​Dystopia of the Day: Villainous MOOCs and ‘Children Held Hostage’ by Education

WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH KIDS MOOCS TODAY: Imagine a world of “children held hostage,” where “public schools exist primarily to funnel tax dollars into teacher pension funds,” creating an apathetic mob “saddled with indefeasible student loan debt…” Striking a balance somewhere between disgruntled and dystopian over at The Wall Street Journal Forbes, author and investment advisor Phil DeMuth describes a wildly ineffective education system in which “students cope by looking out the windows, texting & sexting, getting stoned, playing games, or cutting class.”

Can technology and online learning do anything to help? Perhaps, says DeMuth, who suggests online courses may be the lesser of two evils. “This is not to say that MOOCs, even in their present stultifying form, can’t usefully replace most colleges, but this is simply because the bar is so low.”

But wait--DeMuth sees a solution in 1960s Harvard psychology Professor B.F. Skinner’s theory of programmed learning, which could offer “the opposite” approach of a MOOC or in-person lecture by focusing on delivering material in small steps at a student-set pace with immediate feedback. Never mind that many MOOC builders also strive for these goals in their educational practices--DeMuth seems to interpret programmed learning more along the lines of academic MadLibs. (Try reading the second half of his article.)

On second thought, maybe we ought to follow Professor Skinner to his best-known theory that free will does not exist, as an individual’s behavior is determined exclusively by his or her environment--in which case, DeMuth can look forward to a future built by texting and sexting, game-playing, stoned youths.

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