Making money off the misery of others

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?

Reflection in action: professional development study visits

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.

Usurpation: the condition of the university?

Usurpation might better be seen as the condition of the university than as a problem for any particular aspect of that complex phenomenon: higher education today.

Taking Subramaniam, Perrucci, & Whitlock’s (2014) theoretical framework of social and intellectual closure we might see usurpation as – in parts and in places – an ameliorating response to both micro and macro-political movements that lead to closure. I suggest that we might take this further into a space which can only be opened and kept open (rejecting closure) by the usurper who by choice lays him/her self open to being ursurped and indeed facilitates the process of ongoing transformation, which is the driving energy of the academy.

In making this argument I draw on Popper’s (1996) positivism, Kuhn’s (1962) understanding of development in disciplines and Bhabha’s (2004) third space theory.

The pattern of usurpation described by Subramaniam, Perrucci, & Whitlock’s (2014) applies to any attempt to enter a power structure –  a university is a power structure – by agents desiring that power, whether to address wrongs done to them by that power structure and its relatives, or simply to seize more of whatever is going. When the usurpation is successful the usurper assumes the mantle of the power structure and then defends it against subsequent usurpation.

So we see entryism into disciplines of minoritarian or post-colonial themes: Women’s Studies, for example. We see traditional promotion routes to professorship usurped by teaching pathways (an interesting one Subramian et al spotted, which casts me as usurper!). We see the student experience usurping scholarship.

But as Kuhn should remind us: this is the way it works! The English curriculum which is so exercised by usurpation by Media Studies, itself was an entryist program usurping the Classics. And as Popper should remind us, this is to be celebrated. The problem is not usurpation but closure, which might be seen as resistance to being usurped.

References

  • Bhabha, H. (2004). The Location of Culture. Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Kuhn, T. (1962). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Popper, K. (1996). The Myth of the Framework: In defence of Science and Rationality. London: Routledge.
  • Subramaniam, M., Perrucci, R., & Whitlock, D. (2014). Intellectual Closure: A Theoretical Framework Linking Knowledge, Power, and the Corporate University. Critical Sociology (Sage Publications, Ltd.), 40(3), 411–430.

An-an-an-archic questions and another 1000 mile journey

I have been having an ongoing conversation with Jock Coats (@jockox3 on Twitter) that veers from face-to-face to Twitter to the blogs. For me it has been an education in the literature of anarchism, particularly that of the libertarian, individualist, mutualist, market sort, to which Jock adheres.in a recent post (http://jockcoats.me/mutualist_monopolies_introduction) jock concludes, “…how difficult it is for monopoly to form without the state’s intervention.” And in a comment on my [late lamented] Posterous blog, reposted here), we got into a couple of chicken/egg circles: which came first, the state or government? And, could there be monopolies without the collusion and facilitation of states and/or governments? These are themselves sustained by – and sustain – monopolies of the power of violence (police/army), money and property.

But, my problem with this is that we start from where we are.

Continue reading “An-an-an-archic questions and another 1000 mile journey”

A journey of a thousand miles problem @jockox3 the limits of my anarchism #ukuncut

I accept a loose notion of the social contract and accept that there are limits on my behaviour imposed on me for the benefits of all – including the payment of levies (taxes) for the provision of services to us all, even if I might prefer those services to be delivered in a different way. I further accept a loose notion of representative democracy as a means of determining and regulating (i.e. governing) those services and levies.However, the notion or idea of the “state” is a problem.

Continue reading “A journey of a thousand miles problem @jockox3 the limits of my anarchism #ukuncut”

For-profit higher education – follow the monopoly money

BPP University College (http://www.bppuc.com/) has enrolled 5000 people in the UK this year. Western International University (http://www.west.edu/) is a leading for-profit in the US expanding into Europe, Asia, and South America. Both are owned by the same parent company, Apollo Global (http://bit.ly/cp0mbI). Apollo Global is also the parent of the University of Phoenix (http://www.phoenix.edu/). Apollo is, in turn substantially owned by the Carlyle Group (http://www.carlyle.com/media%20room/news%20archive/2007/item9855.html). Carlyle also owns the Wall Street Institute (http://www.wallstreetinstitute.com/), “…the premier source for English [language] instruction for individuals and corporate clients around the world.” Carlyle is a very large venture capital group, with a particular focus for it’s investments. Carlyle’s mission is to increase private participation in the delivery of public sector services: healthcare, education and the military. Carlyle works at a high political level. Their Board has included many leading (former) government figures (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlyle_Group#Political_figures). BPP’s curriculum is focused on Accountancy and Law. WIU’s curriculum is focused on management, finance and organisational psychology. Phoenix’s curriculum is focused on administration, teacher training and nurse training. I wonder what the covert curriculum is in all this?