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On Tim Pawlenty, Privatization and “iCollege”

Recently the Chronicle of Higher Education featured some discussion on an interview the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart did with Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty in which the Governor attacked the public higher education system in favor of privatization and instead proposed “iCollege.”  You can watch the clip below (the salient portion of which starts at five minutes in):
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Tim Pawlenty
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party
Not that it’s news, but Tim Pawlenty is woefully ignorant and misguided.  There are a number of things wrong with his anti-government/anti-public education position:
  1. Virtually everything online (particularly e-commerce) was developed as a result of the work done by nonprofits like SRI International and other other segments of the public higher education system.
  2. 2) His metaphor of the iPhone/iPad and “iCollege” is a poor choice for at least two reasons:
    1. Apple Computer built on the research done by the nonprofits to launch its computing devices (a tradition that continues to this day).
    2. The iPhone and iPad have been roundly criticized for locking down the browsing experience to only the applications/tools permitted by Apple.  Moreover, users are limited to AT&T as the sole provider for 3G wireless service for both devices.  They are, in fact, the mobile computing example of a “one-size-fits-all monopoly provider.”
Certainly more can be done with technology to not only reduce costs but extend the options available to students for education.  However, whenever practical hands-on experience is required, the “drag of atoms” will always necessitate some form of institutions that provide those
educational experiences.   (Just think of the practical applications in the medical field alone: do you want to have surgery at the hands of someone schooled at a profit-driven “iCollege”?)
That’s also to say nothing of the fact that many students need one-on-one time with educational professionals to advance as they’re ill-equipped to be self-guided learners.
The deregulation Gov. Pawlenty is proposing is the reason we have catastrophes like the BP Deepwater Horizon spill; oversight of the industry was long ago delegated to the equivilant of an “iOversight” app.  We don’t need more of that – and we certainly don’t need more of it in higher education (a fact reiterated by a superb PBS Frontline documentary “College, Inc.”
[PS – “Dial that up” on their iPad?  Did he actually say that?  #fail]
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