Supervision #2

I met with David at Brunel on Monday for a supervision meeting and gave him a brief update on what I’ve been doing and what my plans are over the next few weeks. It really is action stations at the moment because I’m scheduling in conversations with my participants, and putting together my literature review chapter. The data collection part of my schedule has slipped a bit, but I’m still aiming to get a first draft of the literature review done by the beginning of May:

The main thing we discussed was possible approaches to the literature review. David encouraged me to consider interesting stylistic ways of structuring it, and suggested a deep reading of a core text; using this as a central thread from which to make outward connections with the other sources I’ve been engaging with. The core text would need to be something quite fundamental and David thought Newman’s The Idea of A University would be a good choice. I really wasn’t sure about this at first because it seems so very dated, but I quickly came around to the idea. It should actually give me lots of opportunities to compare and contrast present and future conceptions with the origins of the university. I’m a lot more comfortable working with the theological aspect of these origins now as well, after my little sideline into psychedelic phenomenology, several months of PESGB seminars where God features quite a lot, and reading Barnett and – just for fun – a comprehensive anthology on the philosophy of Free Will. If there are bits of Newman’s Idea that seem to be of no relevance to the hear and now, then that could be a point of interest in itself.

It’s been done before of course – here’s a short Guardian article from 2010 and a much longer paper given by the Reverend Ian Ker in 2011, both of which deal with the relevance of Newman’s Idea in the 21st century. The timing of these is pertinent; the dramatic rise in tuition fees payable by students and the associated marketisation of higher education prompted a good deal of reflection about what a university is and what it is for.

I thought it might be useful to look out for a couple of examples of this ‘deep reading’ approach, but then again maybe it’s best to find my own way with it. I found a neat little resource on ‘close reading’ from the University of Wisconsin’s Writing Center, which might come in useful if I run out of ideas. And this excerpt – I’m not sure what book it’s from – has some good questions to ask when reading Newman.

What I know I’m at risk of doing is continuing to read all the other interesting things (including Jon Nixon’s book on Interpretive Pedagogies, which rather annoyingly sets out very well the kind of thing I was planning to write about conversation and education), and putting off the actual drafting. So before the end of this weekend I plan to sketch out the main concepts in Newman’s Idea and start overlaying connections with the other sources I’ve looked at.

Looking ahead to the Methodology chapter, David suggested I get in touch with another PhD student Ido Gideon, whose thesis on communities and the moral foundations of citizenship education also utilises conversation as a research method. I met Ido at last year’s PESGB conference, and hopefully he’ll be there in a couple of weeks’ time so I can pick his brains.

Aside from a little tangential discussion of Arendt, Heidegger and romantic love is/as education (touching on jealousy, possessiveness and polyamory), that was pretty much it; a really focused, useful meeting. Boom.

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On work, fun, and capitalism

Last week I had the urge to clear out my desk space at work, and came across a little brown envelope. Inside, I discovered a memo I’d been required to write to myself at our first EdD seminar, three and a half years ago:

I was so happy to read this, because I don’t feel conflicted anymore – at least not about that. I am having a whole tonne of fun.

But, it ties in with a few things I’ve been thinking and reading about recently, and links to my previous writing on employability and economics. I guess we all have our internal conflicts, and one of mine is that, while rationally I think we should all be working less for the sake of our health and the planet (see the NEF report on the 21 hour working week, and Tim Jackson’s CUSP report on sustainable prosperity), I have a competitive personality and something of a work ethic. This cognitive dissonance came to the fore in the last few months when I started to get cold feet about the plan we’d made to move up North and downsize. I realised I didn’t want to; I enjoy the fast pace of life in London, and its intellectual challenges. I had been ambivalent about going part-time and raising a family; now I was decidedly apathetic.

There are several mechanisms at play in the rise and resolution of this internal conflict. I was raised – explicitly and by example – to compete, to keep busy, to keep learning, to be independent and to plan for the future. In slight contrast my partner’s upbringing was explicitly socialist and (half) Catholic. This instilled values in him such as collectivism and a disinclination to accumulate wealth (which seems to include putting money aside to pay his tax return, annoyingly). He’s been a significant influence on my political education over the last few years – and has introduced me to new ways of having fun – to the point where I started to question the value of all this hard work and individual achievement.

I think it was probably a number of factors that converged to pull me back to what I recognise as my natural way of being. The first was getting called out at work for not doing a very good job on something I was supposed to have been working on over the summer, and not even having a completed registration document and UREC form to justify my slackitude. I suspect my subsequent forays into microdosing, and menopausal epiphany – ‘this is who I am and this is what I want’ – were also implicated, and it was also around that time that I started attending the PESGB seminars, which inspired and motivated me, while introducing a fun, social element to my academic vocation. My research shifted my thinking, as I began in earnest to explore viewpoints other than my own, seeking in particular to understand the neoliberal ideology. The nail in the coffin might have been Brendan’s tax return.

I’ve had several people recommend I read Weber, and I finally got down to him last week (this was ultimately Richard’s doing; he was getting all excited about the Protestant work ethic and I immediately saw the connection with my thesis). Weber gave me exactly what I wanted; a theory about the evolution of the capitalist spirit, and a substantial history lesson besides.

I learned about the Protestant Reformation; a split from Catholicism initiated by Martin Luther, who interpreted that human salvation can be obtained only through faith (‘sole fide’) – i.e. not through good deeds. This laid some of the foundation of the capitalist spirit as it meant that one can potentially attain salvation through any form of life. Luther also introduced the idea of one’s daily work as a divine vocation – a ‘calling’. However, Lutherans still frowned upon the accumulation of material wealth beyond one’s personal needs, particularly if it was obtained at the expense of others.

This concept of divine providence was – and continues to be – influential; the idea of God allocating you a station and a vocation in life. Yes, ‘social mobility’ is all the rage these days, but it wasn’t very long ago that having ‘ideas above your station’ was frowned upon – even considered immoral.

A point of note is that the emphasis on the ascetic importance of a FIXED calling provides an ethical justification for the modern, specialised division of labour; an ideal that began to dominate worldly morality and played a huge part in building the modern economic order. Machine production determines our lives; where the Puritans chose to work in a calling, many of us are now forced to. It is interesting to compare this with the utopian society Huxley imagines in Island, where only light subsistence industry is permitted, and citizens have a specialism they undertake part-time in combination with a rotation of different kinds of work.

