Sunday, 20 October 2013

Endangered Species

Having just read a long and arduous feature on the future of universities in the LRB, I realise I am an endangered species. I'm going to be systematically hunted down, my habitat steadily eroded, because  I represent 100% teaching and learning (often my own). I really couldn't give a fuck about anything else. New 'private universities' whether profit making or charity based, will spend up to 40% of their income on advertising and promotion, and when you whittle away the rest, it might end at just 10% of expenditure in actually teaching people. We shall have to set up charities for academics who can't cope with the bureaucracies that have grown up around them, and that will eventually destroy them. Students will be consumers automatically subject to fire sales and refunds  (depending on financial clout) and no body will have the patience required to actually learn anything, or crucially gain perspective on events.
A world insanity hence comes home to roost, and even the finest of critics don't seem to be able to stop the waves, the waves that say everything has to turn in to money, that everything has to turn a profit, even when they are dealing with something as inherently tricky to qualify in monetary value as education. When you have to dream up terms like 'positional profit' for somebody who might turn out to be a bigger spinning cog in the money machine to justify education you know you are on the wrong side of something bad.
If I were to take this essay seriously (and I do) I would have to note that this ideological position is entirely the reverse of that offered by J K Galbraith in his Affluent Society of 1956, when advertising was seen as a threat and that some sectors, notably universities, would be strengthened at vast public cost against it's worst influence.

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