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Uses and abuses of the word 'free'

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Internet education is set to become big, and I mean BIG. No surprise there. Out of the same “stable” as the people who brought us Yahoo and Google, we now have some Computer Science lecturers/entrepreneurs selling us “free” university education via the internet.

“Free”. That’s the hook, isn’t it? Who can resist freebies? “Free” is one of those words used and very much abused by advertising and business producing an Orwellian Double Think regarding the word “free” i.e. business tells you something is free and you believe it, even though it isn’t free at all. Yet one thing that you can be sure of is that when someone is advertising something as “free”, you can be damned sure it isn’t. The red warning flags were flying high and whipping in the gale when I heard the f-word being used this morning.............

As they say, the Devil is in the detail. Here’s two:

Firstly, a catch, although not presented as such --- it was instead presented as one of the wonders of modern internet practice and as a sort of unique selling point. One of the jobs of university lecturers is to mark their students’ essays, tutorial work etc, etc. Now, this internet “university” has only a few lecturers, but many thousands of students. How on earth, then, are the lecturers going to be able to mark and grade student work? The answer is they won’t. Students will mark and grade each others’ work: that is, the students will be burdened with the work that should be done by their teachers. So, the courses aren’t free, then, are they?

(The above is an increasingly common trend. In secondary school education it is becoming more common for pupils to be burdened with assessing their own work. In other words, pupils are being forced to do the work that their teachers formerly did. Similarly, their teachers are being burdened with work that used to be done by their managers or other local authority workers. In fact, at my local library exactly the same is happening. The ordinary, unpromoted, even temporary library staff are being loaded with work that used to be done by their managers. Councils also get their “customers” i.e. you and me, to do more and more of their work for them. The police are at the same game, getting us to do their work for them. And business is at it too. Whenever it can, it passes the burden of work onto the customer, just like that internet “university” is passing the burden of work onto its customers (which they call “students”).)

Secondly, while the courses may be accessed “free” (as long as you have a computer and all the associated paraphernalia which is most definitely NOT free), if you want a certificate you have to pay for it. That’s where the company is making their money. The certificates are “only” $30 to $80 each (how many certificates would one have to buy to complete a degree, one wonders?), but…….. there is an additional cost. You must surrender intimate information about yourself to the company as proof of identity. The company then makes a sort of internet “biometric passport” out of that information. Apparently the education company is a world-leader in researching and developing this type of internet ID. The owners of the system didn’t spell out the implications of this, of course. The point is that the ID identifies not the computer that the user is working from, but the internet user him or herself, no matter what computer they are working from. Now I bet the police and all national and international security agencies will be interested in that one! How long will it be before your every movement on the internet can be tracked and traced down to you personally, and how long will it be before you could be prevented from using the internet because you don’t have a passport. And how long will it be before you cannot use the internet without such a passport? “Free”???!!! I think not.

“One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them;

One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

In the land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.” (Tolkien)

Actually, that’s it in a nutshell. That’s how “free” an internet education is. The price is staggering. Are YOU willing to pay it?

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I love moderators. Let me count the ways:

I love the way they change the title of a post without a by-your-leave;

I love the way they do so anonymously;

I love the way they move the original post to a totally inappropriate forum;

I love the way they delete any replies they do not like;

I love their sense of humour,

I love the way they uphold the rules, it makes me feel so safe, so secure.

I LOVE moderators... All You Need Is Love, doo-dee-doo-dee-doo, All You Need Is Love, doo-dee-doo-dee-doo, All you need is love, love. Love is all you need, Doo-dee-doo-doo-doo, doo-dee-doo-dee-doo. All you need is love, love. Love is all you need, Love is all you need, Love is all you need,

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