Calvinism (also known as Reformed Christianity) was a subsequent major branch of Protestantism, and this is where things get a bit complicated with various sub-branches – Methodism, Quakerism and so on. The important thing to note is the Puritanical aspects of Calvinism and the related traditions, in particular the principles of ascetism (which arose from various dogmatic foundations) and predestination – the idea that we are either chosen, or damned, and we can’t earn our salvation (through, for example, good works). That having been said, the later Calvinist traditions – Quakerism in particular – held a view of one’s life’s work as an exercise in ascetic virtue; one’s conscientiousness as proof of one’s state of grace. So, there is a funny backwards logic at work here; the Lutheran view that we are allocated our lot in life stands, but if we believe that a conscientious attitude is proof of being among God’s chosen few, all it takes is a little faith, and then we can be conscientious and count ourselves among the chosen.

It’s important to emphasise that these religious reformers (Luther, Calvin, Wesley etc.) were only concerned with the salvation of the soul; they were not interested in social/ethical reform. Ascetism and predestination could be said to be religiously superficial, even incidental, but Weber argues that they played a part in a complex interaction of historical factors that had major cultural (and economic) consequences. These consequences were not foreseen by the reformers themselves, and in some cases were in direct contradiction to their intentions.

So – back to the vocation. Does it matter what it is? While in modern times we might assess the moral worth of a particular calling through its value to the community, the Puritan view provides an intriguing twist, as Puritans see the hand of God in all occurrences. Therefore, if God shows one of his elect a chance of profit, then they should take that path, with the caveat that one accepts the gifts and uses them for only in God’s service. In other words, one labours to be rich for God, and the temptation to use that wealth to fund one’s own leisure and pleasure must be resisted. The parable of the servant and the talent even indicates that it is not sufficient to hold ones riches undiminished for the glory of God; we should strive to increase them.  Hence the imperative not only to save, but to invest and accumulate.

It seems that being wealthy would be particularly burdensome given these conditions (and at this point I guiltily recall giggling at the woman complaining about the ‘great responsibility’ of being rich in the BBC documentary The Price of Inequality).

While indulgence was definitely not approved of, the Puritans acknowledged that financial wealth lent a certain ease to life. They accepted as unproblematic the notion that God blesses the chosen in this life as well as the afterlife, and that unequal distribution of the goods of the world is a dispensation of divine providence with secret ends unknown to men (that convenient get-out clause of God working in mysterious ways). Wesley’s advice was that those who gain and save should also give; a good conscience becoming one of the means of enjoying a comfortable bourgeois life.

Weber points out that the full economic effect of these developments came only after the peak of religious enthusiasm passed. Puritan ideals often gave way under pressure from the temptations of wealth, the unsustainable nature of the ideals effectively killing off the religion. As John Wesley wrote: ‘religion will produce both industry and frugality, and these cannot but produce riches. But as riches increase so will pride, anger…desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the pride of life. So, although the form of religion remains, the spirit is swiftly vanishing away.’  The pursuit of wealth has become stripped of its religious and ethical meaning.

So, even at the time of writing (1905), ‘the idea of duty in one’s calling prowls about in our lives like the ghost of dead religious beliefs’ (p109). I love that sentence – there’s something very poetic about it.

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Employability, Tragedy and the Meaning of Life

The day after the PESGB seminar on entrepreneurship and the performing arts, I attended an education research seminar at Queen Mary on engagement with employability and graduate attributes. The seminar was given by Finola Farrant, a lecturer in Criminology at Roehampton, and for me it raised plenty of juicy questions of the type that are likely to arise in my conversations, the first one being – what is the problem that ’employability’ is the answer to? 

This question – along with most of the others I scribbled down during the session – is chewed over fairly comprehensively in the HEA’s recent report – Employability: A review of the literature 2012 to 2016. So I’ll bring the two things together if I can.

Citing Kettis et al. (2013) and Rich (2015), the HEA report describes a fault line ‘between those who argue that higher education’s primary purpose is the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, and those who argue that higher education serves a research and development function for the country along with the development of a skilled workforce’ (p13).  The research and development agenda (as promoted by CP Snow in his 1959 Rede Lecture The Two Cultures) was no doubt a major influence on the 1963 Robbins report and the subsequent expansion of higher education. The skills-shortage argument can be questioned, particularly in terms of this expansion. Is it true, for example, that there are lots of vacancies for criminologists that cannot be filled due to a lack of suitably qualified candidates? Here’s another question I wrote down in the seminar:

If we imagine a highly employable person, what are the skills or attributes that makes them employable? Are highly employable people taught these attributes at university? Could they be?

I felt these were important questions that were glossed over at the QMUL event. I’ve recently been reading Baroness Alison Wolf’s 2004 book Does Education Matter, which questions whether the skills employers are actually using and looking for are those gained at university (rather than those gained at 14, 16 or 18, for example). Wolf argues that the skills most wanted by employers are ‘the ability to read and comprehend, write fluently and correctly, and do mathematics’ (p37) – traditional academic skills that are taught at school, and – it could be argued – that all those headed to university already have.

The HEA’s 2013 Framework for embedding employability (which features heavily in the 2015 report), describes and defines employability in terms of key aspects (p10):

  • confidence, resilience and adaptability;
  • experience and networks;
  • attributes and capabilities;
  • specialist technical and transferable skills;
  • knowledge and application;
  • behaviours, qualities and values;
  • enterprise and entrepreneurship;
  • career guidance and management;
  • self, social and cultural awareness;
  • reflection and articulation.

The Government’s 2015 Employer Skills Survey seems to support the theory expounded by Wolf – that the skills employers are finding in short supply are those that are supposedly learned at school – numeracy, literacy, time management, etc. – as well as specialist and operational knowledge that is best learned ‘on the job’. While the survey findings have been used to argue for greater state investment in vocational education, they surely provide a better argument for employer investment (in apprenticeships, traineeships, etc). Their relevance to higher education seems debatable.

As an aside… it’s the glaring, unacknowledged contradictions in reports like these that cause me to reach for the salt when digesting their conclusions. For example, the report presents a concern about under-utilisation of skills, which apparently ‘represents not only a waste of individuals’ talent but also potentially a missed opportunity for employers to increase performance and productivity, improve job satisfaction and employee well-being, and stimulate investment, enterprise and innovation.’ (p8). But the most common reason given by employers for such under-utilisation was that staff were not interested in taking on a higher level role; i.e. they made a personal choice in the service of their job satisfaction and wellbeing. We are dealing with people here, not machines.

