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.