“In the United States, students don’t get their money’s worth.” — Peter Thiel “You can’t think of another industry where a list of top 10 providers is perfectly correlated to what it was in 1960.” Larry Summers, former Harvard President “We’re at 2.4 million students now. The biggest lesson I’ve learned on this is I underestimated the amount of impact this would have around the world.” Daphne Koller, founder of Coursera “We manage this transition very carefully. How can MIT charge $50,000 for tuition going forward? Can we justify that in the future?” Raphael Reif, president of MIT “When people first put courses online people thought they could charge money and no one bought them. They put them online but from a global perspective, all these high numbers of students we’re hearing about today, the effective number of people who use them is zero.” Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft
“Eight Brilliant Minds on the Future of Online Education,” Eric Hellweg
It’s the Harvard Business Review, I know, and they are not going to be discussing poetry. Still, the questions posed to the “brilliant minds” weren’t supposed to be about profitability and education, they were supposed to be about the future of education. What would you expect? Nonetheless, if you are ever going to get a good sense of how the U.S. oligarchy thinks about education, the Harvard Business Review is a good place to start.
What’s so interesting is how few of our nominal oligarchs have any framework for discussing education beyond the capitalist marketplace. This might be called a kind of educational realpolitik. I would think that at least one of them would mention democracy or perhaps global climate change in this context. Perhaps it wouldn’t be more than paternalism, but the rhetoric of education used to lie outside of the market, at least to some extent.
Online education, though, seems to have created (or grown up in) a new territory where wide public access to education is framed largely in terms of markets: schools are “providers” and students don’t get “their money’s worth”; MIT is concerned that it cannot sustain its business model with such a high cost; Gates believes that nothing “effective” is going on in these classrooms, but Koller crows about 2.4 million student, as if size were in itself significant.