On the educated person in the Post-capitalist digital society

In the midst of a crisis, it is tempting to look to the past for answers. Perhaps, unsurprisingly Karl Marx is making a comeback not least because we have not yet fully recovered from the 2007-2008 meltdown.

As George Magnus described, almost ten years ago:

Policy makers struggling to understand the barrage of financial panics, protests and other ills afflicting the world would do well to study the works of a long-dead economist: Karl Marx. The sooner they recognize we’re facing a once-in-a-lifetime crisis of capitalism, the better equipped they will be to manage a way out of it.

(Bloomberg Business Week, Give Karl Marx a Chance to Save the World Economy. August 28, 2011).

Alright, Marx was wrong; capitalism has not fallen, but he did bequeath tools to consider the current economic state of the world. Back to the future? Maybe, but we do require novel ways of addressing global economic change post-covid19. Suffice to say education will be central to it.

As Peter Drucker put it:

(…) one thing is predictable: the greatest change will be the change in knowledge; in its form and content; in its meaning; in its responsibility; and in what it means to be an Educated Person.

So, what will the nature of change be and what has it to do with Marxism? At the risk of being simplistic, Marxists argue that capitalist economic models work by exploiting labour and material resources. In an ideal world, this leads to better products and services because it encourages innovation and risk; the surplus is re-invested to create more wealth and prosperity.

However, there are inherent contradictions; first, those resources are finite. If success is dependent upon exploiting labour and material resources, then how do you measure success? When workers cannot afford to live, or the planet is not able to sustain life? Second, there is nothing to prevent those who generate a surplus from taking it for themselves. Or, not re-investing it in the kind of technology and human resource, which leads to improved productivity, higher wages and increased profits. It is a vicious circle but also a familiar narrative.

In the past, scientific innovation has come to the rescue, green initiatives such as solar and wind-generated energy replacing fossil fuel is just one example; however, science is struggling to keep up because the pace of change is increasing.

Srnicek and Williams describe the extent of the digital revolution:

The most recent wave of automation is poised to change this distribution of the labour market drastically, as it comes to encompass every aspect of the economy: data collection (radio-frequency identification, big data); new kinds of production (the flexible production of robots, additive manufacturing, automated fast food); services (AI customer assistance, care for the elderly); decision-making (computational models, software agents); financial allocation (algorithmic trading); and especially distribution (the logistics revolution, self-driving cars, drone container ships and automated warehouses).

In every single function of the economy – from production to distribution to management to retail – we see large-scale tendencies towards automation.

As Paul Mason describes, this creates new contradictions that capitalist systems have to negotiate. 

The main contradiction today is between the possibility of free, abundant goods and information and a system of monopolies, banks and governments trying to keep things private, scarce and commercial. Everything comes down to the struggle between the network and the hierarchy, between old forms of society moulded around capitalism and new forms of society that prefigure what comes next.

More pressingly, what happens to human resource when a rapidly automating system designed to exploit it no longer needs it? On the flip side, could workers benefit from this paradigm shift and become more autonomous, enjoying a better work-life balance? Perhaps salvation for capitalism could be the recognition that there is profit in well-being and enhanced productivity beyond the marketing opportunities.

There is a second related problem for capitalism. If the capitalist economic equilibrium is being-disrupted, then so are its democratic processes. Tribal loyalties are changing evidenced by the collapse of the red wall, in the 2020 UK general election. The reasons for the collapse are complicated, but the party that traditionally represented labour seemingly cannot rely on its support anymore. The main principle of a two-party parliamentary democracy is both parties can win, or at least provide checks and balances when in opposition. As Iversen and Soskice point out, there is a complementarity between capital and labour in capitalist democracies. The relationship between the two is always evolving, but what happens when it faces permanent disruption? Answers on a post-card.

Of course, we have been here before, Engels predicted the end of capitalism over 150 years ago; he was wrong. Capitalism may yet survive, but the Educated Person will still be central to its survival.

If we can ignore the provocative nature of such a concept, we can perhaps ponder what constitutes it? In my view, the Educated Person is not a category with some included and others not; it is a way of knowing applied to a multiplicity of human endeavours. A healthy democracy cannot afford to leave a sizeable number of its citizens behind.

In his book, Drucker identifies two contentious opposing categories positing a view on the nature of the Educated Person. On one side, there is the post-Marxists, radical feminists and other antis who argue against the idea of an Educated Person because each gender, ethnic group, race, minority, requires its own separate culture and identity.

On the other, are the humanists who scorn the present system demanding a return to the nineteenth century, to the Liberal Arts, the Classics, the German Gebildete Mensch. Drucker argues that both are wrong; the knowledge society must have at its core the concept of the Educated Person precisely because it is global: in its money, its economics, its careers, its technology, its central issues, and, above all, in its information.

According to Drucker, the Educated Person will need to appreciate other cultures and traditions citing the example of the great heritages of China, Japan; in addition to, the philosophers and great religions of the Orient and Islam. The Educated Person will receive a far less exclusive and traditionally classical education than the Liberal Education of the Humanists; for example, training in social perception would be as useful as statistical analysis.

Drucker imagines this new kind of person emerging as a hybrid fusion of the managerial and intellectual classes. The ability of the manager to apply knowledge combined with the intellectual’s use of pure concepts. Such an individual would be the opposite of the polymath; those rare people who are simultaneously expert in Mandarin Chinese and nuclear physics. The Educated Person would, on the contrary, be able to run with the output of expert research; for example, applying chaos theory to economics, data mining to social history or neuroscience to customer service.

In purely curriculum terms, the Educated Person needs to understand the epistemic and disciplinary aspects of a field more than its knowledge base. More than that, the Educated Person needs to understand its digital landscape and be able to leverage an extensive personal network to interact with others on its unfolding paradigms.

Conclusion

Technology will eventually pose a serious threat to the capitalist economy and its democratic processes. It will facilitate the spreading of fake news by uber-networks of political actors both for and against the status quo. It will also disrupt the relations between capital and labour; neither market nor state will be able to prevent such disruption because they are inextricably linked.

The Post-capitalist digital economy, therefore, cannot be built on the opposing ideologies of market or state but, as Drucker points out, it needs the ability to fuse:

(… ) separate traditions onto a common and shared commitment to values, onto a common concept of excellence, and onto mutual respect.

