Support Your Local Baker! (And Professor, too!)

No one would argue that access to higher education shouldn't be broadened. But one effect of this process will likely be the laying off of thousands of professors who are building communities across the country by forming relationships with students, fellow faculty, community leaders, and the general public.

One thing we've learned from the history of science is that the more researchers, the better. A large community of inquiry helps find mistakes and leads to greater numbers of unexpected combinations of ideas and talents. The danger of the Coursera phenomenon is that it breeds the (false) notion of learning by the "Great Professor."

In contrast, I'd suggest that every town needs local heroes: great bakers, a great restauranteurs, and yes, great professors. Knowledge at a distance, via technology, may save a soul here or there (by bringing water to an educational desert or two), but it wittingly or unwittingly furthers the reduction of knowledge to information and impoverishes the connections which make society humane.

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