Last week, Clay Shirky argued that “number of high-school graduates underserved or unserved by higher education today dwarfs the number of people for whom that system works well.” Freddie doesn’t think technology can solve this problem:
[E]ducating “nontraditional” students– administrator speak for poor students, students whose parents are themselves uneducated, minority students, and students who struggled in high school– is really hard. Look, I don’t doubt that the American university system has failed these students in any number of ways. I could go on at length about those failures. But at some point you have to actually grapple with reality, which is that for a complex and controversial set of reasons, some people are harder to educate. Not everyone is equally capable of educational success. They just aren’t. I’m dedicated to the task as getting as many marginal students in and through as possible, and I think that’s an absolute moral need for our colleges and our society. But it’s not going to work for everyone, and it’s going to take great efforts, and online models are precisely the opposite of what’s likely to work. …
Pleasant lies about everyone’s ability to succeed in college, particularly in a new kind of college where by design individual students receive far less attention, are politically pleasing but practically destructive.
Alan Jacobs adds:
I’m still waiting for just one school in financial straits to completely restructure its priorities in favor of a near-total focus on the teaching of undergraduates. Then maybe others will follow. But in any event the idea that MOOCs are preferable to such genuine reform strikes me as nuts.