Here’s the debate:

How Should the University Evolve?, part 1 of 2 from BLSCI on Vimeo.

and the Q&A is here:

I’m in the midst of Thanksgiving prep so don’t have time to contribute my own commentary. Basically we were a bit at cross purposes. Siva gave a theatrically impassioned and well-supported defense of the traditional university and I tried to make the point that I don’t care much what happens to the traditional university. I come neither to bury nor to praise it, but to talk about the needs that learners have (whether students or no) and how those needs might best be met (using both technology and traditional forms and new hybrids of the same).

This discourse was pronounced both “empowering” and “bullshit” on Twitter, and rightfully so I think. Kyra Gaunt, an anthropology professor at Baruch, a TED fellow, and a hero of mine, gave out more truth at the microphone during the Q&A than I heard coming from the stage all night. She correctly intuited”My sense: @sivavaid who really liked your book was doing the academic devils advocacy thing which I hate. #debateisnotengagement”

At some point academics end and you have to take a stand on stuff.  My fave Tweet was this one:

@unboundstudent: @anya1anya @sivavaid DIYU Takeaway? future of higher ed is a conversation of the ppl!

3 Responses to “Video of Debate with Siva Vaidyanathan at Baruch College on 11/18”

  1. At one point you mentioned that no thing was guaranteed (to last, to remain), and were okay with that, and Siva responded that he hoped university could be, that is must be. I sided with Siva here a bit. I think you’ve got a high self-esteem, and it is this that makes it so that for you now the disappearance of ostensible societal necessities — wiki or what-not — needn’t automatically register as if your safety blanket was suddenly lost to you. You’re more like, well, okay, something substantial did just go down, but is it possible that what remains and is now better exposed to view, is actually better? And if it is, you’re glad the older, more primitive form is lost, and get to making the more mature and evolved forms reach their potential ends. And if it isn’t, you point out the current flaws, and get back what was wrongly disposed of. You’re fair, appropriately excited by what could and should be, and just as appropriately impatient with the mediocre and insufficient in its loud fight to on-and-on-and-on still-prosper. But most people don’t strike me as healthy as you are, as secure as you are, and actually need some secure place that can withstand their own storms as well as outside ones — some Hogwarts — to exist, for them to have some chance of not becoming mostly survivalist, feral, truly lost — incapable of doing much interesting with sophisticated technology, open-acess, not out of unfamiliarity or from being priced out but because they haven’t at any time in their lives known the lengthy period of guaranteed support that enables everything else worthwhile (including openness to risk, to loss) to develop. Even if they don’t make it to university, have no plans “thereof,” they intuit and are to some extent buoyed by the overall nurturing, good character of a society, if it is pronounced in its fight to erect and support institutions (government, universities) primarily UNDERSTOOD as for, well, guarantees, respite, fellowship and support.

    For you it’s something stodgy, elitist, and inhibiting being rightly challenged by what is vital, most democratic, and promising. But for most of the public my guess is that this conversation will be about whether it wants to eliminate the good parent Dumbledore (the university) for an environment that leaves more and more children unsheltered, exposed to errant mischance (the free market, as it understands it now), with less of a chance of any child misunderstanding it for different (for us to create such a world, what must we truly think of you, dear child?). University that is more aloof, and harder to reach, and the rest of it a wild of perhaps pot-luck success but mostly scammers. My concern is that their increasing support of you (DIY U and such) will not be born of caught-sight of a perhaps better way, but because they think their children deserve a more desolate, less certain environment to unlearn them of their fixed spoiledness. Whatever your hopes, America has in mind to make of your righteous cause, further means to hurt its kids. It’s that sick. Even many of its liberals.

  2. Andy says:

    Universities are sacred? LOL, if you dry that out you can fertilize the lawn. More brain cells are killed by binge drinking at colleges than become enlightened.

  3. I wasn’t at the debate (and haven’t watched) so cannot speak to its outline but I, personally, see no contradiction between being a successful academic AND dedicating my life to changing academe, not in superficial ways but in powerful ones that take inspiration from the open web movement. Why I like to use history as my guidepost is because we all think we know what “school” and “work” are but, if you look at history, you realize we only know what “school” and “work” have looked like for less than a hundred years. Almost all the institutions of formal education and work (from the assembly line to the modern office) are designed to support an industrializing society. Item-response testing (multiple choice) was never once thought to be a good way of testing when it was invented but was thought to be a basic, low-level efficient way of getting tens of thousands of new immigrants and new people moving into the cities through the newly required secondary educational system. It was compared to the production of Model T’s. Not special. Not comprehensive. But workable and fast and efficient. That is just one example of how something we now think of as “natural” or “objective” or “empirical” (our contemporary method of assessment) is really an institution created out of a particular historical moment in a particular place. We are about 15 years in to a new moment, with the widespread commercialization of the Internet and WWW. 15 years into the Industrial Age graduate school and professional school was invented as were majors, disciplines, the beginning of the “two culture,” the division of creative thinking from practical thinking, and hierarchical ranking of the professorate, degrees, universities, and etc. It is all part of the same system. And now the system has changed. Institutions will change too and this economic crisis, as horrific as it is for so many of us, is also a crisis of opportunity for thinking which institutions–including, I would advocate, virtual and peer-to-peer forms–better serve the digital age. That’s my objective.

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