Archive for November, 2010

Libertarian vs. Communitarian

November 12, 2010

At Classical values, a complaint against the Detroit Free Press advocating against a free press. For me what is most interesting is the last paragraphs:

But this is an old debate, and I often fear it is a hopeless one, because it lies at the heart of the fundamental disagreement between libertarians and communitarians.

The “I am not my brother’s keeper” meme is at least as old as the Bible. Not that I have anything wrong with anyone volunteering to be his brother’s keeper, mind you. Just as charity is good, looking out for one’s fellow humans is also good. Some people (such as Mother Teresa, along with many who have cared for the dying) have literally had to wipe the asses of their fellow humans. That form of wiping people’s asses is all for the good. But shouldn’t such goodness come from within?

If you follow the link on the fundamental disagreement, there’s another essay on what distinguishes libertarians from communitarians of both the right and left. In both cases, this points out the fundamental problem for Christians who think in libertarian categories. I find many libertarian arguments have merit; concentration of power in the state is dangerous (and a robust doctrine of depravity should lead Christians to be suspicious of concentrations of power). I think adding “liberty” as a moral category is helpful in thinking about the moral landscape, but it is not the only element we can focus on (which is what some libertarians do).

There are several potential problems with communitarian alternatives, to be sure. There are issues of moral hazard and coercion. And there is the often assumption that the only community through which to express social responsibilities is governmental. In fact, however, there are various social realities (state, family, church, etc.) each of which is an opportunity for appropriate communitarian action.

The challenge is deciding what to do with those who seek to be individuals in ways which undermine all (or some of) these social groupings. They may consider themselves healthy libertarians, but I would view them as humans who fail to fully realize their humanity to its fullest and who potentially risk the flourishing of others. This is the challenge for those who feel both libertarian and communitarian impulses.

Online Education for Online Educators

November 12, 2010

An interesting bit of potential irony – will schools buy online education to train online educators?

An Affirmation of Life

November 12, 2010

Here’s a wonderful story that affirms life.

Some insights on education’s future

November 12, 2010

Peter Wood looks forward to the future of education, especially the possibility/probability that online education will be a big part of future expansion plans. But that is not without problems:

The truth is that high-quality online courses are far more difficult for students than traditional classrooms. Students who enroll in these courses have to be tremendously self-motivated; those who aren’t quickly fall behind and the dropout rate for online courses among undergraduate students is far higher than that for courses taught in traditional classrooms. I am all in favor of making online education a standard feature of American college instruction. It has numerous advantages of scale, timing, and flexibility for students who are disciplined enough to pursue it. But that’s a relatively small cohort. The obvious alternative is to offer online college courses that are “college” in name only….

We can reach that goal [more college education], provided we are willing to define “college” down to the level of a video game. But if we are lingering over the idea of a fairly serious, intellectually-demanding exercise that takes several years of concentrated study…well, no.