Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Oh look, Peter Mandelson's still a rightwing wanker!

Depressing headline of the day:

Universities to enter consumer age

This won't, of course, apply to the elite universities. Oxford, Cambridge and the institutions to which the élites send their children, will carry on in their own rather lovely way. Instead, Mandelson is determined to make universities the equivalent of McDonalds.

Let's be clear. Universities shouldn't be consumerist. Students should come here to educate themselves, with help from us. The customer-shop relationship means that they will - already do - expect to be provided with facts to be recycled, leading to a certificate.

This is just wrong. Education is a mutual process of discovery and self-discovery. The qualification is a by-product. I don't want to churn out obedient work-units, shrink-wrapped for a dumb job doing what they're told. I want to encourage bloody-mindedness, critical thinking and a thirst for intellectual exploration. Consumerism is utterly abhorrent to me, though it's hard to resist: it's passive and ideologically loaded. Universities shouldn't be forced to fall into line by an intellectual mediocrity like Mandelson, who never met a rich man he didn't like.

Mandelson says that universities should follow the demands of business rather than being closed circles: nonsense. Businesses are machines which express ideological and cultural positions. Universities should lead business, because we're the people paid to give serious thought to social concerns.

What Mandelson really wants is what this institution is hell-bent on providing: web-based learning and a craven, grovelling structure in which students are made happy by making everything easier.

Web-learning is weak. Real learning is a product of face-to-face argument and discussion, not the passive delivery of powerpoints or online fora. Real people, discussing things in real time, to each others' faces, is a profound experience. It's also expensive.

I want my students to be happy. However, the 'consumer-led' model means 'the customer is always right'. They're not always right. One of the deepest, most productive experiences of my student life was the (frequent) revelation that there are multiple viewpoints on any subjects, and that my position was stupid, weak or ill thought through. My tutors were never that unkind, but the discovery of your own ignorance is a seminal moment. Paying customers don't want to be contradicted - good students want to hear opposing and alternative views.

The other problem with fees and the consumer model is that it implies that the only beneficiary of the education available is that one individual student. In the humanist tradition, we all benefit from an educated individual. The learning spreads through the community via that individual's daily life and work - and so we should all appreciate, and pay for, that education, knowing that the cash will be returned via a) the higher tax paid and b) the social good done throughout the individual's life. Learning must not be a selfish, greedy experience - it should be undertaken for the public good.

And like I say, all this will only impact places like mine. Ritzer's right - it's one kind of education for us, and the old model for the élites who impose this stuff on everybody else. It doesn't matter though. Resistance is utterly futile.

On a lighter note, wasn't University Challenge easy last night? I even got the question about Laplacean mathematics right!

6 comments:

Kraxpelax said...

My Poetry Blog

SONNET XXXIX FOR KATIE

I went downtown, saw Katie in the nude
on Common Avenue, detracted soltitude
as it were, like a dream-state rosely hued,
like no one else could see her; DAMN! I phewed;

was reciprokelly then, thank heaven, viewed,
bestowed unique hard-on! but NOT eschewed,
contrair-ee-lee, she took a somewhat rude
'n readidy attude of Sex Prelude; it BREWED!

And for a start, i hiccuped "Hi!", imbued
with Moooood! She toodledooed: "How queued
your awe-full specie-ally-tee, Sir Lewd,
to prove (alas!), to have me finely screwed,

and hopef'lly afterwards beloved, wooed,
alive, huh? Don't you even DO it, Duu-uuude!"

My Poetry Blog

http://singleswingle.blogspot.com/

More...

Casualidad sopla la sangre
de alguno señor desconocido
durante los pocos restantes
momentos del resplandor de faroles

que se vislumbran tras el follaje
flameando de las obsesiónes
igual efimero como gotas
del cinzano de la soledad –

En aquel tiempo me levanta
dentro uno incidente avejentado
que en seguida palidece
al camouflaje de abstraccion;

chica, nadie conoce que tus grisos
ojos significan aún; con todo
el sueño que hube evacuado
tu escudriñas nuevamente.
My tentatively spanish poetry blog;

http://hollb.blogspot.com/

My Music Blog:

http://eutonal.blogspot.com

Feel free to announce your blog on mine.

- Peter Ingestad, Sweden

Ewarwoowar said...

What a shame a magnificent blog entry, of which I agree with every single word, has been hijacked by someone advertising their blog. Shame on you, Peter Ingestad!

Demented Demon. said...

It is deeply worrying that Higher Education is now heading into a less then idyllic world whereby hope will be replaced by despair and utmost confusion. While online learning will boost concentration levels, as you rightfully say it will never be the same platform in which a student can learn from discussions, interaction with peers and be fully motivated.

There is so much wrong with this, it’s unbelievable. It's the same with textbooks, who likes/understood/learnt from just reading those? Hardly anyone.

Even the most learned poets of our proud history such as Milton would argue that social interaction is the key hence he travelled afar as Florence, Milan and Paris.

Now students in the near future won't even leave their houses. It's terribly grim.

The Plashing Vole said...

You're both right. It's a depressing and cynical move towards the commodification of education, reducing it to 'facts'.

As to the poet - terrible poetry and a breach of netiquette. If I weren't a kind and gentle soul, I'd pop over and deface his site. But I won't.

Demented Demon. said...

It's ironic, almost as if that Peter Ingestad is a by-product of the online learning revolution. He has come back to warn us against such change with his diabolical stanzas featuring no flair or rhythm. This is what the future holds; lack of imagination (wooed/dude) and mechanistic connotations preferred over intelligence then to cap it all, the title of the blog ‘singleswingle’ meaning he shan't ever have a girlfriend.

Did anyone see the brilliant documentary on C4, the Great Escape: The Reckoning? Stalag Luft III actually had better education merits than our own institution at this rate.

intelliwench said...

It's already happened here in the US -- we can export our breed of "I-pay-your-salary-so-give-me-an-A" student to your gentle shores once Mandelson gets his way.

(My verification word today is excellent: "emoplaz" -- thank you!)