Individuals cannot resist change, but the power of a critically aware networked collective will protect the many from the few. The challenge facing education is not only to deliver the knowledge and skills required to drive this new Post-capitalist paradigm but also to educate the future citizen to participate in future democracy without traditional tribal loyalties. 

The sad reality is that education cannot implement a simple algorithm. Worse, it surprised few when it all went wrong. As ministers seek to divert blame you do wonder who is going to inspire change?

Your guess is as good as mine!

Note

Most of the ideas are derived from the following thinkers:

Drucker, P. F. (1994). Post-capitalist society. Routledge.

Fuchs, C., & Mosco, V. (2016). Introduction: Marx is back–the importance of Marxist theory and research for critical communication studies today. In Marx in the age of digital capitalism (pp. 1-21). 

Iversen, T., & Soskice, D. (2020). Response to Carles Boix’s review of Democracy and Prosperity: Reinventing Capitalism through a Turbulent Century. Perspectives on Politics18(2), 547-548.

Marx, K. (2018). Das kapital. e-artnow.

Mason, P. (2016). Postcapitalism: A guide to our future. Macmillan.

Srnicek, N., & Williams, A. (2015). Inventing the future: Postcapitalism and a world without work. Verso Books.

‘Developing a creative pedagogy to understand the university experience of non-traditional students’: the authors’ story

SHARING_STORIES

Someone should write a paper on chance meetings in academia. It could be called Facets of Serendipity which would immediately make it sound much more serious and impressive than ‘I bumped into Joe Bloggs.’ Why? Because it is through chance meetings and the formation of personal bonds that truly creative and innovative partnerships are made and, indeed, sustained. Most universities seem to view innovative partnership working as being something to do with knowledge exchange, typically between the higher education and business sector, which will, in turn, result in income generation. Hurrah! then for the unplanned encounter at a conference, the hurried conversation by the photocopier or, in our case, a very dull training session where two of the authors met, and in response to a questionable PowerPoint slide simultaneously uttered ‘Bollocks!

At the time, we, the authors, were doing very different work. On the surface, it would seem that criminal justice has little in common with creative writing and ordinarily, we would never meet. But our chance meeting, alongside a shared interest in people and their stories, brought our personal and professional curiosity together. Through conversation and sharing our stories, we became more than a facilitator of writing and better able to explore the realms of criminal justice through a creative lens.

Since September 2016, Dr Helena Gosling and Professor Lol Burke have delivered a university-based Learning Together programme for males and females who have personal and/or professional experience of the criminal justice system, to learn alongside postgraduate students from Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU). It is the only initiative based within a higher education setting that works alongside criminal justice services to create a community of practice, populated by people with academic, professional and/or lived experience of criminal justice (Gosling et al., 2020). As the article, published by PRISM highlights, students were keen to share stories about their life experiences but there was nowhere in formal taught sessions to capture such insight or, perhaps more importantly, reflect them back to the tellers. Rather, the stories were loitering in the shadows of lectures and seminars – which felt like a wasted opportunity.

Subsequently, thanks to that one chance meeting, the authors worked together to integrate creative response sessions to provide a space for all Learning Together students to share and capture stories. Not planning beyond that very basic notion meant that we did not have any preconceived ideas of where the research was going to take us – which feels innovative and creative in itself. And credit where credit is due, University managers allowed us to find the time and space to accommodate this investigation. What we later discovered, over two separate iterations of the project, was that we had created a space where Learning Together participants could establish their own, individually created sense of belonging. Again, you may ask, why is this important? Well because (based on our experience) if a student with lived experience of the criminal justice system is not confident in their newly acquired role as a student, then sharing and telling stories of their interactions with the wider world in their tried and tested role of human being helps to build confidence and indeed creative capital: the capacity to imagine and express new possibilities through creative activity (Creating Quality, 2012). We are clear in our position that students are the experts in their own lives and their lived experience has value. Plus, above all else, they were, as Adiche (2009) said ‘more than one story,’ and in curating these stories, our students were in charge of reshaping their identity and university experience.

Through the medium of creative pedagogy students engage in an ongoing process of storytelling: (re)framing narrative that not only works towards building the authentic self (Vanlit, 2017) but allows students to develop ideas, which means that they understand, trust and respect themselves (Vanlit, 2017). This blog post is an amuse bouche to whet the appetite. It’s not written in formal academic language because we did not start off sharing stories in formal academic language and our co-story tellers, the Learning Together students who participated in the sessions, did not use that ‘telephone voice’ either. We hope that you decide to read the paper but, if not, please take one thing from this: at the next conference (Zoom or otherwise), or meeting with a colleague from outside your own sphere of work, share a story and encourage that other person to do the same. Make a connection on a human level. Swap ideas. Listen. Discuss. Be interested and brave. Above all else, use the phrase ‘Shall we…?’ and see where it takes you.

Reference List

Adichie, C. (2009) The Danger of a Single Story – Transcript courtesy of TED. Available on-line at: https://www.hohschools.org/cms/lib/NY01913703/Centricity/Domain/817/English%2012%20Summer%20Reading%20-%202018.pdf accessed on 24.01.2020]

Creating Quality (2012) The Concept of Creative Capital. Blog Post. Available on-line at: http://www.creatingquality.org/ToolsResourcesLibrary/ResourceDetail/tabid/93/ArticleId/184/THE-CONCEPT-OF-CREATIVE-CAPITAL.aspx [accessed on 14.01.2020]

Gosling. H., Burke, L., and MacLennan, S. (2020) Developing a creative pedagogy to understand the university experience of non-traditional students. Available on-line at: file:///C:/Users/sschgosl/Downloads/349-Article%20Text-1776-2-10-20200718%20(3).pdf [accessed on 29.07.2020]

Vanlint, N. (2017) The Positive Benefits of Creativity. Life Labs. Available on-line at: https://lifelabs.psychologies.co.uk/users/8838-nicola-vanlint/posts/4292-the-positive-benefits-of-creativity [accessed on 14.01.2020]

Developing links with academics from working class backgrounds in other countries

hands

Working class backgrounds, and those that have battled through them, have similarities. Their willingness to fight to survive and fight to be recognised, is second to none. More often than not those innate characteristics remain with those individuals and drive them to be focussed, compassionate and empathetic academics. Bringing as many academics with lived experience in this area from across the globe, will increase the quality and authenticity of our work, will allow for greater collaboration and will hopefully pave the way for others, from similar backgrounds, to join the rough but rewarding world of academia.

