Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Where Can You Get An Education?


Once upon a time, universities were places of learning! By learning, I don't mean job training but a place where people's minds were exposed to all manner of things like philosophy, sociology, art, literature, psychology, history, etc.

People came out of those institutions of long ago unable to 'do' anything but their minds were open and free and they could think laterally and they could find and understand important relationships between the different disciplines and the world they lived in.

Once upon a time, universities were places where ideas fermented and fomented, where students were radical and filled with new ideas and were aware of new possibilities and prepared to put their lives on the line to create change in their society. The French Revolution was, in part, a result of the efforts of university students and radical thinkers.

Now universities are often moribund places. They are filled with staff who often do not represent the cream of the intelligentsia, whose minds have been hobbled by the narrow, tightly controlled academic system, one based upon jumping over prescribed hurdles and acquiring bits of paper for undertaking obscure projects. If you jump high enough and get enough bits of paper eventually you may get illustrious titles and a good salary and bore students for the rest of your life.

The purpose of a university seems to have changed from 'educating' in the broadest sense of the word to doing little more than providing the Capitalist System with willing, unquestioning skilled workers and consumers. When was the last time you heard of a university faculty suggesting or advocating or agitating for any real change in society? Of course, more and more funding of universities is via Big Business. Who pays the piper can call the tune, eh?

When was the last time you heard about university students railing or protesting against mendacious politicians, avaricious Big Business, the power of the Churches over people's minds, the enslaving of the Palestinians, the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the bias in the MSM, etc? They are too busy getting bits of paper so they can score high paying jobs and get among all the dubious benefits of capitalism.

Universities no longer provide a real 'education' - they are mainly vocational training centres. And those who work in them seem to resent anyone questioning their glaring inadequacies.

Will universities ever again truly educate?

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21 comments:

Klaus said...

[citation needed]

Daniel said...

Not for those capable of original thought, Klaus!

Phill said...

Many years ago,I watched a segment of the popular show 60 minutes.They were investigating some of (Daniel)your points.They asked about 70% of the students from the medical faculty why they wanted to be Doctors.Well no guesses what the answer was, 90% said the money.

A long bow I know,But I remember when Medibank was first introduced,the medical fraternity when into nervous melt down "Socialised Medicine" it would be the end of civilization as "THEY" knew it..I think about three hundred Doctors were done for fraud in the first six weeks of its inception.

My point, 60 minutes knew then,what most of us know now,and your fears are well founded Daniel.

Daniel said...

Systems that are political, religious and academic are monopolistic and self-perpetuating, Phill. That's why they resist examination especially from those considered to be outsiders!

Cheers.

Renegade Eye said...

Where does insight come from?

Daniel said...

I haven't got the insight to know, Renegade! Cheers.

Phill said...

Daniel said...

Systems that are political, religious and academic are monopolistic and self-perpetuating, Phill. That's why they resist examination especially from those considered to be outsiders!

Indeed Daniel.The Police as a case in point.(x myself)They have a culture that not only protects their own,but believes every citizen is a potential criminal.

They have been a force unto their own since the "Peelers" but I believe the Public are finally waking up to what has been going on.As you know change for the better,unlike the worse,takes a long time.

Daniel said...

I didn't include the Police Force in my list, Phill. You are spot on. Each tribe protects their own territory and drives out invaders.

Humans are a strange lot! Ourselves excepted of course. Cheers.

Phill said...

"Humans are a strange lot! Ourselves excepted of course."

Yes very true,ha ha, but I do see change in the air.I unfortunately am in my dotage, I will probably not see it,but my grand children may experience a new politic that has not been invented yet.A politic that will bring hope and renewal to the world.

I am not holding my breath,but hope springs eternal.

Daniel said...

My wellspring of hope is suffering a drought, Phill. I look among the comments on our favourite blog and find little that encourages me.

If they are generated by the ruling 'intelligentsia' when we are truly lost!

Phill said...

Daniel,surely you don't take the comments at that blog serious?Most who comment there are so switched off from reality, for want of a better word it hurts.The funny thing is I can only assume most of them are about sixteen,only about one of them has an original thought in their head and that's you.

They are totally devoid of any sense of humour,and as you know they have their favorites who can say what they like.They certainly have a "Gang" mentality.At least two of them should be certified, ha ha. I am not kidding.

Of course they are experts on every conceivable subject,well an x is an unknown quantity and a spurt is a drip under pressure.

But as they have said it is their blog,I could less what they say it is a laugh for me,and probably for most of the people I know,see they're all working stiffs like me ha ha.and they live on planet Earth.I am retired, it is some way to break up the drudgery of the day.

I am slowly getting sick of my usual hobby's guitars,boats,caravaning etc.So I make myself a nuisance by shit stirring.

But I digress.

Have some faith Daniel,at the end of the day we at the bottom are the people that will make the change in the world.We always have.

Daniel said...

Your words carry the wisdom which comes with grey hair, Phill (or for some people, no hair).

Senior people, who have been discarded by the impulsive, 'wet behind the ears', up-themselves young must retake their position or the world is lost!

Take care!

Intrepidflame said...

Great post. I wish I had more time to comment more completely. But your words resonated with me.

Anonymous said...

