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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 39, Number 24, September 27, 1976.

Some Careers ... — The University. Educational Myth Exploded

page 15

Some Careers ...

The University. Educational Myth Exploded

"To sell yourself is to turn yourself into a commodity. A commodity does not control the market: its nominal worth is determined by what the market will offer".

During my attendance at this university, I have given a good deal of thought (and fame of my lecturers would say, perhaps too much time and effort) to the education process - a process which involves the aquisition and giving of knowledge (sic!).

Only recently, has it began to crystalise in my mind, what I object to at this university. Namely, that I, as a student, am not in control of my own learning situation. When I use the world control, I mean I have very little say (if any at all) over the direction of my learning - and the same goes for every other undergraduate student!

You may consider this an odd thing to say, so lets examine it fuller. Sure, as individuals we have:
1.an initial choice in what degree we undertake.
2.The credit courses to make up that degree.
3.When I am in a course - a limited choice of essay topics etc.

But the most crucial choice is taken out of my hands, i.e. The Content, Direction Structure and Teaching Method used.

When I use the expression "control over my learning" - I don't mean control and direction over lecturers (although some people may see that as desirable). I mean equality in decision making about my own course of study.

At the basis of this is that the teacher/lecturer has knowledge and skills etc which could be of assitance to the student, to develop critically his own knowledge, skills ideas and understanding about a certain area of knowledge or subject. But at present, in my opinion, the situation in many subjects is the following:

"Instead of communicating, the teacher issues communiques and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorise and repeat. This is the "banking" concept of education, in which the scope of aciton allowed the students extends only as far as receiving, filing and storing deposits. They do, it is true, have the opportunity to become collectors nad cataloguers of the things they store. But in the last analysis, it is men themselves who are filed away through the lack of creativity, transformation, and knowledge in this (at best) misguided system."(2)

Now you may consider that this is of little concern to most students i.e. that I am alone in feeling this way. Now this maybe so, but if it is, I think it is for the following reasons:
1.Most students have not given much thought to the whole learning process, of which they are a part - either they don't care, they are too busy with heavy workloads, (keep at it sucker!) or they have decided to ignore the implications of the "learning process".
2.All they want is another few credits towards that flimsy bit of paper - their degree.

At least the Russians are honest enough to admit that education is primarily a political tool for the construction of a communist society(3).

In New Zealand "the educationalists" are still trying to maintain the charade that the education system has not become a "knowledge industry" whose main task seems a preoccupation with skills for the graduate market -that includes research.

"Higher education has become an essential part of the apparatus through which the inevitability of future social change is built into present social structure. Therefore the university, which has always played the uneasy role of both guardian and critic, preserver and destroyer of the existing state of knowledge, becomes a sharp focal point of the conflict between continuity and change."(4)

Some advice to lecturers, at this university - if you can't take the heat get out of the fire!

During the twentieth century, especially since the second world war, western man has seen the ascendency of the university to one of the most important institutions in society. Through its major role as provider of knowledge and expertise, the university has been pictured as eneabling the business and government sectors to survive and prosper in an increasingly complex technological society.

The function of the university is seen as having changed - relinquishing its traditional dissident ideas of the house of intellect (conservative) and the social innovator (radical), the university is now seen as providing the technical expertise to sustain fully the post industrial society the life blood of the existing order!

R.G. Snyder in his article "Knowledge, Power and the University: Notes on the Impotence of the Intellectual"(5) expressed it in the following manner:

"Because the development of our industrial society has led to increasingly complex technical problems, knowledge practical, not theoretical has become highly differentiated and specialised. The university and its constituents have adapted themselves completely to this development....... The university has established an organisation of knowledge which basically orients itself as a service industry to the government and business sectors. Knowledge is orgnaised into discrete units; it is not treated as continuous and developmental One studies a body of knowledge rather than the process or forms that may lead to the discovery of knowledge."

The university and the populous therein - both staff and students are thus constrained by the demands of an external factor, to supply the manpower (both physical and intellectual) needed by the technological society. Thus certain areas of knowledge and especially alternative methods of learning - have become very sensitive areas for the teaching staff in this university. To be avoided at all costs because the alternatives may bring attention to the fact that the unviersity and its teaching staff have lost control over the institution.

Knowledge and the graduates of the "knowledge industry" have become commodities of the technological society. C. Wright Mills has stated it in this manner:

"To sell yourself is to turn yourself into a commodity. A commodity does not control the market: its nominal worth is determined by what the market will offer"(1)

As a consequence of this, more and more courses within this and other universities, have become very specialised, standardized and narrow in their focus, with increasing emphasis on methodology - methodology so that students will have marketable skills upon graduation.

What does htis means to the undergraduate student at this university. R.G. Snyder put it in this way: "The standardization of curricula, is of course, most evident at the undergraduate level. There, the novice student is supposed to absorb data and techniques and parrot them back to the professor/lecturer.......This process may be learning but it is only a small part of education. Independent thinking is the last thing in the world that the student is asked to do. The goals of this system are to eliminate controversy and induce a routinized pattern of thinking and behaviours. It is a socialisation process that prepares the student for any number of technocratic jobs, including, of course, the academic profession."(6)

By now you are probably saying to yourself, "its alright to criticise the present system, but what are the alternatives" The intention of this article was to bring to your attention that there are alternatives. But it must be remembered that of the learning process involves the seeking and practice of alternatives. But before we can consider alternatives, students and lecturers must gain control over the learning process!

"The regaining of control of the university as an institution by the intellectual is an [unclear: absolute] prerequisite for rejuvenation of the intellectual as a social innovator. With [unclear: such] institutional control, the intellectual can shape his environment to suit his own needs: he may reform curricula, deemphasise artificial regulations, overcome [unclear: departmental] obsolescence and even fulfill [unclear: his] major public service role which is to provide the knowledge to make an intelligent and self-conscious citizenery and to [unclear: provide] significant social, political, and [unclear: economic] alternatives from which people can choose."(7)

Let the Sosc debate continue
Let the questioning begin in the geography dept
I hear the sounds of revolution in the Pols Sci Dept
May history crumble to its knees
And the English Reformation Begin.

2 Pauio Feirc: Pedagogy of the Oppressed, quoted in "A Course Evaluation of POLS 213 (1974) by Chris Wainwright pub 1975 VUW.

3 Nigel Grant "Soviet Education" - London, Penguin Books 1964 p 23.

4 N.J. Smelser "Sociology an Introduction" N.Y. J. Wiley & Sons Ltd 1967 p 406

5 R.G. Snyder "Knowledge, Power and the University: Notes on the impotence of the Intellectual" in "Towards the Sociology of Knowledge" edited by G.W. Remmling, pub. Rout ledge & Kegan Paul London 1973 p 339-360.

1 I.C. Wright Mills. "The Social Role of the Intellectual" in Irving Louis Horowitz (ed), "Power, Politics and People". The collected Essays of C Wright Mills, N.Y. Oxford University Press, 1963 pp 301-2

6 R.G. Snyder op cite pages 352

7 R.G. Snyder op cite page 356