Back to the HEA report – which cites Speight et al. (2013) in reporting that some see the employability agenda as a threat to disciplinary learning. It is this aspect of the ‘fault line’ that intrigues me and is the foundation for my thesis. I’ll nail my colours to the mast – I’m still right up there with Pádraig Hogan, defending the intrinsic value of education – but I’m happy to acknowledge that the other side has a point, albeit a secondary one. I went to university in the first instance both because I liked learning and it was a prerequisite for the kind of work that I thought would suit me best. Embarking on an MA and then an EdD was prompted by a similar motivational blend (and a pretty standard one at that, I guess – to survive and be happy?).

In their report, the HEA argues that it is possible to combine the two viewpoints through careful revision of the employability agenda to integrate academic and employability learning, and cites Rust (2016) in claiming that many people operate somewhere between these two poles (something I’m curious to discover through my institutional conversations). The report offers the following definition:

‘Employability in higher education (HE) is about preparing students to become workers, citizens, community members and lifelong learners.’

It could be argued that universities have many responsibilities to the young people they take on – and this broad description touches on several of them. But the statement in the HEA report that universities have a moral duty to educate for employability on the basis of student investment and expectation of improved life chances does not sit comfortably with me. For me, a more pressing moral imperative is to curb the excessive inequalities in society that validate such dubious statements (another suggestion in the report that really irked me was that universities were partly to blame for the financial crash of 2008, by not producing graduates with the right skills). I don’t want the life chances of graduates to be ‘better’ than those of non graduates. Different, yes – but not better.

The consensus presented in the report (citing Cole and Tibby 2013) that employability is about meaningful participation in society rather than simply getting a job is all very well, but ‘meaningful’ is a difficult word. Let’s google it:

  • Significant
  • Relevant
  • Important
  • Consequential
  • Worthwhile
  • Purposeful

…see where this is going? When we describe an action as ‘meaningful’, we acknowledge it is a means without commenting what it is a means to, i.e. a specified end or purpose.

In a recent interview, the philosopher David E Cooper had this to say about ‘meaning’: “I don’t think we should just ‘muddle through’ and ignore the question of life’s meaning. Or better, perhaps, I don’t think it is a question that can be ignored once the business of asking about the worth and significance of what one is doing – one’s work, one’s pleasures, one’s ambitions and so on – has got going.”

So, there’s the rub… that’s my issue with the employability agenda, that’s where I think the fault line arises, and that’s why I’m with Pádraig. I want to live in a society where it is commonplace to interrogate the purpose of our actions; their worth, their consequences, etc. I would like that to be the foundation of employability education.

Here’s another question I wrote down during the QMUL seminar – it might seem a bit obtuse at first, this one, but bear with me:

Can we imagine a person whose employability attributes diminished through going to university?

This question doesn’t really feature in the literature as far as I can see; the assumption is that university increases employability; it’s just a question of how and by how much. But having had a rough time at university myself, and spent a year working as a resident tutor looking after others who were having a rough time, this is an issue I really care about. The transition to independent study and living can lead to problems such as a decline in mental and/or physical health, risk-avoidance due to stress of debt, substance abuse, etc. Personally, I found school and college pretty easy, but I really struggled to cope socially at university. I found living with other students intolerably invasive, and the expectation that I would make friends for life only increased the isolation I felt. Having alienated virtually everyone I met over the three years, I left immediately after my final exam to take up a job at the other end of the country. Getting the job was easy; it was a small educational publishing firm run by a guy who thought he wanted a bright, eccentric young woman on his writing staff.  But the fresh start I was expecting turned into more of the same, and again I failed to connect with people in an appropriate or normal way. I soon became acutely depressed and was fired due to erratic behaviour, ending up on Jobseeker’s Allowance of £46 a week. I struggled to get another job, and it took several years of temping and bar work (and the rest… better not ask) to put myself back together.

The thing is, I know I’m not alone in this. My experience as a resident tutor at Bath revealed how other kids struggled to adapt to university life, sometimes with disastrous consequences. Lots of them had a great time, of course – and that’s why it can be really hard to admit to having a bad one; you don’t want to rain on everyone else’s parade.

Looking at this from another angle, I now work in a specialist arts university, and I often stumble across the suggestion that angst, adversity, tragedy – even mental illness – can be the basis for great art. In another recent 3:am interview, my friend Richard asked philosopher Dennis Schmidt whether tragedy is ‘the perfection of the possibilities of art’. Schmidt responds, first citing Hegel and Nietzsche, that ‘if we are beings who are multiple and full of irreconcilable conflict, and if we are beings who make artworks in order to understand ourselves, then tragedy is at least “a” if not “the” perfection of art’s possibilities.’ Schmidt believes that the technological world has shifted the possibilities of art – perhaps in productive and creative ways but also in restrictive ways.

The last couple of questions I wrote down during the seminar sound mildly facetious, but they come from the heart:

In response to Roehampton’s Graduate Attributes, one of which is ‘Curious and creative with a passion for knowledge’, I wrote: How does the love of a subject and learning assist someone in a common graduate desk job? Wouldn’t it just make them more bored and frustrated?

On hearing Farrant’s own reasons for going to university (‘I wanted a job that was fulfilling, engaging and interesting, and hopefully offered me suitable recompense’), I wrote: If you have been fortunate enough to succeed at school and university and land a job that is fulfilling, engaging and interesting, what exactly is society compensating you for?

This last one really got me thinking. Other than increased competence and/or experience (productivity hmm), what are justifiable grounds for one person being paid more for their time than someone else? I jotted down a few ideas:

  • Unsociable hours – e.g. tube drivers
  • High-stakes (emotional stress) – e.g. surgeons
  • Low autonomy – e.g. factory operative

Why are graduates paid more than non-graduates, just because we got to faff around going to lectures, reading books, getting shamefully drunk on cheap beer and playing Ultimate Frisbee while they were putting in an honest 37 hour week? I just don’t get it, and it’s important, because the entire issue of HE funding and the public/private good debate hangs on it.

Farrant finished off her seminar with three questions for us to ponder, so just for laughs I’ll show you my responses:

Q1: What do you wish you’d known at the outset of your career?
A: That trying to make your parents proud of you is a futile, empty goal that will occlude and obstruct your own aims and desires.

Q2: What has been the most valuable advice you’ve received?
A: When things get hard, just keep breathing. Also, if someone asks you ‘what do you know about (x)’, never say ‘nothing’. Always say something.

