Profile cover photo
Profile photo
Stephen Downes
Free Learning
Free Learning

Stephen's posts

Post has attachment

Post has attachment

Post has attachment

Post has attachment

Post has attachment

"I could not help but think of Trinity’s Honor Code and our commitment to social justice. The Honor Code says we must not look away from lies, that we must confront them and tell the truth as a matter of justice for the community. The truth of the present moment in our country is that the authoritarian impulse will prevail unless people of courage and integrity confront the outright lies and shady manipulation of facts."

My thoughts:

I heard about this through various sources. My take is that it's nice to see academia standing up for truth but it would have helped if they (and the media) had done so earlier.

All of that said, I view all of this from a very different frame than most.
First, to me it's a story that's happening in another country. It's on a par with the stories of Putin in Russia, Berlusconi in Italy, and a host of others. It's not like this is the first time this sort of thing has happened in the world, even the contemporary world, though a lot of the coverage is breathless, as though this is unprecedented.

Second, as someone from the left side of the spectrum, my own experience is of a steady wall of dishonesty from academia and media throughout pretty much my whole life. We see it in things ranging from the Red Scare to the demonization of socialism and liberalism to the use of language of "easily offended", "silencing free speech", "the world isn't a safe space" in reference to leftist positions.

Many of the techniques Trump uses are old news. Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) covered a lot of them in the summer of 2015; the one that stands out in my memory is the 'linguistic kill shot'. A phenomenon to my knowledge unremarked in media and academia is what might be called 'political projection', the art of turning any criticism of you into a criticism of the other side (hence, on both counts, 'crooked Hillary').

From my perspective, academia talks a good game but is just as liable to dissemblance as any other sector in society. Over the years I've covered misrepresentations of student opinions, suppression of student journalism to hide uncomfortable stories, misleading representations of academic achievement and outcomes, academic indifference to tuition fees, book costs,and other costs, while at the same time touting their accessibility, misrepresentations about openness to minorities and low-SEO students (especially at the elites), misleading references to an emphasis on 'quality' (in an environment of completely unregulated classrooms), forged data, forged academic credentials, stolen research, plagiarism by high-ranking officials, lies about unionism in anti-union campaigns, and dismissal of staff under false pretenses.

I've also covered criticism regarding the scientific method, and especially the work of Lakatos and Feyerabend. I've questioned the process of peer review and covered numerous cases in which it fails and other cases in which publication is contingent on citing editors' papers. I've discussed the mechanism of the academic conference and how it functions (a) as a money-making venture trading paper acceptance for conference fees, and (b) as a mechanism enabling academics to take paid vacations.

So I don't feel that academia is particularly honest, and I don't feel it as an institution has any unique regard for the truth. And I know this because I've also covered the very many earnest and honest people working in academia (and elsewhere) trying to change society for the better, and I've covered the barriers they face in the institutions where they work.

Funding Zero Tuition

Responding to Alex Usher -

You say, “the Government of Canada has no sensible way to eliminate tuition nationally.”

That’s analogous to saying “the Government of Canada has no sensible way to eliminate two-tier health care nationally.” Given that the federal government has effectively done this, despite the fact that health care is a political responsibility, it follows that there are ways it could do so for education.

The way to do this is to reach an education accord. This can be done either nationally or bilaterally. It essentially takes the form of the federal government saying to the provincial governments “We’ll transfer $X if you implement policy Y.” In practice, we find that provinces often find they can find a way to implement policy Y for much less money than they originally claimed it would cost.

Legislatively, this would be implemented in a National Education Act, analogous to the National Health Care Act. As you know, this specifies the conditions under which money for education is transferred to the provinces. The provinces are heaily dependent on transfer revenues as a whole, since no provincial government could survive the cuts in service that would be required should they refuse federal education (and/or health care) funding.

So the scenario drawn out here would not occur, and the federal government has an effective means at its disposal to eliminate tuition fees nationally.

We Are Not Agreed

A few days ago University Ventures authored a piece in response to a post from the New America Foundation comparing Republicans who defend for-profit colleges to climate change deniers. The unattributed University Ventures article argues "this piece re-fights yesterday’s war... the many challenges and opportunities facing higher education lend themselves to bipartisan consensus – perhaps more than any other area of public policy."

Bipartisanship is of course a U.S. phenomenon. But it is worth noting that there are many things U.S. lawmakers agree upon that are opposed in corners around the world. I find myself frequently occupying those corners, and today is no exception. So, setting aside the for-profit colleges debate for another day, I'd like to take the time to point to the points where I disagree with what is taken to the the emerging consensus.

Post has attachment

Post has attachment

Post has attachment
Wait while more posts are being loaded