In addition to my conference in February I have another conference in January at which I’m presenting. This one is on the changing idea of learning spaces, and I’d be completely out of my element in this conversation if it wasn’t for our foray into a new building, one that will transform bricks and mortar as we know them. Yes, I’m perhaps a bit skeptical.
My idea of new learning spaces is more like Edmodo or Learnist, but I understand that we do need physical spaces for all of us to gather under. I’m not convinced that those are private universities, but I’m also not willing to give up my cushy tenured job to test that theory to any serious extent. After all, someone has to pay the taxes for those public libraries that give us the public spaces that we can hack through Edmodo (or Anonymous).
This space strikes me as both public and transformative, in ways that certainly don’t meet any standard corporate ideal about what we want our students to be doing, but in ways that I can understand. The experiential possibilities are massive – I’ve seen them, including the formation of tribes and story-telling that can be life-altering as well as silly and ridiculous – but they’re hard to figure into dollars and cents.
I keep telling myself that I understand the need for the conversation about making profits, even if those profits are moderate and invested back into the enterprise rather than into executive bonuses and new cars (and $350 a month dry cleaning bills, which is another story). And I don’t want to be a hippie or a Marxist, because I don’t think that that sort of lifestyle is sustainable or even honest. Still, there are moments where working for a private university that costs a lot of money (even if we do good, and work with a lot of folks who’ve never gone to school, and that our tuition helps them develop skills to take another, completely different, step away from where they’ve been and develop skills that will keep them competitive in a world in which the types of knowledge valued by their mothers and fathers is gone) that feel like I’m giving away something precious. Perhaps because I’m blind those moments are few and far between.