As a child born into a battling, lower class family, in the wrong part of town, the idea of working in academia is as fanciful an idea as you could cobble together. My mother cleaned other people’s houses and my father was a self-employed butcher, who not only used my mother, my sibling and myself as punching bags, but also used alcohol and infidelity to hide his own issues. Getting out of there, gaining a doctorate and being in a position to try and influence change would be a 1000-1 shot and on par with seeing a unicorn.

This is not a unique type of story and is one that a large number of the people in our group probably share in some way or another. We faced the same challenges, faced the same fights to be relevant and still fight some of those challenges today. Many in the world would refer to us as being ‘working class’.  The stories are similar and regardless of where we are around the world, the way we are approached to collaborate and share our lived experiences should be considered and promoted.

Understanding that academics, with working class backgrounds, have shared fighting qualities and in many instances, the desire to improve the world and lives of others, it is important that we are bought together. The ability to share our battles, share our lessons and support the ongoing battles of each other is essential. The most effective way to do this is through online engagement and encouraging collaboration and expansion of worldwide networks.

The ability for academics who may not have attended private schools, had two parents while growing up, experienced abuse of some form or had to skip meals because their parents couldn’t afford to feed them, and who are often labeled as being ‘working class’, to find like-minded, driven people is essential, yet difficult and requires concerted effort. The development of online sessions through the use of technologies such as Zoom or Teams that are based in London are effective for people in similar time zones, but not for people in places such as Australia, New Zealand and other areas. Although we can watch the online sessions when the time zone suits, we miss out on the engagement, collaborative opportunities and the sharing of ideas. It is often the time before and after formal sessions that the building of relationships occurs, a key element missing with the timing of these sessions. Further developing and incorporating the same type of sessions, at different times, could encourage a new audience and could open the group up to new opportunities, possibly being missed. Although, potentially making it challenging for some of the European members of the group with a diverse time, the sessions would allow for overseas members to actively be involved and open other opportunities yet to be explored or considered.

Meaningful collaboration is also essential. To remain employed in academia, or to gain employment in academia, finding a group of people to work and collaborate with is key. The ability to allow non formal collaborations to build through online discussions, a collaboration ‘job’ board or a designated email blast sharing collaboration opportunities, will assist the building of networks and the breaking down of geographic borders and limitations. The ability for academics to work together, write together and research together from across the globe will not only improve the quality of our work but also open the doors to funding and publication opportunities across the world.

The importance of increasing opportunities for working class academics will not only increase the quality of research being produced across the globe, but will also pave the way for others who face diversity in younger years to reach academia. Imagine a young student from a working class background, possibly from a single parent home, maybe living on a farm with working class parents or with a parent with a criminal record. Now imagine that young students burning desire to go to university, study and maybe even become an expert in a specific area such as education, medicine or even law. Now, finally, think what would happen to their dreams if they thought that their parents could not afford for them to attend or that their challenges were so intense that they had these dreams unfulfilled. An unfair situation for any young person, however, with the sharing and development of the Working Class Academics group across the globe, these young people will be exposed to success stories that may prove to be the role model and difference they are looking for. This group could realistically be life changing for many.

The horrors of Covid 19 have fast tracked many into the learning of new online technologies and the utilization of the protocols involved in using them. The time is now to expand the focus and message of the Working Class Academic group. Online methods are now second nature to us all and the opportunity to encourage others to join this group is also now. With the tertiary teaching system across the world going through immense changes due to Covid 19, more and more exceptionally talented academics with working class backgrounds and lives may be lost to the academic world. We need to reach out, find each other and it is simple when someone does, buy in, share your ideas, collaborate with someone you haven’t worked with before and start writing now. Together we are stronger, together we are better and together we can share our lived experiences with the world.

 

 

An invitation to join us at Prism

prismlogo

PRISM: Casting New Light on Learning, Theory & Practice, invites applications for Section Editors, Copyeditors, and Reviewers to join the journal’s editorial team and wider collective. We are seeking:

➢ At least four new Section Editors
➢ At least four new Copyeditors, and
➢ At least six new Reviewers

All who apply will be considered. A commitment to mutuality, collective work, conviviality, and punctuality is required. Previous editorial, copyediting or reviewing experience would be appreciated but is not necessarily essential, as the PRISM team will offer mentorship and support to build the relevant skills and expertise. It is expected that applicants will be able to demonstrate recent experience of writing and successfully publishing work in peer reviewed journals. Applicants – for all positions – would normally be expected to commit to the respective role for a minimum period of 3 years.

PRISM, a journal for the theory and practice of education is run entirely by volunteers – no member of the editorial or wider publishing team (including the editor in chief and deputy editor) receives remuneration of any kind. This is because we believe that the journal should be as free from ‘non-academic’ external pressures and influences as possible. PRISM has a diverse remit, it is necessarily eclectic, inherently radical, and unashamedly utopian; the disciplinary scope of PRISM is wide-ranging and encourages submissions from a wide variety of scholars and practitioners.

The journal recognises the breadth and scope of learning across diverse locations, educators, academics, researchers and thinkers. PRISM supports the development of an expanded field of pedagogy, allowing reflection and critical examination of practice, theory and policy through a spectrum of intra, cross and anti-disciplinary methodologies and theoretical approaches. Whilst PRISM is open to submissions from academics at all levels of expertise and experience, we also provide a space for emergent thinkers and practitioners from across formal and informal, marginal and traditional spaces. Theoretical and methodological pluralism is encouraged.

PRISM uses the Open Journal Systems (OJS) for managing and publishing its scholarly articles; OJS is open source software developed and released by the Public Knowledge Project (PKP). PRISM provides immediate open access to its content with no submission or publications fees; all articles are published under a Creative Commons Licence, and the author(s) maintain(s) copyright control over their article. PRISM is also indexed in the world’s largest open-access database: DOAJ (the Directory of Open Access Journals). DOAJ is a community-curated online directory that selects, indexes and provides access to high quality, open access, peer-reviewed journals.

