In Your Massively Open Offline College Is Broken Clay Shirky eloquently counters Venture Capital's Massive, Terrible Idea For The Future Of College, a no holds barred attack on MOOCs and their proponents by journalist Maria Bustillos.
I agree with Shirky's line in the excerpt below, though I wonder if, as someone who can more or less name his price as a public speaker, Shirky is being a bit disingenuous getting down amongst the academics with his "us", "my peers", and "we".
But setting that aside (and I do not grudge Shirky his success) what is very striking about the reaction of academics to MOOCs is its similarity to some of the reactions in the UK [353 page PDF on House of Lords web site] to the pressure from Government and the funders to move scholarly publishing to an Open Access model.
The competition from upstart organizations will make things worse for many of us. (I like the experiments we’ve got going at NYU, but I don’t fantasize that we'll be unscathed.) After two decades of watching, though, I also know that that’s how these changes go. No industry has ever organized an orderly sharing of power with newcomers, no matter how interesting or valuable their ideas are, unless under mortal threat.
Instead, like every threatened profession, I see my peers arguing that we, uniquely, deserve a permanent bulwark against insurgents, that we must be left in charge of our destiny, or society will suffer the consequences. Even the record store clerks tried that argument, back in the day. In the academy, we have a lot of good ideas and a lot of practice at making people smarter, but it’s not obvious that we have the best ideas, and it is obvious that we don’t have all the ideas. For us to behave as if we have—or should have—a monopoly on educating adults is just ridiculous.
1. In the case of scholarly publishing, the O'Reilly funded PeerJ is one of the upstarts to watch.
2. In the UK it is in further education colleges (which generally do not have lecture theatres) where degree-level students are given the most individualised attention.