higher ed

Why does education hate itself?

Idiot starts with a J :)

Here’s a news story that doesn’t happen: A bank has appointed a former university Vice Chancellor as their new CEO, because they feel the expertise in running an institution with longevity and stability is what’s required.

Ludicrous, right? And yet, the opposite occurs regularly. Higher education has an inferiority complex. It always feels like it needs to change, to be more like something else, to take radical lessons from elsewhere. But here’s the thing – education is not like newspapers, music, content industry, banking, software development or selling cars. It’s fucking odd, and unique. I mean, there are definitely things to be learnt from other sectors, just as every sector can learn from outside its domain. But books and music are more similar than education and entertainment, say, and even they are very different.

The point is, education has a lot to learn about operating in a digital age. But it seems to ignore learning from its own past (see my previous whinges about forgetting open education’s past), and prioritise what is perceived as more valuable, relevant knowledge from elsewhere. What this does is send a message that we in education don’t value it highly. Expertise in education can be picked up in a few weeks, it’s not like it’s important. The culture of higher ed is posited as a problem that needs to be fixed rather than something that has value. Guess what? I’m fed up with it. Here’s my new consultancy business pitch for higher ed: Education is different from other sectors. Education should trust itself.


  • Tom

    I ended up thinking along parallel lines when business people say students aren’t prepared to do X, Y, Z. I don’t know why we take this as some kind of gospel.

    There’s lots of motivation to lie intentionally and lots of reasons they’d end up with skewed views even if it isn’t intentional.

    It’s handy to scape goat education for poor performance, bad culture, poor pay etc. It’d be even nicer to get others to do your internal training for free. These people are just as likely to fall into confirmation bias patterns and “kids today” views.

    I wonder if at the root of all this is the absolute faith in capitalism.

    • mweller

      Hi Tom, yes, “capitalism is the ultimate truth” is at the root of it. Benjamin Doxtdator has written very good stuff on that preparing students for work rhetoric

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