To be considered for one of the positions, please send the following (as Word document attachments) to the email address: prismjournalapplication@gmail.com, by 23.59 on Thursday the 23rd of July:

  • A full academic CV
  • An Expression of Interest (500 words maximum) which should address the following:
    • Why you would like to join the PRISMEditorial Collective?
    • A brief list of topics (and points of support) that you feel your expertise and experience/areas of interest would contribute to the post
    • A few sentences indicating what you see to be the priorities and/or issues emerging in relation to education (that PRISM should consider supporting)

More details on the available positions

PRISM Section Editors

Section Editors (SE) are assigned draft manuscripts (submitted by authors) by the journal managing editors; once assigned, SEs become responsible for the consideration, reviewing and publishing decision for the article. The SE will provisionally judge the remit of the assigned article in relation to the publishing parameters and expectations of the journal, and also the academic quality of draft paper. If the SE deems it suitable, they will then assign it to two of the journal peer reviewers; the reviewers then read and scrutinise it for academic, disciplinary and methodological robustness. The reviewers then produce and submit comments to the SE and make a recommendation as to whether they consider the article publishable (or not). The SE will then make an editorial decision as to whether they/PRISM should accept the paper ‘in principle’ pending amendments, or alternatively, reject the paper. If the SE decides to accept the draft paper ‘in principle’ pending revisions, they will enter in to dialogue with the author, to establish a timeline for the revised paper to be submitted. The SE will then see the paper through to the copyedit stage.

The role of the Section Editor/SE will involve supporting the journal through the following:

• Engaging in the practice of mutual support, congeniality, and collective work
• Communicating with managing editors, authors, and referees in a timely and constructive manner
• Liaising with the PRISM editorial collective and contributing towards the overall direction, philosophy, and practice of the journal
• Working autonomously with an average of two to four articles at a time – to steer them through the editorial process
• Performing editorial duties associated with issuing decisions on manuscripts and submissions
• Overseeing the whole publication process of a submitted manuscript, from submission, to review, to acceptance (or decline), to copyediting; and sending accepted/copyedited articles thought to the production stage

PRISM Copyeditors

Copyediting is the process of checking for mistakes, inconsistencies, and repetition in papers that have been accepted for publication. During the copyedit process, the manuscript is polished before being sent on to the production stage. We feel that it is important to point out that copyeditors are not simply glorified spell checkers; copyeditors are ‘partners in publication’. The copyeditor ensures that the manuscript tells the best possible story and attains the required publication standards expected by the journal. Copyeditors focus on both the small details of the text (spelling, referencing, and References) and also the whole article by fine-tuning the grammar, structure and the coherence and flow of the article itself. Copyeditors must be meticulous and technical, whilst also being mindful of the writing style of the author, and the overarching themes and points of discussion in the wider manuscript.

PRISM Reviewers

A cornerstone of any academic journal is its team of valuable and dedicated article reviewers. The primary role of the reviewer is to ensure that the academic standards of draft the article are credible, ethical and robust enough for publication in the journal. The reviewers role is to support and advise the Section Editor to uphold the integrity of the journal. In conjunction with this, the function of the peer reviewer (as part of a collegiate approach), is not to demonstrate the reviewer’s proficiency by harshly identifying any perceived flaws in the paper. Reviewers have a responsibility to identify strengths in the paper and provide constructive comments to help the author resolve weaknesses in the work. A reviewer should always respect the intellectual independence of the author.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss any of the available positions in more detail, please contact:

Dr Dave Allan, PRISM Editor-in-Chief (david.allan@edgehill.ac.uk), and
Dr Craig Hammond, PRISM Deputy Editor (C.A.Hammond@ljmu.ac.uk)

‘The mission of integration’, repression, subjugation and discipline in civic nationalist education policy and practice

FRANCIS

The geopolitical transformations that took place in the wake of the 9/11 al Qaeda attacks have been marked by the end of multi culturalism in many western democracies and the emergence of a defensive, exclusionary politics of national identity. Political debates have pivoted around the incompatibility of Islam with democratic values and widespread anxiety about refugees and asylum seekers, ‘bearers of alien customs’ (Virdee and McGeever, 2018, 7) crossing the borders of the ‘Western citadel’ (Beck, 2002, 49). In Europe and the UK, the immigration debate has led to the introduction of citizenship tests, language and civic values exams and other tests of naturalization and compatibility with Western liberal values.

In the UK this hardening of national discourse has shaped educational policy and practice effectively making education a securitized site of the domestic war on terror. In 2012 the introduction of fundamental British values as a requirement of the regulatory framework of the teachers professional standards (DfE, 2014) and the imposition of the Prevent duty (2015) on teachers to give due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism have altered the relationship between teachers and students so that teachers have become the de facto instruments of state security. Significantly there has been no public democratic debate about what makes these values British or indeed what Britishness is. Instead, the definition was taken from government counter terrorist legislation which also defines extremism as opposition to fundamental British values (HM Government, 2015).

These developments are part of a wider civic nationalist (Ignatieff, 1993) turn in education policy that opposes those who adhere to state sanctioned civic values to those who are positioned as suspect because of cultural difference.

In 2018 OfSTED Chief, Amanda Spielman, stated that young people in Britain are vulnerable to exploitation by extremists and therefore require the teaching of British values, because, ‘if we leave these topics to the likes of the EDL and BNP on the one hand and Islamists on the other, then the mission of integration will fail’ (Spielman, in Weale, 2018).

In her 2019 speech at the Wellington Festival of Education, she reiterated this message stating that ‘it is so important that all these values are taught, understood and lived’ and that ‘school is how and where we make sure that every young British citizen ends up with the same level of understanding’ (Spielman, in Weale, 2018).

The new civic nationalism represents an exclusionary liberalism, demonstrated by Spielman’s insistence that OfSTED inspectors question female Muslim primary school children about the Muslim veil and her warning that religious minorities cannot expect ‘cultural entitlements’ (Weale, 2018).

