Who Needs Public Universities When You Can Get iCollege?

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It was rather late at night when I watched Tim Pawlenty, Republican Governor of the great state of Minnesota, tell Jon Stewart that he would like brick-and-mortar public universities to disappear in the not-too-distant future, and while I was somewhat surprised (to put it mildly), I was too tired to blog about it. But the more I thought about it, the more troubled I became. Then I discovered that others had taken notice, including USA Today-

When Jon Stewart asked Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty last week for some examples of how he intended to administer “limited and effective” government, the Republican governor did not roll out boilerplate rhetoric on welfare or farm subsidies. Instead, he took square aim at traditional higher education.

“Do you really think in 20 years somebody’s going to put on their backpack, drive a half hour to the University of Minnesota from the suburbs, haul their keister across campus, and sit and listen to some boring person drone on about econ 101 or Spanish 101?” Pawlenty asked Stewart, host of “The Daily Show.”

“Can’t I just pull that down on my iPhone or iPad whenever the heck I feel like it, from wherever I feel like it?” he said. “And instead of paying thousands of dollars, can I pay $199 for iCollege instead of 99 cents for iTunes?”

This might sound self-serving, given that I’m a boring professor at a public university myself, but the idea that 20 years from now a student could get the same quality of educational experience through their iPhone or iPad as they can presently get by actually interacting in real time with fellow students and faculty is so far from reality that it makes me wonder just what Pawlenty has been smoking. I doubt that a few hits of pot would do the job.

But, come to think of it, maybe the sort of education Pawlenty has supported in the past – including the teaching of Creationism (under the guise of “Intelligent Design”) in public schools as a theory of human origins on a par with evolution – could be gotten on an iPhone app.

(Don’t get me wrong: I love technology and look forward to the day when we can inhabit something like holographic classrooms via the internet and interact effectively in real time without having to share physical space. But I believe that technology will not reach that level of sophistication for a long time, and that in any case public universities will still have to exist within that virtual realm to insure academic integrity).

Elizabeth Warren, Consumer Crusader

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Elizabeth Warren, Harvard law professor and Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel, is probably the most passionate and articulate consumer advocate since the young Ralph Nader. She’s done many interviews, and if you’d like to hear her views on the current wrangling over financial reform in the House-Senate reconciliation committee, I recommend listening to her recent interview on NPR’s “On Point”. But here she is in July 2009, in a self-produced 7.5-minute video, explaining without any interruptions why she favors setting up a strong Consumer Protection Agency-


For more video messages delivered in her official capacity as the Chair of the COP, click here.

Warren claims to have no political ambitions, which is understandable given that she is around 60 and has a very good job. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see her on a ticket someday.

Just Stay Calm

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The Wisconsin Department of Transportation included the following graphic in the car registration materials they sent me. Apparently it is intended to explain how to use the new roundabouts in the area-

Somehow I doubt that this will put those uncomfortable with roundabouts at ease…

Experiencing, Remembering, and Happiness

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If you have a few minutes (20 or so), here’s an interesting segment of a talk by the Nobel prize winning inventor of “behavioral economics”, Daniel Kahneman. The topic concerns two types of happiness which can easily come apart: that of the “experiencing self”, and that of the “remembering self”.

The Wiouwash Trail 6/1/2010

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First day of June, not a cloud in the sky, 80-some degrees, slight breeze… perfect conditions for a 25-mile ride (round trip) along the Wiouwash trail – a biker’s dream – between Larsen and Hortonville-

Featuring lovely wetlands-

And geese with rapidly growing goslings-

Not to mention some fetching flowers along the trail-

Happy summer, everyone!