Open entry schools, the university as forum

I’ve been reading the fascinating A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction by Christopher Alexander, a book which I recommend to all urbanists, all architecture fans, Jane Jacobs fans, and Hayekians.  In passing, the authors toss out a proposal for reorganizing modern universities.  It has two simple principles:

1. Anyone can take a course…

2. Anyone can give a course…

Maybe that would make Peter Thiel happy.  The authors also believe that a university should consist of a series of relatively low buildings, with a lot of pedestrian pathways, with the buildings at fifty foot intervals.  (The book is in large part about how the organization of space and construction shapes spontaneous orders.)

It sounds a bit outrageous to turn Harvard into Hyde Park Speaker’s Corner, but Harvard admin. could publish a list of approved courses, all other courses you take your chances.  There still could be a “Harvard admin.-approved degree,” based on those courses, even if not everyone goes that route.  (How many current Harvard classes could keep reasonably high enrollments in the face of such competition?)  If you still find this proposal either unpalatable or commercially unpersuasive, are you prepared to admit how much the current university model is based on the idea of exclusion?  And how would you square that emphasis with university ideals more generally?


Comments for this post are closed