Imagine for a moment that someone wants to let you in on a little secret. He is privy to some special information and is willing to share it with you. It’s a small favor. It will help you, really. So you read on.
This person then goes on to tell you about an outsized opportunity that may well have escaped your attention. But thank goodness, he’s got your back. Listen up, he’s not talking about small potatoes here. This is a righteous opportunity to win big. If you get in early, that is. If you act now and jump on the epic wave that leads to the very gold (I mean totally gold) coast. (You’ve gotta see that, right?)
And get this, this opportunity is in teaching!! Yes, creating, promoting and teaching online courses and seminars! THIS is the future we’re talking about here and IT IS A GOLDMINE! And you can do this all via LinkedIn because LinkedIn just bought e-learning giant Lynda. Are you kidding me, it doesn’t get any better (or easier than that)!
As much as I wish I was kidding, I sadly, am not. This was a real article (post? hype banner?) which showed up in my Twitter timeline.
One of the headines reads:
How YOU Can Sell More By “Teaching” On LinkedIn
“Sell More By ‘teaching.'” Let that sink in. “Teaching” in quotes should set the alarm bells ringing. I realize that the audience here is not educators, per se, but everyone else. The author is John Nemo, CEO of LinkedInRiches, a company dedicated to helping individuals make money via LinkedIn and other media platforms it appears.
I guess what struck me here has more to do with readers, young and old, who can easily accept this as a set of facts to be acted upon; who would have significant difficulty recognizing this as a piece of hypeware (yes, I just made that up), a piece of writing that is there solely for the purpose of creating the illusion of buzz and importance. He could just as well say that selling T-shirts, coffee mugs or pet blankets will lead you to the revenue promised land we all dream of.
We must not be alarmed that “teaching” in this context is there to be commodified like all sorts of other products. This bit of specially served info has little to do with improving society and its citizenry. Rather this is about a business opportunity, and the field in question happens to be “teaching.” Education in all its forms is a genuinely enormous market not only for tech products but also for traditional publishing. This we know, although the side-effects can be difficult to stomach at times.
I bring this up as yet another public service announcement: Don’t Believe The Hype! And even more to the point: Always Question The HYPE!
One of the benefits of the internet, social media, and all this connectedness is that whatever you are doing, writing, explaining – somebody else is probably also doing it/has done it/will do it better. In this particular case, I believe this post, The Non-Uberization of Education by @mweller fits the bill particularly well. In a nutshell, he asserts that the hype surrounding Uber’s model of market domination and seemingly inevitable march of all other sectors to follow suit simply does not work in the field of education.
The appeal of apps and businesses like Uber is their simplicity. It’s not impossible to address all of the reservations I’ve set out above in some Uberized fashion, but it would end up being a complex, unwieldy affair that would defeat the very object of its existence. And that is the biggest difference between Uber and education – getting a taxi is simple, getting an education is complex. That’s why we value it highly – after all, you put letters after your name to indicate your education, not to show how many taxi rides you’ve taken.
This reminds me that I, too, probably need to learn to let go. Yes, the gold diggers are here and well supported by snake oil salespeople galore. This is no surprise. This is not the neoliberal apocalypse. It is simply an attendant reality of our times. Education and teaching can be tools for money making and therefore plenty of folks will make every reasonable attempt to shake the money tree. Let them shake it.
We, as educators, citizens and parents, on the other hand, will need to do more than preach critical thinking. We’ll need to practice it, and model it, teach it, and practice it some more. We won’t get rich doing it, but we’ll have some integrity and evidence of learning to show for our efforts.