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”.