Global Free Higher Education

24


Discussion by: Shawn Warren
It is possible to have free higher education (with many other improvements in the civic enterprise).  We do not have to suffer under the current system of institutions (universities/colleges), governments (federal/state or province) and unions (national/local) that is itself not sustainable – certainly not reproducible on a scale required by developing regions like India and China.

If the aim of the RDF is to promote reason and science, then the best way to achieve this is through education, as the religious do, of the young.  I recommend philosophy be taught to grade school children, but at the other end higher education be made universally free.

Distinct from its current institutional provision, higher education is the source of reason and science, coupled with a near universally accepted connection to social mobility.  If access and quality could be improved on a global scale then civilization could benefit from more thorough spread of rationalism, humanism, reason and scientific principles.

This can be achieved – with dramatic effects – by abandoning or not adopting the current triad of functionaries (including its universities and colleges) and instead adopting either of the following equally viable alternatives: 1) the professional or 2) the cooperative service paradigms.

I have argued that adoption of the professional or cooperative paradigm would reduce the total cost of higher education (not merely the advertised tuition) by at least 75% – among other substantial improvements.  Nations that have ratified the International
Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the United Nations
International Declaration of Human Rights could honour the higher education rights they explicitly enshrine (Articles 13 and 26, respectively) - including free higher education.

To my knowledge there is no higher education enterprise run as the medical, legal and engineering professions, but I maintain one could and should.  As an example of higher education provided under the cooperative model look to the University of Mondragon in Spain or the New University Cooperative in Canada. 

Either alternative service paradigm can provide us free higher education (of much better quality and accessibility).  The RDF should seriously consider advocating replacement of the current unsustainable paradigm in favour of one that can further its and humanities objectives.

24 COMMENTS

  1. I think it’s coming on-line. Coursera is brand new and already offers a wide variety of college courses taught by some of the best professors at some of the best universities in the world. It is free. I just took Introduction to Genetics and Evolution from Duke and it was the same course and the same professor they offer on-campus.

    At the moment, you cannot get actual college credits for taking these courses because the technology will not allow them to see it is actually me at my keyboard when the exam rolls around. I mean, current technology might suffice if this were a course with 50 or 100 students but when 20,000 or 100,000 people worldwide sign up, there is a problem.

    At the potential cost of some privacy, I think this problem will be overcome in the fairly near future. I really believe the democratization of learning is close at hand.

  2. I agree the massive open online course format is a wonderful advance and there is free learning, even education to be had – a difference that matters when our subject is quality of and access to a cornerstone of civilization that generates and disseminates knowledge for any society and its people.

    And 100 years more of technological innovation might see someone like myself replaced with artificial intelligent educators, available any where and any time the student wishes with costs so low the state will have no problem covering it – there will always be costs (and occasionally the need for profit). Perhaps we will have access to proper higher education for the cost of internet service.

    I hope so. But we are not in a democratic state yet. In fact I would judge us a long way off from the use of MOOCs as the vehicle for higher education in developed regions (Canada, UK, US) let alone in developing regions (China and India) that could arguable use access the most but require infrastructure that is cost-prohibitive.

    Coursera is an advance of a sort – all the technology it uses has been used in this capacity in one form or another for some time – but it does not and cannot offer for free what is necessary for top-quality education. No one can. And I do not mean the currency of higher education, credentials.

    I like how James Abram Garfield put it in his address to Williams College,

    “I am not willing that this discussion should close without mention of the value of a true teacher. Give me a log hut with only a simple bench, Mark Hopkins on one end and I on the other, and you may have all the buildings, apparatus, and libraries without him.”

    No matter the remarkable brick and mortar or zeros and ones you put between a student and a teacher, for effective education a teacher must know their student and vice versa – not an occasional (often under qualified) teaching assistant, mentor or peer.

    Whether it is a physical or virtual space in which the student and teacher meet there must be enough one-on-one time or time in small groups to properly educate. The student/teacher ratio needs to be lowered not increased as Coursera and other MOOCs offer.

    The proposal I have for a professional or cooperative higher education can give us this and on line or on campus for at least 75% less than it currently costs the state. This is a reduction that puts quality higher education within reach of many more regions and their people.

