I've been pondering further after my previous post in response to George Siemens' call to arms for visionaries in the open education movement. It's the sign of how good George's post was that it has set many of us thinking around the issue.
I mentioned in my last post that there was something of the pragmatist vs idealist in the debate, and I offer this up just because I'm trying to think it through myself. I'm in agreement about the need for debate and not letting it be overtaken by commercial interests. But I'd disagree with George's opening remark:
"We need some good ol’ radicals in open education. You know, the types
that have a vision and an ideological orientation that defies the
pragmatics of reality. Stubborn, irritating, aggravating visionaries."
I think the opposite is true – in higher education we've got too many stubborn, irritating visionaries and not enough driven pragmatists. I admire idealists, and I know that we need them to hold onto beliefs and drive forward change. But if I'm honest, I also have a bit of an issue with idealists, particularly in higher education. Being an idealist is sexy, admirable. But it can also be an easy option – idealists don't often take on the messy managerial roles of projects. It's then possible to never be proved wrong and to always claim that had they done it your way it would have turned out right. I know this, because I've done it. This isn't always true, plenty of idealists put their careers, their reputation and sometimes their lives on the line. But in the often cosy world of higher education it's possible to hide behind idealism as a means of never having to fail.
I always like people who actually get on and do it though. In his book about the development of the Mac Steven Levy gives us the famous 'real artists ship' quote from Steven Jobs. The point being that it is delivery that matters.
But Jobs is an interesting case of a pragmatist – he is also a purist and doesn't easily compromise. But he knows how to deliver, and it is that focus which I think higher education lacks. If real artists ship, what do real educators do?
In the end, maybe what I'm calling for is this: