In The Nation:
MOOCs for Mooks
9 September 2013

Three splendid pieces in the current issue of The Nation (9.23.13)

¶ John Connelly writes about Polish intellectual Leszek Kołakowski, a man who, like a number of American thinkers, passed from youthful Marxism to aged anti-liberalism. A standard feature of this sort of development is a bad reaction to late-Sixties students. Having been one of them myself, I certainly sympathize, but the overreaction is extreme.

¶ Joshua Clover’s extremely angry response to Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down reverberates with justified indignation.

This is a truth of the age. Even white people have fallen from their jobs and can’t get up; few are more aggrieved than they to whom the world has always seemed to promise a decent wage and then reneged. The percentage of the population employed dipped below 59 percent in 2009, and for all the nattering on about recovery, there it remains. Cisco earned $2.27 billion dollars last quarter, beating expectations—and celebrated with 4,000 layoffs. Insofar as some sectors have restored profits, the jobs have not come with them. Nor will they. The absence of jobs and the fall of the White House are one.

And so we must hustle for those that remain ever more intensely, affirm the failing mechanism ever more devoutly. It is not enough that we must work for somebody else, produce profit for somebody else, just to keep body affixed to soul. We must yearn for it, take a punch, take a bullet, take any amount of shit, whatever it requires. We must work just for the chance to work: dystopia squared.

¶ Perhaps it is only in a culture where, as Clover puts it, “travail is the point” that anyone would mistake sitting through online lectures for education. It seems that most students don’t,  according to Jon Wiener’s humorlessly hilarious look at Coursera, the next big thing on the venture capital front.

There’s one other problem for Coursera and the other MOOCs trying to make money: 90 percent of the people who enroll in courses do not complete them. Watching video lectures on your laptop at home alone doesn’t seem to work for the overwhelming majority of people who try.

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