    I wonder, how many were enrolled in your course and how much access did you have to the professor from Duke?

    In reply to #1 by rjohn19:

    I think it’s coming on-line. Coursera is brand new and already offers a wide variety of college courses taught by some of the best professors at some of the best universities in the world. It is free. I just took Introduction to Genetics and Evolution from Duke and it was the same course and the same professor they offer on-campus.

    At the moment, you cannot get actual college credits for taking these courses because the technology will not allow them to see it is actually me at my keyboard when the exam rolls around. I mean, current technology might suffice if this were a course with 50 or 100 students but when 20,000 or 100,000 people worldwide sign up, there is a problem.

    At the potential cost of some privacy, I think this problem will be overcome in the fairly near future. I really believe the democratization of learning is close at hand.

  3. I’ve learnt more since school than I ever did in it; I assume most people have. Higher education where a degree is required will continue to be a problem but to be self educated is much easier now, with the internet, than it ever was before. Small fee online teaching to large audience classes will solve the money issue but it won’t help with ensuring the student is actually the student.

    I have never been asked to present either my degree or diploma but I am in the creative field where my work is all that matters. I kind of wish I had never gone to post secondary as I found it a large waste of money learning material that was outdated and easily accessible outside the classroom. Basically, art school was critique school, where nothing about technique was ever taught and the rest of my education was just a list of books to read.

    Had I studied in the sciences, the lab would have had value, I suppose.

  4. My experience is that I was educated in my subject of philosophy in and out of formal school, with others and on my own. The two mentors I thankfully, and in this system quite by accident, stumbled across in university were great influences – as citizen and academic.

    Would you agree that if self-taught or educated through the technology available to us is the way to go on a global scale then we have to better prepare learners for this?

    For instance, at the moment students in elementary and secondary levels of education are not taught how to reason properly or be critical thinkers. Consequently they are not provided a critical cognitive tool required to properly educate themselves, by any means. This is very irksome to a philosopher.

    The reasons for this are complex but among them is the fact that education at all levels is a social control mechanism, used to design citizen and civilization. Proper free thinkers are not part of the current global design of oppression, coercion, persuasion, manipulation, and so on. RDF is about changing that. Noam Chomsky has some great views on this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_EgdShO1K8

    There needs to be stewardship and shepherding of education that is more democratic – as you point out can be facilitated by modern technology. But education in a given subject for instance cannot be a free-for-all (e.g., one could at least use a mentor for guidance if not evaluation for credit) and who or what (corporation/nation/religious group) will individuals turn too as socially designed non-thinkers?

    You are lucky to have avoided this design trap and I have told many students they should not be getting their education in a university – online or off.

    But if the aim is to stop the spread of religious thinking and replace it with proper (dare I say) philosophical thinking (the root of scientific thinking) then we will need qualified academics to do that – and lots more of them around the globe (on or off line).

    Or so I believe. And I also believe that the social experiment I am proposing through the professional and cooperative service paradigms is a way to achieve this.

    In reply to #3 by aquilacane:

    I’ve learnt more since school than I ever did in it; I assume most people have. Higher education where a degree is required will continue to be a problem but to be self educated is much easier now, with the internet, than it ever was before. Small fee online teaching to large audience classes will solve the money issue but it won’t help with ensuring the student is actually the student.

    I have never been asked to present either my degree or diploma but I am in the creative field where my work is all that matters. I kind of wish I had never gone to post secondary as I found it a large waste of money learning material that was outdated and easily accessible outside the classroom. Basically, art school was critique school, where nothing about technique was ever taught and the rest of my education was just a list of books to read.

    Had I studied in the sciences, the lab would have had value, I suppose.

