“We Do Not Ride Upon the Railroad; It Rides Upon Us”
At a public conversation about online learning held recently at Stanford University, Andrew Delbanco, director of American Studies at Columbia University and author of College: What It Was, Is and Should Be, had some interesting things to say:
“Delbanco began his remarks by pointing to two recent magazine covers: Newsweek‘s asked, ‘Is College a Lousy Investment?’ and showed a young couple strolling arm-in-arm across an empty, verdant lawn with lovely neo-Gothic buildings in the distance. The image, Delbanco said, is a ‘gross caricature,’ given that one-third of U.S. students are working adults enrolled in underfunded public schools.
Boston magazine, meanwhile, depicted a young man eating breakfast in his pajamas while working on his Mac. Above him were the words, ‘Is This the College Classroom of the Future?’ Together, Delbanco said, the images capture public perceptions of the state of higher education and indicate as that public support may be eroding—yet another imperative for reinventing higher education.
‘The smart money is on the survival’ of universities, Delbanco said, but they will not look the same as they do now. The faculty as we know it will undergo deep transformations as numbers diminish and stars emerge. The world of for-profit and nonprofit enterprises will collide. And the humanities, said Delbanco, a scholar of American literature, may be left behind.
‘The future is coming; that’s the definition of the future,’ he acknowledged, then turned to Thoreau to underline his point and his fear: ‘We do not ride upon the railroad; it rides upon us.’
Delbanco said he remains unconvinced that new educational technologies necessarily suit the neediest students, and he also observed that new technologies outside the realm of education have not exactly raised the level of discourse, whether private, public or political.” (Read more here.)
Other members of the discussion had more optimistic views about the potential of online education, but I thought Delbanco’s comments were especially thought-provoking. Do you agree with his rather gloomy assessment?