In summary, what these policy developments amount to are an intensification of the State’s gaze upon non- Christian, primarily Muslim students and faith schools. Since Tony Blair’s premiership (1997-2007), UK government policy making has focussed on shared national values and community cohesion to address the problems of communities characterised as living ‘parallel lives’ (Cantle, 2001). In his 2011 Munich speech Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron argued for ‘muscular liberalism’ in place of the ‘passive tolerance’ of multiculturalism (Cameron, Gov.uk, 2011). This policy discourse portrays the UK as under attack by fundamentalist unreason, but from a critical perspective it translates as the racialization of Islam and disavowal of pluralism. The role of the State has shifted from ‘care taker’ to ‘traffic cop’ (Goldberg in Kapoor et al, 2013). From my Foucauldian point of view, what I see at work is biopolitical power that displaces responsibility from the State onto certain target groups that it seeks to regulate, and discipline for its own political purposes. The riots in northern towns and cities in 2001 that gave us community cohesion policy had their roots in decades of structural racism and underinvestment, not in ethnic or cultural difference. Similarly the war in Iraq created a sectarian conflict that in the words of former MI5 Chief, Lady Manningham Buller ‘radicalised…a whole generation of young people’ (Norton-Taylor, 2010).

The message conveyed by fundamental British values is integrationist, ‘become one of us’, your crime is ‘not to be like us’ (Deleuze and Guattari, 2013, 2008). What is required now is a sea change in education policy that abandons strategies that exacerbate racial and religious inequalities. Critical multicultural pedagogical approaches are required that acknowledge students’ lived experiences and their political agency. Such change is unlikely any time soon[1], but this should not preclude the formation of anti-racist educational alliances between students, teachers and researchers at the micro political level in order to report on the effects of racialising education policy and to foreground the experiences of minoritized groups. As Foucault argues, this is the task of critical scholarship, to unmask the effects of power as it operates obscurely, invisibly through the working of policies that appear neutral, independent and benign (Foucault, in Chomsky and Foucault, 2006).

References

Beck, U., 2002. The Terrorist Threat: World Risk Society Revisited, Theory, Culture & Society 19(4): 39-55

Cameron, D., 2011. PM’s Speech at Munich Security Conference. Accessed 01/06/20 https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pms-speech-at-munich-security-conference

Cantle, E., 2001. Community Cohesion: Report of the Independent Review Team. London, Home Office

Chomsky, N. and Foucault, M. 2006. The Chomsky-Foucault Debate. New York, the New York Press

Deleuze, G., and Guattari, F. 2013. A Thousand Plateaus. London, Bloomsbury

Great Britain Parliament. 2015. Counter-Terrorism and Security Act. London, TSO

HM Government. 2015. Prevent Duty Guidance: For England and Wales. London, Home Office

Ignatieff, M. 1993, Blood and Belonging, New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Kapoor, N., Kalra, V., and Rhodes, J. 2013. The State of Race. Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan

Weale, S. 2018. OfSTED chief accuses minority groups of entitlement in hijab row https://www.theguardian.com/education/2018/jul/09/ofsted-amanda-spielman-accuses-minority-groups-entitlement-hijab-row-schools

Virdee, S. and McGeever, B. 2018. Racism, Crisis, Brexit. Ethnic and Racial Studies 41(10): 1802-1819

 

 

 

[1] It is worth noting the controversial government counter terrorist Prevent strategy is currently under review and due to report to Parliament in August 2020. The review has been dogged by delays and setbacks, only recently appointing a Chair after the previous reviewer was compelled to stand down due to concerns about bias.

Workload Does Not Equal Productivity: A Look at My Experience in English and American Education Systems

THESELF

Editor’s note

It strikes us, at Prism, that a journal purporting to cast new light upon educational practice should reflect the authentic voice of those under-represented. In this case, a third year student at Manchester Metropolitan University, Shasta Stephens, offers an interesting insight into two different education systems. Each education system has to balance the need to provide a rigorous education with the well-being of the student body.

Perhaps more importantly, as humanity is increasingly challenged by the changes that globalisation and technological innovation brings, an education system has to preserve the well-being of the self.

Here, Shasta, provide an interesting insight into two very different educational experiences as we wonder if either of them meets the needs of tomorrow’s  students.

Workload Does Not Equal Productivity: A Look at My Experience in English and American Education Systems

 I am an upcoming third-year student at Manchester Metropolitan University and as of recent events, I’ve had time to properly reflect on my experiences in education. As an international student from the United States, I can confidently say the culture of the U.K. education system is a complete 180-degree flip from the states’. I’ve been educated in the states since I was five up till graduating at eighteen, excluding the four months of study abroad I took part in. As I’m coming to the end of my undergraduate degree, I am without a doubt so happy with my decision to study outside the U.S. With that being said, I am also finally appreciating what the U.S. system taught me, in a non-academic sense.

A good portion of my reflecting took me back to high school. Not only was I a usual confused and moody teenager, but I was juggling honours and advanced placement classes on top of an already heavy curriculum with volunteering, cheerleading, and a part-time job on top of it all. I was pushed to my mental, emotional, and physical limits throughout – still not sure how I managed to get through it while earning a spot in the top 10% of my year. My high school was very fast-paced, intense, and extremely stressful the closer you got to taking your ACT and SAT exams. I won’t even mention the month before graduation. I was so used to this type of learning and ‘productivity’ that when I got the opportunity to study abroad in England for a semester, I had major culture shock – and not regarding the disgrace that is beans on toast. When I began the academic year in September, my expectations were that it would be a similar level of pressure and workload, but I was completely taken aback at the almost relaxed nature of the sixth form. Instead of receiving daily homework from each class, I maybe had three take-home assignments altogether. Adding to the disbelief, we had breaks scheduled throughout the day and a designated common room to take them – unheard of.

Fast-forward six years and I am finishing my second year at Manchester Metropolitan University. I can say the four months at sixth form certainly prepared me for the laidback ways of English university life. I appreciate all the extra free time I have to work on my studies and other side projects, as I would not have gotten this at an American university. This past year we had six pieces of coursework and two exams, my eighteen-year-old self in her senior year of high school laughs at this, but I am incredibly grateful because I can work hard with more time to do so. That means less stress and more sleep, something American students are not getting. I see this in my friends from back home, they are struggling just to turn in their assignments on time. On top of having daily projects, they must study for end-of-week quizzes and monthly exams. A lot of them are failing classes if they haven’t dropped out already.

