Free Trade, Education, and the American Way
"We don't hear a lot about world free trade and education," Stephen Downes noted earlier today in OLDaily.
We should. I promise you that GATS negotiators somewhere in Switzerland are talking about their version of free trade and education every day.
Stephen then linked to our brand-new Transnational Ed Blog and picked up our "colonialist" characterization of free trade in the Ed Biz, which he used in contrast to the picture painted by Philippe Legrain's piece in the May 9th Chronicle of Higher Education. Well, first of all, thanks for noticing, Stephen. I'm not being ironic or sarcastic, this was definitely a red letter day for Transnational Ed Blog. Second, I stand by it; the quote was not taken out of context. I got no beef. But third, I don't necessarily agree with Stephen's main point, or disagree with Legrain's -- even though I'm supposedly on the other side.
The OLDaily blurb takes issue with Legrain's belief that: "It is a myth that globalization involves the imposition of Americanized uniformity, rather than an explosion of cultural exchange"
There are a few brief concerns stated in the blurb about the dominance of American, or Western, values, and it concludes with its own rhetorial flair: "A culture survives through its education, and when its education is imported, something dies"
Yeah, but ...
The rest of my post, after the quote which made the OLDaily, described the basic reason why some nations will absolutely have to import education -- their domestic demand is way too far ahead of the supply.
Am I thinking too much in traditional terms? Will learning object repositories and Open Courseware initiatives change the whole equation? Maybe, but I find it difficult to ignore the squadzillions of people all over the world who are paying good money right now for the privilege of earning credits toward an accredited degree. With the linkage between "real degrees" and career earnings firmly established, I don't see the situation changing any time real soon. I'm not sure it should.
If the growth of Transnational Ed is being driven by market forces, it seems to me we should be considering ways to shape the export/import process so that something doesn't have to die. It is the inevitability of cultural demolition that I disagree with, not the possibility of it occurring.
What died when the NBA was exported/imported worldwide? Nothing but the myth of American hoops exceptionalism.