A Tale about Mook and Slopscoutch

Sometimes when you check out the ‘fridge and pantry you find that a lot of leftovers as well as odds-and-ends have accumulated. You know—vegetables that are not as fresh as you’d like, meat that’s getting close to its ‘best before’ date, bits and pieces of spices and such; no single item or smaller collection thereof is enough to create a meal. Besides the materials are not really first-rate; certainly not the makings of a meal for honoured guests. So, what do you do?  You have few choices, really. You could throw all of it out and just be done with it but you know you cannot. It cost good money and, besides, our Moms and Dads etc. taught us not to be wasteful.

So, then, your best bet would be to make ‘slopscoutch,’ or as it is more widely known ‘lob scow.’

Go look it up in wikipedia if you like :>)

Slopscoutch, by the way, is what you get when you take all the stuff you don’t really want to throw out and make a stew from it. It’s actually palatable if you know how to do it—a few cheap spices really jazz it up. Instead of dumping all of the second-rate and about-to-expire content—whoops, I meant ‘food’—you can make a meal good enough to sustain yourself; one that actually doesn’t taste half-bad as long as your preferences and standards are not that refined.

Ok, now, let’s take it up a notch. Let’s say there is a well-to-do entrepreneurial chap in your hometown. For argument’s sake, we’ll call him Mook. He has made a ton of money selling second-rate items to ordinary folks who are not that well off. He’s found a simple trick that works well: find a widespread need and fill the need by supplying items that are good enough—barely. Suppose that one day, Mook visits one of the townsfolk, Mr. Semandown, trolling, as always, for new ideas. The simple peasant, after giving Mook the grand tour of his not-so-grand estate, treats him to a bowl of slopscoutch before he leaves and talks to him about how he has been encouraging his fellow peasants to share their food with those that were not so well off. Semandown, you see, has a vision in which all contribute, each in their own way, and the result will be greater than the sum; all will benefit.

On the way home Mook realizes that the slopscoutch did not taste so bad and, besides, it filled his belly to the point that his hunger was pretty well satiated. Mook gets a great idea: giving it away is nonsense–there’s money to be made! Forget Semandown! He will, instead, enlist the aid of a large group of peasants. They will all provide him with slopscoutch which he will combine into one heaping big steaming vat. Using his advanced distribution system, Mook will then sell this low cost food to peasants everywhere. He will get even richer and the poor peasants will be able to obtain food that is good enough. Good enough for them, that is. Mook will continue living the high life. Slopscoutch: eeeeewwww for him, but certainly good enough for peasants!

So, straight to work he goes. It’s easy! The peasants everywhere are more-than-willing to offer up their slopscoutch. In the big vat it all goes, along with a few select spices to help hide the taste of the few ‘slightly-off’ ingredients as well as to offer some taste to an item that is, after all, a bit bland.

But the peasants love it! Bowl after bowl they buy!  The slopscoutch is all the rage with everyone talking about it.

Not everyone finds it to their liking, though. In fact, those that are actually paying attention notice that the vast majority of the bowls of slopscoutch are hardly touched, let alone finished. Few actually say anything, though. Mook’s PR people have done an excellent job of marketing the stuff. Even those who have not even tried it are raving about it; raving of how it will revolutionize education—err I mean eating. Eating, yes, that’s it. Little slip, sorry. And the food administrators and academics, well, they almost go into a feeding frenzy over the whole thing–that is if you can actually have a feeding frenzy without eating; there’s no way THEY would actually touch the stuff, but they don’t mind talking and writing about it. Paper after paper is published. Mook himself becomes the subject of academic study. International conventions are even held in his honour.

But the simple fact remains true: the slopscoutch is really not haute cuisine. Those who really love food and are passionate about it know that there’s no real way that slopscoutch can ever be considered first class. It’s just ‘slapped together’ from leftovers and second-rate items.

Now Mook, he’s not stupid. He wants to continue to make money and he knows that he will have to deal with the little issues—quietly—if he wants to keep his customers. He will further refine his distribution system, become a little more picky about who he gets his stuff from and will further improve his spice blend. Oh, and he will ramp up the marketing and do his best to silence the dissenters.

But in the end, MOOC, whoops, I mean Mook, (sorry again) will always be selling slopscoutch.

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8 thoughts on “A Tale about Mook and Slopscoutch

  1. katelynheiner

    I decided to take your suggestion on blog.opentapestry.com and read your post! Very interesting and quite a clever analogy. My question is: can we really claim that the quality of content that MOOCs offer is less-than-satisfactory? Or are there other factors that decrease the quality of MOOCs? Many MOOCs are taught by professors at highly prestigious institutions. My thought is: perhaps the quality of content is not what is lacking, but the delivery and evaluation methods that are employed. When over 100,000 students enroll in a course where there is no student-teacher interaction and grading is based purely on peer reviews (the majority of which are inadequate markers), percentage of completion, or computer graders, how can people expect that this will result in an acceptable learning experience? Thoughts?

    1. You’re correct, of course. I neglected to mention a few more pertinent facts in the story. Mook hasn’t much regard for people getting together to eat. “Dining is not social in nature,” he insists. “Besides, our thrifty peasants cannot afford to spend the valuable time needed to gather in one place for communal dining.” No, they can all eat at home and, so for that reason, the slopscoutch delivery system is not designed for delivery to restaurants. Diners must partake of their meals at home. Mook says, “If they wish to converse they may shout at one another through their window slits. Surely that will suffice.” There’s something else. Mook runs the whole operation, except for the deliveries, which is contracted out. With hundreds of thousands of meals delivered daily, of course problems happen. Bowls are cold, only partially filled and quite often basically unsuitable. Customers are encouraged to obtain support by calling the help line. With only Mook available to answer–and he’s generally busy spooning up the stuff–few of the calls ever get answered, let alone resolved.

  2. I think the burden of proof lies on proving something*does* have quality, rather than that it doesn’t. Mediocrity is much more likely. If somebody’s going to make the claim that the content is *good* — that’s what I want backed up with support.
    On the other hand, I have been thinking that MOOCs may serve to expose just how flat much postsecondary content delivery (without MOOCs) is, and how much of it *could* just as easily be delivered by a computer. I’m taking a “half online” course now where most of our content is delivered by… us going online and finding tutorials.

  3. Very interesting and reflective post. I enjoyed your MOOK moment, and the narrative tastes good. Have to say: we need more mooky educators who are creative, like you, to share the mooky news, in a creative way. John

    1. Thanks! In all seriousness, I do acknowledge that there are some good things happening out there, but much of the valuable stuff–specifically the often excellent learning objects and almost heroic efforts by some gifted instructors to make students feel they belong–gets lost in all of the hype.

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