Nonsense from Stephen

by Jay Cross on June 7, 2007

Stephen Downes writes, “I will mention in passing that I am opposed to the trend coming from the corporate learning side of the house to treat PLEs as work tools. What is it about people in corporate learning that they feel the need to perpetuate the attitude of servitude it seems all learners must adopt. We don’t exist to work for a corporation; our learning, our minds, our most valuable asset of all, ought to serve our own purposes first and foremost. But I guess it’s employers, not employees, paying the bills for corporate e-learning consultants, and thy wanna hear what they wanna hear. Meanwhile – for the rest of us – the reason we call them personal learning environments is that they are indended to serve our needs, not someone else’s. ”

Stephen and I have had our tiffs in the past. They fade away as we decide we’ve got better things to do than argue. At the heart of most issues, Stephen’s take and mine are one and the same.

Until now.

Stephen says people in corporations are in servitude. He suggests that using PLEs at work is equivalent to turning our minds over to employers. Then he implies corporate eLearning consultants are in league with employers to shaft employees, telling the boss man what he wants to hear.

This is utter hogwash, and Stephen knows it. As one of a dozen or so edu-bloggers searching for the appropriate metaphor for PLE, I’ve talked with Stephen and others. He knows full well that the reason I question “Personal” is that I don’t want us to forget that learning is co-creation, not solo. It has nothing to do with outsiders trying to take control.


Lest you think I’m taking this too personally,
this is from the post Stephen linked to,
and yes, I am a corporate eLearning consultant.

Many school professionals cling to the fiction that there need be two separate realities: school and the real world. Why? Don’t we want to use the same knowledge-building tools and portfolio we spend sixteen or more years building in school when we “graduate” into knowledge work? It’s a replay of the old joke that “I wouldn’t have majored in philosophy if I’d known that none of the big philosophy companies would be hiring when I got out of school.”

As our world gets deeper and deeper into an information age where rapid change necessitates continuous learning, work and learning inevitably become one and the same. The learning environment is the working environment with training wheels and a life line. You don’t throw away your “PLE” when you graduate. Do you have to rename it?

Stephen brought up corporations, not I. In fact, fewer and fewer of us work for corporations; we’re doing our own thing. Free agent nation. Talent is scarce. Anti-capitalists need to select new devils to disparage.

On the topic of servitude, what’s more authoritarian, coercive, and enslaving than schools? Unlike students, workers have the right to quit.

Corporations don’t tell employees to stay silent unless they are called on. They don’t aspire to behavior modification and thought control. They don’t assume that management has all the right answers. They don’t punish people for working collaboratively. They don’t pump novices full of Ritalin when they get rowdy. They even try to push responsibility downstream. Compared to modern corporations, schools are dictatorships.

I fully agree that technology should serve people first and foremost. I have never argued otherwise. This has nothing to do with promoting knowledge work environments.

What’s the purpose of “Meanwhile – for the rest of us…” It’s us and them? Does this have to be win or lose? Or is that just an academic question?

I resent the implication that I tell employers what they want to hear instead of what I believe in my heart. Stephen’s flippant suggestion that I lack integrity insults me.

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