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In our MOOC moment, public opinion about teacher quality does not matter.

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(Article changed on January 3, 2014 at 19:28)

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In our MOOC moment, public opinion about teacher quality does not matter.

Ali Hangan

The New York Times published an editorial, Why Other Countries Teach Better (December 17th, 2013), that compared three countries to the U.S., raising concerns that poorly trained teachers would lead to an unprepared workforce for the global labor market.

Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, defended teachers in a response, noting that reforms have not worked and there should be more investment in teacher training.

They are both right, but opinions may not matter much as the specter of disruptive technologies the of  Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) slowly march into the public education system.

Critics have cited the dismal results of the MOOC experiment at San Jose State in California, launched by the company Udacity. However, MOOCs will most likely remain apart of the education landscape as President Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology have urged Obama to let market forces develop better systems to employ the technology.

What effect will MOOCs have on teachers?

To answer this question, one might look to the changes that took place in the music industry, in the early 20th century, to serve as a historical parallel.

In the 1920s, the radio led to the rise of the music industry, creating an entire ecology of jobs from musicians, dancers, singers, promoters, and concert staff.

Music-industry workers formed unions, reaching their apex in 1942. That same year, a general strike was called over royalties, spurring companies to cut cost to produce music.  This process took place in three phases:

1) The rising star of Frank Sinatra signaled a sea change in the industry to focus on the less expensive option of, a vocalist rather than, a band. 

2) The invention of the Jukebox, offered a cheaper form of entertainment and club owners actually made money as patrons paid to hear each song play.

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Ali Hangan is high school teacher in Pomona, California.

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