Online education is doomed

Nicholas Carr, my favorite writer on technology, has just written a deep article on post-secondary education’s blossoming movement to go digital, free, and ultra-convenient through the Internet — and how the magic of the classroom may be lost in the process.

Personally, I consider the school system to be the greatest evil in our civilization, while I believe the Internet to be one of our greatest goods.  The idea of remodeling school to take advantage of the wonders of the web couldn’t be more exciting to me — if it wasn’t for the inevitability of its failure on every meaningful level.  Carr focuses on the restrictive nature of programming code and the Internet, which are incapable of simulating the organic, “ineffable” spirit of the classroom, where professors often guide students towards unexpected conclusions and discussions are free to take any number of detours along the path to enlightenment.  My own skepticism has nothing to do with the supposed magic of the classroom, and everything to do with the fundamental nature of the “education system” itself.

You see, when it comes to technological pitfalls, nobody is sharper than Carr, but when it comes to education, the man to listen to is John Taylor Gatto.  What he has discovered — through decades of award-winning teaching in some of the worst neighborhoods in America — is that the “education system” is actually just a “school system”.

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Nicholas Carr on the permanence of digital

Nicholas Carr and Hideo KojimaI found this interesting.  Fans of Metal Gear Solid 2 know that the game comments on the permanence of digital information, portraying traditional culture as fragile and transient, and digital culture as a swelling “flood” of eternally accessible garbage.  Physical records conform to the idea of evolution and natural selection, he suggests.  But yesterday, respected technology prophet and bestselling author Nicholas Carr flipped this idea on its head by suggesting that it’s actually old, physical culture that remains accessible, and digital information that becomes swept away in a stream of technological change…

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