YouTube U

David Clemens

At a recent Liberty Fund Socratic Seminar on “Education and Liberty in the Digital Age,” the conferees considered whether the Internet cum computer constitute “disruptive technology” that will subvert and fundamentally change today’s crumbling educational monolith.  We paid particular attention to online education, innovative for-profit programs, and the educational potential of videos on YouTube.  We watched the rap video “Fear the Boom and Bust” (better known as “Keynes vs. Hayek”) which has racked up over 2,000,000 views and 1100 comments plus its sequel, “The Fight of the Century: Keynes vs. Hayek Round Two.”

Can you really educate or stimulate serious interest in economics with a music video?  I was dubious.  From 1984 to 1994, I wrote a column for Media and Methods analyzing music videos for their use in education (Joan Logue’s dream-like video for Paul Simon’s “Rene and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After the War,” John Mellencamp’s “Authority Song,” Dire Straits’ “Brothers in Arms”).  Back then, the teacher popping in a rare videocassette of a music video was cool, hip, and sexy.

Eventually, however, I decided that in fact there was no educational value in music videos.  At one time, showing INXS’s “Devil Inside” to spice up a “Young Goodman Brown” discussion stimulated students but by 1994, videoland was where students already spent most of their time; no buzz.  So the Keynes vs. Hayek vids looked stale and artifactual to me.

However, since YouTube arrived in 2005, maybe lower production costs and vast accessibility have revived music video with a disruptive potential.  Just last week, The New Republic editor Jonathan (“I hate George W. Bush”) Chait penned a sniffy refutation of “Fear the Boom and Bust.”  Yes, a completely straight-faced fisking of . . . a rap music video.

Yo, J-Chay, it’s two old econ dudes acting like gangsta rappers.  Laffs, namean?  Your sermon to the TNR choir disses the vid but thanks for driving more page views!

So maybe Chait should fear the educative possibilities of YouTube, even if Neil Postman was right that electronic media turn everything into entertainment. Perhaps right now millions of entertained fanboys are reversing their course down the road to serfdom having been schooled up by “Hayek’s” rap

The question I ponder is who plans for whom? Do I plan for myself or leave it to you? I want plans by the many, not by the few."

Mos def.

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