Whether one is a technology utopian or a skeptic, everyone seems to agree that we are seeing some revolutionary technological breakthroughs and that these would change our lives inalterably (the disagreements, mostly, are about whether this would be good or bad). The focus of my work is to think what these changes mean for work and for education, and how educational innovations would be fit for this 'second machine age'.
Fundamentally, I believe that we are entering a THIRD age of what we have come to call 'Higher Education'. And, by this, I mean the social functions related to creation and dissemination of knowledge necessary to define the relationship between the nature and us, and indeed, inbetween ourselves. I use the broad definition to stay outside various policy terms - college, universities, research and teaching institutions etc - and focus on the fundamental idea, that our relationships with nature and between ourselves is a knowledge process that requires continuous exploration and dissemination, and this is what Higher Education, in all its forms and functions, do.
Now, in terms of geneology of Higher Education (and I am taking an European perspective as this is the dominant model in modern Higher Education), we have been through two great ages of Scholasticism and Criticism. The first of these ages of Higher Education, I shall argue, was built around the creation of the broader worldview around Christian theology, mainly by incorporating classical thinkers such as Aristotle, mainly the work of Thomas Aquinas and others. The tradition of education built around this was about interpretation of texts, hermeneutics as it was called, through deep study and reflection. The second age, built around the Enlightenment tradition, came as a reaction to this, with the battle cry of 'dare to think' and to question everything, as Immanuel Kant would say it, and was built around Criticism. This is the tradition the Modern Research universities are based upon - at their heart, they are designed to be critical institutions powered by freedom of thought, free speech and secular faith.
I generalise, but do so in order to focus the conversation on what may need changing in Higher Education. It is not about the form - from premises-based to online - or function - from preparing for ecclesiastical career to statecraft to life of a company man - of Higher Education, but its fundamental reason to be that needs to change. Whether or not we are destined for an age of Robot Overlords (or various dystopian scenarios), the expanding abilities of technologies are changing our relationships with nature and inbetween ourselves. The earlier imperatives of making nature work for us, alongwith some unintended consequences of Darwin's discoveries as the humankind came to think of itself as the winner of the species race and set upon to extract the rewards, are now being replaced by the urgent imperatives of care and preservation, as we fully recognise the shape of the apocalpyse and avoiding it becomes one, though not the only, of our priorities. And, indeed, relationships between ourselves have been transformed too, as we grew out of being in control of nature and to beings in control, at least partially, of our own fate - our initial triumphalism about rationality later tempered by our acknowledgement of fallability - and we are now grappling with all sorts of existential questions requiring new imagination and an attitude of 'care'. This is the broader question facing Higher Education, and I shall argue that the Critical Tradition may not have all the answers here.
One of the key failings of the Enlightenment project, as its critics were quick to point out (starting perhaps with Herder, Kant's pupil), that its audacity of ideas were performed on distant plain from human life and action. In this, the scholastic traditions of reflection subsumed the challenge of freeing knowledge: While we may have arrived at a point of questioning the texts, the critical tradition dismissed much of what we do and who we are as irrational and outlying phenomena. Today, we live in societies that distrust experts and scholarly knowledge for being other-worldly, for its disconnect with actual practice. After the triumph of philosophy, which Enlightenment indeed was, we have arrived at an age when 'philosophising' is derided as an useless, impractical activity, having no bearing with real life. And, this point is more relevant now than ever, as we seek to make the disciplines ever more obscure and ever more distant from real life, a kind of scholarly game to exclude the commoner and his practice from the higher plains of theory.
This is the fundamental change that needs to come to Higher Education, an invitation to practice. The THIRD age, I argue, will be the age of Practice, when the active life, one engaged with nature and other human beings, would take the centre-place of our enquiry and reflections. This is not, as I must emphasize, an argument for apprenticeships, internships, experiential learning and all that, as those methods exist and continue to exist in the broad context of Education. My argument is not about methods, but about the purpose: This is the equivalent of neroscientists arguing that our thinking is not just centralised in our brains, but rather distributed throughout our bodies, and the sensations and experiences of being human, rather than divine commandments and revealations, are the true beginnings of knowledge.
This age of Practice is not a discontinuous development in education, but an evolutionary one. Just as the tradition of Criticism emerged from the dissatisfactions with Scholasticism, and yet, adapted its central values and methods - interpretation and reflection - to its own ends, the age of Practice, while changing the essential assumptions about origins and nature of knowledge, would perhaps utilise the tools of critical reflections, analysis and synthesis. But this would mean, just as the modern Research university was a break from the medieval forms, newer institutional forms, more distributed spatially and temporally, more assimilated with real world, more concerned with daily lives, and more equated with doing. This new education will help us to make sense of our cosmic and social existences, just as the technologies test and alter the natural boundaries and the social consensus built around industrial progress gives away to a new world of winners and losers of a different make-up. The schism that may invariably arise out of this may not be healed by the rational men in all their critical glory, but rather by the connections of our hands and emotions with natures and lives of our own and of others, and with values of care and belonging that came with it.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
A week into lockdown and things are beginning to change. Mornings are late, afternoons are lazier and evenings never end; meditations are filling out the time for Yoga routines and Netflix profiles are strewn with half-finished movies. This state-mandated, state-funded period of idleness is being likened to being called up to serve, but is nothing like that: Such a comparison is really an affront to the idea of service. Instead, this is just one long streak of panic; of the centre not holding and life not going on as usual. With the usual patterns and rules in suspended animation and business talk - and business - being rendered meaningless, space is opening up for unusual questions: Is Capitalism about to end? Is this the death of globalisation? Does it get uglier from here? My grandfather's generation would have scoffed at us. They saw through wars and pandemics. But, in fairness, we haven't had a life-ending crisis of our own. Notwithstanding the experiences of th
The ‘Why’ Question? Adolf Hitler was appointed the German Chancellor by President Von Hindenburg on 30th January 1933. This was an extraordinary turn of events. Previously, President Von Hindenburg consistently refused to appoint Hitler the Chancellor, despite the impressive electoral performance of NSDAP in July 1932, Hitler’s uncompromising demand of the Chancellor’s post and a repeat election in November 1932 which failed to break the deadlock. Explaining his refusal, Hindenburg wrote in a letter on 24th November, “a presidential cabinet led by you would develop necessarily into a party dictatorship with all its consequences for an extraordinary accentuation of the conflicts in the German people.” The question ‘why’ Hitler was appointed Chancellor, despite the President being acutely aware of what might follow, is therefore a significant one. The NSDAP had election successes throughout 1932, and was already the biggest single party in the Reichstag and various Landtags acros
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
The Creativity Imperative Businesses today consider creativity of their staff as a critical, possibly the most critical, factor for their ongoing survival. This is because the environment, political, social and commercial, has become so fluid; as Yogi Berra put it, “the future isn’t what it used to be”. Constant change, demanding and more aware customers and citizens, rapid information dissemination through new technologies of information and communication, and intense competitive and regulatory pressures, are pushing companies and people who work for them to innovate and adapt continuously. Set in this context, employee creativity has a whole new meaning. It is traditionally understood as people thinking about products and services, which did not exist before, or tweaking and improving the existing ones. Competitive pressures add to this creativity imperative. Information is fast and cheap, and communication technology is driving the costs of production and distribution
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.