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.
Annunci

How to define appreciation?

[http://deacademic.com/dic.nsf/dewiki/1490665]

or a bit like carrying another cross today …

Well, one of the requests, a student in need of a reference, the Imperial College, as so many others, applying imperial methods and exploiting the labour force of academics instead of employing external assessors — but at least kindly acknowledging … see the highlighted words.

Now, so far so bad. The best step then, after submitting an auto reply is arriving, indicating the imperial understanding of valuing the work: an e-mail with three pages [reformatted as normal text], the beginning of it reads as follows:

Thank you for your email.
We are currently experiencing a high volume of enquiries. Please read the information below as it may answer common queries.

It does not say that the reference had been received, and the rest to the information actually concerns students who applied or want to apply.

Disrespectful is the term that comes to my mind. And if I would like to study, seeing such mail I would even as student look for another university. Rejecting raking I am wondering: if we are living in a world of rank and file in its military understanding, the highest positions occupied by reps and admins, we may think about the gutter rank: which institution makes it to the lowest ranks?

It reminds me of another university, after submitting a reference fro a student there I received for weeks and month  ads, asking me to subscribe to one of there courses. I don’t even know if I would accept a job offer from such unwilling, unknowing, unsensitive …, well, there is something nice when returning medieval standards – talking about un-deservring was quite common those times though it usually punished the wrong people ….

The cat’s tale – the difficulty of academia then and now

It seems to be relatively easy to deal with Schroedinger’s cat – the question is well known:

[1]

Schrödinger wanted people to imagine that a cat, poison, a geiger counter, radioactive material, and a hammer were inside of a sealed container. The amount of radioactive material was minuscule enough that it only had a 50/50 shot of being detected over the course of an hour. If the geiger counter detected radiation, the hammer would smash the poison, killing the cat. Until someone opened the container and observed the system, it was impossible to predict if the cat’s outcome. Thus, until the system collapsed into one configuration, the cat would exist in some superposition zombie state of being both alive and dead.[2]

The one way of dealing with it is to open the box in order to see if the cat is alive or not. However, it is a way of dealing with the problem by actually denying it as checking, giving ‘empirical evidence’ in actual fact changes the conditions to such an extent that, what had been the question at the outset is actually redefined: the conditions from which the question emerged are not anymore given.

The other way is to admit that there is no answer and that there cannot be any answer for ever. One could see this as a purely academic issue – though this is probably seen differently by the cat – being eternally in a situation of not knowing if her is dead or alive which must admittedly a hugely unpleasant state of existence. And both ‘easy answers’ prevail when we are looking at academia, in particular universities: researching, studying and teaching. One question may be asked though: what is if we simply look at the tale, not the entire cat but also not something that exists only as chimera?

Some reflections on the development of third level education today can be found here, impressions and reports, resulting from having worked in China for two years at a ‘joint venture’ between a EUropean and a Chinese university, and reflecting more general trends than really anything like ‘this is China’. And also reflecting on a general trend of supposed academic education where one learns not to agree with but to follow rules, where you have to like numbers but yu do nit have to like maths … – at the end where you should end with a major that makes sure that the cat is dead while the mice are dancing a bubble dance, appealingly majoring in accounting without understanding the economy of which it takes account.

********

[1]            https://i.stack.imgur.com/Of40B.jpg; 27/07/17

[2]            IFLScience – The lighter sight of science: Schrödinger’s Cat: Explained; http://www.iflscience.com/physics/schrödinger’s-cat-explained/; 27/07/17

Living in and for academia – an international[ist] perspective

Published is a presentation given on the 4th of July in ChangSha, PRC, looking against the personal background from an academic perspective at the topic of international and global education. While sociology, economics, political science, law and arts are explicitly mentioned, philosophy remains as companion of all in the background. Highlighted is the need to regain and maintain academic integrity.

The video-recording, in some respect an extension to the interview published recently, can be found here.

Learned from the time I lived in Australia, and altered all this is not least about the statement that

I fully acknowledge the Right and Duty of the students to learn in a way that allows not only to administer their own life and land in a globally respectful way, to study the possibilities to work and connect with the world that is respectful against themselves, against their fellow beings past, present and emerging.

mind snatchers

Back home now, taking up teaching again – and with this the “major challenge” we face – nolens volens

E.P. Thompson wrote in an article in 1970:

Collectively, all of us – all we liberal academics – were struck with a paralysis of will as the system not only grew round us, but built us into its own body-walls. Once inside there it looked as if we were running our bit of the show: but the show itself was being directed towards other ends.

