never blame students for what lecturers and politicians do to them

A widely known problem is that students today have – supposedly – problems to read: are unwilling, only printed on exams and subsequently the reeding they need for proceeding. My personal experience suggest something different: if students have space: literally by way of sufficient “quality location”, time and mental space, not being pestered by problem-solving urgency, allowed to foster critical thinking (as Robert Cox outlines it in the piece from 1981: Social Forces, States and World Orders: Beyond International Relations Theory; in: Millennium – Journal of International Studies 1981; 10; 126-155 DOI: 10.1177/03058298810100020501) most of them would love reading more, more widely, critically working with texts.

However, if politicians educate teachers who then educate students and then these students become politicians, educating teachers who then educate students who then become politicians … … … – it is quite natural that after going a couple of times around, policy documents and texts books look very much alike, nit even reaching the intellectual level of A Little Bit of Everything for Dummies.
Though already from 2011, a document issued by the Irish government can be taken as example for such dummies=stultification-strategy, showing on page 7 the following:
It reminds me that at some stage “Communications“, issued by the European Commission had not been allowed to be longer than 20 pages – politicians are not reading longer documents …  the paradox then and there: instead of producing one document with 30 pages, two documents with twenty pages each had been produced … , and so forth and so forth … at least the printing press being extensively used. The crux of “maths”: making two documents out of one 30-page document dos not mean having two 15-pages docs. because additional space is needed for the cross-references and the like. though we end up with something like 30 divided by 2 = 20+20 = 60, or in short: 30 divided by 2 equals 40. There is a German term “Milchmaedchen-Rechnung”, literally “calculation made by a dairymaid”, meaning fallacy, naive. Perhaps it should be changed, the new term being Commissioner- or Politician-Calculation.
May be it is still better then producing one document that is so much simplification of everything that it requires a guideline to show the reader the way through (though to sweet) nothingness.
In any case, please, never blame students for what lecturers and politicians do to them.
Some voluntarily, some lazily, some being forced .., and some still resisting.
Annunci

How serious(ly stupid) they are

… or: the de-academisation of academia.
The other day I received a mail – one of many of this kind, though this time I have had a closer look as it had been addressed to
Dear Xiaoming,
with
Greetings from Journal of Accounting and Marketing!!
Bit strange – though I get admittedly occasionally mixed up with names of my Chinese colleagues, Xiaoming did not ring a bell at all. Also admittedly I (= Peter) published recently something on accounting, I was a bit surprised as my take on accounting is not necessarily that which suits the mainstream. Anyway, I was reading on. The usual rubbish and spam. Noting about three different URLs is surely not a matter suitable for establishing trust. The fact that the URL fur submissions is a hidden behind the term MARKETING is surely not suggesting that all this is about serious academic stuff. Also their reference to something that I supposedly wrote, read by them with great interest and appreciation …
Well, Mrs. Nancy Lisa, Managing Editor, Journal of Accounting & Marketing … E-mail: accounting@journalinsights.org – you surely deserve more and other than a personal reply, marking your stupidity. You would even deserve more than a blog-post …. (though you may read this also with great interest and appreciation … – One day you may even have to read your-journals …
******
… and still there is a big
As bad as such publishing spammers are, there is another dimension to all this: the de-academisation of academia. Another example, side by side with others mentioned  earlier, we may also look at
about whom The Economist reported a while back. There is an interesting detail that deserves attention:
… one study found that for every dollar spent to comply with government rules, voluntary spending on bureaucracy totalled $2 at public universities and $3 at private ones. Robert Martin of Centre College in Kentucky, a co-author of the study, says the real reason for the growth in spending is that administrators want to hire subordinates, thereby boosting their own authority and often pay, rather than faculty, over whom they have less power. Bureaucrats outnumber faculty 2:1 at public universities and 2.5:1 at private colleges, double the ratio in the 1970s.
Should we be surprised to see that
[o]ne result of all this is growing “resistance, anger, grumpiness, and eventually backlash” to the proliferation of diversity officials.
Well, in this light Nancy is probably just a poor person, not willing and not able to see that she is actually a cogwheel of a machinery that is not much else then a mafia of today’s time. – … scrupulous … stultification!

a(nother) sad day, a(nother) sad policy development, a(nother) sad country

 

I received a mail from, Zsuzsa, a good friend of mine – she sent it also to others; Adrian and John, also fiends of mine, circulated it via some mailing lists – and I want to do my part in distributing this news, hoping also to contribute to mobilisiation of as many as possible. Thank you for standing together, the only way to overcome. — While sitting here, writing …, no, I will not cry; and I will not answer in the biblical way of Exodus 22-25

22 “If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely[e] but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. 23 But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life,24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.

