In Defense of Walled Gardens

Michael Feldstein, Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, Feb 24, 2006
Commentary by Stephen Downes

After an Orwellian opening, Michael Feldstein gets down to it in defense of walls. First, "Sometimes privacy is appropriate... If you want your students to take risks, you have to create an environment that is safe for them to do so." Fair enough, but I would observe, there is a big difference between the case where you build your own walls and lock your own doors, and where the government does it for you, whether you want it or not. And second, "faculty should have the ability to use copyrighted material legally with their classes at their discretion." Maybe, but this special case should not be allowed to define the general case (it would be equally absurd to say that because some people want to lock their front doors we ought to install locks and gates on freeway entrances). In fairness, Feldstein wants the decision to be in the hands of users (professors as opposed to students, but let's leave that for now): "Solving this problem--while enabling teachers to make all kinds of choices about their gardens, including whether to have walls--is exactly the goal of the LMOS." OK. But it's not all gardens - there has to be a commons, and the rules that apply to gardens cannot apply to the commons.
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