The All Too Visible Hand of the Market

The technological transformation of education has wide-ranging political implications. Blended learning may not eliminate the need for classroom instructors, but it will reduce the numbers required. Over time, the reduction will significantly reduce the amount of dues raised by teachers unions—and therefore the influence of one of the most liberal constituencies within the Democrat Party. It will also reduce the manpower available at election time to canvass neighborhoods, cover phone banks and drive people to the voting booth in support of left-leaning candidates.

The Hidden Revolution in Online Learning,” Lewis M. Andrews

We talk about the economy as if it were a force of nature, without any intention or direction or purpose. Jobs are “outsourced” or moved overseas and so on. In fact, the industries most impacted by these processes are by no coincidence the same industries– steel, automobiles particularly– that were most unionized. The Reagan revolution fought unions at the root: it dismantled entire industries sending everything to places where labor is cheaper.

This had horrific effects ranging from driving down wages and productivity and quality of life in the U.S. to weakening national security to the growing deficit. That was simply the price to be paid for increasing profits; capital has no morality or ethics. You can see the same sort of dynamic in the current debate over austerity: if it has any impact on the wealth of their masters the Republican right is willing to risk everything. Power is all.

The last bastion of the unionized economy is the public sector, especially the schools, which have long been under attack by the charter movement. Here, too, if the entire sector has to be dismantled to maximize profits and destroy unions, so be it. The crude economic motivations of these folks are rarely discussed as openly as Mr. Andrews does in this piece. Here we see the outlines of how online education will serve the right’s cause.

Arguably, the process is well under way in higher education, on both ideological and more practical fronts. The right is perhaps best served by a kind of ideological naiveté which believes that the liberatory potentials of online education outweigh its political import. The dismantling of higher education is well underway, too, with about 70% of the faculty now part-time adjuncts. As Andrews hints, the industry is ripe for the picking.

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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