I see the privilege I have in attending a U.K. university and I also see the benefit I have had from American education. It’s taught me to plan, prepare, stay organised, and always have my assignments completed in advance. I think this background of American high school gave me the tools I needed for staying ahead of my peers and my attitude of striving for the best. This is a problem that I see in a lot of my university peers. Since we typically have a few pieces of coursework throughout the year and usually a month or two to complete them, many students leave their assignments to the last possible moment. When I say last moment, I mean the day it’s due. It’s as though they have no idea what to do with the free time they have. Time that could be used for assignments or revising is spent doing other activities, none of which university is involved. To be completely fair to the higher education system, I can’t attribute this fault to them. I think these types of skills should be implemented during further education.

To reiterate, I whole-heartedly appreciate the experiences of both cultures that I’ve had. Although both have their faults, mainly the American idea of ‘over-working equals better productivity’, I believe I have learned and benefited from each in the best way. It took me a while to figure out the good and bad parts of each and which skills and practices would take me where I want to go, but I got there with help. My experiences in each education system have been wildly different yet I believe it worked in my favour; I have the drive to do the best I can and have a killer work ethic, but I know when to sit back and take a break. The most important thing I’ve learned is that being stressed and constantly working doesn’t mean anything is getting done – except maybe an increased risk of mental health issues.

Tiny Power: Transforming Lives because FE is THE place for education with purpose 

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I wanted to call this article ‘Auto-Didacts, outsider artists, rhizomes and psycho-geography.  Real transformation requires real change – the change of being left alone.’   That I did not was down to the need to escape the quirky nonsense of entitling work that attracts when it is does not attract at all.  It obscures and that is the point that I want to make about Further Education as I see it.

I am absolutely of the opinion that what I do, the students I work with, and the work we produce is not the equal of what occurs in universities.  It is often far, far better.  It is a difficult point to make because the focus of the FE sector is generally first to establish that it is a ‘Cinderella’ sector, that it transforms but is unloved or that it needs reimagining.  The terminology of the unused title I have generated in actual practice, not as theoretical spaces that then populate lecture halls, text books and conference proceedings.  Further Education is the home of working class education and the space in which genius must emerge with stealth (and silently) because it has limited links upward/ outward. The work of FE academics and students is fertile and beautiful and is regularly more innovative than in the echelons beyond us.

The nature of the shadows that what happens there remains unseen

That it does this without funding and with straitened and pedagogically disinterested leadership is part of its wonder.

It is here, in the murky, shadowy and often threatened spaces of education that reimagining goes beyond ephemeral imagination and becomes tangible.   Through courageous and love-driven acts of seeking out new ways of thinking and knowing, of making things valuable and developmental, new knowledge is created.  Such is the nature of the shadows that what happens there remains unseen with benefits localised and very much of a context, a group, a duration and a place.

And that is fine.  That is good and powerful.  It is tiny power rather than administrative power and it is responsive without necessarily becoming standardised and generalisable.

Part of the issue around national campaigns is that by shining lights into the shadows, most often illumination stationed in universities and from a distance, things are not revealed.  Such light is often brutally harsh and melts the intricacies of interpersonal engagement, misses the intentions created amongst small groups gathered because of their collective isolation.  External academic analysis must begin by seeking the cases, the detail, the results that will later furnish the intended publication and dissemination routes.  The very routes that create superhighways of conventional thought and recognition and that create the shadows in which we dwell.

There is no doubt Further Education can be over-managed and made sterile and frustrating by those focussed on the measure of others, from non-involved policy makers and targets generated in spaces afar.  It attracts administrators rather than academics to its well-paid positions of power and, like Higher Education in universities, continues to whittle down the educators to poorer contracts and precarious positions. This is a problem but also the potential for growth.  Left in these forgotten academic spaces, innovation becomes unfettered and the relationships between educators, students and communities can be recreated and forged through practice.  That great practice emerges here is evident, what should not be allowed to continue is that unrecognised creation becomes the norm, such excellence then harvested and paraded by others.  Perhaps we might build a structure that acknowledges what expertise and potential exists outside the pyramid structures and creates models of administration that give it room to breathe. Further education provision not as places to be visited upon, but hubs of excellence, of new knowledge, emergent thinking that need to be listened to and learned from.  New ways of measuring that are not illuminated by TEF/REF and other acronym bound shadowy spaces.  New ways of measuring that begin (and perhaps end) with what purpose they have to those involved directly, the participants.

There is no intention here to argue for no college administrators, or to reduce the significance of university based research.  It is to ask for more, not less, but a different kind of more.  More recognition of the need for research BY FE practitioners, academics, educator, students.  More investment in the ways we share knowledge and who is involved and how that is recognised and rewarded.  More academic inclusion in the running of colleges by those educators that work there, not through franchise models of expertise drafted in occasionally.

My experiences are not uncommon.  That work we do is recognised because of the work itself, through feedback from community organisations, through students developing networks that link to other networks, locally, often nationally and even internationally.  This has to happen in spare time, in darkness as far as funding is concerned.  More recognition of this power and value would mean that every college would have a responsibility to show innovation, purpose, impact in terms of its own context – not only straitened measures that align with government agendas.  Even national recognition for my work, and that of my colleagues, comes from spaces beyond Further Education.  Projects and awards from Arts groups, community work, the Workers Education Association, local galleries and cultural/ heritage organisations.

The first ones now WERE traditionally last

An alternate funding and recognition network is being created as the FE sector remains dominated by university – based research and familiar, and distant, voices.

The global pandemic, the lockdown and the reorganising of society to adapt shows us many things.  In relation to education, it highlights the value that lies in the shadows.  The first ones now WERE traditionally last.  We must take from this recognition not only of essential and key workers but also the power and innovation across the education sectors.  It is dispersed and diffuse expertise, responsive and organic, the home of the natural educators – many professional, many generated by circumstance.  Evidence abounds of how what happens now comes from the margins of conventional structures, glows from the shadows.  It would be churlish to point out that nobody has ever hollered, ‘we need an OFSTED Inspector, and we need one now!’.

