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Image: Steve McConnell, UC Berkeley

Department of Justice Wages War on Free Education

By Preston Cooper

A federal investigation will likely force the University of California-Berkeley to take down the online courses and lectures it offers for free—all in the name of “equality.” No matter that while campaigning for free community college, President Obama said that “education has always been the secret sauce, the secret to America’s success.” His Department of Justice must have missed the memo.

UC-Berkeley offers free online courses on several platforms, including iTunes U, YouTube, and edX. It offers massive open online courses (MOOCs) in subjects such as introductory statistics and financial planning. One MOOC teaches writing skills and includes practice assignments for the Advanced Placement (AP) examination in English Literature and Composition. Such a course could be useful to high school students who wish to take the AP exam but cannot afford expensive tutoring.

The horrors of free education are apparently too much for the Department of Justice. Last month, Rebecca Bond of the Department’s Civil Rights Division sent a letter to UC-Berkeley fretting that the free courses were not sufficiently accessible to people with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The complaints include a lack of captions on some videos for deaf listeners and “insufficient color contrast” in some video lectures which is “difficult for an individual with low vision to discern.”

The letter demanded that UC-Berkeley retool its online content so that “individuals with vision, hearing, and manual disabilities can acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as individuals without disabilities with substantially equivalent ease of use.” Most egregiously, the letter instructed the school to “pay compensatory damages to aggrieved individuals for injuries caused by UC-Berkeley’s failure to comply with [the ADA].”

The letter did not touch upon how, precisely, one can receive a refund for a free service.

Read more: Manhattan Institute



 

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