Thursday, May 02, 2013

Open Letter from SJSU Philosophy Dept to Michael Sandel

painting by Gandolfi Gaetano
…for more (if not optimum) context, read comments and related article. Optimum context would involve taking the edX course in question, reading up on MOOCs, Sandel, edX. the MOOCing  of HigherEd in general and, in particular, the Gates Foundation driven agreement between San Jose and edX. All that still might not be enough but brings us closer to an informed opinion. Even then there will be more variants and questions than consensus. 
Professors in the philosophy department at San Jose State University wrote the following letter to make a direct appeal to Michael Sandel, a Harvard professor whose MOOC on "Justice" they were being encouraged to use as part of the San Jose State curriculum. (See related article and comments)
Is this philosophy or just more mooc madness?  If philosophy is truly about knowledge, how we know and ways of knowing of the world. Consider this comment in the letter, 
.. the thought of the exact same social justice course being taught in various philosophy departments across the country is downright scary - something out of a dystopian novel.
Counter that with this comment on the letter,
Access is a pressing issue for the public because they already don't have access. I understand all the reasons, plausible and poor, why faculty dislike the idea of MOOCs. I have yet to see most of the faculty interested in taking a stand against MOOCs taking a stand for access. If MOOCs aren't the answer, what is? Plausible alternatives, given drops in state and federal funding, must be put forward, without expecting that the families can continue to make up the shortfall in state and federal funding.
When asked by the Chronicle, Sandel responded that 
"...he knows little about the arrangement between edX and San Jose State, but he hopes the university does not force professors there to use any more material from his MOOC than they wish to use." 
"The worry that the widespread use of online courses will damage departments in public universities facing budgetary pressures is a legitimate concern that deserves serious debate, at edX and throughout higher education," wrote Mr. Sandel. "The last thing I want is for my online lectures to be used to undermine faculty colleagues at other institutions."
He declined to comment further. 
I would have expected a distinguished professor of the philosophy of law to both know and be willing to comment more. It's up us then to do the philosopher's job of figuring out how and what to know, and then questioning it ~ relentlessly if necessary.

Read all of Why Professors at San Jose State Won't Use a Harvard Professor's MOOC and The Document: an Open Letter From San Jose State U.'s Philosophy Department, both from The Chronicle of Higher Education ~ and comments. Each comment sets has it's own distinct tone and demographic, which makes for an interesting comparison,

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