In “Repent, Dick Cheney” MoDo says this just in from the former vice president: Everyone else is wrong. Yes, Condi, he’s talking to you. The Moustache of Wisdom is down with all the newest alphabet soup that teh kidz know. In “The Professors’ Big Stage” he tells us that the MOOCs revolution will go through many growing pains, but it is here and it is real. Here’s MoDo:
Dick Cheney certainly gives certainty a black eye.
In a documentary soon to appear on Showtime, “The World According to Dick Cheney,” America’s most powerful and destructive vice president woos history by growling yet again that he was right and everyone else was wrong.
R. J. Cutler, who has done documentaries on the Clinton campaign war room and Anna Wintour’s Vogue war paint room, now chronicles Cheney’s war boom.
“If I had to do it over again,” the 72-year-old says chillingly of his reign of error, “I’d do it over in a minute.”
Cheney, who came from a family of Wyoming Democrats, says his conservative bent was strengthened watching the anti-Vietnam war protests at the University of Wisconsin, where he was pursuing a doctorate and dodging the draft.
“I can remember the mime troupe meeting there and the guys that ran around in white sheets with the entrails of pigs, dripping blood,” he said. Maybe if he’d paid more attention to the actual war, conducted with a phony casus belli in a country where we did not understand the culture, he wouldn’t have propelled America into two more Vietnams.
The documentary doesn’t get to the dark heart of the matter about the man with the new heart.
Did he change, after the shock to his body of so many heart procedures and the shock to his mind of 9/11? Or was he the same person, patiently playing the courtier, once code-named “Backseat” by the Secret Service, until he found the perfect oblivious frontman who would allow him to unleash his harebrained, dictatorial impulses?
Talking to Cutler in his deep headmaster’s monotone, Cheney dispenses with the fig leaf of “we.” He no longer feigns deference to W., whom he now disdains for favoring Condi over him in the second term, and for not pardoning “Cheney’s Cheney,” Scooter Libby.
“I had a job to do,” he said.
Continuing: “I got on the telephone with the president, who was in Florida, and told him not to be at one location where we could both be taken out.” Cheney kept W. flying aimlessly in the air on 9/11 while he and Lynn left on a helicopter for a secure undisclosed location, leaving Washington in a bleak, scared silence, with no one reassuring the nation in those first terrifying hours.
“I gave the instructions that we’d authorize our pilots to take it out,” he says, referring to the jet headed to Washington that crashed in a Pennsylvania field. He adds: “After I’d given the order, it was pretty quiet. Everybody had heard it, and it was obviously a significant moment.”
This guy makes Al Haig look like a shrinking violet.
When they testified together before the 9/11 Commission, W. and Cheney kept up a pretense that in a previous call, the president had authorized the vice president to give a shoot-down order if needed. But the commission found “no documentary evidence for this call.”
In his memoir, W. described feeling “blindsided” again and again. In this film, the blindsider is the éminence grise who was supposed to shore up the untested president. The documentary reveals the Iago lengths that Cheney went to in order to manipulate the unprepared junior Bush. Vice had learned turf fighting from a maniacal master of the art, his mentor Donald Rumsfeld.
When he was supposed to be vetting vice presidential candidates, Cheney was actually demanding so much material from them that there was always something to pick on. He filled W.’s head with stories about conflicts between presidents and vice presidents sparked by the vice president’s ambition, while protesting that he himself did not want the job.
In an unorthodox move, he ran the transition, hiring all his people, including Bush senior’s nemesis, Rummy, and sloughing off the Friends of George; then he gave himself an all-access pass.
He was always goosing up W.’s insecurities so he could take advantage of them. To make his crazy and appallingly costly detour from Osama to Saddam, and cherry-pick his fake case for invading Iraq, he played on W.’s fear of being lampooned as a wimp, as his father had been.
But after Vice kept W. out of the loop on the Justice Department’s rebellion against Cheney’s illegal warrantless domestic spying program, the relationship was ruptured. It was too late to rein in the feverish vice president, except to tell him he couldn’t bomb a nuclear plant in the Syrian desert.
“Condi was on the wrong side of all those issues,” Cheney rumbled to Cutler.
Cheney still hearts waterboarding. “Are you going to trade the lives of a number of people because you want to preserve your honor?” he asked, his voice dripping with contempt.
