Ah, Minnesota. The home of “nice” Big Government. And in keeping with that, last week the state produced a grand example of mindlessly intrusive regulation. That’s the “Big Government” part. The “nice” part is how quickly the government conceded it was wrong.
I read about it first at Reason’s Hit & Run, where Katherine Mangu-Ward proclaimed “Minnesota Bans Free Online College Courses from Coursera. I Give Up.” She briefly related the burgeoning online industry of offering college course lectures free to the public (minus the accreditation), and how one of them was singled out for prohibition from the state’s Office of Higher Education: “Coursera is unwelcome in the state because it never got permission to operate there.”
Ms. Mangu-Ward’s conclusion was simple:
A day later, however, the story had radically changed. Minnesota’s bureaucrats had rethought their position, as related by this particular bureau’s bigwig, Larry Pogemiller: “Obviously, our office encourages lifelong learning and wants Minnesotans to take advantage of educational materials available on the Internet, particularly if they’re free.”
Pogemiller went on to promise that, when the legislature “convenes in January, my intent is to work with the Governor and Legislature to appropriately update the statute to meet modern-day circumstances.”
The regulators of Minnesota’s higher education proved that they could learn a new lesson. How well? We’ll see, as online schooling continues to gain its foothold — and accreditation, too.
Gerard Piel famously wrote of the “acceleration of history.” With the Internet, we see the feedback time from bad policy to removal of said policy cut down to a mere day.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.