Showing posts from October, 2020

The future of higher education that isn't

Future becomes obsolete, but it happens at a uneven pace.  A wise man once said that in history, 'in years, weeks happen, and then in weeks, years happen'. But, the same wise man - Lenin, as it happened to be - thought he could see the future and shape it. As it turned out, the future didn't behave. This should serve as a cautionary tale for today's Gurus, confidently peering into the future. Our ideas and our expectations, shaped by the slow years, proved completely inadequate now. And, besides, the prediction business does real harm: If the predictions become forceful enough (or are forced on others, as in Russia), it makes us run in directions we shouldn't and makes us ignore stuff that we should be paying attention to. What's happening right now in Higher Education is a clear, time-compressed example of ideas (and predictions) out of sync with reality. Only six months ago we thought the future of Higher Ed was digital. Six months on, there are only a few tru

The Skills Question

When I saw this government advert, my reaction was: Cyber what?  I did not make the immediate connection that a ballerina is being expected to become a Data Scientist overnight. I am now relieved that many other people found this ad to be distasteful and stupid. But instead of waging a cultural battle on this ad, it's worth thinking about the problem it creates. This is not just about undermining skilled professions (such as ballet) or underestimating the efforts required for a transition. The images and words of the advert can be changed (and it seems that the Government has indeed pulled the advert) but the mindset behind them would not (as the government most helpfully explained, no one in particular was responsible). So, really, not Fatima, but the people who thought up this message should rethink, rewrite and reboot. Not because they are promoting hopelessness - which they certainly are doing - but because their hopes are misplaced. They are promoting a conference circuit vers

The question of authenticity

I was speaking to someone about behaving well when she turned around and said, "so you are asking me to fake it?" Only then, it dawned on me that there could be a potential conflict between authenticity and decency.  Being ourselves - we have been told - is the goal of life. What this means is less clear, but it's more or less doing what we like, saying what we like and having what we like. This is the modern dream - life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, on our own terms. But what about the others? Can one have life without others? Certainly not without one's parents, at the least, and a lot of other people along the way. No liberty either, without the whole edifice of society and the laws - otherwise the life would be nasty, brutish and short. And, happiness - which includes, at least for most people, other people as well.  Therefore, how is it that being oneself - rather than being one with the world around us - became our dream? I am with Simone Weil when she say

The spectre of Hitler

As a historian, I am fascinated by Hitler. Of course, he is the most studied persona not just in modern history, but perhaps all history. The phenomena of Hitler - his impact - has led to the creation of specialist areas of research within the history profession, as well as new disciplines such as social psychology. And yet, he is still very fresh - new biographies and histories of Hitler years come up all the time - throwing up new perspectives all the time. Part of reason for this is the difficulty of studying Hitler. His odious, short-lived regime ended in flames. He, in person, disappeared from history as suddenly as he appeared, giving a free hand to conspiracy theorists. The world that emerged from the rubbles was divided, one where truth became a political weapon. The Nazi disruption became veiled by an iron curtain, which, we should not forget, had two sides. With him conveniently dead, Hitler became the ultimate bad guy, as all shades of enablers and collaborators looked to re

Creative Commons License