The blog of Academe Magazine. Opinions published here do not necessarily represent the policies of the AAUP.
The movement toward presenting core curricula through MOOCs delivered by outside providers will continue unabated until some basic questions are answered. What is the maximum number of students who can take a MOOC before the scale becomes preposterous: 30,000–300,000–3,000,000? How do digital videos of classes avoid the pedagogical issues inherent to large lecture classes, issues which have been documented and addressed in dozens of studies over the last two to three decades? How will MOOCs delivered to colleges and universities by outside providers affect institutional budgets, given that courses in the core curricula are among the most predictable revenue- producing parts of most curricula? And how will MOOCs affect the efforts of individual institutions to create a distinctive “brand”: that is, if all of their students are enrolled in MOOCs for the core curricula, will institutions increasing become, in effect, “branches” of the MOOC providers?
Attention to the bloated salaries and benefit packages provided to university presidents will continue to deflect attention from the unmitigated expansion of mid-level administrators and administrative staffs. Some tentative discussions will be initiated about where colleges and universities might focus their resources as they enter a “post-education future.”
Ohio State will announce that President Gee’s budget for complimentary bow ties has been increased from $64,000 to $250,000 because that expenditure of $64,000 resulted in media attention to the university worth at least ten to twenty times that amount.
Not coincidentally, President Gee’s salary will be raised again, toward the ultimate goal of making him the first $10 million/year university president before he retires. All of the presidents who make much less than he does will privately, if not publicly, applaud the increases in his compensation because those increases will allow them to continue to point out how “relatively” underpaid they are.
More attention will be paid to the exploitation of adjunct faculty, but their substandard wages and nonexistent benefits will be turned into a rationale for reducing the wages and benefits of tenure-track faculty—because, after all, universities should be the last workplaces in which inequalities are institutionalized.
Beyond higher education–
The Gun Lobby’s attempts to beat back the intensified advocacy of any gun control following the massacre of children at Sandy Hook Elementary will actually accelerate the passage of even more stringent legislation. Massacres are now occurring with such regular frequency that the juxtaposition of the hysterical, extremist defense of being armed to the teeth and the rising body count of slaughtered innocents will make most normal Americans, including most gun owners, ashamed that so many have had to die to protect so little.
More voters will begin to realize that electing people who hate government to high government offices doesn’t make any more sense than hiring someone who hates to drive as a long-distance trucker or someone whose favorite food is a grilled cheese sandwich as a restaurant critic or a chef.
Much to the surprise of the Far Right, President Obama will demonstrate that he has actually figured out (albeit with astonishing slowness for someone so intellectually gifted) that he and his opponents have very different understandings of the word “compromise”: that is, for him, the word means a certain amount of give and take resulting in each side’s getting some of what it wants, whereas for them, it means that he should embrace their ideas completely and still allow them to pretend that they are disappointed that they didn’t get more of what they wanted. (This prediction may actually be more of a hope than a prediction, but I have somehow retained some shreds of that hope on which President Obama initially campaigned.)
Republicans will gradually realize that the gerrymandering that has in the short term insured their majorities in a number of congressional delegations and in a number of state legislatures will make it increasingly difficult for them to sustain those majorities even in the relatively short term, never mind the longer term. For their primaries will produce ever more radical, far-right candidates whose anachronistic views will not only appall most Democrats and Independents but also increasingly alienate many Republicans.
The electoral losses suffered by Allen West and Joe Walsh will bring Louie Gohmert into the forefront as the most indisputably ignorant member of a Congress that still includes Michelle Bachmann and Paul Broun.
Rush Limbaugh will say something offensive to women. Ann Coulter will say something offensive to people of color. And Donald Trump will say something offensive to ears.
The GOP governors elected across the Rust Belt in 2010 will suddenly realize that unless they can depress turnout to the levels that allowed their election in 2010 and that has provided the supposed mandate under which they have been introducing all sorts of radical economic and social legislation, they are becoming close to unelectable. Chris Christie is, perhaps, the exception that will prove the rule, but confrontational, out-sized (and I am not simply referring to girth) politicians do not historically have long political lives. (Does anyone remember Rudy Giuliani’s flameout of a presidential campaign?)
Conservatives in the Republican-dominated states in which governors have rejected the option to create statewide health insurance exchanges will recognize belatedly that in forcing the federal government to establish and to maintain those exchanges, they will have actually hastened the movement toward single-provider, national health insurance. President Obama will once again be blamed for the Far Right’s own political miscalculations, but as they have so repeatedly asserted, it is extremely difficult to disband bureaucracies once they have become established, and there are few institutionalized aspects of modern life that are more directly and inherently connected to our daily lives than healthcare is.
Someone will recognize that much of the fracking is going on in areas that, just a decade or two ago, were stigmatized as being part of the “radon belt.”
An entrepreneur familiar with how cow farts are now captured as “alternative energy sources” in many barns will concoct a scheme to capture much of the methane rising from the thawing arctic permafrost and will propose shipping it by pipeline either to refineries along the Gulf Coast or to Chinese tankers docked in Pacific ports. The scheme will be advertised as an attempt to save the polar bears from asphyxiation while also creating jobs for Americans and energy independence for America.
Someone will issue a warning about an impending shortage of cheese, but because last year’s predicted bacon shortage never materialized, the warnings will go unheeded until it is too late—until the overwhelming consumer demand for shredded and liquid cheese compels Kraft to offer a “cheese substitute” to augment its dwindling stocks of “processed cheese.”
Someone will invent the Lazy Sleeper, a bed that gently rolls from side to side, eliminating much of the need to shift positions while sleeping.
I will once again fail to accomplish any of the three New Year’s resolutions that I have been making for the last twenty-five to thirty years: to lose weight, to be on time, and to be at least a little less surly. My wife has asked why I don’t, instead, try to focus on some of my other failings–on some of the other offensive things about me that might be even slightly easier for me to change. But I can’t think of another damned thing that is wrong with me.
I will have to sign off now because the deep-fryer in which I am cooking the last of my Twinkies is starting to smoke, and there is nothing worse than a Twinkie so over-cooked that the bacon strips wrapped around it have shrunken and squeezed out all of the white filling.
Postscript: I have no credentials as a forecaster of future events, but I have purchased a prophecy diploma from the Church of Faux Rejoicings and Lamentations in Yakima, Washington. And I did a lot better than Dick Morris did in predicting the results of this presidential election.