Because academic freedom does not include the freedom to create a poor learning experience


Academic freedom

Academic freedom

Dear Faculty Member or Academic (whichever you would prefer),

I was delighted to see your response to Joshua Kim’s post on experiences working with Learning Designers which he reports here on the Inside Higher Education web site. I’ll remind you of what you said:

“Enough of this professionalization nonsense. Education != instruction–education, to quote the good Cardinal Newman, “is a higher word.” We, faculty, establish the environment for education. Professional staff such as “learning designers” or “instructional designers” are extraneous and a drain on our precious few resources. Replacing tenure lines with an army of professionalized staff loaded with credentials alongside low-paid and necessarily subservient and contingent adjunct faculty is not the appropriate way forward. You are complicit with the destruction of higher education and the transformation of our institutions into the corporate university. Reject these efforts to redefine education into the instrumentalized system that you are already fully involved in. Enough.”

I think your view represents one that would be widely held in many universities and it’s important that this view be recognised and responded to because, the fact is, it represents the height of academic arrogance and pomposity dressed up as a concern for the welfare of students when, in fact, it’s nothing more than a demand for the status quo and, preferably, a return to some mythical golden age of academia.

Now I have every respect for an academic’s expertise in a particular discipline. I have no intention of arguing with someone who has spent their life studying mid-Asian relaxation techniques in the 14th century in a discussion on trends in Tibetan meditation in the middle ages. I will happily accept that somebody with numerous research outputs in the use of fruit flies in genetic studies almost certainly knows a bit more about it than me. And, more controversially, I accept the right of some academics to expound an unpalatable thesis. I may not agree with them and I may hope that somebody with expertise may counter that thesis but nevertheless it is critical that researchers and academics have the right of academic freedom to explore all possible topics and present alternative views. Read more

The two horsemen of the higher education ‘apocalypse’

Headless horseman

Headless horseman – Some rights reserved by cgc76

It was fabulous to attend the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Melbourne yesterday. I managed to see four of the five speakers and all of them were excellent. Starting with Dan Savage talking about the perils of expecting too much from monogamy we had then had Arlie Hochschild talking about outsourcing ourselves, Kirby Ferguson talking about conspiracy theories and patterns and finally Hanna Rosin, talking about “the end of men”. I’m sorry to say I missed David Simon talking about why some people are more equal than others but hopefully his video will be available on the Wheeler Centre web site soon.

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