Harvard has a few propositions it would like you consider. Take, for example, the one expounded on above by Robert Lue, whose titles include Professor of the Practice of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Richard L. Menschel Faculty Director of the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, and the faculty director of HarvardX. As an Open Culture reader, you might have some experience with that last institution—or, rather, digital institution—which releases Harvard-caliber learning opportunities free in the form of Massive Open Online Courses (or MOOCs). You’ll find some of them on our very own regularly-updated collection of MOOCs from great universities. Perhaps you haven’t enjoyed taking one, but you may well do it soon. What, though, does their increasing popularity mean for universities, one of the oldest of the traditional industries we so often speak of the internet “disrupting”? Lue, who offers eight and a half minutes of the choicest words on the subject, would like you to consider the MOOC’s moment not one of disruption for the university, but one of “inflection, and ultimately a moment of potential transformation.”
Lue’s argument comes laid out in one of the six brief but sharp lectures from Harvard Thinks Big 5, the latest round of the famed university’s series of TED-style talks where “a collection of all-star professors each speak for ten minutes about something they are passionate about.” Jeffrey Miron, Senior Lecturer and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Economics and senior fellow at the Cato Institute, has a passion for drug legalization. In his talk just above, Miron tells us why we should reconsider our assumptions about the benefits of any kind of drug prohibition — or at least, the benefits we just seem to assume it brings. And as we rethink our positions on the role of government in drug use and technology in the university, why not also rethink the role of large news organizations — and large organizations of any kind — in our lives? Below, Nicco Mele, Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy at the Shorenstein Center at Harvard’s Kennedy School, explains why all kinds of power, from manufacturing sandals all the way up to gathering news, has and will continue to devolve from institutions to individuals.
The rest of the Harvard Thinks Big 5 lineup includes Senior Lecturer on Education Katherine K. Merseth advocating careers in teaching, Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology Jeff Lichtman advocating “changing the wiring in your brain,” and African American Studies professor and Hiphop Archive at Harvard University founding director Marcyliena Morgan advocating a richer study of what grown-ups used to call, with a groan, “rap music.” You can read more about the talks and the professors giving them at the Crimson, before watching and deciding whether to agree with them, disagree with them, or simply consider — in other words, to think. The videos are also available on iTunesU.
Katherine K. Merseth
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.