Q3: How might you take forward employability on your programmes?
A: Now, there’s a question…

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Becker, Barnett, and ‘building networks of mutual help’

Howard Becker’s How to Start and Finish Your Thesis (2007) is a nice easy read. I should probably start every month with it! A piece of sage advice that I’ve been following is to actively build ‘networks of mutual help’ (p175)

I’m really happy to include Ron Barnett in those networks, and I went to see him last Wednesday. It was fun – and slightly weird – to get the train out to the suburbs and take my tea in a proper cup with a chocolate hobnob. I gave Ron the lowdown on my job and my future plans, and on my thesis. We talked about the particularly pernicious systems of evaluation we have now in UK Higher Education, and the subsequent pressures on institutions and individuals. He told me about the case of Professor Grimm at Imperial College, who tragically killed himself under pressure to raise three times his salary in research funding. Having acknowledged that times are hard, we then steered the conversation into a happier place.

I was drawn Ron’s series of books about the future of the university because of their pragmatism and cautious optimism. During our chat Ron stressed that sometimes the walls do fall and systems of domination can crumble (citing the end of Apartheid and the fall of the Berlin wall). He pointed out that universities are still transforming students in an amazing way, and inspiring people are striving to make universities more open and more radical. Ron feels that we have a responsibility to be realistically cheerful. He believes that if we look carefully enough we can discern nuggets of possibility; I guess he is interested in my thesis because it takes up this particular quest. He gave me some useful advice which I will summarise here:

Take a global perspective when exploring the literature on higher education policy and governance – there is much to be learned from higher education systems in other countries, which often vary greatly from our own.

This is a valid point and I can see how having a better grasp on other countries’ HE systems has the potential to add depth to my conversations with participants. I have Patrick Blessinger’s recent book on this – Democratizing Higher Education – so will revisit it. It’s a bit dry, but rich in information.

Don’t be afraid to critique Gadamer’s view of ‘horizons’. Horizons are not internal to ourselves; they are imposed on us by global and national forces and we become unwitting carriers of ideology. Our horizons are not fixed either; objects on the horizon may approach or recede.

Ron felt that this particular line of critique had legs and that I might even try to knock out a paper reconstructing the idea of horizons – for art education, in higher education, or whatever. I explained to him that there is some tension between situating my work explicitly within art education and aiming for wider relevance, particularly considering I may not be working within art education forever (although I’m very happy where I am!). That tension is probably going to cause me some issues in the next few months; it might be worth dealing with it soonish – perhaps just a blog post to start with?

I wondered at this point of our conversation about the translation; whether the German word for ‘horizon’ bears exactly the same meaning. On googling, I found that the Germans have two words that translate into English as ‘horizon’ – horizont and gesichtskreis. Horizont has the exact same meaning as our word horizon. Gesichtskreis also means ‘horizon’, but is more commonly used to mean field of vision, or outlook. So, I wondered whether Gadamer was using gesichtskreis. But according to Eberhard (in The Middle Voice in Gadamer’s Hermeneutics, 2004, p79) he did use horizont… he also uses gesichtskreis – to explain the use of horizont. Germans are funny (I am one quarter German so I’m allowed to say that, I think).

We finished off our conversation with some practical tips about writing and structure. Ron suggested aiming for a book-like structure, with eight chapters of around 6000 words each, in 2-3 parts. He advises keeping to two or three paragraphs per page to retain optimum grip on the reader. He felt that two of the chapters could explore the concept of horizons; one in terms of the wider context and background of higher education, and one on conversation and dialogue. That approach would fit with what I’m reading and, as I ponder on it more, I think I like the framing. Then Ron went into fantasy land by suggesting I draft a chapter every month… but of course he’s right – if I want to have my draft together in a year’s time, that’s what I need to do! Two things I can do right now include writing a 200 word outline (like the one in Becker, p53) – to ‘lay out the map of the trip the reader will be taken on’, and drawing up a contents page. A quick flick through Becker’s How to Start and Finish Your Thesis reminded that while there is no right way to write your thesis, the most important thing is just to get started with the drafting. It’s not going to be right at first, and the redrafting is going to take plenty of time. I think I’ll try Becker’s freewriting technique before the outline – just spew all my ideas down and see what’s there and how they fit together (or not).

I’m very conscious that I said I would have a first draft of a literature review ready by the end of April (ok, let’s say the start of May), so some micro-planning and calendar work is in order here. If I assume that this will constitute two chapters – one on the idea of the university and the other on conversation and ideological conflict – that’s 1000 words a week, from now. So I’m going to commit to that.

Becker summarises Stinchcombe’s six uses of the literature, including sourcing fundamental ideas (which should be clear before I start writing), locating solidarity between people in a field, exemplifying of well-organised and aesthetically pleasing work, and identifying yourself with a particular group or tribe. I’ve got so much on the reading pile at the moment and I probably need to stop buying books for now if at all possible, and split up my book-wading with a few articles. Maybe some empirical work similar to mine? I’ll put some feelers out.

Becker’s main advice regarding the use of literature is to say something new while connecting what I say to what’s already been said. I’ve picked a good topic in this respect I think – the Idea of the University is a topic that people have enjoyed talking about for years, and one that is constantly in flux, and particularly so at the moment. ‘Use the literature, don’t let it use you’, is a great mantra.

Actually – Becker’s example of the Waller quote about the original conflict of desires between teacher and pupil also piqued my interest. Is there an original conflict of desire between the student and the university? Both want to survive; for the student this means their happiness and future prosperity. But for the university these ‘ends’ of the students’ – through NSS and DLHE – may not be shared as ends but perhaps viewed as simply means to achieve survival and preservation of the organisation as it is (staff roles, working practices, etc). That might be an important insight.

I like Becker’s analogy of making a piece of furniture and leaving spaces for the bits you know you can get ready-made – drawer handles, turned legs, etc – ideas you can quote and summarise. It’s still a table you made despite some of the parts having been prefabricated.

I also think his point is important about paying too much attention to the literature and allowing it to deform the argument you want to make – ‘what you want to say has a certain logic that flows from the chain of choices you made as you did the work’. I think this is relevant to me as I suspect I am seeking a different kind of answer to the dominant approach to interrogating the idea of the university. My argument will make sense on its own terms, not if I try to fit it into the terms of the dominant approach. I *will* be somewhat at a disadvantage; my approach may seem strange and unreasonable – so I will need to explain why I haven’t asked those questions and got those answers.

