Thursday, 3 March 2011

Would you like to tuck a fiver down my y-fronts?

Horrific image, isn't it?

But Richard Drayton, an eminent Cambridge professor claims - with some cause - that this highly-educated government's philistine attack on education will turn educators into whores.

"A nomadic global pirate class buys 'onshore' services from prostitutes and politicians, journalists, mercenaries and academics...(who) can become a kind of intellectual lap dancer, gyrating to excite the attention of the rich and to provoke small tips."

He's right. If you read Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine, you'll recognise what's happening. In the aftermath of any disaster, the hard-right free-marketeers take the opportunity to cut and public services, demonising government as 'socialist' or 'incompetent. The hollow irony this time is that the disaster is one caused by free-market economics. They've smashed up the world economy and their solution is… more of the same!

Academics think of themselves as professionals because we get paid monthly and choose our own clothes, but we're deluding ourselves. I've never had a permanent job: I'm on a series of temporary ones. That means no security and no prospect of doing ordinary things like get a mortgage, saving for the future or not worrying about the possibility of long-term illness. More importantly: the more we're kept in a state of fear (they call it 'flexible employment'), the less likely we are to disagree with management or protest when they arse things up.

Right now, I'm acting as union representative for a colleague in an employment dispute. How am I meant to negotiate robustly, knowing that the people on the other side of the table will be examining my contract in the summer? How can I choose interesting, perhaps provocative texts for study when I'm aware that the institution is terrified of radical ideas and edgy texts?

The proletarianisation of education won't just beggar me and my colleagues: it is leading towards bland, safe curricula and self-satisfied students. How can I tell someone their work isn't good enough, knowing that their responses to satisfaction questionnaires will contribute to discussions about my job and - much more importantly - potential course closures?

What we'll end up with is boring courses taught by cowed academics churning out high marks to high-paying customers. Society is the loser: undereducated conformists do not generate cultural, scientific or economic innovation.

Drayton's not impressed by his colleagues' responses to this situation:

 "most British scholars have made only token opposition to these changes".
"The British Academy has offered cowardly hand-wringing, (while) vice-chancellors and many administrators have been active quislings, merely asking how they can best adapt to the new order," he said.

1 comment:

Sinéad said...

bring back one pound notes, i say!