A history professor (Jonathan Rees) recently referenced the 1941 Frank Capra movie Meet John Doe. In it, a fake, world-despairing “everyman” (played by Gary Cooper) ends up having value despite being imagined into existence by a newspaper columnist (played by Barbara Stanwyck) and then being appropriated by a power-hungry aspiring politician.
Rees’ idea is that something similar is going on with the providers of online university courses (MOOCs) apparently thinking about hiring celebrity actors to “teach” their courses. It’s not a great analogy, though. For example, in the contexts of adjunct instructors and other disenfranchised academics, the world-despairing is not actually being faked at all. Tens of thousands of post-secondary courses are now being taught by academics (including thousands of Ph.D.s) who do not have offices, benefits, or pensions. Actually, some people with Ph.D.s are worse off than that: I know, because I’m one of them.
So, someone should write a screenplay called Meet Prof. Doe. The title character would be perfect for someone like Matt Damon, especially given his early success with 1997’s Good Will Hunting. (Ben Affleck may direct the movie, but he may NOT appear in it!)