Thursday Sense of Obligation Blogging

A couple of things that I’m not excited to blog about, but sort of feel like I ought to say something about:

1) The Washington Monthly article about StraighterLine, an online program that lets you take college courses for $99/mo. The article is all breathless excitement about the revolutionary transformative power of technology, but it leaves me cold.

The stories of working people putting themselves through accelerated degree programs through self-study are inspiring, and all, but there’s nothing really new here. There has never really been any question about whether hard-working and motivated students could learn at their own pace– these stories pre-date the Internet. The history of science is full of brilliant auto-didacts who learned their subject from public libraries and the like, and anybody who has spent any time in higher education has encountered somebody who was self-taught or home-schooled who blew away all their peers.

The question has always been whether self-paced online education can work on a mass scale– for people who aren’t motivated to put in 18 hours a day studying toward a specific goal. I don’t really see anything in the article that addresses that question. I think this has the potential to be a great deal for people with a strong sense of self-motivation and good work ethic, but I suspect they’ll end up making lots of money off people who start classes, and then lose interest, but never get around to officially dropping out.

(Memo to self: Cancel Netflix subscription, already. The DVD’s are gathering dust by the tv, and haven’t been looked at in months.)

2) The Big Health Care Speech: I actually watched the last half-hour or so of this last night (after seeing references to it on Twitter– I’d forgotten about it). This is THE topic of the morning in blogdom, but I really don’t have anything much to say about it. Obama gives a good speech, Joe Wilson (R-Hooterville) is an ass, and nothing at all has really changed. The health care proposal is a centrist and technocratic thing that won’t make strong partisans on either side of the political spectrum happy, but will probably be better than what we have now, whenever Max Baucus stops farting around and sends a bill to the floor.

There’s a sort of depressing inevitability to the way the story will unfold today: Democrats will snark mightily about Joe Wilson, Republicans will weep crocodile tears about the oh-so-shameless invocation of Ted Kennedy, and crazy people will continue saying crazy things. Wake me when they’re ready to vote on something.

Happily, I have another project that I really need to work on today, so I will be shutting down Google Reader for the rest of the day, and burying myself in the ArXiV. Don’t worry, you’ll get your Baby Blogging tonight, but I’ll be mostly offline until then.