Common Sense, 2, Private Property 1

Freely available open course material could save college students in Washington state $1.2 million this year: The Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges introduced one of the country’s largest open textbook programs Oct. 31, bringing low-cost class material to 81 college courses with the highest enrollments in the state (“Students, professors laud $30 textbooks“).

One of the most interesting things about our interesting times is that certain fully naturalized ideas, for example, about private property, are changing.  Even ten years ago the textbook system, which cost students millions each year and fuel some of the worse excess of the academic star system, seemed as inevitable as the ocean.  It’s happening far too slowly, but the recession seems to be facilitating change.

What’s so amazing is that this is such a long, slow process, even though it can transform textbook costs from a burden of thousands of dollars each year to a manageable  tens of dollars. The electronic, open-source textbooks are more easily updated and often more engaging to students. You’d think that cheap and more effective would be irresistible, but common sense struggles against the inertia of habitual profit and greed.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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