Let us be Realists: Demand the Impossible

Boyce Brown

Adjuncts, contingent professors, newly minted Ph.D.s, Romans, country men and womyn, lend me your ear!

We know the issues, the struggles, the hustle, the grind.

We know what we want to do. We want to inspire students to greatness and conduct high quality, peer reviewed research, while also earning a living wage.

We want to be public intellectuals. We want to matter in the world of ideas. We want to help humanity progress, but not at the expense of our other animal, vegetable and mineral friends.

We do not know quite how to demand that out of the ever-increasingly corporatized neoliberal university yet. Most of my favorite contemporary intellectuals are not in the academy.

We know the crisis. For starters, most of us can barely afford to live!

CNN, aka Contains No News, may be back to actually containing some news. I recently watched their Ivory Tower program (http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/us/cnn-film-ivory-tower). A good, wide-ranging discussion of the cutting edge issues facing higher education today. There was a lot worth discussing but I would like to focus on the “hack education” segment. A speaker in that portion made three good points.

Education is:

1) Content,

2) A network of people who can help you in life, and

3) The credential.

I think this is perfectly true. Best highly directed by the student and to content I would add skills, but this is an adequate summary.

In a fascist, imperialist country with neoliberal universities destroying the humanities and social sciences we must ask some crucial questions:

“How can we reimagine education to fulfill these objectives in a way that bypasses colleges and universities and creates new scholarly journals run by adjuncts and contingent professors? How can we improve K-12 education in the process of sinking Common Core to the lowest depths of hell?”

An extremely tall order, to be sure, but I think it is the future we must pursue. Because the past really isn’t working. And technology makes a lot of new things possible.

Maybe MOOCs aren’t it. They have terrible student persistence rates, customer satisfaction and learning outcomes.

Udacity, Cousera, EdX and the like still need to be given a fair shake and time to work out the kinks. But the initial data is not indicating the Brave New World we thought we had in our grasp. Or maybe it is too much like Brave New World. And 1984.

My peripatos, this peripatos, our peripatos, is open for a walk. Let us move forward figuring it out together in this our agora and rise together.

Let us journey and reason.

We can figure out how to monetize it later.


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