Why do we care about the learner?
Ok, so this ("Why do we care about the learner?") seems to be the question that sparked some of the most intense conversation in class last time, but I have to admit that I'm a bit confused by that. I guess I didn't (don't) see how such a question could be controversial at all from the perspective of Instructional Design. The key word in that is, of course, "instruction(al)", and that doesn't just suggest the importance of the learner in the picture, it mandates it.
Or rather, I should ammend that. The idea of "good instructional design" would seem to be defined as "the design of effective and efficient teaching tools" (that's not too subjective, is it?). At least, it seems to me that "good instructional design" is instructional design that pulls this off. In this case, both words 'effective' and 'efficient' require the presence of the learner in the equation to have any value. Ergo, "good instructional design" should definitely hold the learner and his/her/their needs as the central focus.
If we widen the scope to possibly exclude the qualifier "good" and just ask what "instructional design" is, then I agree, we start taking into consideration the other factors than those that directly serve the learner, and perhaps have more to do with the needs of the client or the designer. In this case, however, if the focus becomes out of balance (as far as the need to keep the learner central), then I would argue that we are no longer discussing what could be declared good instructional design, but rather "business design" or even "project/product design". The learner's needs are no longer being served exclusively.
Now, there is a place and a real need for good "product design" principles when creating instructional tools, especially because ignoring factors such as time and budget could potentially be the downfall of an otherwise good project. Also, the learner's needs are never the only needs involved in a project. It just seems to me that the role of the instructional designer (a good one) falls within the scope of overall good product design (project management?), and it definitely entails focusing on the learner. All other considerations are not part of the "instructional" aspect of "instructional design".
Thus, why do we care about the learner? If we don't, then we are not designing for instructional purposes (no longer "instructional designers"), no matter what else is being considered (or whose purpose is being served). We are then talking about the (related) role of the "project/product designer".