Andrew McGettigan, also quoting this, comes in his review article in Radical Philosophy (186 – July/August 2014) to the conclusion that the really important thing about the book Warwick University Ltd. is the investigative journalism. The importance of such investigative journalism cannot be denied.
And I am right now again made aware of it: there had been the change, now the business school teaching economics with reference to the CORE-programme – I commented earlier on it, saying that there would be some progress at least. During the last days I learned that even this is a questionable assessment, reading in mails:
… we have to bear in mind when looking at the CORE information, that we are teaching economics to u/g students in a Business School and so interprete the information accordingly, although I do however understand that students might be interested these other areas. …
And
… As you state, the e-book is substantial and so we are clearly not covering all aspects in detail but the relevant staff are deciding which aspects of each unit to focus on. You can reasonably assume that we have discussed all of the “Key Points” listed at the end of each unit. …
 Looking then at other documents, I see exactly those walls, replicated and known …, and not touched.
With all the complains, however, we should never forget that there may be a mechanism here name “distraction by attraction”: Being carried away by the presentation of “simple facts”, scandalisation, and also the play with abstract ideas and models lets us easily forget the actual core of any academic work:
This surely goes beyond (and deeper than) descriptions and statistical meticulousness and the learning of formulas. Indeed, academics should refrain from moving on the stages, “cutting things into pieces”, describing facts like playing roles. But mind:

That’s enough words for the moment,
Now let me see some action!

While you’re handing out the compliments,
You should also make things happen.
Why talk so much of inspiration?
Delay won’t make it flow, you see.

taking up the “major challenge” we face – nolens volens. And the worse answer is:ignoring it, turning head and mind to business as usual, business in capital letters…

BREXIT – is that actually the real topic

I was just approached by Yang Yuhan, asking for my opinion on the results in the UK.

I mentioned in a brief note some of the problems, e.g. that the result may be just the date of preparing a new referendum (as it happened so often), that the claimed economic strength by the “leavers” may be just another illusion but also that it is a strategy of one country to look for advantage on the back of others.
And then I said, “as it had been the case with (in particular) the German-Greek relationship.
As Yang said she would not know about Germany-Greece-relationships
 I answered in a nutshell – more is barely possible via QQ:
Perhaps we meet at some stage again, and we can chat. Too much to write …: Germany forced Greece to take loans, knowing that they would not be able to repay. Germany also kept the economy of Greece down, not allowing them to develop – we talked about world-systems, center-periphery etc. in the workshop. After a while the Germans said: now you have to return the money. And because you cannot do it “easily”, we dictate the conditions under which you do it. In consequnece, for instance, the social security systems had been dismantled (people getting 60 % of the retirement they expected, and it must in many cases serve the entire family; the health system is deteriorating; children cannot go to school, or they cannot concentrate because they are hungry …), the ariports had been “bought” by the German FRAPORT (Frankfurt airport), without proper pay …
Of course, the Germans could rely o their “European supporters” and the IMF and the World Bank but still they had been the main drivers.
And I directed her to things I wrote earlier – about Two Dreams and One Nightmare, there looking in particular at the second dream. Indeed, many things had been not known to the public, they had been veiled in populist disguises, hiding the
 And so we may even take up on people like Churchill who said, in a different context:
This is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end, but it is perhaps the end of the beginning.
And as Henry added in the mail he sent a few minutes ago:
the beginning of the complete disintegration of the EU….
Cunning of unreason – including the unreason of populist movements back in the other home? There was one star in Bethlehem, now there are five in Rome …
Just received another mail . actually taking up on the point I alluded to in the blog entry:
“The triumph of malign populism and a betrayal of the younger generation.”
Yes, there had been some betrayal, and my generation is guilty, if not directly betraying, allowing those others they dirty business …
Seeing all this in a wider context, I just feel miserable, actually since a couple of days already, the BREXIT is only a small part. It is about “us” – the elderly, the Europeans, the “better Europeans” … all these … “superiors” who claim to know everything and know everything better, and in which way ever, it is differ difficult to “escape”, difficult to remain sane and honest, and the only thing ome can do is to talk to some students, encouraging them …, to do what we cannot do anymore to the extent to which we want: move on and be honest …. – but also considered, not following the populist tendencies that lurk around everywhere, making education to a fun-park.