OER and Marcus Porcius Cato Censorius maior

One of the arguments advocates of OER use to publish  learning materials under an open license is “learning materials payed by taxpayers money should be available for free”. This argument is also used in the Netherlands. Recently, SURF, the collaborative organisation for IT in Dutch higher education and research, published a position paper which stated “The Dutch Government should have as a starting point that all learning materials of polytechnics and universities, developed with taxpayers money, should be as default availble under an open license, unless there are good reasons to deviate from this.”
I do not know how often this argument is used in other countries and what its impact is, but in the Netherlands I notice it is hardly used and (even worse) hardly considered a convincing argument. When I was wondering about activities to initiate more discussion and awareness on this, I remembered the senator Cato in the Roman Empire. Marcus Porcius Cato Censorius maior lived from 234-149 BC. He was extremely worried about the growing power of Carthago, considering this a major threath for the reign of Rome. To articulate this worry and to generate continuous awareness and discussion on this matter, he accustomed to end each speech (regardless the subject) with the words “Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam” (Incidentally, I believe that Carthago should be destroyed).
This inspired me for the following ludic action. Because OER is a worldwide movement and Latin is a lingua franca for the world, we can end each presentation with the words

Ceterum censeo materia facta tributo oblatum esse gratuito

This means “Incidentally, I believe that learning materials, paid with taxpayers money, should be available for free”. Hopefully, this will add to generate more awareness and discussion on this standpoint, ultimately leading to open being the default for learning materials.
Using Latin instead of English solves a problem: which word is more to the point: “should” (making it an recommendation) or “must” (making it a certainty)? I leave it to the user to choose his/her version when translating!
In the end, Carthago was destroyed in 146 BC, at the end of the 3rd Punic War. Unfortunately, Cato did not witness this because of his dead three years before.
(Attribution to my brother-in-law Paul Hendriks for the translation in Latin.)

Posted in Open Educational Resources and tagged .


  1. Hello Robert,
    Interesting strategy- I teach OER at the University of Mauritius, and I would like to know your definition of learning materials?
    Is it what teachers produce? Is it what learners produce? Is it the effort that good teachers make to simplify complicated concepts for their learners?

  2. Hello SansadhyaSa,
    Nice question. I mean all kinds of resources for learners and/or teachers, used to accomplish a learning goal. These include textbooks, videos, audio, resources on the web, but also lesson plans and curriculum descriptions. These can be produced by learners, teachers, publishers, government. The setting in which these materials are used can be both formal and informal.

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