Governments should stop funding higher education

Daniel Lemire, Weblog, Mar 17, 2011
Commentary by Stephen Downes

It's important to see both sides of the issue. On the one hand, there is underway a deliberate attempt to destroy public education. Miguel Guhlin cites a Dallas Observer article: "Up until this very moment, I don't think many real people understood the magnitude or the ferocity of the attack being mounted on the basic institutions of our democracy by the ultra-right." On the other hand, there is the very real challenge to government funding for education, brought about not only by the recession (which has been very convenient for opponents of public funding) but also by the economics of informal learning and learning technologies. Daniel Lemire captures some of this in this post. "Public education is equivalent to subsidizing corporations." he writes. And "If it costed hundreds of thousands of dollars to complete a Ph.D., nobody would do it." See also Open Education with another version of this argument. My take, summarized in a comment, but also captured also in the column I posted today, is that while we should change the orientation of our system, it remains imperative that public support for education continue, in order to ensure equity of opportunity.

We have to be careful. There are some people who would bring down the public system in order to be able to impose their own values and ideas on tomorrow's children. They should not be confused with, or deemed to be allied with, those who would reconfigure the public system in order to promote greater liberty, equality and opportunity through self-determination and open access. In stepping forward to greater freedom we must take care to ensure we are not stepping into an abyss.
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