Thoughts on Liberating Learning: The Seeds of Change
I’m reading Liberating Learning: Technology, Politics, and the Future of American Education, by Terry M. Moe and John E. Chubb. The first chapter, “The Seeds of Change,” introduces the main themes of the book: U.S. public education is inefficient and ineffective, but technology has the power to turn things around. Technology, the authors predict, will change the political realities that have prevented reform in the past.
The authors are vague as to what technologies they’ll be discussing. The first few examples are specifically about online courses, which I agree have tremendous potential. Other technologies, I’m not so sure about. I’ve heard jubilant praise for education computer games and those little devices that let students vote on questions posed to them, but I don’t think either will change the education market much. If they just mean technological progress in general, as opposed to, say, labor or capital, then the first part of the thesis is a truism. Of course, technological progress can improve education, the way it improves any other sector. Which innovations represent progress, however, remains a pertinent question.
The section on political resistance is more informative. It explains how reforms like online schools threaten public school employees, and how unions have succeeded at diluting reforms to protect the status quo. Some may blame education problems on a lack of concern about schools, but Moe and Chubb are right to lay the blame on the political process. Concern — nay, even panic — is everywhere. Meaningful action on the part of schools is what’s missing.
I’m looking forward to reading their analysis of why new technology can change politics in ways that other developments in the education sector haven’t.