Minnesota banned me from learning Python, for free, online

October 22, 2012

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything about politics. It’s also been a while since something has made me so angry that I needed to write about it. (Not that I haven’t been annoyed by something, I just haven’t felt like writing about it.) Last week, while I was minding my own business doing my homework from my programming course on Coursera.org, I took a break and glanced through Twitter to catch up on some news and whatnot. The first tweet I saw was:

My first thought was, “WTF?! Are you fucking kidding me?!” Of course a retweet followed. Then, in a move reserved only for extreme circumstances of gross government interference, I emailed my representative, Mr. Bob Barrett (I haven’t heard back yet, that was 3 days ago).

Now, I realize there’s nothing Bob can do about it right now, but I feel like he and everyone else who has any godforsaken power in this stupid state, should probably realize that this is the dumbest thing Minnesota could be focusing their energy on right now.

Aren’t there 3rd graders who can’t read? Or 11th graders who can’t find South Dakota on a map? Of course, they’re not as big of a priority as making sure an unemployed 29-again-year-old woman can’t learn something new. Give me a break!!

Do I hate python with all of my being right now? Yes. Do I think this could lead to more job opportunities? Potentially. Am I busting my ass every single freaking day to learn this stupid evil language? Why yes, yes I am. But that doesn’t mean the State of Stupid Minnesota needs to say, “No Candice, we didn’t receive payment from M.I.T. and the University of Toronto to teach you and without that payment we can’t be sure that M.I.T. would provide you with a quality education for free. So, you’re out of luck. Sorry sweetie.” (I feel like The State is really condescending like that.)

The thing with this law is, and everyone under the sun has written about it (links below), it’s old as shit! Also, it’s intention is to make sure Minnesota students/residents aren’t paying thousands of dollars for some horseshit degree (University of Phoenix comes to mind here.). I GET IT! The state is just protecting me from learning stuff for free from excellent institutions. Thanks, Minnesota. I’m so glad you know what’s best for me. I don’t know where I’d be with you, Da– I mean, State.

Two things here:

1) Coursera.org/Edx.org are FREE!! I don’t pay anything. I don’t even need to wear pants if I don’t want to. I can sit on my couch, drink coffee and watch a lecture from my teacher from M.I.T. The only thing it costs me is an internet connection, and since it’s 2012 and I don’t live in a fucking cave, I already had that!

2) Coursera.org/Edx.org do not offer degrees. I will not earn any sort of college credit from any university offering courses on those sites. A few courses offer a certificate of completion, but that’s basically just helpful to say, “Yes Mr. Future employer, I was taught python by two professors at the University of Toronto. See, it says so right here.” That doesn’t mean shit, really.

Now, on Coursera’s Terms of Service page it has a special message for Minnesota students:

Notice for Minnesota Users

Coursera has been informed by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education that under Minnesota Statutes (136A.61 to 136A.71), a university cannot offer online courses to Minnesota residents unless the university has received authorization from the State of Minnesota to do so. If you are a resident of Minnesota, you agree that either (1) you will not take courses on Coursera, or (2) for each class that you take, the majority of work you do for the class will be done from outside the State of Minnesota.

Bottom line is this: Minnesota is stupid when it comes to “education.” Apparently gathering up money, AKA: “authorization”, from quality institutions matters more than the fact that Minnesota residents can learn anything they want for free!

Seeing as though I live close to Wisconsin (< 10 miles away), I can always cross the dreaded river and set up shop in a coffee shop and do my work (I don't even think there's a Starbucks or Caribou in Wisconsin, definitely not in St. Croix. I don't even think they have wi-fi yet. True story.) but then these classes are costing me money and that totally negates that whole "free" thing. Or I just use a proxy and and learn from Japan.


I continue to learn from my couch. This is The U.S. of A. I can learn whatever the hell I want, wherever the hell I want.


Story links:

Huffington Post
The Business Journals
The Chronicle of Higher Education

4 Responses to “Minnesota banned me from learning Python, for free, online”

  1. John Says:

    are you saying you don’t think there is a Starbucks in Madison or Milwaukee Wisconsin? All of a sudden i don’t care what you are ranting about. On Wisconsin!

    • Candice Says:

      Maybe in Milwaukee, or Madison, but not in the border towns near me. lol Possibly in Hudson, but that’s like an hour drive, so… too far way.

  2. John Says:

    fair enough 🙂 I totally agree with your statement. What I would like to know is how would Minnesota be able to track and regulate this? What is the punishment for getting caught…Excommunicated from the state 😛

    • Candice Says:

      As far as I know, the only way to be excommunicated from the state is to publicly state, in the presence of 2 or more people, that you hate hockey and wish it never existed. LOL

      But on a serious note: I don’t think they can enforce anything here. Which is why it’s such a bullshit deal. If the state wanted to get their $1,200 from all the schools offering free classes it would cost them a fortune. Pretty sure Harvard, M.I.T., Stanford, et al, will just flip MN the bird and carry on with business. But I don’t even think it will get that far. Larry Pogemiller, director of MN Higher Ed, said on MPR today that there isn’t a “ban” but the state needs to figure out how they “regulate and register education institutions”. Whatever that means.

      Regardless, Coursera still has a special condition for Minnesota students on their terms of service page which says I’m not allowed to take coursera courses in MN.


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