But I will make use of the energy, that comes from the confrontation with evil …

Here now

Zsuzsa’s mail

Yesterday [=August 8th; p.h.) (full vacation time, nobody at the universities) the government sent a government decree to all universities. There  was no previous consultation or discussion. The decree forbids the teaching of GENDER STUDIES.  Almost all universities have some such subjects, CEU and ELTE Masters degree studies. The decree allows those already enrolled to finish their degree, but nothing else. Despite the exceptionally hot weather there are already many signs of indignation and outcry, and some started to organise conferences or petitions. Civil associations will send open letters, etc.

Do you see any way foreign organisations – including SPA, BSA –  could join us? Maybe open letters to  our government? And how should it run?

Dear Prime Minister , or

To Prime Minister of Hungary, Mr. Viktor Orbán!

We have been informed by…? that a government decree enacted  without previous consultation with the interested parties have been sent out ordering the closure of the teaching of gender studies. (We understand that those already enrolled at MS courses may finish their degree but no new courses are allowed.)

Our understanding of the legal and real autonomy of higher education excludes such measures. However, even if it may be legal according to Hungarian legislation, it seems to us a major attack on social science. Gender studies form since … an integral part of …etc.

(If somebody  has official contacts with Hungarian teachers of gender studies, this may be mentioned.,)

We ask (?) the Hungarian government to withdraw the decree in order to…

….

Please, help with the letter, with possible forms of support, with whatever you think.

I have to add that 2-3 years ago they already prohibited the courses of anthropology and andrapedagogy, but then noise was not loud enough. (The original Law of higher education made it the right and duty of Univ Senates to found  or close faculties, degrees etc., but this was altered too, in 2015. Hence the current step is “legal”.)

sad greetings from a self-revelating  dictatorship,

Zsuzsa

Adrian’s mail, sent via mailing lists, accompanying Zsuzsa’s lines

I have just received this email from Zsuzsa Ferge whom I have known and admired for nearly 50 years. The first professor of social policy in Hungary, she has made a major contribution to the social sciences, and especially social policy and sociology. Recently there have been increasing attacks on the universities, reducing their powers and that of the Hungarian Academy of Science ( Zsuzsa was made the first social policy member some 15 years ago). This is the latest development.

I have a very poor record in getting my own government to change decisions, let alone another one. But it does seem to me important to show that there is wide concern at developments such as this one. I do not know whether many individual letters or group ones will have more impact – both probably.

Best wishes, yours, Adrian

Finally John’s mail

Thanks, Caroline. The BSA and European sociological networks have it in hand already. But as it hasn’t reached me via ESPAnet or the European social policy jiscmail, I’ve added them here and would encourage maximum further dissemination to all the networks we are linked with in whatever subjects even at the risk of overlap and duplication.

John

*******

Still, I may add one point – I discussed it actually frequently with John, with Zsuzsa and so many others: It is not just about Orban and Hungary, as little as the discussion about Turkey is about Erdogan and Turkey, as little as Italy is a just one single case, as much as “we are all Greek” – we are all …, if we are ready to be!

social policy … and the value of values

Hum, in general Augustine is classified as theologian and philosopher … – and in general one can suppose that people’s remarks are based at least to some extent on personal experience. If so, and thinking for example about extremely high fees students have to pay, university administrator’s incomes increasing more than that of lecturers, and then looking at the fancy dresses of many priests, I am wondering what to make out of the following:

[I]t was Augustine who proposed to found not only the Christian ‘brotherhood’ but all human relationships on charity. But this charity, though its wordlessness clearly corresponds to the general human experience of love, is at the same time clearly distinguished from it being something, which, like the world, is between men: ‘Even robbers have between them [inter se] what they call charity.’

(quoted from Hannah Arendt’s Human Condition, with reference to Augustine’s Contra Faustum Manichaeum)

One Belt – One Road – One World – Digitisation of Life as Chinese Lifestyle?

It is never an easy thing: dedication of some work – doesn’t it propose also agreement?
I do not know if and in which way Elmar would have agreed with what I presented – yesterday he passed away and we, critical thinkers with a genuine interest in progressive scientific work – progressive by way of contributing to progress of societal development so we will never know exactly. One thing we do know – the obituary of the scientific committee of attac [German] clearly states it:

ELMAR ALTVATER DIED

It talks about him as an

Inspiring critique of the capitalist economy

This he truly was – as such he encourages me to dedicate the presentation to him: as quest to me and to the students to take up this challenge of critical thinking.