So… next steps:

  • Purchase book rest for desk (Done! Arrives tomorrow)
  • Freewrite fundamental ideas
  • Draft outline
  • Draft contents page
  • Literature-focused chapters: Assemble ‘prefabricated parts’ and check for gaps
  • 1000 words by 5 March!
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Entrepreneurship and Employability #1

Clark, J. O., and Jackson, L. 2017. Ideology in the Academy: The Entrepreneur and Neoliberal Higher Education. Paper presented at PESGB London, Institute of Education, 15 February.

In his 2008 book The Craftsman, Richard Sennett writes about the decline of craft in the age of capitalism. The imperative for the young creative to find a niche leaves no time for the slow learning and habit required for craft acquisition, and the pursuit of profit erodes the desire to do a job well for its own sake.

Clark and Jackson’s view appears to correspond with Sennett, who writes that ‘good craftmanship implies socialism’ (2008, p288). Their critique of neoliberalism is founded on its status as a political ideology (with assumptions, beliefs and displacements that oppress the ‘other’). As socialism is also an ideology, I decided to ask them about that. I was surprised to receive a very short answer – that some ideologies are clearly better than others, and socialism is, of course, a better ideology than neoliberalism. Maybe I’m not as confident as I thought I was at arguing at these things. I just said, ‘okaaay…’ and left someone else (Richard, as it happens, who thankfully saw what I was getting at) to pick up the baton. What I wanted – and expected – was for them to explain what they mean by one ideology being ‘better’ than another, and to acknowledge that such a response might undermine their critique (e.g. ideology as oppression). I imagine all those present at the seminar were in favour of a more equitable society, but I think many of us would have been keen to chew over a philosophical rationale for that. If socialism really is a ‘better’ ideology than neoliberalism, how come neoliberalism is so clearly winning? It’s a bit like someone maintaining that Manchester United is a ‘better’ team than Accrington Stanley when they’ve never won a single game against them (which happens to be true – they’ve drawn every time – but possibly a bad example).

Sennett (in Gielen & De Bruyne’s excellent 2012 book Teaching Art in the Neoliberal Realm) distinguishes between art as individual self-expression and craft as a collective endeavour, and says that in recent decades art schools have privileged the former at the expense of the latter. Presumably this is related to the academicisation of art schools and subsequent changes to assessment practices, which have become more granular, criterion-based and individualised.

Collective endeavour cannot be neglected in the performing arts; music, theatre and dance are intrinsically collective and collaborative. Even solo performances generally rely on collaboration and interpretation between performer and composer, author or choreographer. This characteristic lead us to question how entrepreneurship is appropriate or even relevant to performing arts education.

I think we need to leave aside the question of whether entrepreneurship should be taught until we’ve agreed on what entrepreneurial skills are, and whether they can be taught. I’m not an expert on entrepreneurship, but to me it seems more like a set of attitudes – to seek profit, to enjoy responding and adapting to a market environment, and to find satisfaction in a volatile and uncertain life.

I think there is a widely-held preconception that those who study art at university don’t tend to do so well in the world of work, but that of course depends on your measure. The OECD lifetime earnings stats indicate that art & design subjects don’t lead to high salaries, but UAL doesn’t do badly with regard to post-study employment; we have positive flags in the TEF metrics for the percentage of our graduates in employment generally, and in highly-skilled employment. Of course, that just means we do better than expected (I’m imagining that creative subjects would have lower benchmarks)… so, who knows. At the end of the day, in spite of fees and underfunding (and low NSS scores), arts-specialist institutions are surviving, and (more importantly?) our graduates are surviving too.

So, my question is, what is the problem that entrepreneurship and employability education is trying to solve? Are we, as a society, lacking suitable skilled individuals in the creative and performance arts? Or is it a matter of creating a more level playing field; ensuring that tacit knowledge and skills are made explicit to everyone (not just the rich, white males who make up the vast majority of those self-identifying as ‘entrepreneurs’).

And – wouldn’t it be more useful (and more exciting), to look at this issue as art presenting a challenge to educational bureaucracy, rather than the other way around? The language used in measures like the NSS certainly exerts pressure on arts courses to become less like arts courses; steering course organisation, management, curriculum and assessment practices in directions that may not be appropriate to the discipline. So, perhaps we need to ease off on the slavish chasing of metrics and redirect our energies into creating a strong narrative around what arts education is and why it is good. But maybe that’s exactly what the metric-plus-narrative approach to the TEF has enabled us to do? I guess we wait and see…

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Self-education and seeking the truth through conversation

I had a great chat with David on Friday about my literature review, through which I want to build a strong bridge between my methodology (conversation) and the subject matter (aims/purpose of higher education). He suggested a few things to read, including a chapter about Heidegger and higher education, some more Gadamer, and a couple of writers on character education. He also encouraged me to take Ron Barnett up on his offer of a chat, and – in light of my recent interest in Haidt’s Moral Foundations theory – put me in touch with another doctoral student – Oliver Bridge – who is doing his thesis on philosophy and moral psychology.

I fully intended to dig out my SCONUL card and pick up Michael Peters’ Heidegger, Education and Modernity from the IoE library, but then I got paid and caved in to the call of amazon. I now have two of Peters’ books arriving next week, along with a voice recorder (plus windjammer!) for my conversations. The Gadamer translation and its accompanying paper was easy to find online, and it was straightforward to set up meetings with Ron and Oliver – I’ll write about those later.

So – more Gadamer…

Gadamer, H-G, 2001. Education is Self-Education. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 35 (4) p.529-538, and:

Cleary, J., and Hogan, P. 2001. The Reciprocal Character of Self-Education: Introductory Comments on Hans-Georg Gadamer’s Address, Education is Self-Education. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 35 (4) p.520-527

The first item is a translation (by Hogan and Cleary) of an address Gadamer made in 1999 in the lead-up to his 100th birthday. The essence of the address is that conversation is essential for human flourishing.

One very important point he makes – relevant for my thesis and life in general I guess – is how language pre-forms our thoughts. The norms and presuppositions of our native language, and the options we select within that, affects how we think and feel. I first encountered this idea many years ago when studying REBT to combat depression, and I’ve become very conscious of it recently because of what I’ve been reading (on conversation, conflict talk, moral psychology etc), and other events and influences in my life. For example, I recently started encouraging my partner to try not to swear quite so much, because I think that finding gentler, more positive ways of talking to yourself and others can transform a situation. That’s slightly different to what Gadamer meant, I think, but relevant.

