Free Thing of the Week: Open

Opening up the education mill to fresh ideas like open access and open textbooks remains one of the greatest challenges for anyone who believes in the commons — or indeed who believes in education itself, beyond the slimy tentacles of corporations.

Rajiv S. Jhangiani knows it all too well.

When submitting his latest book Open: Philosophy and Practices Revolutionizing Education and Science to his publishers, they insisted that he change his language to denigrate Open Education Resources by calling them “buyer beware” and meanwhile suggesting that Mr. Jhangiani “offer some pro views of traditional textbook resources.”

Instead, he withdrew the chapter entirely.

We admire his principles. We also admire his book, which is today’s Free Thing. If you are concerned with American education — and if you aren’t, why not? — this is an enlightening read. It is a collection of twenty-one essays by a diverse group of advocates for open education, each treating different aspects of the experience, from librarianship to research to secondary level education. As Mr. Jhangiani himself writes so persuasively:

Higher education, itself − if not broken − is certainly delusional. For how else can we describe an enterprise in which we continue to pretend that our students start and finish at the same place and at the same pace? Where we cling to the fantasy that our students have unfettered access to required course materials. Where our programs do not serve the modal student, who works at least part-time and will no longer spend four years studying full-time at the same institution. And where we claim to value being ‘student-centered’ when in practice faculty, course content, accreditation or testing requirements, and budgetary concerns drive the learning process far more than students.

All of this is why I bristle when I hear the old ‘if it ain’t broke, why x it?’ argument. For if it’s not open, it is broken, and that’s precisely why we must fix it.

Download Open from The Seattle Star.
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