It’s Banned Book Week and you may be honoring it by reading a banned book (if you reside in Colorado I suggest starting with Orwell’s 1984). Colorado is busy protesting the Jefferson County School Board’s conservative censorship of how they expect history to be taught, which essentially boils down to suppressing the inclusion of any material that would acknowledge or discuss any aspect of the United States doing anything wrong in its past. Instead, they want history taught that “promote[s] citizenship, patriotism, benefits of the free-market system, respect for authority and for individual rights.” My assumption here is that by individual rights they mean it in a corporations-are-people kind of way that supports corporate rights and ensures the well being of ruling class/upper class abled bodied heterosexual cisgendered caucasian males at the expense of everyone else (poor, queer, trans, disabled, POC people of color, your huddled masses yearning to be free). Given that they specifically state they want to avoid anything that may lead to dissent, it’s pretty obvious that this educational system is not interested in developing people capable of independent thinking, but rather is focused on producing good little worker bees for a conservative capitalist economy.
In case you think this battle is limited to Colorado, you need only conduct a search on Texas textbooks to discover it’s a problem endemic to the United States. Previously, Texas history books have been criticized for insinuating that biblical Moses & Solomon were founding fathers of the United States Democracy, and now Texas is getting heat for their misinformation campaign on global climate change. Furthermore, while the textbooks may be written in Texas, a significant issue is that once they become standarized they become the textbooks used in the majority of the other states as well. This means this misinformation is not only coming to a town near you, but you’re immersed in this sh*t and boy does it stink! Bless their hearts.
As one reaches adulthood, there is the oft given advice that receiving a college degree is the means to a financially comfortable life with an opportunity for better employment options. But in a system where costs to attend University are skyrocketing, forcing huge student loan debts onto anyone who seeks to take that path is it really the guarantee that it was once envisioned to manifest? People who have student loans are more likely to have bad debt & lower credit scores and less likely to be able to afford homes, despite a slightly lower unemployment rate than folks without a college degree. Yet, rather than helping out students, the U.S. government has decided to not mete out consequences for colleges that bailed on their loans while continuing to hold students accountable for their individually cumulative debt. In other words, once again the U.S. government is helping out the corporations at the human expense of the peoples. So if Universities are not institutions for learning, but rather a capitalist tool resulting in a lifetime enslavement as one makes valiant efforts to pay back their eternal debt, what’s someone who enjoys actual learnin’ to do? Especially a broke someone?
Enter the wonderful world of MOOC (Massive Open Online Coursework). One can take classes for free, so if learning not debt is your goal it is a really good option to consider. It’s also a growing way of receiving an education, and while some universities do participate in this method offering their courses online for free they do so without offering full on degrees. However, this is slowly starting to change. I believe this will become a valid method of obtaining low cost degrees and certificates, in part because the costs of education are not as high in other countries. Which means folks pursuing knowledge may not get that Harvard or Stanford degree, but they may get a degree from a respected University overseas. It’s not quite here yet, but it’s coming.
One key part to how successful this may become will be convincing corporations to hire folks, who obtained their knowledge in this manner. But keep in mind they too are growing up in this student loan chokehold of learning, and may be quite sympathetic to the plight a future mired in debt results in. So I may not yet, be able to receive an actual degree via MOOC, but that doesn’t mean that the learning in and of itself doesn’t have the value of enriching my life in ways that I’m curious to begin exploring. Now the question is do I want to learn some Computer Programming, take a beginner’s course in Italian, Unlock the Secrets to Medieval Spain or focus on a course such as Revolutionary Ideas in Political Philosophy?
While I may do a future blog just on MOOCs you don’t have to wait for that blog to get started on your own path to a free online education. Google MOOC towards your own path of learnin’