The what we do IS the why it matters

What we witness here is not a brooding, contemplative re-imagining but bold, energised and pioneering work.  Not always first time successes, but driven by what Paulo Freire recognised as love, that innate desire to be part of a growth of new knowledge, of purposeful and valuable engagement.  This can happen everywhere, a gonzo pedagogy in which the what we do IS the why it matters.

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Changing the title of this blog did more than change a few words.  I left the discussion around my own innovations, the successes of many students, the brilliance of the work produced in art-based seminars, of walking lectures, of students presenting by wandering.  These exist, I am happy to share them.  Instead, what changed was the content and the purpose as I recognised what I needed to call for was a recognition of Further Education as a hotbed of innovation, research, practice and brilliance.  This does not often fit the conventional spaces of academia and that should be rationale enough to create something that does.  Let others reimagine and reimagine us as being part of the discourse.  We do not live in a world that will ever have funded FE based academics writing about the trials and tribulations of educators in Higher Education.  That is OK, nor should we.  What we should be able to expect is recognition of our own work, produced by us, networks of dissemination informed by us, funding directed toward us and a sense of being recognised as educators, researchers and philosophers at the heart of excellence in innovation and practice.

Bio: Peter Shukie is a college-based educator with interests in meaningful and purpose-led education.

 

 

 

 

 

On the New Bedouins: discontinuity and disruption in education

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I recently came across a podcast discussing Mark Fisher’s book Capitalist realism, and was minded of his apocryphal tale of the television reporters who, on seeing Occupy protesters in Starbucks, accused them of colluding with big business. In the minds of the media, the frothy cappuccino had become the emblem of the markets; class war protesters drinking from such a poisoned chalice lacked authenticity.  It is a classic dualism – the progressive markets versus the neo feudal. The problem is, both sides embrace the duality; one side only sees markets, while the other: instability and insecurity.

Brexit is a sobering example of a wonderfully architected duality. Orchestrated largely by a social class far removed from those persuaded to switch vote for the first time in a century; it constructs, disruptions and discontinuities that result in dualities. Sides are taken; conflict ensues. The noble Brexiteer battling the middle class Remoaner; or the corporate crusader versus the class warrior. Fear is often the weapon of choice.

Another example of such a dualism is religion. It creates sacred and profane knowledge. The sacred is untouchable, a canon or curriculum; the profane is the mundanity of the everyday. The dualism crept into medieval education, the Trivium and Quadrivium, and the idea of a cultural canon is still favoured by school’s minister Nick Gibb. Spinoza offered a contra view to the transcendent/ immanent dualism arguing there is no sacred knowledge; God is a continuity that unifies all. Suffice to say it didn’t go down too well at the time.

I raise all this because sadly, I see a new schism opening up in the battle for work-life balance. In a post Covid 19 world, remote working is an increasing possibility, and so are the dangers.  Terms like “New Bedouins” emerge to describe those who are the antithesis of the class war protester. Smart, technologically aware and plugged into coffee culture. Travelling from one Starbucks to the next whilst simultaneously disrupting the economy with techno whizbangery. And get this; the New Bedouins can drink coffee and be authentic.

Sounds great; except, that like an oasis emerging from the sand dunes, it could be a illusion. The alternative view of the same role is the gig economy victim; disconnected from colleagues with no representation and little job security. It is a battle over material resources and the utilisation of human labour, fought on the site of cultural discourse.

The question is how to respond? On the one hand, there are endless possibilities for autonomy and work life balance, on the other, the reality of the gig economy. In the world post Covid 19, all sectors of education will be confronted with the problem of balancing technological and human resource. The question is, do we become the New Bedouins enjoying work life balance and autonomy, or gig victims cut off from the security of well paid secure work?

It’s time to recalibrate protest; progress is not the enemy nor are the markets. The real enemy is: self interest and exploitation. The war is not cultural; it’s material. So the message is simple, don’t allow your cappuccino to be used against you. Drink coffee and demand change!

Note

I use imperfect understandings of the following to liven up the mediocrity:

1] Bernstein, B. (2003). Class, codes and control: Applied studies towards a sociology of language (Vol. 2). Psychology Press.
2] Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (1988).A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia. Bloomsbury Publishing.
3] Durkheim, E., & Swain, J. W. (2008). The elementary forms of the religious life. Courier Corporation.
4] Fisher, M. (2009). Capitalist realism: Is there no alternative? John Hunt Publishing
5] Fowler, B. (2020). Pierre Bourdieu on social transformation, with particular reference to political and symbolic revolutions. Theory and Society, 1-25.
6] Spinoza, B. (2002). Spinoza: Complete Works. Hackett Publishing.

Learning for uncertainty

learning for uncertainty

Most adults in the UK today (and the majority of the world) are the product of an assessment-driven approach to education. Teachers are pressured to teach towards a known outcome, like an exam, rather than an unknown outcome, like real life. This predetermined, assessment-driven curriculum places undue stress on children, teachers, parents and society. When children are measured based on what they can and can’t do in a standardised learning environment, their sense of command will likely be diminished. If this lack of independence goes unnoticed as we mature, our ability to act pragmatically as adults may be stunted.

Coronavirus has forced us all into a time of ultimate uncertainty combined with ultimate anxiety. Drastic alterations to our daily lives are introduced by the day, if not by the hour and most of us are probably experiencing a cycle of fear, anxiety, boredom and confusion. Acting rationally and maintaining composure has suddenly become much more difficult as the shops empty of basic necessities and we turn to obsessive hand washing for comfort.

The reaction to panic-buy and feelings of disorientation might stem from sensing a lack of control that leads to fear. Fear and panic on their own, as it turns out, are unhelpful reactions. They can be briefly useful to wake us up from an excessive sense of security, but once they have succeeded in that respect and your kitchen is well-stocked, they should be set aside for more useful activities.

It is helpful here to stop and think about what makes some more capable than others at managing in times of crisis.

Adults who gained strong foundational skills in independent problem-solving as children, who felt comfortable exploring their environment and who were encouraged to reach outside their comfort zone, often feel more empowered in challenging situations. An education system that builds a fun and personal connection to the learning environment and that focuses on each persons’ previous experiences as well as their individual understanding of learning can be much more effective at building resilience and cognitive ability than traditional classrooms and summative assessments.

