Global Quoran Reeducation

January 26, 2011 § 1 Comment

By: J.C. Hewitt

Quora obviates the need for massive numbers of teachers and professors scattered around the country teaching to disparate bands of disaffected children. Whether or not schooling itself is a debatable notion, but now that technologies like Quora have come along, traditional education must be viewed in a starker light.

Any child in the world with an internet connection can ask any question of anyone on the service. They can search through a database of hundreds of thousands of answers by adults of varying levels of experience. They can join into complex conversations regardless of their social status, wealth, gender, or anything else. A well-trained raven could contribute, and Quora wouldn’t know the difference. The users might notice, but there are no technical barriers to contribution.

Every year, a new crop of students walks in to listen to lectures and to ask questions. The content of those lectures tends to disappear into the air immediately. And the professors will repeat the same lecture the next semester to a slightly different crew of mildly interested students.

Many universities even consider professorial lectures their intellectual property. Only MIT has made a considerable effort to make lectures available to the public, and even then, curious outsiders can only approach professors through the moderately cumbersome and awkward process of sending an e-mail .

Much of Quora content is imperishable. Most of the answers that users post will become a part of the Internet for decades or even centuries to come. The questions that students in eras past will have asked will still be there. So will the answers. The information that once leaked out to drowsy students can now be captured and be made available forever for a price that approaches nothing.

Why should any child anywhere settle for a teacher that’s not as close to the highest authority on a topic as conceivably possible? Most parents need to spend at least $20 an hour for a tutor. More expert tutors can cost upwards of $100 an hour. With Quora, any child can find answers directed to their needs for the cost of a few characters typed into a search engine.

The web certainly changed my childhood. I learned to write by hanging out on the snarky forums of “Lum the Mad,” the pseudonym of current Austin game developer Scott Jennings. A friend directed me to his site in our computer lab during the sixth grade, and it hooked me immediately. My time brawling in forum flame wars and chatting with adults gave me access to a world of active knowledge that I never would’ve known about if I’d been relegated to the segregated environment that most adults relegate children to.

If I were an 11-year-old today, I would shirk my homework and read Quora.

What sort of person would a child who starts using Quora now become in ten years? Do you think that they’d be more capable, intelligent, satisfied, and confident in their own abilities than a current graduate of Princeton?

Why should any child anywhere in the world settle for a chalkboard? Why should they need to wait for the teacher to call on them to receive an answer to one of their questions, when this tool responds to their needs in less than a second?

Academics who scoff at technology are rather like Byzantines hiding behind the walls of Constantinople, oblivious to the power of the incoming Turkish shells.

JC Hewitt currently contracts for Loopt. He’s a copywriter and marketing guy. His opinions are independent from those of his employers. Up-vote all his answers or send him threatening private messages.


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