by AUDREY WATTERS on 07 NOV, 2013
Below are the notes and the slides from my talk today at Open Education 2013. David Kernohan and I shared the morning keynote slot today, and we were asked by David Wiley to offer a critique of open education. And so we did. You can find more details about Kernohan’s talk here. Be sure to watch the documentary he made.
A couple of years ago, the Christian radio broadcaster Harold Camping predicted that Jesus would return to earth on May 21, 2011. The Rapture would occur, as alluded to in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 — when the “dead in Christ” and “we who are alive and remain” will be “caught up in the clouds” to meet “the Lord in the air.” That is, the souls of all the righteous — living or dead — would be lifted into Heaven.
When Camping emerged from his home on May 22, the morning after the date he’d set — “flabbergasted” — he revised his predictions. Initially, he’d stated that the May 21 Rapture would be followed by five months of fire and brimstone before the world ended on October 21.
His revision: the Rapture and the end of the world would both occur on October 21, 2011. Camping never had a huge following. But his radio station, Family Radio, did broadcast in over 150 markets. And rather than relying solely on the airwaves, the station bought billboards all over the country, warning people of the impending Judgement Day.
I want to talk to you today about narratives of the education apocalypse, about eschatology and mythology and MOOCs and millennialism, and I do so not just as a keen observer of education technology but as someone trained as a folklorist. As much as being an ed-tech writer compels me to pay attention to the latest products and policies and venture capital investment, I am fascinated by the stories we tell about all of this. I am fascinated by what I see as some of the dominant end-times myths of the business world, of the tech industry. I am fascinated by how these myths — these sacred stories — are deployed to talk about the end of the world —or at least “the end of the university as we know it,” as Techcrunch puts it with the fervor of a true believer.
Not quite sure what to make of this one, quite yet.