  5. “We do not have to suffer under the current system of institutions (universities/colleges), governments (federal/state or province) and unions (national/local) that is itself not sustainable – certainly not reproducible on a scale required by developing regions like India and China”

    You state that as if its a given and not even worth justifying with evidence. Its not a given to me. Of course any institution can be improved and there are immense opportunities to do so with technology such as the Internet. But that isn’t the same thing as saying that we are currently “suffering” from institutions such as universities. I’m not suffering from universities. I love them. I go to local universities all the time for seminars and I’ve taken several online courses from established universities (the game theory class from Yale in iTunes is especially good)

    Whenever I hear people say things like “We do not have to suffer under the current system of institutions (universities/colleges),” my BS detector immediately goes off. As a US citizen I hear know-nothing people like Rick Santorum spout all kinds of nonsense about our university system. Also, there is another group (often tied with the know-nothings) who advocate for profit schools as opposed to the current university system. Such people are primarily charlatans more interested in making a fast buck then actually improving the education system.

    Can you give some specific examples of how we are “suffering” from universities? And also why universities can’t meet the needs of places like India and China? I don’t know about China but I know several people from India and their school system for higher learning seems excellent in many ways, some of the strongest people in math and computer science that I’ve worked with in my carrer were schooled in India.

  6. Me too on the BS meter. I apologize for the drama, but frankly higher education is approaching a world-wide crisis.

    Here is just a hint of the sobering reality (that needs no added drama):

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/suicide-among-indias-young-adults-at-crisis-levels/article4362016/ (China and South Korea share similar tragedies)

    http://www.knowledgecommission.gov.in/downloads/report2009/eng/report09.pdf (Pg 62 in particular)

    http://utotherescue.blogspot.ca/ (Just one site devoted to the many serious problems in the US alone.)

    I too have gotten a great deal of direct and indirect benefit from universities, but that is because they are the only ones offering what is of actual benefit, the education and research.

    Higher education and its institutions (universities and colleges) are not synonymous. The latter institutions are just one means of providing the former, mere functionaries. And while you and yours might not suffer under it (at least directly) many others certainly do – and unnecessarily.

    In reply to #5 by Red Dog:

    “We do not have to suffer under the current system of institutions (universities/colleges), governments (federal/state or province) and unions (national/local) that is itself not sustainable – certainly not reproducible on a scale required by developing regions like India and China”

    You state that as if its a given and not even worth justifying with evidence. Its not a given to me. Of course any institution can be improved and there are immense opportunities to do so with technology such as the Internet. But that isn’t the same thing as saying that we are currently “suffering” from institutions such as universities. I’m not suffering from universities. I love them. I go to local universities all the time for seminars and I’ve taken several online courses from established universities (the game theory class from Yale in iTunes is especially good)

    Whenever I hear people say things like “We do not have to suffer under the current system of institutions (universities/colleges),” my BS detector immediately goes off. As a US citizen I hear know-nothing people like Rick Santorum spout all kinds of nonsense about our university system. Also, there is another group (often tied with the know-nothings) who advocate for profit schools as opposed to the current university system. Such people are primarily charlatans more interested in making a fast buck then actually improving the education system.

    Can you give some specific examples of how we are “suffering” from universities? And also why universities can’t meet the needs of places like India and China? I don’t know about China but I know several people from India and their school system for higher learning seems excellent in many ways, some of the strongest people in math and computer science that I’ve worked with in my carrer were schooled in India.

  7. In reply to #6 by Shawn Warren:

    Me too on the BS meter. I apologize for the drama, but frankly higher education is approaching a world-wide crisis.

    Here is just a hint of the sobering reality (that needs no added drama):

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/suicide-among-indias-young-adults-at-crisis-levels/article4362016/ (China and South Korea share similar tragedies)

    http://www.knowledgecommission.gov.in/downloads/report2009/eng/report09.pdf (Pg 62 in particular)

    I haven’t looked at the third link yet but neither of the first two seem to support your statement that we are suffering from the current university system. The first link was all about the high suicide rate among India’s young people. Certainly a problem but I don’t see how the University system can be cited as the primary cause for the suicides and the article didn’t seem to imply that. The word “university” doesn’t even occur once in the article. Its true that suicide is higher for better educated people but I think that is actually a rather common phenomenon and in any case I don’t see how that fact implies the current university system is broken.

