Friday, 18 September 2009

This is not a reusable learning object

I've just been to my union's negotiating committee (and landed yet another job…). We're facing bad practice, management incompetence and a refusal to accept responsibility. Instead, 250 jobs are being cut, courses are being culled, modules withdrawn and class sizes increasing.

Thankfully, the proles are stirring. We're going to campaign hard, and campaign cleverly. It's an obvious case. Just like the banking crisis has led to public services suffering to pay for saving capitalism (Naomi Klein predicted all this in The Shock Doctrine, which Cameron et al. seem to have taken as a user's guide to economics), the university is going to punish the workers for its own failures and we're not going to take it. Redundancy will overload those who stay, it will lead to even bigger classes, more marking, less contact time for students, less time for the intellectual exchanges that constitute education (management think it's all about marks) and ultimately, less enlightenment. How will I be able to argue the toss with a student on the interpretation of a line of poetry, or the implications for the public sphere of BBC cuts, for instance, if there are 45 other people in seminar group all wanting their say? How will I learn names, find time to chat, sort out problems, plan classes, do research and get to know individual students?

I know that these concerns are embarrassingly old-fashioned, non-customer-oriented, not business-focussed, but they are the kind of things about which real teachers actually give a damn. We're not automatons delivering packaged material - that's not education. Having meaningful relationships with individual, contrary, contradictory, demanding students constitutes real education and folks, it's messy, untidy, expensive, sometimes not measurable and brilliant. Grab it while it lasts… the suits and their anti-pedagogical pets are on the warpath.

(Reusable learning objects are apparently things like online presentations, much beloved of our employers because then they can divorce teaching from the scruffy contrarians who actually know about stuff. Y'know, experts. Instead, some poor kid can be paid minimum wage to turn on the projector and leave the students to it, or students can sit at home and be fooled into thinking that education is just memorising bullet points).

1 comment:

Ewarwoowar said...

This is an outstanding blog post, and it's nice to see there are a few people there who do actually care about the students.