The Three Horsemen of the MOOCpocaplypse

A small foray into the political after a few weeks of mostly concentrating on spirituality. But not too far in as my concern is prompted by my contemplation. I want to thank my good brother Lance W. for pointing out this piece.

Market Uberalles devours the twin virtues Open Communication & Sound Reasoning

Neoliberalism is a cancer on our culture and one that is eating away at any real future for our youth. The more that the concept of the Market Uberalles is trumpeted and spread both by conservative & liberal politicians, the more it becomes what some philosophers call a “totalizing concept”. That is, the entirety of consciousness is bound by the limit of that notion and all other notions must meet it’s test or be rejected. The plasticity of what Jaspers calls “consciousness-at-large” hardens into “consciousness overall”. There is not a single tradition within perennial philosophy that does not warn against this event. It is at the heart of Platonism as much as Buddhism.

As we have moved ever forward into the Society of Control, the socioeconomic & psychocultural factors that are taken for granted in the Neoliberal worldview have reached the point where they are ready to amalgamate & concretize consciousness. As my mentor Richard Owlsey might say, this “hardening of the categories” consolidates in THE main artery of Control: information exchange.

As techoscientific machinery for increasing the ever expanding Book of LIfe, MOOCs can be used in healthy or in unhealthy ways. xMOOCs are the current racing engine that are revving up to change the face of higher education and then undoubtedly compulsory education. Why? Because the models put forth by Edutopia & Coursera, the “salvific” structures being slavered over by the Rick Perry‘s of the world, meet the demands of THE Neoliberal reductionist concept, the Market. Thus, xMOOCs are getting the lion’s share of attention.

But there are also cMOOCs–connectivist MOOCs. These are healthier uses of technoscience.

Where the “x” tends toward competition and serving the student as a client, the “c” is about connecting together those in the world at large by building communities of sentiment . These new kinds of interaction–made possible in the Society of Control in ways still being unpacked and discovered–permit a broader level of democratic connection. And such anarchocynical possibilities circumvent the authoritarian monsters that lurk within disciplinary instructional markets.

Used in an engaged & mindful fashion, cMOOCs give rise to an untouched wilderness. All of us, but especially our young friends in the Millennial generation, have another way to hack our own authentic education: we have new lines of flight down which we can wander wondering, errant yet alive in open assemblages of critical pedagogy.

I know… I am waxing a tad romantic and possibly even Utopian. Trust me when I say that I am not blinded by technoscientifc optimism. If we do not keep in mind that this is a means to transcendence, a way to disclose the Dao or the Dharma or the Logos (you choose) of the Encompassing, then such skills become just more mechanization.

After some reflection, it’s become clear to me that there is a crucial difference in how the Internet’s remaking of higher education is qualitatively different than what we’ve seen with recorded music and newspapers. There’s a political context to the transformation. Higher education is in crisis because costs are rising at the same time that public funding support is falling. That decline in public support is no accident. Conservatives don’t like big government and they don’t like taxes, and increasingly, they don’t even like the entire way that the humanities are taught in the United States.

It’s absolutely no accident that in Texas, Florida and Wisconsin, three of the most conservative governors in the country are leading the push to incorporate MOOCs in university curricula. And it seems well worth asking whether the apostles of disruption who have been warning academics that everything is about to change have paid enough attention to how the intersection of politics and MOOCs is affecting the speed and intensity of that change. Imagine if Napster had had the backing of the Heritage Foundation and House Republicans? It’s hard enough to survive chaotic disruption when it is a pure consequence of technological change. But when technological change suits the purposes of enemies looking to put a knife in your back, it’s almost impossible.

via Conservatives declare war on college –


  1. Good stuff, Keith. I can appreciate your decision to adjoin van Haarlam’s painting, and I think, Cadmus’ story can be played with even more in relation to students’/youths’ being devoured by the Market.

    Further, despite my acknowledging Leonard’s words at Salon for highlighting the American Right’s attempt to defund higher ed. in order to rule off of and over less critical minds/citizens, Neoliberalism, as you mention, is just as much a cancer to the American Left. The dilemma is not that three white men in power with bland names are pushing for closed channels of teaching and learning; it’s that a single narrative, across both major parties in American politics (and in turn the not-so-liberal American media) has been promulgated and a single purpose of higher ed., and education in general has been accepted: gain those (technocratic, paper) credentials; get that job, please our market.

    1. Thanks Lance. Cadmus story is an important one. At one point, when he defeats this dragon who had destroyed his companions, Athena, goddess of Strategy & Wisdom, has him sow the teeth of the dragon as seeds. These spring to life as a new people who become the founding families of Thebes.

      The first paper I ever wrote at UNT, and I see at the first paper that I ever truly wrote as mine with my voice, was an examination of Cadmus’ myth cycle for the Great Books Program.

      It is Cadmus who is Grandsire to Dionysius. And here we find ourselves back with Freddy Nickles (Nietzsche). Critical pedagogy, open exchange between Existenzen who would accomplish the broadening of their opportunities & possibilities, requires a bit of that wildness which the mechanized instructional superstructure cannot abide.

      xMOOCs continue the marketing of instruction and the further hegemony of STEM. On the one hand, the humanities need face-to-face interaction. On the other, we must use cMOOCs to create a Dionysian network of autodidacts who resist the imperium of neoliberal technoscience.

  2. Pingback: Reason & Existenz

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