You might think that such a header would be followed by a passionate if perhaps overwrought appeal from a well-meaning but naive blogger. Not so: this is the title of a new article on the Project Syndicate website by our colleague Jeff Sachs, the Director of the Earth Institute. You can find it at http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/sachs184/Englishand you will quickly see that it is passionate but calm, and anything but naive.
Professor Sachs makes the case for distance-learning and web-based education as a force for social and economic justice. This is an important article for anyone who takes teaching a seminar to be an intrinsically valuable form of face-to-face communication.
Without arguing the likelihood of market forces replacing what I now do with what his argument would have me do in a web-class, the question I have is, what happens to the development of the sense of self in a student who knows him or me only as a web presence? A similar question in medical care would be, how does a person engaged in web-based medical diagnosis experience the trust and personal concern I now experience with my doctor, who will call me back when I send her an email or call her office?
In both cases a human relationship is replaced by a screen behind which is an economic value. The problem that I see is that we are as individuals reducible neither to goods nor to services. We must get and give each other our personal attention even if that remains expensive, or else we suffer.