Let us offer a tangential discussion of a "scholarly" question here, Lanham's "Q" question. The investigation of what constitutes "scholarly work" in journals, in the classroom, in the library, out there, "in the "real world." should come back to the question of what function does the very term "scholarly" serve? What world view does the term represent? What are the underlying motivations for it's use? Why do we keep returning to this question over and over?
In "Writing Instruction in School and College English 1890- 1985," James Berlin traces the history of writing instruction, noting "Education in a democratic society is invariably a scene of contesting over a kind of economic, social, and political formation that schools ought to endorse" (). Both Berlin and Lanham agree that
curricular decisions are at the heart of the matter. So questions about canon, scholarship, rigor, student outcomes, are central to the "Q" question as we re-evaluate them in terms of a "new technology." These central curricular questions morph into, "intellectual property," and always "scholarly rigor." Our work online allows us to investigate anew what these terms mean. And if Berlin is correct in saying, "Curricula decisions are, however, often negotiated responses to larger economic, social, and cultural events in society" (), then MOO will problematize the way we think about, and the way we do, education.
As Joel Spring in The American School 1642-1985 has convincingly argued, the curriculum in the U.S. school and college has been a terrain of conflict among competing groups, groups representing shifting alliances of politicians, government agencies, labor unions, business concerns, educational experts of different stripes, and parents, each itself divided along lines of class, race, gender, and other loyalties. (184)
Who we are and what we do on MOOs brings into question fundamental conceptions of education. Lunsford, Rickly, Salvo, and West question intellectual property issues in "Who writes" LINK here...and we point to the work and play on MOO as a place where notions of the individual author, owning "knowledge" as an artifact, owning "rigor" as a commodity get challenged and enacted in ways that institutions may not be ready to deal with if they intend to maintain traditional boundaries:
EDUCATION < --- > EVERYTHING ELSE OUT THERE.
What happens when a 12 year old, working on MOO, anonymously, does more "scholarly" work, than the "scholars," or contributes to the "scholarly" discussion? What happens when the work of the 12 year year is that which enables scholars to complete their own studies? We get Lanham's notion of "oscillation" between the binaries, so that
|US <---> THEM||US && THEM|
|Meaning it is us against them, no cooperation, no collaboration.||gets redrawn as||&& is a boolean term, 'and,' symbolizing the need for both sides to be present.|
The oscillation between the two becomes a necessary condition for what follows. In other words, both conditions must be present for a valid result.
The very basis of MOO, the generics, the shared objects, shared "ownership," the hierarchy of class structure lends itself not so much to a canonized version of curriculum, but a shared data base, constructed by the MOO community. We would like to note that many using MOOs and learning a great deal from MOOs are not part of the "serious" professional groups we see here, calling for ever more "rigor" in order to prove the value of MOO. Consider Tbone's post. He is a middle school student who has long been a mainstay of the MOOs we have worked on. Tbone has "taught" many teachers to MOO. Tbone is one of the most serious MOOers we know.
I think the work we do on MOOs is a very important part of people's life. perhaps someday their increased typing speed may pay off and get them a good job. Maybe the knowledge of what things are like outside of their town will help them if they go traveling. The point is, MOOing helps people Grow, Learn, Achieve, and Succeed. (Survey )
Tbone uses the language of his local school to express what he knows of the collaborative effort made by the school administrators, teachers, students, parents and local businesses. Tbone connects to a university MOO (as well as "social MOOs"), works with teachers and others from around the world, does his homework by integrating his MOO work (quite often in the form of interviews), thereby instructing his offline teachers in the possibility of MOO as well...teachers who often have never been online.
We have always taken Tbone and others like Tbone seriously indeed. This upsets the apple cart of what constitutes not only "serious work" but also what gets valued on MOO. How do we measure student outcome on folks like Tbone? We don't. Not only that, their work is not considered "serious" by academia.
We think an even more important question to ask is, "What happens when the Andreas and the Tbones meet online?" What happens when they choose to self identify, owning their respective positions in the offline world; what happens when they do not know each other as offline "teacher" and "student," only as online individuals; what happens when the Tbones instruct the Andreas in the ways of MOO? On those "bad days" when people feel that scholarly collaboration does not have a chance, perhaps meeting Tbone on MOO would brighten their day. Such is the challenge of MOO to our ways of thinking, teaching, sharing -- such is the challenge of MOO to the "traditional" notions of what academia and "scholarly rigor" are all about.