• Just Visiting

    A blog by John Warner, author of the story collection Tough Day for the Army, and a novel, The Funny Man, on teaching, writing and never knowing when you're going to be asked to leave.


Thomas Friedman, Wrong...Even When He's Right

Thomas Friedman is a terrible, terrible thinker and columnist. I know, no duh.

September 10, 2014

I have been hard on New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman in this space.

In one post, critical of his embrace of MOOCs as a replacement for face-to-face learning, I said that Thomas Friedman has as much credibility on education as I do on dunking a basketball.

In another, I pointed out the inconsistencies between his support of MOOCs and the Common Core State Standards and his championing of the need for job seekers to challenge themselves intellectually and creatively and to distinguish themselves from the herd.

So I was pleased to see his Sept 9th column highlighting the recent Gallup-Purdue study that uncovered the important aspects of the undergraduate experience that correlate not only with future success at their jobs, but actual well-being.

I’ve written about the results a couple of times noting that the study makes it clear the process of education is more important than the product. It turns out, that one of the processes that really matters is interacting with faculty mentors.

Friedman picks up on these findings and praises Labor Department programs that plan on funneling $2 billion to MOOC providers as part of a competition to see who can develop the best “virtual mentor” utilizing adaptive algorithms.

Hold on. That’s not what he praised. He praised Labor Department programs that are funneling $2 billion to community colleges to help them develop “employer-validated training programs for new careers like natural gas field work and cybersecurity.”

He calls the employer-educator partnership “the new, new thing.”

Friedman goes on to discuss his previous support of MOOCs and how he no longer believes that a standardized curriculum devoid of genuine mentorship is an effective model for a rapidly changing economy that “faces creative destruction on steroids.”

He explains how he was wrong, how he has thought differently and better of the challenges of education, and that the key to moving forward is to provide students with teachers that can engage them as individuals.

No, of course he doesn’t do that either. He ignores the obvious inconsistencies with his earlier columns. Why would we expect the guy who blew the call on the invasion of Iraq, and never managed to pen a genuine mea culpa, to come clean on his 180 degree about face on education?

I’d like to welcome Thomas Friedman to my side of the aisle, but Friedman is as free swinging as a weathervane in a windstorm. He will be dazzled by something else soon enough and go flitting off like a dog chasing a butterfly.

You just have to figure that he doesn’t give a crap, and neither do his employers, nor do the corporations that pay him vast sums of money to speak about his particular brand of nonsense.

Last post I talked about the necessity of calling things that are bullshit, bullshit.

Thomas Friedman’s columns … steaming bullshit, even when I agree with them.


Despite being a bot that only posts links to his latest column, Thomas Friedman's Twitter feed has 301 thousand followers. I have 2,177. Life isn't fair. Neither is Twitter.



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