I wasn’t going to post the Matt Damon video that’s going around because at first I just thought he seemed awfully rude. Then I realized that he’s actually talking to a camera crew from a libertarian TV channel and immediately forgave him. More importantly, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with it until I read Cory Doctorow’s take on the exchange at Boing Boing:
It’s a very illuminating example of a clash of ideologies. Damon, after all, had no “rational” business becoming an actor, since he was almost entirely certain to fail. Now that he is a multi-millionaire, he has no “rational” reason to continue acting, because he’s assured of financial security forever. Clearly, Damon is someone whose lifelong incentives are not about “job security.” Rather, his motivations are vocational — he does this because it fulfills him.
Fulfillment. Satisfaction. Can you see where I’m going with this? It’s not just that I don’t want to spend the rest of my teaching career doubled over a computer no matter what kind of financial incentives I get to do so, it’s the fact that this kind of work would inevitably be less fulfilling.
I can hear the howls of protest now! Yes, I realize that it is possible to do incredibly interesting things in an online environment. Not everyone is hobbled by having to use Blackboard as their course management system and I am sure that students’ lives are being changed by many dedicated online instructors even as I write this. Nevertheless, I’m also certain that countless other people on both ends of the online educational relationship don’t really want to be there no matter how interested they are in learning because the MBA mentality of which Damon speaks so permeates the entire online education enterprise.
Who thinks most administrators want their faculty to teach online because they care about learning? They’re heading online because they see dollar signs. This excellent post from the New Faculty Majority blog isn’t exactly on this subject, but I think this particular passage applies here just the same:
Since 9/11 I have had a gradual, rude awakening that the field I had embarked upon as a chipper graduate student at MIT was dissolving into a “managed education” nightmare where the noble role of a professor, and the profundities of the world presented by such, was being undercut at every turn by a generation of under-educated managers. A majority of these people have no roots in teaching, research or the arts. They just don’t “see” what they are destroying.
Imagine then that I am the most dedicated online teacher in the world. I have a problem or concern about how my class is going. The solution costs money. What kind of response am I going to get? Do you honestly think it’s going to be education first, cost second? Online education is a means to an end for administrations everywhere and that end is to increase revenue. Period. Full stop.
What happens if I appeal to my students for help in making my online class better? Are they going to care? Why should they if all they know about me is what they read on a computer screen. Again, this Tweet is about a slightly different subject but I still think it applies:
Even if you’re not at a for-profit school, so many students these days have that MBA mentality that Damon decries. They’re not interested in the learning process; they’re interested in the result. We’ve been telling students for so long that a degree is their ticket to a better life when we should have been saying all along it’s the education that matters.
That way when a reporter from Reason TV sticks a mike in your face, you can give them what they deserve.