The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Five resolutions for the future of education

“Grinnell College supports the free expression and exchange of ideas and opinions and hopes that users of its computer systems will actively explore the possibilities of electronic publication on the World Wide Web. The College encourages students, faculty, and staff to create and publish WWW pages through its servers, believing that such creative work develops analytical and imaginative thinking, critical independence, and respect for intellectual and social diversity.”

— Grinnell College Acceptible Computer Use Policy, Section 13

 

The world is changing. We see it every day. Advances in information technology have profoundly affected our ability to share information. It is essential now that we take a moment to consider the role of education in our society. In the interest of future generations, for the sake of social justice, and in the name of our shared humanity, we wish to the express the following:

For a good while now, the Free Network Movement has been working towards making the world a freer place through the ethical use of technology. While our efforts up to this point have been mostly of a technical nature, we are excited to say this is no longer the case. With the publication of this article we hope to spark a dialogue about the role of our institution in a changing world. As the College seeks the formulation of a long-term vision, we intend to make our voices heard. We intend to ask the following question, as poignantly and as plainly as possible: “what can we, as an institution and as individuals, do to serve humanity?” In our search for answers to this question, one idea has come to the fore. It is an idea that has been embraced with great effect by other institutions of higher education. The idea is that of OpenCourseWare. OCW is not a new idea. MIT launched their version in 2002. Since then, many of America’s finest institutions of higher learning have joined in, creating websites that offer course materials to any interested party. While there are certainly curricular differences between Grinnell and larger research institutions, the time has come for Grinnell to do its part in providing an education to all those who seek knowledge, even if they cannot afford it. We see a future in which educational environments in cyberspace transcend the barriers to knowledge that are so needlessly pervasive in today’s world.

In the coming weeks, Freenet will begin circulating a petition to students, faculty, and staff calling for actions that would make some semblance of a Grinnell education available to a much larger population of intellectually curious individuals. It is important to note that OpenCourseWare does not result in any sort of certification or degree; its purpose is education for education’s sake—a means of empowering humanity against the constraining bonds of ignorance.

Among the proposals Freenet will make are the posting of syllabi and reading lists on an open, non password-protected website, a space for students to publish original work that the public can read and share via Creative Commons Licensing, and a commitment to readings from open, online scholarly journals that do not require expensive subscription fees.

The following is a first draft of the petition that we plan to distribute. In the spirit of collaboration that has become characteristic of the new information economy, this document is by no means complete. Any who wish to comment on or edit its content may do so by visiting the Commons at freenetworkmovement.org/commons, and clicking on “Resolutions for Education”:

Five Resolutions for the Future of Education:

Whereas we value truth and humanity, it is morally imperative to help others when it comes at no cost to oneself.
The marginal cost in the reproduction and transmission of information rapidly approaches zero, yet there exists a growing disparity in global levels of wealth and education,
As members of an academic community we possess the technology, the means, and the intellectual capital to bridge that gap.
We believe that knowledge is power.
We should build a system that is capable of ensuring that our course materials are made freely available to the public.
Institutions of higer education should provide a platform for both Faculty and Students to publish their work.
Academics should help to make public discourse more civil and better informed.
We should contribute to the intellectual commons that is emergent in cyberspace.
Technical assistance should be provided to those that wish to publish online but are unable to do so.

We hope that you will join us in conversation, in person or in the Commons.

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