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American Higher Ed

“The question arises how our own intellectual traditions, both scientific and humanistic, will be affected by the current transformation of the American university along the lines of a business enterprise. We are told that there are exciting efficiencies to be realized by replacing face-to-face instruction with Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). However appropriate-even ideal-they may be for instruction in some narrow technical matters (I am a big user of YouTube instructional ideas on topics like computer-aided design, and how to build electronic fuel injection systems), in the arts and sciences we should take notice that MOOCs divorce the articulate content of a field from personal interaction with a teacher who has made it his vocation to live with the field's questions. There is, then, a certain harmony between these institutional developments and our deep supposition that the ideal of perfect “clarity”-of precise formalization-is both possible and desirable and that, if realized, it would make any field transmissible by impersonal means. But let us heed Polanyi's warning that “the ideal of eliminating all personal elements of knowledge would, in effect, aim at the destruction of all knowledge.”

Matthew Crawford, The World Beyond Your Head, pp. 138-39.