Fall 2014 Stanford Political Theory Workshop

September 10th, 2014 § 0



Joshua Cohen and I will serve as conveners of the 2014-15 Political Theory Workshop at Stanford University.  We have a terrific line-up of local and visiting scholars.  Detailed information about the workshop and archives of previous guests available at http://politicaltheory.stanford.edu

This quarter we’ll host:

Jason Stanley (Philosophy, Yale University)

Christopher Lebron (Philosophy, African American Studies, Yale)

Lisa Herzog (Ethics in Society, Stanford)

Josiah Ober (Political Science, Classics, Stanford)

Megan Blomfield (Ethics in Society, Stanford)

Ryan Pevnick (Politics, NYU)

Adam Sandel (Social Studies, Harvard)

Seana Shiffrin (Philosophy, Law, UCLA)

Fall 2014 Flyer






Election 2012 class, online and in person

November 13th, 2012 § 0

This fall quarter at Stanford I have been teaching an experimental new class on the Presidential Election.

The course is experimental in three ways.  First, it’s a collaboration with two colleagues, David Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize wining historian and expert on 20th Century American history, and Jim Steyer, CEO of Commonsense Media and a Stanford Law grad.  Second, the class purposefully mixes together Stanford students (undergraduates and graduate students) with adults from the local community who are enrolled via the Continuing Studies Program. Third, the class is also being offered online via Stanford iTunes University.

The course filled up quickly, enrolling 400 students and 200 community members.  The online version of the course was also popular, with more than 30,000 people currently signed up to receive the course videos.

The course took up weekly and serial examinations of major topics at stake in the election: foreign policy, the economy, the Supreme Court, campaign strategy, and California politics. We were joined every week by some distinguished guests who participated in conversation. These included, among others, Steve Schmidt, Christopher Lehane, Mark McKinnon, Rep. Anna Eshoo, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Stanford President John Hennessy, Nobel Prize winning economist Ken Arrow, California State Supreme Court Justice Goodwin Liu, and Presidential Debate Commission co-chair Michael McCurry.

I intend to write up some reflections on the online version of the class shortly.  For now, I want to provide, in one easy-to-find format, some of the online materials for the course: the suggested readings and links to the online videos.



Sending Universities Down the Path of the Newspaper Industry

May 18th, 2012 § 4

What is the future of higher education in the coming era of online learning and MOOCs (massive open online courses)? One frequently heard story is that MOOCs will provide educational experiences, and eventually credentials, to the world, and for free or at very low cost.  We will see the democratization of learning opportunities, and the knowledge and learning contained within university walls, protected by high tuition rates, will break free and stream across the world to anyone with an internet connection.  Another version of the story: will universities be sent down the path of the newspaper industry, putting content online for free and suddenly finding its business model in disarray?

Stanford is leading the way in charting the new path, doing its best, I think and hope, to avoid pushing higher education down the path of the newspaper industry.

The President of Stanford, John Hennessy, has said that the advent of online learning is a “coming tsunami”, and that Stanford and other universities must prepare and adapt, lest, I suppose, they be destroyed.

John Etchemendy, the provost and acting president (Hennessy is now on a short-term sabbatical), recently made a presentation about Stanford and online learning at the faculty senate.  It makes for very interesting, and bracing, reading.

Here, for instance, is Etchemendy’s take on identifying the core function of Stanford:

What’s the main danger that I see in this very uncertain future? To answer that I want to ask—what is the value of universities as institutions? A lot of people say, ‘Well, the value of a university is—we teach students.’ I think that’s the wrong answer, because universities don’t teach students, faculty teach students. What I want to know is, what’s the value of the university as an institution? It’s certainly not teaching. A university doesn’t do any teaching.
I would claim that the main value, or one of the main values is certification, but not certification of graduates. I’m not talking about the degrees we give out to students after they finish being here. Not certification of graduates—what do I mean? I mean the certification of faculty for the students. First of all, the university selects and certifies that the faculty that you’re coming to Stanford or wherever, [to learn from] or to study with, actually know what they’re talking about. If you want to study physics, and you come here and you take our physics course, [Stanford certifies that] this person knows what he or she is talking about. Notice that’s not something that would be easy to do if there were no universities. If you just wanted to learn physics, presumably people could come, put up signs, and say, ‘Hey I’m a physicist and I’ll teach you physics,’ but how would you know that that person really knew anything about physics? So we certify faculty for our students.

