July 2013

Of MOOCs and Luddites: teaching and the limits of technology

It seems like everyone is talking about MOOCs. According to proponents, massive open online courses will revolutionize higher education and turn traditional academics into the hand weavers (and potential Luddites) of the twenty-first century. But can the efficient delivery of talking heads to far larger audiences than permitted by even the largest lecture halls, all without the geographical constraints of physical buildings, really replace today’s in-person classrooms?

Civil law’s influence on early United States law

It is a law-school maxim today that the United States is a common-law country, while most of Europe uses civil law: English-derived common law has as its most basic tenet the binding nature of judicial precedent, while Roman-derived civil law privileges statutes. But the more I investigate the history and details of each, the more clear it becomes to me that the United States, at least, owes (almost?) as much of its legal system to civil law as it does to “pure” common law.

Privacy and the silo/filter/echo problem

The push for “privacy” that demands an ability to allow us to restrict who sees what–enabled, for example, by new tools in Facebook and Google+–also creates and reinforces silos (filter bubbles, echo chambers) that prevent our exposure to different ideas. But this move highlights potential conflicts between a number of rights: freedom of association and freedom of speech and the press (both from the First Amendment) and rights to privacy (from the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments). What is this conflict? Is it real? How can we (begin) to resolve it?