Dan, what I find interesting is that your story of the fall of a once radical university culturefinds its scapegoat in academics. I thinks there's come truth to this assessment, but apart from the nostalgic notion of a golden age in Australian higher education (when and where were Australian students storming the barricades?)your analysis doesn't account for the significant impact on the Higher Education sector of the Australian Labour Movement (and the right-wing of the ALP in particular), promoting economic rationalism into Australian society. The academic response to this brand of economic management was and indeed still is full of the sorts of original thought you lament the lack of.

My constructive contribution to this thread is this: rather than scapegoating academics for what you assert is a decline in radical thought and utopian alternatives, you might want to look at some of the academic writing which has laboured long and hard to critique and offer alternatives to the 'vocational' university.
Here's a link you might find interesting.
http://www.publicuni.org/jrnl/volume/2/journal_2.html

Worried American said...

Some universities, colleges and schools are nothing more than brainwashing institutions. I don't need any citations. Just converse in depth with some of the victims of such "education".

Daniel said...

Anony, your thoughtful and interesting comment is appreciated. I am a product of a university myself yet, for some reason, I have always had a questioning mind about everything. That to me is the sign of true education, not blind belief in academic hocus-pocus and rigid prescriptions!

Worried, like the Church, academia runs a tight ship to make sure the crew doesn't get unruly. Modern academia, if the main, is built upon conformity and imitation!

Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Daniel, I appreciate that you have an enquiring mind. However, it does seem contradictory that on the one hand you want university humanities academics to provide the sorts of revolutionary leadership that arises out of original political thought, and yet on the other hand you claim a true education arises out of an innate curiosity. The contradiction is that you don't accept academic leadership in any circumstance. Now this might be a good thing - but in my experience at university you do need to 'go along' for the ride when undertaking study. In other words it's hard to learn anything new until you bend a little and trust the unknown concepts, assumptions and language of what is being taught, or expressed.
If after going along for some way in an academic course, you do find the ideas and the language to be hocus-pocus or rigidly prescriptive, then all well and good - reject the ideas. But I get the impression, from the few posts of yours I have read, and from the types of posts you made on that other blog, that you are not actually open to the sorts of public discourse that move beyond the inviting but limited common-sense language you favour.
If you are looking for original thought and academic leadership, I'd be interested to see what you made of the essays I linked to in my post above.

Best wishes.

Ag

Daniel said...

Anony, thanks for your second comment. Keep in mind I don't have broadband and find sound files almost impossible to download.

A slight correction if I may. I believe that proper education should lead to an infinitely questioning mind. Perhaps the fact that, fortunately for me, my education occurred later in life meant that I was long past my 'imitative' stage when exposed to various academic disciplines. What part of questioning is innate is unknown but I believe it can be cultivated.

The links you provided of which I've read one (on Populism) provided the following quote: Today's populism gives a license to those who want to increase political control over universities and to undermine any mandate they may have to act as a critical conscience of society.

I believe that universities should be where the critical conscience of society should be most prominent. It should be reflected in dynamic faculties and be passed onto students students eager to change the status quo. Instead 'conformism' too often appears to be the outcome.

Regarding 'commonsense' language I'm an admirer of Hemingway. His books can be read by anyone and not just a 'literary' or 'academic' elite. Public discourse surely should be comprehensible to the public!

Cheers!

Phill said...

Regarding 'commonsense' language I'm an admirer of Hemingway. His books can be read by anyone and not just a 'literary' or 'academic' elite. Public discourse surely should be comprehensible to the public!

Daniel this is where you have hit the nail on the head.It is obvious that the comments at our favorite blog are all reading from the same hymn book.Only those with time to keep sourcing a dictionary,only to find a long winded word could be substituted with a three letter word ,all and sundry could understand.Is in a word RUDE.

When you question the motive for this,you don't get a thought out reply,you are immediately accused of being a Philistine, or part of the cultural cringe brigade.

My wife and I like a bit of high brow culture,and when we attend an opera,and me with my blue denim shirt on Well!Or though If I was single it would have it's advantages,I have seen a couple of well educated ladies with eyes only for my stubby shorts.ha ha.

The high culture end of town blogs are much the same,brother don't tell them your a plumber or brickey they will automatically assume you are as thick as two short planks,especially if you are a chippy.ha ha.

Best wishes.

Daniel said...

On that note, Phill, I submitted a comment once to Sarsaparilla that a person could succeed as a writer without having read Chaucer in the original. Some kind lady with a Ph.D told me to give up my ambition to be a writer.

Her advice came a little late because I'd already been there and done that, quite successfully! Some folk do adopt all manner of airs and graces.

Without our clothes we are all the same! Shockin' ugly.

Phill said...

Without our clothes we are all the same! Shockin' ugly.

Yes indeed we all are.especially me,I have wrinkles on my bum that look like road maps.If you look close you can find your way to "Old Holborn" on it.

I believe that cultural elites exist,I mean,why wouldn't I ? I have only been on the planet for well over five decades.

Daniel I don't have a problem with all academics,I don't call my local sparky if I need a triple by pass.It is mostly in the, as you have said "airs and graces" that angers me.

My brother is a Viet Nam vet,he went on to join the S.A.S. regiment with honors.(If you doubt my honesty I will send you our name via e. mail?) Anyhoo he fronts up to a medical centre (Hollywood repat in Perth)cutting a long story short, a 25 yr old with a PhD sits him down and after a short interview,then goes on to write a long treatise about where he went wrong with his life.I kid you not.

As I said on the other blog academics are like a vet,handy if you have a pet.

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