I found the following sentence of Gadamer’s particularly intriguing: ‘only through conversation does language fulfill itself’ (p535). I guess some might argue there are many great works (the songs of Bob Dylan, for example) that stand alone as one-way messages that fulfill language, and in that sense I’m not certain what ‘counts’ as conversation. But it’s a beautifully poetic sentence, and it draws together a lot of strands. Philosophy *is* a conversation. Teaching *is* a conversation. Higher education *is* a conversation…etc.

When Gadamer made this address in 1999, he saw the telephone as a threat, and television as of no benefit whatsoever. He made no direct reference to the internet, which was still in its infancy, only saying ‘many new things now confront us’ (p536), and emphasising that we must learn to deal with these new methods of communication and the threat they pose. Fewer than than twenty years later and we consider a good old-fashioned chat on the telephone to be a relatively high quality interaction. I wonder what Gadamer would think of this if he were alive today. I’m almost glad for him that he isn’t, but if he was, no doubt he’d be pushing this idea harder than ever – that ‘the humane capabilities are the ones to stress if one is to educate and to cultivate oneself… [and to] survive without damage from the progress of technology and technicity’ (p537). This self-education and cultivation is what the Germans call Bildung – and it’s illustrative that the Germans have a word for it and we don’t, like the British don’t like to acknowledge its existence as a thing (as with Kummerspeck – the German word for the weight gained from emotional overeating).

Reflecting on the essence of Gadamer’s address, I realised that this is what motivated me to start attending the Wednesday evening Philosophy of Education seminars at the IoE. I wanted to talk with other people who wanted to talk – to really talk with the primary intention of educating and cultivating ourselves. I’m not saying it’s impossible to educate yourself on Twitter, but face-to-face conversation has certain rules and traditions that yield very different results; these have to do with exchange, response, equality of contribution, how interactions begin and how they end, etc. What I really like about the relationships I’m building at the IoE is that they are almost entirely conducted face-to-face. 

Gadamer describes his experience of going to university during the first war – with a ‘circle of cultivated and nice girls’ who – it appears – got him into reading Theodor Lessing and the great Russian, Scandinavian and Dutch novels. Similarly, through the IoE group I’ve been lent books and given film recommendations, and I’m starting to appreciate things that I didn’t think I liked before. 

My partner often suggests books (fiction) he wants me to read; partly because he thinks I’d enjoy them and also because he wants us to talks about them together. Some of them I’ve loved (Pullman, Asimov), others not so much, and he’s found it hard seeing me avidly reading things that other people have recommended. It’s caused a fair amount of tension between us, especially when the relevance to my thesis seems tangential, and I understand why; reading something that resonates with someone else is a great way of getting inside their heads (an imperative that tends to loses its urgency with someone who you already know inside out). Reading between the lines I guess that’s what was going on with the young Gadamer and his female fellow students, and I certainly think that this is the kind of thing Gadamer means by being-with-one-another as learners; the self-education of seeking-out and getting-to-know the people with the interesting experiences and the interesting questions who are going to challenge my ideas and introduce me to new perspectives. 

I’ll finish with one of the key points Hogan and Cleary’s took from Gadamer’s address, because it really does capture the essence of what I’m aiming to do with my thesis, and explains the approach I’m taking:

‘The self-critical venturing of different perspectives provides a more promising path in the search for truth than does any traditional epistemological quest for certainty.’

I have a stack of books on my shelf at home bemoaning the marketisation of higher education and its transformation from public good to private investment. They are well-argued and persuasive, and new ones seem to be published every month. I want to try something different; I want to find out what happens when people who think differently come to a dialogue seeking the truth. I’m bored of the polemic already; I’m surprised it’s not bored of itself.

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Ricoeur’s ‘testimony’ and conceptions of the university

Lythgoe, E. 2011. Paul Ricoeur: Thinker of historical testimony. Analecta Hermeneutica (3), p1-16.

At my last supervision, Ian suggested I might find Paul Ricoeur’s definition of ‘testimony’ to be relevant to my thesis on Conversation and the Idea of the University.

I think… it kind of is… and it kind of isn’t. If any of it is, it would be his writings from the 80s, where he describes testimony as a ‘natural, dialogical institution’, with a moral constituent, and reference to the future as well as the past. I guess what Ian was thinking is that my conversations with participants are going to generate a form of testimony; a ‘witnessing of’ the university. My participants may also have clear views themselves about what and how universities should be, and their testimony may be presented as evidence to support those views – either implicitly or explicitly.

The trouble is, Ricoeur changed his mind about what he means by testimony; his later works seemed to distance the prophetic or vocative aspects – the future constitutent – from the concept, and so much of this work is less obviously relevant to my thesis. My participants’ views and imaginations of the University as it is now and as it could or should be in the future are of more direct interest to me and my thesis than their personal experiences of it.

Of course, I don’t know for sure what’s going to come out of the conversations I have. It might well be that for many participants their own personal experiences will have informed their idea of the University and they feature heavily in our conversations; it’s a lot easier for me to see the relevance of the concept of ‘testimony’ in this sense. But does Ricoeur’s thinking add anything of value for me? I’m not sure.

Overall, what I got from reading Ricoeur on testimony is that it is a slippery concept, and perhaps yet another example of how we get caught up in language and tie ourselves in pointless knots. I’m reminded yet again of Huxley’s (1954, p47) call for us to learn ‘to look at the world directly’ rather than through the ‘half-opaque medium of concepts’, and Watts’ (1971) warning not to ‘confuse that system of symbols with the world itself’. That’s what psychedelics do for you I guess.

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Drapers’ lecture 2017 – Whose property are international students and researchers?

On 25 January I popped along to the annual Drapers’ Lecture at QMUL to hear Dr Jo Beall, Director of Education and Society at the British Council, talk about ‘Intellectual Property: Rights, Risks and Rebellions in International Higher Education‘.  I was hoping it wouldn’t actually be about IP (copyright etc… yawn), and it wasn’t… I think the two nerds in front of me were pretty disappointed. In asking ‘whose property are international scholars?’ we question the implications of the international movement of students and researchers for the creation of knowledge, national economies, and competition between nations and institutions for the brightest and best minds. We take dominant ideas about the purpose of universities and the aim of higher education, and tie them in knots.

