Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.): To Rein In College Costs, Use DVDs and Internet Instead of Teachers!

Dear Commons Community,

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said last week that to rein in college costs, let’s have more DVDs and fewer teachers.   As reported by The Huffington Post:

“We haven’t even come close to taking advantage of the power of technology in education,” Johnson said at a WisPolitics forum. “We’re still working on the exact same model ― almost the exact same model. … The way to really bust up the higher education cartel is move to a certification process versus a diploma process because a diploma process maintains that cartel within these institutions of higher education.”

Johnson also touted the benefits of online education and suggested that teachers really weren’t all that necessary anymore: 

JOHNSON: We’ve got the internet ― you have so much information available. Why do you have to keep paying differently lecturers to teach the same course? You get one solid lecturer and put it up online and have everybody available to that knowledge for a whole lot cheaper? But that doesn’t play very well to tenured professors in the higher education cartel. So again, we need destructive technology for our higher education system.

WISPOLITICS: But online education is missing some facet of a good ― 

JOHNSON: Of course, it’s a combination, but prior to my doing this crazy thing [of being in the Senate] … I was really involved on a volunteer basis in an education system in Oshkosh. And one of things we did in the Catholic school system was we had something called the “academic excellence initiative.” How do you teach more, better, easier?

One of the examples I always used ― if you want to teach the Civil War across the country, are you better off having, I don’t know, tens of thousands of history teachers that kind of know the subject, or would you be better off popping in 14 hours of Ken Burns Civil War tape and then have those teachers proctor based on that excellent video production already done? You keep duplicating that over all these different subject areas. 

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers ― a union with more than 1 million members ― sharply criticized Johnson for his remarks.

“Leave it to someone from a party led by a reality TV star to confuse videotape with the learning experience of a classroom,” she said. “What Ron Johnson doesn’t get is that education happens when teachers can listen to students and engage them to think for themselves ― and that can include using Ken Burns’ masterful work. But this is typical for a party with an education agenda as out of date as Johnson’s Blockbuster Video card.”

“We know Ron Johnson graduated from college 40 years ago, but we assumed it was from a university here on planet Earth,” said Scot Ross, the executive director of the liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now, which flagged Johnson’s remarks. “Not only does Ron Johnson oppose common sense measures like student loan refinancing that would immediately reduce costs for 515,000 hardworking Wisconsin borrowers, but he apparently thinks the solution to the nation’s higher education student debt crisis is getting rid of diplomas and watching more television.” 

Johnson is running for re-election against former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), who lost the seat to Johnson in 2010.”



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