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Re: [xmca] From NYTimes: Brazil’s Leftist Ruling Party, Born of Protests, Is Perplexed by Revolt

I don't know what it's like in Chile, but here in the UK I think the universities partly have themselves to blame, and I would be interested to know if the same pertains over there. We have the same problem for young people; getting jobs is very hard indeed. Requirement inflation means graduates are required for jobs that previously would have been done by school leavers. (In some cases that is a good thing, in my opinion. Nursing is now a graduate profession, which recognises the level of skill that has long been a requisite for actually doing the job, and may lead to better status for nurses. But that is a different point.) Jobs are not easy to come by, and being made even less easy by government policy that destroys jobs when it says it's creating them.

But I have long believed that the skills universities teach are employability skills, although they may be wrapped up differently. When my daughter went to an open day for history at Exeter University, there was a man from British Aerospace on the platform, alongside the usual dean, graduate, student, etc. He did not say much but what he said was very significant. He said, quite simply, “We take history graduates from Exeter University. We do that because we know they can think. We can do the rest.” (Daughter went to Exeter and now has a PhD, and an even prouder dad than before.) My point is that the skills universities teach *are* job skills, but they are often not recognised as such. Sometimes this is wilful: I have many colleagues in the humanities who wince at the possibility that their teaching could be put to such a grubby use as fitting people for work. But often it's just poor communication and poor identification. Too often students tell me that if they do history, they will know about Henry the Eighth and the Reformation. I tell them they will have skills in analysing documents, in interrogating evidence, in marshalling arguments and, above all, in expressing themselves and writing clearly, succinctly and persuasively. Moreover they will understand politics, power, and why people do the things they do. Then the mist begins to clear a little.

I wrote more about it here: http://reallyusefulknowledge.blogspot.com/2009/12/whats-point-of-studying-humanities.html


On 21/06/2013 05:08, David Preiss wrote:
Same things happening here as well: universities have evolved from being ivory tower institutions to become job training institutes without ever being settled in their calling to become laboratories of critical thinking. One of the things that I find most conservative of the new generations is that many of their demands are quite sensitive to the demands of the job market however their nature. Prepare us for real jobs, give us the practical skills to succeed "out there".  What about intellectual discovery? I love the image of Charles Darwin boarding the Beagle expedition when he had the age of a contemporary young graduate student. And I usually tell my students to contrast their boring and safe learning experience with that of Darwin.

On the other hand, if we look at the "grown ups" side, given the demands that the faculty face these days, I assume that many professors -specially the younger ones- are not in a situation to make risky adventures on unchartered paths of thought and board their own Beagles. These days, the nature of the academic job at the university has to do more with the industrial production of knowledge than with the free exploration of ideas. If an academic needs a good h-index to secure his or her post he or she should not be waiting time in publishing papers that go to anything that is not the mainstream.

Meanwhile, we are in a situation where the words "innovation" & "globalization" have such societal valued attached that many universities will become technological factories. Specially, with the universities worldwide confronting many financial challenges which can be sorted out with university entrepreneurship. The humanities are feeling the stress of this evolving dynamic and the social sciences are becoming everyday less "social" whatever that words means. That this is happening in a context where the human species is facing quite dramatic ecological and societal crisis makes the situation quite problematic.

On Jun 20, 2013, at 9:11 PM, mike cole wrote:

Many thoughts on your summary of the situation from where you live and work,

Here my most vivid impression after a year of teaching a "theory and practice" course with more or less the same students..... a whole academic year. It was a
great experience, but there is a huge gap between student expectations and faculty
concerns. The students are terrified of the future. They see a long haul from barista to barrister, or whatever their aims are.

They have learned, "mastered" in Jim Wertsch's sense, the melange of theories that faculty use to analyse various forms of communication, broadly construed. The faculty is in fashion these days in the range of fields it draws upon. A lot of critical

They want jobs. Event planning, marketing, pr, advertising....... you know, the kind of stuff a university SHOULD be teaching.("Why, look at San Diego State down the road! They do a much better job of preparing us for our futures than you do.")

As professionals when it came down to actually planning the real event these students were, by and large, pros. And what didn't know, they had the good sense to learn during this class: web skills, filming and editing skills, blogging skills, all of which, they knew or believed they new, were actually instrumental to shining at THE EVENT.

But linking events of the sort that people go to a lot of trouble of planning, to any general principles of communication? Naw, that's not possible! Makes for interesting teaching. I learned a lot. A syllabus on "eventology" has been put together by
the class to present to the faculty.

So what? I cannot save them from their futures. I can try to prepare them for
their futures, but they know a lot more about it than I do? Or a lot differently.

The value of democracy? From what I see around me, democracy rides on the back of either a full stomach, or at least the promise of a fuller stomach. But if it comes down to one-person-vs one vote on the one hand, and a full enough stomach on the other. people seem to be able to stomach some very difficult forms of life.

The solution? Quien sabe?

On Thu, Jun 20, 2013 at 5:53 PM, David Preiss <daviddpreiss@gmail.com> wrote:
Chile has been experiencing the same level of unrest for several years. Interestingly the focus of protests here is on the inequalities of our educational system, which express the ominous inequalities of Chilean society. The "student movement" has thus galvanized a broad demand for social justice, although some of their demands may have consequences that would not necessarily foster social justice if applied as requested without adding other structural reforms. The more contentious issue is whether university education should be free for all. As the universities here recruit most of their students among the socio-ecomomically advantaged, free public education at the university level will give more money to those that have more resources. In a country where the majority of poor kids don't have access to a good pre-school education many people think we should address preschool education first.

My main concern is how this social unrest can be channeled in a way that strengthens democracy. So far, our politicians have been incapable to provide an adequate interpretation to what is going on. And to the lack of communication between politicians and the public we can add that there is a generational struggle going on between the generations that were educated in a recovered democracy and the older ones that had to go through the ugly business of reconquering it by means of negotiation and not violence. Unfortunately, many of the protests have provided the occasion to violent clashes between protesters and the police as we are seeing in Turkey and Brazil. And students have adopted strategies that some people may share, and some others not: e.g., occupying schools, universities, stopping classes, and so. On the other hand, some student leaders are not necessarily "dialogical" (neither is the government). So, we have been in an impasse for almost half decade.

There is a lot at stake here. Not only whether people would pay or not according to their means for a public funded university education but also the way disagreements are and will be solved within Chilean democracy. Are our institutions solid enough to provide a good solution to civil unrest or would the country enter a stage of increasing polarization that would take the issue to a different arena where those with more power will end up imposing their views?

On Jun 20, 2013, at 4:04 PM, mike cole wrote:

Here is what a leading American newspaper is telling its readers about
Brazil today, for those outside of Brazil who have not been following

       Brazil’s Leftist Ruling Party, Born of Protests, Is Perplexed by
<http://p.nytimes.com/email/re?location=InCMR7g4BCKC2wiZPkcVUhzORrBwHzZn&user_id=bd31502e6eb851a9261827fdfbbcdf6d&email_type=eta&task_id=137175838146698> By

The governing Workers Party is watching with dismay as Brazil’s largest
city braces for a new round of demonstrations on Thursday.
    Or, copy and paste this URL into your browser: http://nyti.ms/16jagoV
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