding of public higher education, the replacement of tenure-track positions with second-class contingent faculty appointments, or the economic burdens on many students that require them to work long hours at low-paying jobs, thus having less time for study.”
An introduction to these important topics can be found in Robert W. McChesney’s, Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism is Turning the Internet Against Democracy. 2013.  At present the Democracy and Education Institute in Sacramento is conducting an assessment of this policy direction and its implications for democracy and education.  Much more to come on this topic.

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