The benefits of knowledge creation act on many levels below the big picture of development and progress. Individual researchers gain prestige, universities (through the REF) and research centres benefit through funding awards. These benefits appear to increase when we collaborate internationally. Nobel prize winners tend to be internationally mobile, and papers with authors from more than one country tend to get more citations (correlations not causation, obvs). 47% of UK doctoral students are international. The UK has always ranked highly in the so-called knowledge economy; we may have less than 1% of the world’s population but we produce 16% of the most cited papers (it helps that we speak and write in English, of course). But we’re definitely not resting on our laurels or thinking about giving someone else a turn… the competition is still very much on. Countries leading with us on research impact include the US, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Sweden. Leading on publication volume are our four top collaborative research partners – the US, Germany, France, and Italy – so it will be interesting to see the impact of our exit from the EU.  Emerging contenders in the research arena correspond with the ‘BRIC’ group of countries at a similar stage of newly advanced economic development: China, Malaysia, India, Brazil and Saudi Arabia.

Worldwide, demand for tertiary level education tends to be linked to demographics; high population growth, youth ‘bulges’ and a low supply are obvious factors.  International student growth in the UK is still quite far behind the US, Canada, Australia, Japan and Germany, and the loss of the UK post-study visa is thought to have limited the diversity of our international intake. There has been a marked decrease in the number of students coming from India, for example. A lot of our student ‘flow’ comes from Europe, so Brexit will impact here as well. International student mobility is strongly correlated with historic and cultural links; if we already trade goods with a country, we tend to trade students with them too.

The British Council has been doing some research on transnational education and its impact on individuals and educational systems. Transnational education often involves collaborative partnerships between HEIs in different countries, ‘flying faculty’, offshore campuses, online learning and so on, usually with the aim of providing a ‘quality’ education at a lower cost (drawing on the reputation and teaching methods of the host institution) plus cultural and/or language benefits. Transnational education places questions of public/private and civil engagement in a yet another different light, and has prompted criticisms of commercialisation and commodification. Ultimately, countries tend to prefer long-term partnerships that assist them in developing their own HE system.

One interesting question to discuss around international teaching and learning is: What do we think we are exporting? And what should we be exporting? ‘Should’ questions are conditional, of course – if we want to achieve X, what should we be exporting? Similarly, if we want to achieve X, should we continue to expand higher education? It’s the X that I find intriguing and incredibly elusive. Hence my thesis.

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A Political Theory of the University – some thoughts on a paper by Morgan White

Tonight’s PESGB seminar at the IoE is going to feature Morgan White talking about a political theory of the university. I read his paper (which I’m not sure is publicly available yet) and had some thoughts…

White argues that democracy is ‘always already in crisis’. Sure, it requires ongoing deliberation, but it doesn’t follow that it’s always been in ‘crisis’. Most of the philosophers I’ve been enjoying recently (Gellner, Gadamer, Watts) demonstrate how any expectations we might have of reaching a settled, safe state are illogical.  Nothing certain but death and taxes, etc…

The refrain throughout the last century is that democratic politics are populist, corrupted and technocratic. I’d agree with that, but I think we need to be more specific than saying our democratic systems are not keeping pace with social change… that’s so vague it’s almost meaningless. One thing that seems obvious to me is that, while Media, Marketing and PR are activities that have embraced technological advancement, the machinations of political decision-making are stuck in the dark ages; like the Houses of Parliament buildings themselves – ancient, outdated and unfit-for-purpose. This means that whoever already has power can easily retain and increase their power, because the technologies they have to hand can easily outwit and undermine our aging democratic system. Parliamentary and voting systems remain largely unchanged from a time before we before we had specialised ‘psephologists’ and the capacity to develop intricate statistical modelling programmes to gauge public opinion and voting intention. Offshore media moguls, operating with the primary aim of retaining their paying readership, have formed mutually beneficial alliances with the politically powerful. It is difficult to see how the common man can possibly fight such a beast.

White often mentions the increasing complexity of society. Society – particularly in terms of our political leanings – does not seem to be getting more complex to me; it seems to be becoming black and white… and strangely evenly split! 50-50 Trump-Clinton, 50-50 Leave-Remain (approaching 50-50 graduates-non-graduates by the way… coincidence?). We have us and them, two different tribes, finding one another increasingly offensive and resorting to voluntary segregation in echo chambers. In his book The Righteous Mind, Jonathan Haidt proposes that our split political leanings are explained by his five-foundations theory of moral psychology; right-wing, conservative politics and rhetoric are designed to appeal to those who value the moral foundations of loyalty, sanctity and authority, and hold a proportional interpretation of the moral foundation of fairness; i.e. they believe that those who put the most in should get the most out. Left wing, liberal politics appeal to those who value the moral foundations of care (for the vulnerable) and a redistributive interpretation of fairness (with the aim of addressing pernicious inequalities). When viewed like this, viewpoints often described (and pejoratively so) as ‘populist’ seem less mysterious. But not many people think about moral foundations in these terms, and social media makes it easier and more acceptable to express our views and segregate ourselves. News media plays on our moral foundations (and natural, groupist tendency to righteous indignation) to maintain their readership and continue to make money. That’s what’s happening here. So we do have different literacies that talk past each other, and increasingly so. I agree with White that democratic literacy is needed, with a particular emphasis on the power and workings of the media and the other mechanisms that preserve social privilege. But – crucially – we also need to emphasise what *is* simple and what we have in common (e.g. having beliefs that are founded in morals and emotion) – rather than stressing complexity and difference.

I don’t agree that we’ve lost our political imagination; a lot of people are very excited right now about what’s happening in the UK and the US, and everyone has an opinion on it. Social media *may* seem like a cacophony or a void but it does function as quite a democratic system; popular, divisive and insightful views rise to the top through crowdsourced promotion; I’ve fallen out of favour with Twitter over the last decade, but it may be the last genuinely democratic platform we have left.

I’m glad White picked up on Bauman’s liquid modernity as a source of ontological uncertainty and narcissism. I wonder though whether the more prescient problem is not our ontological uncertainty but our unreasonable expectations of ontological certainty (see first para above).

White says we need better media and better politicians. Agreed, but the two are inextricably linked. I don’t agree that it’s concern with our self-image that puts good people off politics. I rather think it is a justified sense that the public *do* care about image, and the media moguls *will* tear that image apart in order to sell their papers, so no-one will actually take us or our ideas seriously, and in becoming a laughing stock we will probably end up making the situation even worse. 

Regarding market values, these also relate back to Haidt’s moral foundations theory. The moral foundation of proportional fairness is very much dependent on a belief that humans *do* have free will, and an assumption of equality of opportunity. It relates to the concept of ‘work ethic’, a preference for competition over collaboration, and a theory of human motivation that leans towards extrinsic over intrinsic reward. I’m not sure why White doesn’t think the public is a market. It’s totally a market. Isn’t it?

