Re: [xmca] University & Conformity

From: David Preiss <davidpreiss who-is-at>
Date: Mon May 26 2008 - 21:51:00 PDT

What surprises me more of this thread is the universal crisis of
universities as intellectual entities and, in particular, of
undergraduate education: it is interesting to notice, through this
thread, how the same issues arise in very different contexts, very
different times, very different political environments. But, I
wonder, did it ever exist a university such as that as we dream of?
How would that university look like? I empathize with many of the
quotations and comments, however I teach in a very different
institutions than those already mentioned.

Universities are placed in a space of conflicting demands: on the one
hand, they exist to reproduce cultural capital (like it or not) and,
consequently, they are essentially conservative institutions; on the
other hand, they are supposed to protect thinking & free speech, to
produce innovation, to act as a critical agent in society. On a
different dimension, universities are asked to promote
internationalization at the same time they are asked to protect
national values. Or religious ones.

At the same time, academics are supposed to act as free thinkers but
they are always constrained by the multiple demands of the academic
life, social conformity, pledge to the methods of a discipline,
subordination to an academic career. And students are asked to think
freely at the same time they are supposed to abide to the requisites
of a curriculum. Truly intellectual life is elsewhere, so it seems.
(Maybe in the life of a "flaneur" a la Benjamin? That is, in total
dispossession? )

And so it goes. It makes me think of what Mike has said about the
fact that schooling has not changed in centuries, from Sumerian time
through modern mass education.

Thus, the issue, the crisis is universal, permanent, repetitive.
Undergrads do not learn the way we want they learn, teachers do not
or cannot teach as we want them to teach. Same cry everywhere: in
public universities, but also in private ones (however what Mike just
said); in universities enrolling elite overachieving students; and in
universities enrolling students that drop.

How can such different contexts produce such similar dynamics? Where
are the origins of this crisis? Can this crisis be solved at all?
Were not the guys at the 60s protesting against the same thing?
Universities supposedly changed after the 60s. Did they, really?


On May 26, 2008, at 9:31 PM, Gordon Wells wrote:

>> I really doubt that this is a sensitive or delicate issue for
>> participants
>> in XMCA, Eric;
>> it would be sad if you were correct.
> I am sufficiently stung by the suggestion that the state of our
> universities and colleges is too sensitive for university teachers
> on xmca to get involved in the discussion to post a brief reply. I
> am in fact leaving tomorrow morning for a small conference on
> "Learning in Higher Education" and at the forthcoming ISCAR
> conference I have organized a symposium on CHAT and Higher
> Education, which I hope some of you will attend.
> Just over a year ago there was a meeting on the UCSC campus to
> discuss the long-range development plan (DSAP). At that meeting
> both the acting chancellor and the executive vice-chancellor spoke
> proudly about the high quality of our undergraduate program, as
> demonstrated by the high rank of our campus in getting
> undergraduates into postgraduate programs. I took the opportunity
> to suggest that there was equally cause for concern at the high
> dropout rate and the lack of serious interest in really engaging
> with the ideas presented in their courses shown by many students.
> At the EVC's invitation, I put my comments in writing and sent them
> to him. I received no reply. For those who are interested, I am
> attaching a copy of the letter that I sent to the EVC.
> Gordon
> --
> Gordon Wells
> Department of Education
> University of California, Santa Cruz
> ~gwells<Response to
> DSAP.doc>_______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list

David Preiss, Ph.D.
Subdirector de Extensión y Comunicaciones
Escuela de Psicología
Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile
Av Vicuña Mackenna - 4860
7820436 Macul
Santiago, Chile

Fono: 3544605
Fax: 3544844
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Received on Mon May 26 21:52 PDT 2008

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