Among the things I got from my father is a phrase he used to guide the way he engaged with the world. You don’t make money off the misery of others. This was usually applied by him to to the provision and practice of socialised medicine. But, it extended beyond the health of individuals with a powerful positive corollary: if people are in misery and you could do something, but choose to make money in the face of that misery you are sure as shit slips off a shovel making money off their misery. Private, for-profit hospitals were axiomatically, for him, wrong. I do not think he could have imagined private prisons let alone a society – or single human – which or who would benefit from such a thing.
I accept as a society and member of such, that I might want to use force to prevent the immiseration of others directly: robbery, assault and so on directly immiserate the victims. Those who prevent such activity should be paid as good a wage as anyone engaged in the alleviation of misery. I understand incarceration as a part of a holistic approach to making the world a less miserable place. But, we shouldn’t fund pensions through such activity and we certainly should not fund lavish lives. Surplus value created through the alleviation of misery should be returned to common wealth not private benefice. Removing liberty is as fundamental as providing any service, which alleviates misery. A preventative corollary follows. The liberty to profit from immiseration should be restricted.
There is, of course, a 1,000 mile question in this inquiry. How close to the misery do I have to be – in space or time – before anything I do should be restricted in order to turn all my resources to the alleviation of that misery?
How close to the moment can you get? “Be here now,” urges 1960s psychologist Richard Alpert. A mythical Google aspires to a perfect concurrent rendering of this reality: in real-time, in software. How much rewinding can we do before anyone notices the pause for thought? Reflection in action often has the effect of: “Oops! Don’t do that again.” Have we all heard ourselves tell ourselves, “Don’t say that,” and then hear ourselves say it? The warning reverberates like a slow bell buoy. It fades until the next wave makes a ding! Good learning is sometimes referred to as “authentic”. What is this but being “in the moment”?
I have been invited to “Listen to and comment on” a number of presentations this morning. These presentations will be made by participants on a study tour for Chinese academics and higher education professional and student-support services staff.
I received the invitation yesterday morning in a hotel dining room in Cardiff, shortly before co-facilitating a workshop for newer academic staff at the University of Cardiff, who may be new to teaching and leading study modules.
So this is a note to myself, in the moment between. My colleagues at OCSLD and I use a phenomenographic approach to analysing learning events and the work of those who lead, teach or otherwise facilitate learning in higher education. Try to distinguish between event and judgement. There is data. And, there is analysis.
I have engaged with four one or two-day events organised by Oxford Prospects Programmes. Two events were for about 50 “senior academics” (n=100) from a number of Chinese Universities. One event was for about 45 professional and student-support services staff. One event was a symposium on “Education and Social Governance” jointly organised by Beijing Normal University and the Department of Education at the University of Oxford. At the symposium, academics from both institutions, eminent local government officers and representatives of the British Embassy in Beijing and the Chinese Embassy in London addressed contemporary socio-economic impacts of higher education and the role of education in social governance issues such as rural depopulation, industrial development and teacher education.
I am seeing these events all through a professional development eye as an authentic opportunity to consider where a globalising academy sees itself going next.
I write. Not as much or as well as I should. But I write. Two very broad forms interest me: poetry and philosophy of learning, knowledge, theory. What is true and good?
Do these concepts mean anything? I believe they do. My job, and much of this writing, here, has to do with trying to explain – to myself as much or more than anyone else – what it means to learn and do “well”, that which is “right to do”: Plato, Aristotle, Chuang Tzu, Lucretius, Karl Marx, Julia Kristeva, Frantz Fanon, Paulo Freire, Bob Dylan, Paul Eluard, Alain Badiou, Bob Marley, Slavoj Žižek and Mikey Smith mashed up.
Žižek, late in this monologue, says the real artist does not add, but takes away.
I used to keep a separate notebook for work and a different one for poetry. I took it away one and a half notebooks ago.
I am adopting that principle here in this blog. Over the next few weeks I will be on a rescue mission to a few old websites.
And the warning? You might come across some poems. You might come across some philosophy. You might come across some teaching. My honest intention is to make connections. To converse. It is all dialogue. And, a story.
Higher education shapes identity on many levels. We can readily identify three:
- the individual student/academic;
- the institutional characteristics of the higher education sector;
- and wider transnational cultural-historical activity.
This slicing into comprehensible tranches is characteristic of my pragmatic approach to knowing, characterised by a logic of effectiveness in the present: sure, it is a continuum, but clumping into useful groups helps if you want to do something.
Continue reading “Shaping an Identity: hacking the human?”
Published on: Jan 18, 2018
I examine two related concepts: hierarchised identity formation and the enclosure of desire as a hidden curriculum.
A hidden curriculum is, I suggest the collection of assumptions, often about power (Brookfield 2017, chapter 2) that is communicated alongside and through the practice of overt curricula. A hidden curriculum is conveyed through implicit biases by teachers and education institutions. It is delivered alongside more overt curricular elements such as subject-specific knowledge and skills, as well as “transferrable skills” and “graduate attributes”. There may be many, indeed there are many hidden curricula which work with and against social norms beyond the institution and largely outwith the control of the institution or its agents. I will suggest that hierarchised identity formation is one of the hidden curricula of higher eduction. I hypothesise that this might be felt more acutely in the UK because of England’s tradition of a landed, aristocratic and military gentry related by ancestry to the head of state. But, it is felt elsewhere than Britain: “Rich man goes to college, poor man goes to work” (Charlie Daniels Band, “Long haired country boy”). In Britain the green and white papers leading to the current Higher Education Act 2017 declared universities to be engines of social mobility. Social mobility for these purposes is conceived primarily as a private (not public) good and is ranked in a categorical hierarchy consisting of education attainment, occupation type and lifetime earnings expectation, ranked in quartiles and centiles. The concept of social mobility is applied competitively as a finitely resourced, zero-sum game with winners and losers and movers.
Continue reading “A hidden curriculum”
I thought I might share the gist of my side of the conversation. I am working through documents at a more leisurely pace than the folk at Wonkhe. And I did read David kernohan’s A game of risk
. So, I have probably tainted my mind.
But my tentative conclusion is the conflation of regulation, reputation and enhancement is where the risk lies. Institutions need to be careful not to conflate NSS, TEF and league-table positionality with either: their own enhancement or the regulatory regime. I think those are three different “games”.
Continue reading “Where risk lies for HEIs: the conflation of regulation, reputation and enhancement”