Russ Feingold, Ken Burns weigh in on Ron Johnson’s suggestion to replace college professors with videos

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MILWAUKEE -- The cost of college has recently dominated Wisconsin's U.S. Senate race between Ron Johnson and Russ Feingold. This, after Johnson suggested replacing college professors with Ken Burns documentaries.

Johnson blamed a "higher education cartel" for driving up the cost of college. Democrats attacked him, but Johnson continued to raise the issue.

The debate over college costs began with, of all things, a PBS series.

Ken Burns: The Civil War on PBS

It started when Johnson suggested Burns' videos on the Civil War would do a better job teaching students than history teachers could.

Ron Johnson

Ron Johnson

"You don`t need individual professors for everything/ When you find an excellent professor, put them on videotape, and let that person be the lecturer for a host of other individuals. And then let other teachers, other professors, go off of that and expand on that," Johnson said.

Johnson's Democratic opponent, Russ Feingold, responded:

"I think that is an absurd way of talking about this issue," Feingold said.

Burns himself said on Twitter: "I'm here to support teachers, not replace them."

Ken Burns

But Johnson is making professor pay a campaign issue.

Russ Feingold

Russ Feingold

"It`s interesting. I know Senator Feingold is attacking me one more time -- falsely," Johnson said.

Feingold's financial disclosure report, required of all U.S. Senate candidates shows he made $150,000 as a Stanford University professor in 2015.

"I don`t know how long those lectures were. An hour? $8,000 per hour? Maybe it was two hours. $4,000 an hour? It just gives you an indication of why college is so unbelievably expensive," Johnson said.

FOX6 News asked Feingold if he should've taken less money at Stanford -- which is a private, not public school. He didn't directly answer.

Russ Feingold

"This issue is about student loans and the fact that there is a terrible problem with people being in debt. This is the issue. When Senator Johnson was asked about it, his response was, 'well, what we should do is get rid of professors and instead just play Ken Burns videos,'" Feingold said.

The most recent Marquette University Law School poll, released on August 10th, showed Feingold leading Johnson by 11 points among people who said they're voting in November, and by five points among all registered voters.

3 comments

  • CYNIC

    My wife is in an online program through Lakeland. Her professor did not respond to a single email, phone call, or class forum request. The materials he provided were not even relevant to the course’s objective. We basically spent thousands of dollars for her to self-study her way through the course. So ya, I know where Johnson is going with this. I’m a UWM grad. 90% of the time I was being taught by TAs and not the actual professors. Need help? Call the TA. Question on grading? Call the TA because the prof never saw your work. Yet it still cost thousands of dollars. So while replacing professors with videos may me an over-simplification, merit-based pay and the elimination of tenure would be a better step in the right direction. If the professors don’t show up, why the hell should the students?

  • Chrisco

    At lest Johnson is trying to do something. What has Russ done beside him spending the last 6 years living in California? What did he do as a senator? Just enough to keep the suckers voting for him.

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