del-fi • The Strange State Politics Of Arabic OER
"Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the Open Book Project, a major initiative to make Open Educational Resources available in Arabic. There was a big launch program at the State Department, and some remarkable words from Mrs. Clinton: 'You can look around the world and see young adults in remote villages and towns huddling around a computer watching videotaped physics lessons by MIT professors. Top universities like Rice University are creating free online textbooks and saving students money in their studies. Science education websites like Khan Academy go viral. There are other examples, and these are all fruits of technological progress, but also of a commitment to make more learning materials open – free, open licensing for anyone to use, adapt, and share.' (from the text of Mrs. Clinton’s remarks - emphasis at the end added by me) I was one of many people excited to see these kind of words. I’m always glad to see this kind of phrasing about copyright in the halls of government, because it indicates at least some understanding of the potential of open copyright licenses to create innovation. But then I started thinking more about it, and the uncritical acceptance of the project without a conversation about the politics of it started to bother me. I still think it’s a worthy, and wonderful project. But let’s unpack what we’re doing here, as a government. It seems to me that we are applying state power to create digital knowledge resources that (probably, maybe, definitely) subvert the attempts of both state and non-state (social, religious) actors to control the kind of educational materials available in the Arabic speaking world. That we are practicing, as statecraft, what Nils Gilman has called deviant globalization, using an open source approach. And that’s worth contemplating..."