coromandal


outdoor adventures with philosophy

Part of the process of generating the precariat comes from dumbing down the educational system. The game is to maximise profits, by maximising ‘throughput’. In the United Kingdom, hundreds of publicly funded university courses provide academic qualifications even though the subjects are non-academic. The Taxpayer’s Alliance in 2007 identified 401 such ‘non-courses’, including a BA Honours Degree in ‘outdoor adventure with philosophy’, offered at University College Plymouth St Mark and Saint John […]

From Guy Standing’s The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class (found on Spurious)

The precariat is a new mass class produced by the globalized world economy characterized by uncertainty and insecurity (Guy Standing).

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Incredulity, not docility

An inquiring mind, one that challenges authority, and has a mentoring relationship with teachers

vs

A soft compliant mind.

The Common Core debate is important not simply because of the standards’ immediate effects on pupils, but because it offers us an opportunity to ask the biggest questions about our education system: What should be the guiding ethos of public education in a democratic society? What are we preparing students for, other than participation in economic life? And how should schooling be structured to reflect democratic values?

The short answers: Incredulity, not docility, is the trait to inculcate, along with a citizenry disposed to questioning received wisdom and orthodoxy and a less hierarchical teacher-student relationship. In each instance, the Common Core is an impediment.

Participation is a necessary component of freedom

vs

Memorization of facts will make us dutiful.

From a democracy standpoint, there’s much to question here. First, the virtual omission of civic education, an area already treated as an afterthought in many public schools. The civic education we do have tends to be sanitized, fact-heavy regurgitation that casts democratic participation more as a duty than as a vehicle for emancipation.

Continue reading



the prescribed consensus
May 13, 2014, 10:01 am
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , ,

Lew Rockwell's photo.

Not sure I agree with this entirely, but it is a point of view … I’ve always seen education as a liberating agent but, like any complex thing, it has more than one characteristic.



super architect
February 28, 2014, 12:22 pm
Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life | Tags: , , , , , ,

We used, as architects, to do things for public benefit; now we broadcast the interests of individuals or corporations. This has changed the work, says Koolhaas in the interview below.

How it has changed the work? That’s a big question, but one can make guesses: from heterogenous to sterile, playful to slick? Today people want their new houses to look like hotel interiors. You could do open heart surgery in most contemporary house interiors they’re so white and polished.

And how to move on from the private and corporate place we’re in now? One way is to get rid of the starchitect. Did you ever wonder why J. K. Rowling writes all the books, Steve Jobs makes all the computers, Zaha Hadid designs all the buildings? It’s a bad system when so much work is generated by so few people. The conversation closes down and stagnates, as Koolhaas – himself a starchitect – notes.

Here is Koolhaas:

The profession has an investment in the idea that the architect has superhuman powers. It is totally counterproductive, because it cuts off any real communication between the architect and the public. When we put ourselves on a pedestal it makes any engagement with other aspects of the profession almost impossible. Since I am interested in communication and I write, I like to understand what the real issues are, and what the changing conditions are.
[…]
In the ’60s and ’70s the public sector was very strong, but in recent decades that has given way to various forms of market economy. This has enormously changed the conditions in which architecture can be produced. In the first instance, the architect was expected to do things for the public benefit. Now we are expected to broadcast the interests of individuals or corporations. So, although we still maintain the core values and ambitions of what architecture can do, this change has radically transformed the architect’s work.

Batik, Biennale and the Death of the Skyscraper, Interview with Rem Koolhaas, 19 February 2014 | By Andrew Mackenzie



Real winners do not compete
February 28, 2014, 12:00 pm
Filed under: brave new world, departure lounge, the sweet life | Tags: , , ,

On the difference between education in the US and Finland. I think that where in Finland education policy and curricula are being fashioned by educators, in America these activities have been taken over by MBAs.

Some notes:

Works: Finland – no standard testing, individualized grading, no accountability, cooperation not competition, equality not excellence.
Doesn’t work: United States – track performance, test constantly, accountability, merit pay, competition, choice.

From the article in the Atlantic:

From his point of view, Americans are consistently obsessed with certain questions: How can you keep track of students’ performance if you don’t test them constantly? How can you improve teaching if you have no accountability for bad teachers or merit pay for good teachers? How do you foster competition and engage the private sector? How do you provide school choice?

The answers Finland provides seem to run counter to just about everything America’s school reformers are trying to do.

