[cc-community] CC licenses version 4.0: some thoughts on noncommercial

Paul Houle paul at ontology2.com
Wed Dec 21 08:34:19 EST 2011

  On 12/20/2011 7:22 PM, Heather Morrison wrote:
> -	Education - learning and teaching - should not be considered commercial. Here is a post with my attempt to articulate this:
> http://poeticeconomics.blogspot.com/2011/12/education-is-public-good-not-commercial.html
     I'd say that the education sector,  particularly higher ed, has 
recently come under a level of criticism that it hasn't since the 
1960s.  A person with the fashionable myopia of a professor may be able 
to deny it,  but the rest of us won't.  All too often I see 
"non-commercial" licenses used in a context that implies that 
Universities are morally better than other organizations,  and it makes 
me mad.

    A general argument would be that academic organizations have a 
feudal organization and a relationship with society that makes them 
unresponsive to its demands.  The survival of commercial organizations,  
on the other hand,  is entirely dependent on satisfying customers.  If 
the donut shop on the corner isn't producing something people want,  it 
will eventually be catabolized and the space and the workers will be 
freed up for some other activity.

     The old criticism is that the educational system is self-serving.  
It teaches students topics that professors want to teach,  not topics 
that they want to know or need to know.  It's part of the function of 
the older generation to help the younger generation fit into society.  
When education fails at this,  it harms students and harms society.

     Just to take an example,  about 2% of the physics PhD students 
produced in the U.S. get permanent jobs in physics.  It's quite likely 
that we've produced several Einsteins and Feynmans in the last 30 years 
and they're working for Goldman Sachs, Google. etc.  Graduate students 
spend 5-10 years surrounded by people who think "getting ahead in 
academia is the only thing" and it's a traumatic experience making the 
transition to being a person who's responsive to other people's needs.  
Those who leave may be the lucky ones,  because many professors are in a 
state of continuous torment because they can't stand the prospects of 
training and endless graduate students and postdocs who go on to 
accomplish nothing -- everybody involved in physics graduate education 
is living a lie.

    On top of that,  in my long and varied association with an elite 
Uni,  I've met only one professor whose background I found out about 
whose parents were not professors -- and he was one of the most 
miserable and neurotic persons I've even known.  Only recently has this 
problem of entrenched nepotism been talked about in the Chronicle of 
Higher Ed.  Maybe it's not so bad at a state school,  but it damages the 
legitimacy of the Uni in my mind.

     The cost of higher ed has ballooned out of control since the Reagan 
years,  and now many people incur $30,000 or more in debt to get a 
degree which they find economically valueless.  Yes,  the students bear 
some responsibility in this situation,  but I'll say that it takes some 
effort to find a commercial organization that will get you that far in 
debt just to have a party.

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