Pamela Hieronymi reflects on the recent developments from Harvard and MIT, wondering about the future of education. She looks at the value provided by technologies, remarking that education is not transmission of information or ideas. She looks at use of natural language processing programs and wonders about how students will be discussing important ideas in the future.
It is as though elite educators, upon noticing that we can’t program a computer to discern what is on the mind of an undergraduate, decided to pretend that if we just let those seeking an education talk among themselves (in grammatically felicitous sentences), they will somehow come to express difficult ideas in persuasive arguments and arrive at coherent, important insights about society, politics, and culture. As someone who spends time with students in directed conversations on difficult subjects, I’m sure this method won’t work.