A classroom set-up for an alternative future that builds resilient adults with high emotional intelligence and strong critical thinking skills might look more like the outdoor classroom set-up practiced in Liverpool by Nature to Nurture. The Nature to Nurture method (N2N) is an alternative education experience for children aged 3-12, led entirely outdoors. This environment is both physically and mentally challenging, where each child has the freedom to explore their individual capabilities. In this environment, children face unknowns that they are free to explore safely. Stepping outside their comfort zone prepares them well for coping well for later, and even in times of extreme crisis.

And if you think about it, anxiety from this current coronavirus crisis is not so different from the anxiety caused by awakening to the realities of climate change. Anyone who has been paying close attention to the climate change crisis, and who understands the potential consequences has long been awake to this reality, operating on a potion concocted of unease, confusion, motivation and listlessness.

Both global crises, coronavirus and climate change, are like different kinds of volcanic eruption. The warming climate has been erupting slowly and inexorably, the dangerous lava creeping slowly for decades, like Kilauea on Hawaii putting millions of lives at risk over its 35 years of continuous eruption. Coronavirus, on the other hand, is like Mt Vesuvius – erupting explosively and forcing the immediate and real-life adjustments for which fear of climate change fear has so far been proven insufficient.

It is in these times of calamity and crisis where the entire human race is being tested in ways that we have not been since at least World War Two. Many of those who did not feel extreme anxiety and fear from climate change are likely finding that this crisis has managed to incite these feelings, raising our adrenaline and triggering our fight-or-flight response.

Now we are facing a real global crisis and our resilience is being tested in ways many of us have never experienced. It is time to reconsider whether our current education methods truly prepare us for an uncertain world, or whether it is an ideal opportunity to define an educational pedagogy to better prepare humanity to be productive and compassionate in the face of distress and uncertainty.

When focusing on the final outcome can be soul-destroying, let us focus instead on the best next step, and how we can use our time to better prepare ourselves for the future. I will leave you now with this:

“The function of man is to live, not to exist.
I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time.”

– Jack London

References:

Bagley, M. (2018). Kilauea Volcano: Facts About the 30-Year Eruption. Live Science. Retrieved March 27, 2020, from https://www.livescience.com/27622-kilauea.html

Cole, H., Hulley, K., & Quarles, P. (2009). Does Assessment Have to Drive the Curriculum?. Forum on Public Policy Online, 2009(1), 1–15.

Evans, N. (Snowy). (2020). Is this what good pedagogy looks like? Review essay of Diverse pedagogies of place: Educating students in and for local and global environments, edited by Peter Renshaw and Ron Tooth. The Journal of Environmental Education, 1–7. doi:10.1080/00958964.2019.1692185

Lillard, A. (2005). An Answer to the Crisis in Education. In Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius (pp. 3–37).

Tapper, J. (2018). Burned out: why are so many teachers quitting or off sick with stress? The Guardian. Retrieved March 27, 2020, from https://www.theguardian.com/education/2018/may/13/teacher-burnout-shortages-recruitment-problems-budget-cuts

The LEGO Foundation. (2017). Neuroscience and learning through play: a review of the evidence (research summary), (November), 28. Retrieved from https://www.legofoundation.com/media/1064/neuroscience-review_web.pdf

Work in FE can be crap, but resistance is fertile

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                         Image by Curtis Tappenden

Teaching in the post compulsory sector has manifold joys; but let’s face it, working in FE in the past few years has also been a bit crap for too many of us: salaries since incorporation have collapsed, and working conditions have been progressively undermined. 

Too many, especially younger tutors, are employed long-term on temporary, insecure contracts: highly qualified and committed professionals should not face anxiety about their shopping bills over summer closures, or indeed when their precarious employment may be curtailed, such as during the current coronavirus crisis.  There has also been insufficient attention paid to the wider well-being and professional learning of FE staff, and we must be clear that this is not just an industrial relations issue: the inadequate working conditions of lecturers in the sector are the de facto learning environment of our students.

There are tentative signs that as a profession we have had enough: the recent successful UCU strike action at Nottingham College was a response to local attempts to undermine lecturers’ contracts, but also represents a model for national campaigns for the whole of FE.  However, ultimately only the reestablishment of national collective sector bargaining will end the current postcode lottery: many progressive and supportive FE Principals and Governing Bodies have always honoured the AoC’s recommendations on lecturer salaries, but in too many instances FE college leaders have failed in this most basic of their moral duties to their staff. 

It is time for decisions on FE pay and contractual conditions to be taken out of their hands; colleges should no more be the personal fiefdoms of the small minority of FE leaders who fail to act with ethicality.  It should be noted, in this context, that there has been an explicit shift in the language and tone of the AoC under David Hughes’ leadership: as an organisation its focus has shifted from being a club for Principals, to articulating a vision for the whole sector (most clearly manifested in the #LoveFE campaign), which is inclusive of its front line workers.

There is, too, exemplary informal leadership in the broader FE sector; such as the FE Transforms project.  It should be remembered that in the long run crap can transform into a rich loam, a fertile medium for post compulsory learning. FE Transforms has done a considerable amount of  FE’s spadework, and planted many seeds; in support of the pressure being exerted by the trade unions and the AoC on the government to establish fair FE funding.  Perhaps during the current imposed hiatus, it is the task for all of us who love FE to ensure that the resulting harvest is reaped. 

The long term impact of the coronavirus on the whole body politic is not yet clear; but it has been evident for a considerable time that FE is, as Frank Coffield puts it, a sick sector.  Treating its workers with dignity, and affording them adequate remuneration for their critically important work, is part of the cure.

Joel Petrie worked in post compulsory education for over 20 years, and is now a self-employed FE consultant.  With Maire Daley and Professor Kevin Orr he co-edited Further Education and the Twelve Dancing Princesses, and its sequel The Principal: Power and Professionalism in FE.  The third in the Dancing Princesses trilogy – Caliban’s Dance: FE after the Tempest – will be published by UCL Press in summer 2020.

Curtis Tappenden is a Senior Lecturer in FE at the University for the Creative Arts, and an editorial artist for a national newspaper.  The illustration accompanies the quote by Baudrillard in The Principal: Power and Professionalism in FE).