If you follow this blog with any regularity then a) you’re a masochist and b) you know every so often I start talking about the City University of New York. I can’t help it, I was a wayward English Ph.D. student at the CUNY Graduate School, and before I got sucked into the vortex of the instructional web, I always thought I would be a CUNY lifer.
“But why?” you ask, “Especially given your posts about CUNY rail against their management of centralized IT, lack of any real online policy for openness, and a system-wide loyalty to canned learning management systems.” Well, I guess my answers would be the following: because I taught there for seven years (at the very moment when open admissions was ending); I have a deep and unbridled respect for the student body; I got my start in instructional technology thanks to CUNY’s Honors College; not to mention I had some unbelievable intellectual and extracurricular experiences with colleagues, professors, and good friends in the graduate program that really shaped so many of my terrible ideas. But more than all of that, I am first and foremost nostalgic, and the history of CUNY always fascinated me because it seemed so radical, important, and humane all at once:
CUNY has historically served a diverse student body, especially those excluded from or unable to afford private universities. CUNY offered a high quality, tuition-free education to the poor, the working class and the immigrants of New York City until 1975, when the City’s fiscal crisis forced the imposition of tuition. Many Jewish academics and intellectuals studied and taught at CUNY in the post-World War I era when Ivy League universities, such as Yale University, discriminated against Jews. The City College of New York has had a reputation of being “the Harvard of the proletariat.”
Over its history, CUNY and its colleges, especially CCNY, have been involved in various political movements. It was known as a hotbed of socialistic support in the earlier 20th century. CUNY also lent some support to various conferences, such as the Socialist Scholars Conference.
With over 450,000 degree seeking students, CUNY is the biggest public urban university system in the U.S., and the third biggest system in the country (behind California and New York’s State systems). But it isn’t the size, it is this idea of CUNY as “the Harvard for the proletariat” that has fascinated me. Imagine that, a solid, affordable education that serves the poor, working class, and immigrant populations, and frames a core educational mission of social responsibility in the greatest city in the world.
Enter David Harvey’s open experiment sharing his semester long reading of Karl Marx’s Capital, Volume 1 with the world. Here is the link to the site which was setup with freely available tools, and will be broadcasting fifteen videos (all hosted on Google Video) to the world for the next two or three months, at the rate of one lecture a week (note that there are already three videos posted thus far).
I was extremely excited to hear about this project from the coordinator Chris Caruso, who has spearheaded this incarnation of returning CUNY to its rich history of open and social minded education. It is particularly wonderful for me because while at the CUNY Graduate Center I really wanted to attend professor Harvey’s acclaimed course on Marx’s Capital, a text he has been teaching for 40 years now, but never got the opportunity. Well, I no longer have any excuse, and this is just the beginning of my discussion of this amazing free and open resource. Over the next couple of months I’ll start reading Capital, Volume 1 together with the video recordings of the class (all of which are from the Fall 2007). And, I’ll be using this blog as a space to grapple, reflect, and discuss the text alongside Professor Harvey’s reading of it.
One of the things I immediately thought of when I saw the site was how can it trace the discussions of the lectures that will take place over time in a distributed manner throughout the internets. If I want to refer back to the original blog with my ideas and reactions to a particular lecture, how can that site capture these discussion? A forum? Opening up comments? Allowing trackbacks and pings? I think allowing comments and trackbacks would be one way to suggests who is reading along and interacting with the lectures, I also thought something like Simple Forums might provide a way for folks to interact around the lectures who may not want to blog it regularly, or set up a separate space. In fact, tracing the discussion around these open resources is in many ways as important as the impetus to share them, and I’ll be thinking about this over the coming months as I endeavor on this project. Should be fun!