Is it an opportunity to take back the culture from the Left? If so, it’s one we shouldn’t miss.
I fear that there is one possible path here where the Left only becomes more entrenched and harder to dislodge.
Consider that Sal Khan is recording thousands of basic math and science videos, and building the related exercises, to take anyone from 1+1 up to entry-level college mastery. Once he’s done, effectively no one else will ever have to do it again. Why would any math teacher bother to do the decade of gruntwork to replace that when there’s no value to add? No one would.
Now for Khan Academy, that’s fine. There’s no politics in what he teaches. It’s just math and basic chemistry, physics, etc.
But consider what’s happening at the college level. Companies like Coursera, EdX, Udacity, MRU, etc. are repackaging the current college experience as an online experience. Lectures, reading materials, quizzes, and credentials are all being moved online based on the current coursework available at schools like Harvard, MIT and Stanford.
See the problem? The Left already controls a lot of these schools (or Departments within them), and so if they build a commanding presence in the online lecture market, they don’t even need to control new faculty appointments any more. Students could be listening to the same canned Noam Chomsky lectures 100 years from now. They could be come the new standard.
However there’s an opportunity too, because Sal Khan wasn’t anybody in education before he started recording lectures at home on weekends with his personal PC. Any conservative scholar could do the same. Victor David Hanson could spend the next year or two converting his current classics education to online and be “the Sal Khan of Greek and Roman classical education”. Furthermore, rich libertarians like the Koch Brothers could choose to fund an endowment like Saylor Foundation and build a conservative, classic-liberal school for all eras.
But which credentials will employers care about? 99% of students are just trying to improve their job prospects, so if employers settle on EdX from Harvard and MIT as “the credential that matters”, then VDH’s efforts would be a voice alone in the wilderness as far as cultural control matters.
What conservatives should focus on is not winning this one contest. They should focus on making sure that the credentialing process is open and competitive. That way Harvard never gets to rest on its laurels. Make sure that the job market keeps an open mind about credentials from VDH University or Koch University, and the competition for minds and ideas will be unrelenting.
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