[…]
For starters, Finland has no standardized tests. The only exception is what’s called the National Matriculation Exam, which everyone takes at the end of a voluntary upper-secondary school, roughly the equivalent of American high school.

Instead, the public school system’s teachers are trained to assess children in classrooms using independent tests they create themselves. All children receive a report card at the end of each semester, but these reports are based on individualized grading by each teacher. Periodically, the Ministry of Education tracks national progress by testing a few sample groups across a range of different schools.

As for accountability of teachers and administrators, Sahlberg shrugs. “There’s no word for accountability in Finnish,” he later told an audience at the Teachers College of Columbia University. “Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted.”

[…]
And while Americans love to talk about competition, Sahlberg points out that nothing makes Finns more uncomfortable. In his book Sahlberg quotes a line from Finnish writer named Samuli Paronen: “Real winners do not compete.” It’s hard to think of a more un-American idea, but when it comes to education, Finland’s success shows that the Finnish attitude might have merits. There are no lists of best schools or teachers in Finland. The main driver of education policy is not competition between teachers and between schools, but cooperation.
[…]
Decades ago, when the Finnish school system was badly in need of reform, the goal of the program that Finland instituted, resulting in so much success today, was never excellence. It was equity.
[…]
With America’s manufacturing industries now in decline, the goal of educational policy in the U.S. — as articulated by most everyone from President Obama on down — is to preserve American competitiveness by doing the same thing. Finland’s experience suggests that to win at that game, a country has to prepare not just some of its population well, but all of its population well, for the new economy. To possess some of the best schools in the world might still not be good enough if there are children being left behind.

What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success, Anu Partanen, Dec 29 2011, The Atlantic



a vast panorama which enlarges the mind
November 25, 2013, 1:37 pm
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , , , ,

Life can be a desperate, savage affair or it can be civilized. For it to be civilized, people need – by whatever means – to leave themselves behind and to understand – and I suppose even to love – this big old world. Some people who have been able to transcend themselves and understand aspects of the world have had massive civilizing effects on our lives. Teachers because they are brokers of knowledge are the agents of this civilizing and humanizing work. That’s what Bertrand Russell says in the following passage.

From Bertrand Russell:

. . . Civilization . . . is a thing of the mind, not of material adjuncts to the physical side of living. It is a matter partly of knowledge, partly of emotion. So far as knowledge is concerned, a man should be aware of the minuteness of himself and his immediate environment in relation to the world in time and space. He should see his own country not only as home, but as one among the countries of the world, all with an equal right to live and think and feel. He should see his own age in relation to the past and the future, and be aware that its own controversies will seem as strange to future ages as those of the past seem to us now. Taking an even wider view, he should be conscious of the vastness of geological epochs and astronomical abysses; but he should be aware of all this, not as a weight to crush the individual human spirit, but as a vast panorama which enlarges the mind that contemplates it. Continue reading



the life of the mind is good for all of us
November 4, 2013, 5:18 pm
Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life | Tags: , , , ,

J. M. Coetzee’s remarks on the decimation of the idea of the University over the past 40 or so years. He says we must resist the idea that the humanities are good for improving the population’s skills and argues that they are essential for their own sake, for their ability to make a rich and just and social life. The article is linked below.

At the beginning of his letter, he agrees that there must be academic autonomy, but then asks a deeper question: without the humanities is it still really a university?:

Thank you for letting me see your essays on academic freedom in South Africa. The general question you address – “Is a university still a university when it loses its academic autonomy?” – seems to me of the utmost importance to the future of higher education in South Africa.

Hardly less important is the junior cousin of that question, namely: “Is a university without a proper faculty of humanities (or faculty of humanities and social sciences) still a university?”

Governments, once guardians of the common good and benefactors of a literate citizenry, have morphed into mere skills training schools made to meet the needs of the economy:

But South African universities are by no means in a unique position. All over the world, as governments retreat from their traditional duty to foster the common good and reconceive of themselves as mere managers of national economies, universities have been coming under pressure to turn themselves into training schools equipping young people with the skills required by a modern economy.

You argue – cogently – that allowing the transient needs of the economy to define the goals of higher education is a misguided and short­sighted policy: indispensable to a democratic society – indeed, to a vigorous national economy – is a critically literate citizenry competent to explore and interrogate the assumptions behind the paradigms of national and economic life reigning at any given moment. Without the ability to reflect on ourselves, you argue, we run a perennial risk of relaxing into complacent stasis. And only the neglected humanities can provide a training in such critical literacy. Continue reading