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Tuesday, August 8, 2006
Education and Technology

An interesting note on TechDirt suggests that technology and the toys of Web 2.0 will cut into the standing of the "elite" universities and bring academia closer together. Such a thought appears to miss the reasons why the elite are elite.

The blog posting suggests that as professors blog, as free journals arise, as other means of communication and media presentations surround us, the distance between the elite schools and the non-elite schools will shrink.

Now, my contact with academia is limited. I hold degrees from four universities and seminaries. I have had some minimal teaching contact with a fifth. I have three children who have completed college or are in college. In fact, my youngest chose to complete her first two years at a truly non-elite school, a community college.

The idea that more people will benefit from blogs and free journals is well founded. It is always fun to dip into the thoughts of the cream of professors. I attended an Ivy League Law School and, as a result, sat under those who wrote the cases books we used. On the other hand, even if these same professors were teaching in today's atomosphere and blogging, this does not move them from Ivy League to farm belt.

What makes the elite the elite is the fact that the elite are paying the salaries of those top notch professors. The elite have money and tradition, prestige and history. This attracts the professors. It is one thing to read their textbooks, and yes, it will be somewhat more fun to consider their blogs, but this is not the same as sitting in class with them for a semester. Or attending a BBQ and talking with them over a burger.

The elite schools will continue to enjoy the benefit of having the cream of the professors. The rest of us will enjoy an expanded contact with these people via the toys of Web 2.0. But, the professors will still be at the elite schools and since the elite schools are the only ones who have the on-going funds to carrying the elite professors, the distance between the elite schools and the rest of the universities in the world will not shrink.

It may seem smaller, but the distance will still be there. Unfortunate, but true. Technology cannot and will not change everything.

Jim A


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