Similarly we select and certify students for our faculty. We make sure that the faculty can count on the fact that the students they are teaching are ready to take the course, are of a certain quality level, so that you don’t waste your time having lots and lots of students, some of whom are ready, some of whom aren’t ready, and some of whom are beyond ready.

That bidirectional certification is what I think is a core competence and core reason for the being of a university.

The problem is, a lot of the online universities that are just starting up want to access that same certification for free, so that they can sell the services of these online courses to their students. And that’s all hunky-dory, and they may well pay a faculty member $5,000, $10,000, $20,000 to produce a course for them—not certainly for the full cost of that faculty member, the full cost is being borne by the university. But for a little bit extra, they’ll produce courses for the online university. The problem with that is that is not a stable model. Why? Because they’re not paying the full cost of the faculty, and if the students then migrate to the online university, then the financial model just doesn’t work. It completely breaks down.
Think newspapers, for example the Chicago Tribune, and think of these reporters [as faculty] and the readers [as students], and what happened? Well, what happened was the online, disintermediation [removing the middleman] of news took the newspapers, who were paying the cost of the production of the news and used to be getting money for that, from its readers; it took the newspapers out of the picture. So the [online news providers] make the money, but they don’t pay for the production of the service. In the long run this is not a stable model. We don’t want to go, neither as universities, nor as faculty, the way of the newspaper industry in the New World.

Will MOOCs destroy the business model of higher education?


Political Theory Workshop Schedule, Fall 2010

September 27th, 2010 § 0

With the start of the fall quarter at Stanford we’re about to begin another year of the Political Theory Workshop.  Once again Josh Cohen and I are organizing and hosting the workshop.  And once again the workshop will be co-sponsored frequently by the Program on Global Justice.  The workshop meets 1:15 – 3:00pm on Fridays.  Contact Kelly Rosellen for details and to be added to the email announcement list.

The full schedule of the workshop can be accessed here.  A list of our fall quarter speakers is below the fold.

» Read the rest of this entry «

Political Theory Workshop Schedule, Winter 2010

December 17th, 2009 § 0

The Political Theory Workshop at Stanford University will resume in Winter Quarter on Friday, January 9. Josh Cohen and I co-direct the workshop, and we’ve got a great line-up for the new quarter.

The workshop meets on Fridays, 1:15-3pm. Full details about the workshop can be found here.

To join the mailing list for the workshop, email Kelly Rosellen: rosellen[at]stanford[dot]edu

January 8, 2010
Diego von Vacano
Political Science, Texas A&M; visiting scholar at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences
Title: Immigrant Identity in a Cosmopolitan World
Co-sponsored by the Linda Randall Meier Research Workshop in Global Justice

January 15, 2010
Josh Kornbluth
Title: TBA

January 22, 2010
Kieran Oberman
Stanford Post-Doctoral Fellow (Program on Global Justice and Center on Ethics in Society)
Title: Can brain drain justify immigration restrictions?
Co-sponsored by the Linda Randall Meier Research Workshop in Global Justice

January 29, 2010
Barbara Fried
Stanford Law
Title: The Consequences Matter — But To What?
Co-sponsored: Political Theory Workshop, Program on Human Rights, and the Linda Randall Meier Research Workshop in Global Justice

February 5, 2010
Allegra McLeod
Stanford Post-Doctoral Fellow (Program on Global Justice and Center on Ethics in Society)
Title: Exporting U.S. Criminal Justice: Global Governance Through Crime
Co-sponsored by the Linda Randall Meier Research Workshop in Global Justice

February 12, 2010
Margaret Gilbert
Philosophy, University of California, Irvine
Title: De-Moralizing Political Obligation

February 19, 2010
Daniel Markovits
Yale Law
Title: Toleration and Politics

February 26, 2010
Melissa Lane
Politics, Princeton
Title: Weakness of Virtue, Not Will: Plato on Self-Knowledge and Akrasia
Co-sponsored: Political Theory Workshop and Ethics and Politics, Ancient and Modern Workshop

March 5, 2010
Niko Kolodny
Philosophy, Berkeley
Title: The Explanation of Amour-Propre

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