Milton Friedman must be dancing in his grave at the moment. In every economic crisis there’s an opportunity to impose change, he professed, and no smart leader let such an opportunity pass by. Especially when it comes to undermining public goods.
Leaders of MOOC movements across the nation, including here at home in UW-Madison, are telling us that this is simply the right time to take the leap into a transformed space in higher education, one enabled by technology. I have absolutely no doubt that they sincerely believe this. And I have equally little doubt that most are entirely unaware of their place in history, and the degree to which they are acting out a narrative written many decades earlier.
MOOCs are not primarily or even secondarily about bringing open, no-cost education to the masses. Instead, these efforts created by private elite institutions and for-profit businesses squarely aim to outsource traditional governmental functions in education, and divert taxpayer dollars from the building of public assets and institutions to create long-term revenue streams and profit for corporations. That’s privatization, period.