    And the second PDF document on page 62 actually calls for MORE universities. True it also describes some reforms and improvements (better access, more affirmative action, etc.) but that is nothing at all like your claim that the entire university system is flawed and that we need to come up with some radical alternative. I think that document actually supports my hypothesis much better, that the current university system actually works pretty well and what we need to do is give more people access through increased funding and better use of technology, not create some alternate paradigm based on the professional or cooperative services paradigm.

  8. In reply to #4 by Shawn Warren:


    Would you agree that if self-taught or educated through the technology available to us is the way to go on a global scale then we have to better prepare learners for this?

    For instance, at the moment students in elementary and secondary levels of education are not taught how to reason properly or be critical thinkers. Consequently they are not provided a critical cognitive tool required to properly educate themselves, by any means. This is very irksome to a philosopher.

    The reasons for this are complex but among them is the fact that education at all levels is a social control mechanism, used to design citizen and civilization. Proper free thinkers are not part of the current global design of oppression, coercion, persuasion, manipulation, and so on. RDF is about changing that. Noam Chomsky has some great views on this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_EgdShO1K8

    There needs to be stewardship and shepherding of education that is more democratic – as you point out can be facilitated by modern technology. But education in a given subject for instance cannot be a free-for-all (e.g., one could at least use a mentor for guidance if not evaluation for credit) and who or what (corporation/nation/religious group) will individuals turn too as socially designed non-thinkers?

    You are lucky to have avoided this design trap and I have told many students they should not be getting their education in a university – online or off.

    But if the aim is to stop the spread of religious thinking and replace it with proper (dare I say) philosophical thinking (the root of scientific thinking) then we will need qualified academics to do that – and lots more of them around the globe (on or off line).

    Or so I believe. And I also believe that the social experiment I am proposing through the professional and cooperative service paradigms is a way to achieve this.

    In reply to #3 by aquilacane:

    I think one of the problems many students have is the need to be taught. Some of us can think others can’t. I have often made the statement that I would rather hire a person who knows only two things but from them can make a third than someone who know many things but from them can make nothing. Most of us just regurgitate what we have been taught without thinking at all.

    My experience with school, regarding my teachers, was that most of them had a poor grasp on reason and were unable to think for themselves. They follow a script to teach, much like the student studies from one. In the late 80s, I recall asking my chemistry teacher about carbon 60 balls and their ability to capture oil, or something like that, he had no idea what I was talking about. I don’t think he was actually a chemistry teacher. I spent the rest of the year asking questions he couldn’t answer.

    When I am asked who my mentors are, I ultimately come up with none. I can’t think of anyone who I looked up to or held in high regard for any positive influence they had on me. I took pride in figuring out stuff myself. I was forever arguing about religion, it was fun.

  9. In reply to #7 by Red Dog:

    In reply to #6 by Shawn Warren:

    Perhaps a broader or more direct research net will help you to see the serious problem. You can try the New York and LA Times or the Guardian sections on higher education – that is correct these papers devout sections to the topic, because things are so bad. More directly you can go to the American Federation of Teachers or the American Association of University Professors or any student union association. And the third site I provided in a previous post to you can help direct.

    With respect, there is a problem, you are simply not aware of it.

    The National Knowledge link I provided for India says it REQUIRES more universities (1500) and some 300,000 more faculty in the next 15 years, not that they will get them. Do you think the US or UK could afford such an expansion of their HE systems in the next 15 years? I think not. So how is India supposed to accomplish this?

    If the demand as India sees it for HE (and research) cannot be meet, then this is at least a problem – and only one with the global enterprise. And the problem is faced by humanity, not just individuals.

    India and China have massive populations that should be receiving HE and cannot. They and others cannot supply the demand because of the current model used to provide HE. It is not sustainable in affluent regions, let alone regions in development, period. This means alternatives should be welcomed and considered, especially in this forum if the aim of the RDF is to spread reason.

    I hope you come to appreciate the circumstance.

    Cheers

  10. Hi Shawn,

    You propose:

    If the aim of the RDF is to promote reason and science, then the best way to achieve this is through education, as the religious do, of the young. I recommend philosophy be taught to grade school children, but at the other end higher education be made universally free.

    Both of these things seem to be essential.

