UM history professor JB Shank recently spoke to Inside Higher Ed about Pawlenty's iCollege idea.
"...Shank says he is troubled by Pawlenty’s framing of the issue as a battle between pro-efficiency, pro-technology students of the “iPod generation” and stodgy, ivory-tower luddites who care more about self-preservation than lowering barriers to higher education.
“Technophilic talk is a pernicious distraction,” he says, “because it allows for a certain kind of justification for not giving the university the money it needs to provide the kind of education it wants to provide.”
...There is a conversation to be had about the role of online education in lowering the costs of certain segments of higher education, Shank says. But the broad-strokes manner in which Pawlenty seems to be painting the issue on the national stage is not a good starting point, he says. Dubious math aside, the subtext of the governor’s narrative is that a liberal arts education is either obsolete or undeserving of state support, Shank says. This should strike educators as alarming, he says, since online learning platforms are inadequate venues for the sort of extemporaneous Socratic exercises in critical thinking that lie at the core of the liberal arts. (Shank cited a recent column by New York Times columnist David Brooks exalting the societal value of the liberal arts, and pointed out that Pawlenty himself is the product of such an education.)"