Thursday, August 1, 2013

Academic Freedom, MOOCS & Online Education




In Indiana, the new President of Purdue University, and former Governor Mitch Daniels, has stirred up a bit of controversy with the publication of emails he exchanged with staff regarding Zinn's awful history text book, "A People's History".  The article quoted and linked below picks up the story:

Published in 1980, Zinn's "A People's History" (the author died in 2010 at age 87) has been a staple of Advanced Placement courses at the high-school level and omnipresent in college syllabi for decades. Praised by some for focusing on American history from the ground up, the book has been condemned by others as emblematic of the biased, left-leaning, tendentious and inaccurate drivel that too often passes as definitive in American higher education. 

Mr. Daniels falls squarely among the critics. Zinn's history, the then-governor wrote in February 2010, "is a truly execrable, anti-factual piece of disinformation that misstates American history on every page." Then Mr. Daniels asked: "Can someone assure me that it is not in use anywhere in Indiana? If it is, how do we get rid of it before any more young people are force-fed a totally false version of our history?"
Of course, Zinn's execrable drivel IS and WAS indeed being used to teach American History all over Indiana, and throughout the US for that matter.  Professors at Purdue reacted predictably, complaining that Daniels was threatening academic freedom.  You would thing that professors would recall:

The American Association of University Professors itself recognized those obligations in its seminal statement, the 1915 Declaration of Principles on Academic Freedom, which is today nearly forgotten: “If this profession should prove itself unwilling to purge its ranks of the incompetent and unworthy, or to prevent the freedom which it claims . . . from being used as a shelter for inefficiency, for superficiality, or for uncritical and intemperate partisanship, it is certain that the task will be performed by others.”


I see similar issues creeping into certain research products associated with the built industry.  Let's do what we can to encourage and support vigorous debate.

The emergence of MOOCS and online educational options will put more and more pressure on traditional education deliver process.


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James L. Salmon, Esq.
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