Sunday, May 13, 2012

Is knowledge really "free"?

I ran across a commentary (May 6) by a young elementary school teacher and recent college graduate himself, Guthrie Andres, “The Value of Knowledge”, with link here

Mr. Andres discusses the proliferation of online courses and their possibly unexpected effectiveness in organizing material.  He mentions the Khan Academy, to which I have sometimes referred.  He provides the discussion against a backdrop of rising costs for college education and increase in college graduate debt (such as the Sunday New York Times today, May 12, story by Andrew Martin and Andrew W. Lehren, link, requires paywall) .

I also recall a discussion on ABC Nightline a few years ago with Jimmy Wales about the idea of mastering “all knowledge”.

Certainly, I have been in the “free knowledge” business ever since the I started my websites (in 1997) to back up my first “Do Ask Do Tell” book (check me on Amazon).

Knowledge does not behave in our culture the way other goods and services do (but, then again, neither does health care).  I sometimes get pressured to get more into activities to “sell” (or hucksterize) and prove that I can make other people money in the short term with the “knowledge” I can offer – or else maybe go away. 
There’s something disturbing about all of this – mastering knowledge and creating and interacting with art and culture can augment one’s own self-concept, regardless of who else is around, regardless of whether one is dating or has a life partner or dependents, or any measurable responsibility for others (chosen by one’s own actions or not).

When I was a tween, my father used to complain “You read….” .  I was right about some things even then (like the harm of too much fat), and didn’t want to play others’ “competitive” games.  

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