“I don’t lie awake at night thinking, gee, what are they going to say about me?” he sums up.
They’re going to say you were a misguided powermonger who, in a paranoid spasm, led this nation into an unthinkable calamity. Sleep on that.
The main problem with this column is that there can be no repentance without acknowledgment of sin or error… Now here’s The Moustache of Wisdom:
I just spent the last two days at a great conference convened by M.I.T. and Harvard on “Online Learning and the Future of Residential Education” — a k a “How can colleges charge $50,000 a year if my kid can learn it all free from massive open online courses?”
You may think this MOOCs revolution is hyped, but my driver in Boston disagrees. You see, I was picked up at Logan Airport by my old friend Michael Sandel, who teaches the famous Socratic, 1,000-student “Justice” course at Harvard, which is launching March 12 as the first humanities offering on the M.I.T.-Harvard edX online learning platform. When he met me at the airport I saw he was wearing some very colorful sneakers.
“Where did you get those?” I asked. Well, Sandel explained, he had recently been in South Korea, where his Justice course has been translated into Korean and shown on national television. It has made him such a popular figure there that the Koreans asked him to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at a professional baseball game — and gave him the colored shoes to boot! Yes, a Harvard philosopher was asked to throw out the first pitch in Korea because so many fans enjoy the way he helps them think through big moral dilemmas.
Sandel had just lectured in Seoul in an outdoor amphitheater to 14,000 people, with audience participation. His online Justice lectures, with Chinese subtitles, have already had more than 20 million views on Chinese Web sites, which prompted The China Daily to note that “Sandel has the kind of popularity in China usually reserved for Hollywood movie stars and N.B.A. players.”
O.K., not every professor will develop a global following, but the MOOCs revolution, which will go through many growing pains, is here and is real. These were my key take-aways from the conference:
¶Institutions of higher learning must move, as the historian Walter Russell Mead puts it, from a model of “time served” to a model of “stuff learned.” Because increasingly the world does not care what you know. Everything is on Google. The world only cares, and will only pay for, what you can do with what you know. And therefore it will not pay for a C+ in chemistry, just because your state college considers that a passing grade and was willing to give you a diploma that says so. We’re moving to a more competency-based world where there will be less interest in how you acquired the competency — in an online course, at a four-year-college or in a company-administered class — and more demand to prove that you mastered the competency.
¶Therefore, we have to get beyond the current system of information and delivery — the professorial “sage on the stage” and students taking notes, followed by a superficial assessment, to one in which students are asked and empowered to master more basic material online at their own pace, and the classroom becomes a place where the application of that knowledge can be honed through lab experiments and discussions with the professor. There seemed to be a strong consensus that this “blended model” combining online lectures with a teacher-led classroom experience was the ideal. Last fall, San Jose State used the online lectures and interactive exercises of M.I.T.’s introductory online Circuits and Electronics course. Students would watch the M.I.T. lectures and do the exercises at home, and then come to class, where the first 15 minutes were reserved for questions and answers with the San Jose State professor, and the last 45 were devoted to problem solving and discussion. Preliminary numbers indicate that those passing the class went from nearly 60 percent to about 90 percent. And since this course was the first step to a degree in science and technology, it meant that one-third more students potentially moved on toward a degree and career in that field.
¶We demand that plumbers and kindergarten teachers be certified to do what they do, but there is no requirement that college professors know how to teach. No more. The world of MOOCs is creating a competition that will force every professor to improve his or her pedagogy or face an online competitor.
¶Bottom line: There is still huge value in the residential college experience and the teacher-student and student-student interactions it facilitates. But to thrive, universities will have to nurture even more of those unique experiences while blending in technology to improve education outcomes in measurable ways at lower costs. We still need more research on what works, but standing still is not an option.
Clayton Christensen, the Harvard Business School professor and expert on disruptive innovation, gave a compelling talk about how much today’s traditional university has in common with General Motors of the 1960s, just before Toyota used a technology breakthrough to come from nowhere and topple G.M. Christensen noted that Harvard Business School doesn’t teach entry-level accounting anymore, because there is a professor out at Brigham Young University whose online accounting course “is just so good” that Harvard students use that instead. When outstanding becomes so easily available, average is over.