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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Shouldn't learning be free?

 Many years ago I volunteered with an "open university" in DC.   These "universities" sprung up all over the country in the 60's and 70's.  Their philosophy was that learning should be freely provided and everyone could be a teacher of something.  No formal application process or teaching credentials needed. Many of the courses taught were by professors from local universities who had wanted to teach these courses but couldn't get them approved by their universities.  Other courses were taught by individuals to share their hobbies.  Often the classes were "hands on learning."  I remember taking an astronomy class that was taught by an amateur astronomer who had built his own telescope and everyone in the class had to build their own cardboard telescopes by the end of the class. It was an amazing class and I still can pick out the planets and the constellations in the night sky.  An added bonus was the great coffee and pastries he made for us after an evening of sky watching.  Somehow this seemed to be a more effective way to learn then the dry lectures I attended at my formal university during the day.

Most of these open universities only lasted a few years because of the need to print and distribute class listings.  The listings were distributed at libraries, area colleges and local bookstores. The expense of doing this made it difficult to sustain even these volunteer lead efforts.

With the computer I have often wondered about how these efforts could be done so much better today with minimal expense.  A website similar to HoCo Blogs that listed course offerings and Event Bright for class registration would make the process easy.  Howard County would also seem like a natural place to develop this type of effort because of all the talented folks we have in the County.  Classes could meet at local coffee shops, restaurants or even the libraries. With online file sharing class information could easily be posted for each class. Wouldn't it be nice to browse a site like that to see what interesting offerings would be available locally?

If you think this would be an interested idea to talk about drop me an email.

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bosoxbrent said...

Great idea Duane! There is something similar to this in Baltimore called the Baltimore Free School. I have not been to it yet, but I know of it due to a fundraiser for them that involved some fellow homebrewers. Here's a link to it if you want to check it out:

I'd be happy to teach a class on weather, scoring a baseball game, or homebrewing if something was ever started here in HoCo. :)


duanestclair said...

Hey Brent,
I wanted to see if I could get some people together to talk about the idea. I am looking at a time this weekend. Email me at duanestclair@gmail to talk.