21st century education
History & Future of (Mostly) Higher Education

History & Future of (Mostly) Higher Education

I’m taking a MOOC from educational visionary Cathy N. Davidson, former Duke University Vice-Provost and co-founder of HASTAC.

Wk 1 The 4 Great Information Ages

  1. Writing
  2. Moveable Type
  3. Mass Printing
  4. Internet

What is Literacy in the 21st century?

Who was your most inspiring teacher?


Week 2

The Duke iPod Experiment
A Brief History of Higher Education


  • Descartes
  • Diderot – encyclopedia – disciplines
  • Kant – we see the world through the filter of our perception

Training Farmers to be Factory Workers

Publicly Supported Compulsory Education, 19th c

  • Timliness
  • Hierarchy
  • Productivity
  • Standardization
  • Order

Rows of desks > train you for work on the assembly line

Regulation of

  • the body
  • of human life

William James


What the French call “distraction”
William James, 1890

Divided Attention
Collaboration by Difference

The opposite of William James & Frederick Winslow Taylor.
Taylor: Scientific Labor Management – Taylorism – assembly line efficiency.

  • Soldiers
  • Malingerers

Industrial Educational Complex, 1875 – 1925
Cathy N. Davidson

Hey students – why don’t you research Taylor @ Dartmouth for this class? — hmm… maybe I’ll start a university instead?

Scientific Learning Management

  • Grades
  • Requirements
  • Return on Equity
  • Multiple Choice Tests
  • Learning Disabilities
  • SAT’s
  • School Rankings
  • Tenure


Standard Deviation – deviation from a mean
class, education, wealth, superiority
pay aristocrats to reproduce


before grades students received long expository reviews
1897: Mount Holyoke College: A, B, C, D, F
2nd to adopt: American Meat Packers Association – thought grades were too simplistic!

ABCDF Grading spread like wildfire!

Multiple Choice Testing

  • No Child Left Behind, USA 2002
  • Frederick J. Kelly invented standardized test: 1914 doctoral student

In 1914 US had passed new laws that students stay in school until age 16. Large immigration.

Multiple Choice was a method where anyone could grade a test.

Standardized Testing teaches you how to think. It standardizes culture.

Even though Duke is an expensive, elite, private school, Davidson is as visionary and progressive as it gets. It’s wonderful to be taking this course, especially at this moment working toward the launch of Medici University. The ideology at the heart of MU is very consistent with Davidson’s thinking and I’m sure the experience of this course will enrich our thinking about the foundation of Medici University.



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