Given my thesis topic, I was particularly interested in his point about academics turning away from the democratic horizon (because it’s too big a topic, and we’re being forced into putting out small, manageable research outputs… also because of risks to career progression). White argues that metrics like the REF are steering us into the wrong sort of self-seeking (back to the theory of human motivation)… well, yes. That’s how the metrics act on us. But we still have a choice (see Gonzales 2015 for some examples).

Likewise, turning the power on and connecting to the cacophany of information overload is still, I believe, a conscious choice (we are not yet to my knowledge living an episode of Black Mirror). Resisting, and carefully selecting who to read and listen to can, I think, be a political act, particularly given recent overlaps between politics and celebrity. And perhaps if we don’t we will one day lose the option to do so.

White’s writing on the public sphere – particularly that relating to the workings of ancient Greek society, were interesting and puzzling. I get the Kantian principle of publicity (rational-critical public debate that bridges politics and morality) – I liked Conflict of the Faculties. But then White brings in a different kind of publicity – the modern-day, promotional sort. Promotional publicity is a decidedly one-way form of communication, so I’m not sure what the connection is between this and Kantian publicity. Sure, a ‘public’ university in the Kantian sense would prioritise rational-critical discourse, but this is arguably a separate issue to the marketisation of higher education, and I wouldn’t place a lack of rational-critical discourse top of a list of problems with universities. So, this is an interesting conundrum. The paragraph on public attitudes (p11) makes the link between the two concepts more coherent, but I’m still not sure about it.

So, is – as Chris Calhoun thinks – our ‘vibrant public sphere’ under threat? In some ways, maybe, but we could just be looking at the past through rose-coloured specs. Vibrant, Kantian publicity is flourishing in places with innovative courses and approaches (MA Fashion Futures at LCF springs to mind) that aim to subvert current norms and practices, rethink entire industries, and produce graduates with the attitudes and attributes to reshape the world rather than slavishly reproducing it.

There is some metric-bashing in White’s paper that is a bit band-wagony and lacks critique. I’m not sure about the implication that high satisfaction ratings on the NSS are just another statistic to use in marketing. They *can be* a reliable account of sorts. The stories behind the lower scores can be surprising (or just plain confounding), but a 100% satisfaction rating is difficult to argue with. Same goes for the stuff on managerialism; yes, we need to retain academic freedom BUT we’re still human beings and many of us benefit from a little management and a little extrinsic motivation. Duke Maskell’s personal account of the rise of managerialism and professionalism in a transitioning post-92 university (in The New Idea of a University, 2002) gives a well-balanced perspective.

At the end of his paper, White asks how the educator’s authority is affected if the student’s expectation is that the course will help them to get a career. I think that’s a conversation that educators and students need to have – and ideally on an individual basis; why are they here? What do they want to get out of this? They are, after all, paying. So what are they paying for, and why? If you’re going to shell out a load of cash, you should really have engaged with a cost-benefit analysis. Not many undergraduates (in fact, hardly any university teachers in my experience) know that the full cost of their higher education to the state is more than double the amount of the loan they are taking out. On the other hand, they should also be aware that increased taxation on higher earnings over the course of their lifetime would cover the full cost of their degree – on average three times over. Financially, it’s a complex picture, but if they’re bright enough to do A-levels it shouldn’t pose them a problem.

Ultimately, I would argue that it’s not those who go to university who need a political education the most. Yes, the marketisation of higher education may promote individualism and self-interest, but individualism and self-interest were doing pretty well already. The current generation of university students have been completely shafted, and as far as I can see they remain remarkably public-spirited.

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Supervision #1

I had my first formal supervision meeting a couple of weeks ago, and then got sucked into a maelstrom of new students. I just about found the time to print flyers and posters and send some feelers out for participants, which I’m really pleased about as I really needed to get recruitment underway. I know that once I’ve actually got conversations booked in then things will start ticking over.e-flyer

The supervision meeting was motivating; short and energetic, with a good blend of challenge and constructive suggestion. it was great to re-engage with everything after my brief foray into tabloid journalism over the Christmas break, which I’m hoping will pay off my overdraft so I have one less thing to worry about this year.

We went over my research question and proposal, and I shared a new version of my schedule, which I know is rather ambitious, but I like a challenge and it does allow for a couple of months’ slippage somewhere along the line:

edd-schedule

I got some more reading suggestions from the team; I’ve since ordered Jon Nixon’s Interpretive Pedagogies, which I flicked through the other day – it looks good. I also downloaded a paper on Paul Ricoeur’s concept of Testimony (one of Ian’s suggestions).

I’m going to reinstate the reading schedule I used in years 1 & 2 to plan my reading and ensure I don’t slip behind. While I’m going to continue attending the London PESGB seminars regularly (I need a bit of fun in my life), I did a little reality check and decided not to continue with the London School of Philosophy classes on Kant and Religion & Politics; I can use those hours more strategically given my ambitious schedule, and there are particular areas of reading I want to prioritise. I’ve already done a lot of reading on the aims and purpose of higher education but the books have continued to fall through my letterbox. The main foundation of the first iteration of my literature review will – I think – relate conversation as a phenomenon with the emergent nature of the university phenomenon itself. My aim is to link up conversation and dialogue with learning, education and change.

My plan of action to move forward with the literature review includes for starters:

  • Reviewing past reading & notes on the idea of the university and speed-reading the texts on the shelf that I didn’t get to before – Jon Nixon, also Bill Readings, Chris Newfield, Barnett’s Future University.
  • Arranging conversations with John White and Ron Barnett on the aims of higher education.
  • Finish Haidt’s Righteous Mind and relate to Sacks’ Dignity of Difference – the two texts complement one another well.
  • Speed-read Gadamer in Conversation and relate to prior reading.

So, I’ll be spending more time on the Number 55 bus with my earplugs…

I’m also going to get together with Paul Wickens from Brookes, who just happens to be an expert in Conversation Analysis – quite the stroke of luck! My plan is to have a short ‘test’ conversation with a friend about the aims of higher education, have a first go at transcribing with CA markup and then going through it with Paul. I realised my feasibility study transcript won’t be of much use in practicing CA as we were so agreeable with one another, while I have a philosophy of education friend in mind who can and will argue about anything. So that’s my CA training sorted.

<Supervision record 12.01.17>

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