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Thompson: Online Learning Won't Take The High Road By Magic

I loved David Brooks' The Social Animal, which used social and cognitive science to explain why online tutorials can't replace loving relationships with teachers.  But then he also endorses Republican "reformers" who attack the heart of the teaching profession.  Brooks' New York Times Op Ed, "The Campus Tsunami," is another example of his ability to believe both sides of any education argument, while assuming that every tsunami will raise all boats, damaging none.  

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comOn one hand, he fears that market-driven reform will replace deep reading with fast online browsing. He understands, "how much communication is lost — gesture, mood, eye contact — when you are not actually in a room with a passionate teacher and students." Brooks argues that online tehcnology has turned knowledge into "a commodity that is cheap and globally available," but it still allows great colleges to "focus on the rest of the learning process, which is where the real value lies."

But then Brooks writes that online technology compels colleges to take the high road and preserve real learning, "which is a complex social and emotional process." But, Brooks does not identify the force that compels universities to go the extra mile.  Why does he believe that higher education will not follow public schools in taking the quick and easy route?  Brooks seems clueless about the market-driven school "reform" tsunami that put a price on everything but values little or nothing.  It is precisely at times like these that we need sea walls to protect universities (and public schools) from the latest gimmicks for making a quick buck or jacking up performance metrics.- JT (@drjohnthompson)


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Well said. This question in particular bothers me: “Why does he believe that higher education will not follow public schools in taking the quick and easy route?”

Honestly, what’s stopping them from doing so? Universities are businesses first, after all.

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