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The Ivory Tower And The Bazaar

Our country is theoretically a democracy. We don’t have Civics classes like they do in America, so most of our lessons in democracy come to us subconsciously.

School forms a large part of this subconscious education. I only started realizing how bad it was when I started reading books like The Underground History Of American Education (readable online) and The Hidden Curriculum.

Schools are not typically run as democracies. Examine their structure, and you will realize that they are dictatorships. Democratic Schools do exist, but they are by far in the minority, and they certainly aren’t state policy.

The hidden lessons are scary. Obey authority. Don’t take initiative. There is only one way to do anything. I think the most insidious lesson is that only the teacher can ever be right.

The trend continues in Universities. Learning is institutionalized. Only a select few have the right to create new knowledge. The Ivory Tower. What if there’s a better way?

Open education resources (OER) are not having as much of an effect on Universities. Some big universities, like MIT, Stanford and Berkeley, are releasing some of their courseware under copyleft licenses, but these courses are rarely complete. I have yet to see them use a single copyleft textbook.

In The Cathedral and the Bazaar Eric S. Raymond contrasts two different methods of open source development. In the Cathedral model, a small group of developers carefully craft all the code for a project. In the Bazaar model, the code is public and gets developed by anybody who wants to. The analogy may give us a hint as to why OER has such an insignificant effect on education.

What I’d really like to see some grassroots Bazaar style open content education. People collaborating to learn and discover new things, where anybody who can add value can participate, regardless of income or age. I want to see a meritocratic, autodidactic revolution.

Free love and knowledge, dude.


  1. Wikipedia, dude. Wikipedia. :-)

    Thursday, November 20, 2008 at 12:21 | Permalink
  2. Gustav Bertram wrote:

    Wikibooks and Wikiversity aim to do this, but they don’t seem to be succeeding.

    I was thinking more along the lines of independent study groups teaching themselves things.

    Thursday, November 20, 2008 at 13:00 | Permalink

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