Where have these star players been: Last Friday, David Brooks did a column about the onset of on-line higher ed.
He worried that the world’s “best teachers” may soon be found on-line:
BROOKS (5/4/12): Many of us view the coming change with trepidation. Will online learning diminish the face-to-face community that is the heart of the college experience? Will it elevate functional courses in business and marginalize subjects that are harder to digest in an online format, like philosophy? Will fast online browsing replace deep reading?Mordantly, we chuckled. We recalled the day when we were taking college courses—in philosophy, no less!—from some of the nation’s star professors. We sat in rooms with 500 note-taking students, wondering why they didn’t mimeograph the lecture and pass the darn thing out.
If a few star professors can lecture to millions, what happens to the rest of the faculty? Will academic standards be as rigorous? What happens to the students who don’t have enough intrinsic motivation to stay glued to their laptop hour after hour? How much communication is lost—gesture, mood, eye contact—when you are not actually in a room with a passionate teacher and students?
There wasn’t much “eye contact” going on. You can be darn sure of that!
Will the learning be fantastic once our “best teachers” go on-line? As we glanced across the page at Paul Krugman’s column, we wondered where these star professors have been over the past many years.
On this same day, Krugman wrote a slightly bowdlerized version of his on-line work. The GOP has been taken over by manifest bullshit, he said:
KRUGMAN (5/4/12): [T]he takeover of half our political spectrum by the 0.01 percent is, I’d argue, also responsible for the degradation of our economic discourse, which has made any sensible discussion of what we should be doing impossible.In this column, Krugman noted that the GOP is now dominated by crackpot doctrines. On-line, he often takes this one step further, noting that intellectual leaders of the western world often repeat these crackpot doctrines, providing intellectual support for the world’s plutocrat parties. Absent such support from the academy and the press, the GOP would have a much harder time making these doctrines stick.
Disputes in economics used to be bounded by a shared understanding of the evidence, creating a broad range of agreement about economic policy. To take the most prominent example, Milton Friedman may have opposed fiscal activism, but he very much supported monetary activism to fight deep economic slumps, to an extent that would have put him well to the left of center in many current debates.
Now, however, the Republican Party is dominated by doctrines formerly on the political fringe. Friedman called for monetary flexibility; today, much of the G.O.P. is fanatically devoted to the gold standard. N. Gregory Mankiw of Harvard University, a Romney economic adviser, once dismissed those claiming that tax cuts pay for themselves as “charlatans and cranks”; today, that notion is very close to being official Republican doctrine.
Brooks is dazzled by our star professors. We’ll ask a question we’ve asked before:
As crackpot theories have infested our world, where have these various star players been? Professor Krugman has pushed back hard.
But where have the other stars been?