The abstract of the presentation which is recorded here
may give some insight into what you can expect from the lecture — and hopefully you still will be surprised and inspired.
Living in China means as well getting used to a highly advanced level of internet-penetration in large parts of daily life. Often this is perceived as contradicting prevailing traditional ‘life styles’ and attitudes. At first glance this has not much to do with the future of social policy, or does it? – Social policy faces the difficult task of bringing an institutional system and ‘life worlds’ together. With globalisation and digitisation there is an additional challenge: the reference to the nation state and standard forms of labour are increasingly loosing or changing their role, or at least changing it. Is there any common ground for small island nations like Ireland and unimaginable countries like China?

time … appreciation …. value of values

… or
How academia today undermines knowledge and beauty.
“In his youth Albert Einstein spent a year loafing aimlessly. You don’t get anywhere by not ‘wasting’ time – something, unfortunately, which the parents of teenagers tend frequently to forget. He was in Pavia. He had joined his family having abandoned his studies in Germany, unable to endure the rigours of his high school there. It was the beginning of the twentieth century, and in Italy the beginning of its industrial revolution. His father, an engineer, was installing the first electrical power plants in the Paduan plains. Albert was reading Kant and attending occasional lectures at the University of Pavia: for pleasure, without being registered there or having to think about exams. It is thus that serious scientists are made.”
….
“Finally, in November 1915, he committed to print an article giving the complete solution: a new theory of gravity, which he called ‘The General Theory of Relativity’, his masterpiece and the ‘most beautiful of theories’, according to the great Russian physicist Lev Landau.
There are absolute masterpieces which move us intensely: Mozart’s Requiem; Homer’s Odyssey; the Sistine Chapel; King Lear. To fully appreciate their brilliance may require a long apprenticeship, but the reward is sheer beauty – and not only this, but the opening of our eyes to a new perspective upon the world. Einstein’s jewel, the general theory of relativity, is a masterpiece of this order.”
From Carlo Rovelli. “Seven Brief Lessons on Physics” – with regards to those who have a huge share of responsibility for irresponsibility

the market and … power versus respect and dignity

Musings from earlier this year – and in a way probably a foretaste of the future. From a mail I sent to a former student [well, I say former while my Chinese students don’t stop seeing me as their 老师:

Thanks for the mail, 刘嘉颖,
yesterday I submitted the reference. I think there is a general problem with these submissions, only very few universities showing respect. It is all set up to suit the universities, not the applicants. If they send a mail to he BU-mail they get an auto reply, asking them to resend the mail the esosc-mail which they do not do. I perceive this as disrespecting your interest of taking really care of your application. There are other things: the mail was marked as SPAM because an oeverload of graphs, depersonalisation of addressing the message, silly questionnaires and forms which, if submitted by a student as ’sample for how to design a questionnaire’, would result in ‘failed’ … – Well, all this is a simple economic issue

Image ref: Alex Slobodkin Getty Images/iStockphoto; from: http://fortune.com/2015/07/01/behind-the-rise-of-indian-students-at-top-u-s-universities/

* if accepted you will pay fees

* if you do not succeed for instance because a reference is missing they still have enough ‘paying customers’ = students who play fees

* they ask academics to help THEM, the university, with the assessment, and we do it for free – it seems as we would do it for you, the student – and in some way it is true; but economically we work free for those universities – imagine one alternative: they would employ external assessors? Would they work for free?

May be even they would – there are ways to make such jobs ‘attractive’ – one could beat them with a note in the CV: External Assessor of …university.

That these procedures of universities upset me more then it probably should has exactly this reason: universities of this kind, money making machines that live on the back of others, without respecting even basic rules of market relations are just one example of an endless number of today’s mal-practice businesses, though they babble about dignity, social responsibility etc. It is the same irresponsible behavior as the behaviour of an airline that ‘allows’ people with a licence as pilot to join as co-pilot, without paying them – as those pilots do not have any proper alternative, they accept it because they need a certain number of hours per year to maintain the license. Many other things could and should be mentioned, in academia the tenured positions are becoming further reduced, people like myself working on ‘occassional jobs’, doing so without social insurance etc.. And it also undermines the ability and capacity of universities to offer proper education as in some universities even for teaching obligatory courses there are only ‘casual lecturers employed. [I am not sure anymore, I think at the university of Vienna ca 40 percent of teaching staff is not-permanent]  – You may see many issues I was talking about in the economics classes: about the invalidity of the law of supply and demand, the laws of the market being laws of power and not of free choice, contracts not realy about what they formally suggest to be, and also the externalisation of cost and even the production functions, here in terms of a change of the function due to the wrong basis for the calculation: part of the work is not included into the calculation. And it goes on as at the end it is of utmost relevance on the micro- and the macro level. Just think briefly about issues of taxation. …

So, end of the lecture 😉 ….

 And possibly the end of a string of posts on this topic, which could be drawn together under the heading
 Not sure, if this is the complete list of related posts, at least some:
 .
 It remains to be added that some universities that I contacted directly with complains, came back to me, asking for apologies, and exact information to consider changes of the procedures, also opening them for a more personal way of assessment. Though all this is often and seems to be a waste of energy … – perhaps it worth to move on, of course in the best case it is not just a matter of private initiative but a collective move and protest against the fall of higher education.