    I may be guilty of subjective judgement, and not forgetting confirmation bias, but the numbers are so overwhelming that it does appear to be a fait accompli that we humans learn methods of thinking when we are young.

    It seems obvious to me that critical thinking – above and beyond that taught, almost by accident, in science classes – should be a subject at secondary level (11 to 16). I can’t understand why this isn’t a policy goal for the RDFRS and other interested parties.

    I wish someone would explain to me why this isn’t being done. I would be glad to lend a hand, if a campaign is required.

    I would caution against headlining with philosophy. Some religions have been around for a very long time and the boundary between some elements of theology and philosophy are filled with a fog of supposed ‘connections’. Headlining with critical thinking would allow students to see philosophy in a different light – and allow them to develop a leaning towards those areas of philosophy more conducive to understanding of the natural World.

    My position is, of course, based on the assumption that everyone would be better off if their education was focused on helping them to understand their actual lives in the real World.

    As far as making tertiary education available to everyone goes – the Open University has low, or no, entry requirements for many of its courses and has been established since 1969. It offers graduate status accreditation, and post-grad studies, that compete with top universities. It has an international student body:
    OU. It charges fees.

    An alternative is emerging, as another post has highlighted: Coursera. Cousera is free, but offers courses that appear designed not to compete with its partners (leading universities), so the status of their accreditation is low. I have attempted one of their courses, but had to give up as the time I had available was just not sufficient. This hasn’t put me off, I will try again when I have finished moving house. My experience shows that Coursera courses are serious and involve you deeply in the subject.

    In Britain we’ve heard our politicians saying a lot about ‘life-time’ learning. My personal experience of this is that it is limited to vocational courses and trades: nursing, electricians, etc.. It is a great pity that there is not an international movement towards a more broad-based definition where we recognise that we all need to learn throughout our lives.

    To get to that point I submit that we first need to get over the very recent (less than fifteen years) change in attitudes to tertiary education. Everyone has been talking about tertiary education as if the only social imperative is economic activity, and the economic advantages gained by graduates. We need to get back to the idea that learning is good for its own sake. We are all better for being well educated and up-to-date.

    Part of the problem is the commercialization of media. Because media are now owned by grocers, they tend to see everything through commercial-tinted glasses and that means they’re only interested in an education system that produces employees and consumers. If it also happens to produce a stratified society from an early age – all the better. The last thing most business leaders want is a populace that is constantly innovating. That’s their job – so that they can licence it.

    The politicians and the media are the new ruling class. These people get their tickets to the upper-echelons via graduation from good universities.

    When you say:

    If [education] access and quality could be improved on a global scale then civilization could benefit from more thorough spread of rationalism, humanism, reason and scientific principles.

    This can be achieved – with dramatic effects – by abandoning or not adopting the current … universities and colleges and instead adopting either of the following equally viable alternatives:

    1) the professional or

    2) the co-operative service paradigms.

    … you must realize that your talking about overturning the international status quo?

    Revolutions rarely succeed. They tend to actually increase the time it takes for real change to take place.

    Professions are a thorn in the side of the political-media oligarchy and have therefore been targeted for some considerable time. Note the rise of the para-legal and the nurse-practitioner, the loss of the bank manager, the fall from favor of the librarian …

    I am intrigued by what you mean when you say co-operative service models can replace colleges. A group of coal-miners can gather in the local pub and create their own course on genetics or particle physics?

    Education costs. The resources it consumes are no different to any other human endeavour in the modern World: Time & Money. The money has to come from somewhere. The OU uses government money, takes fees and sometimes gets students to pony up for their own equipment. Coursera is currently funded by start-up capital – they’re still working on their business case. Sadly, like most Net 2.0 enterprises, its founders appear to incline towards trading power over your personal data for a return (in this case access to a course).

    It is possible to offer courses at low levels of cost. Some further education colleges (offering night classes) use volunteer lecturers – but there is still administration, books, marking of assignments and for some courses other items.

    Distance learning and the Net are helping to reduce many of these costs – but they are not going to fall to zero.

    Mondragon and the New University Cooperative in Canada appear to be targeting the under-privileged. While I can see that’s a worthy goal, I don’t see it setting the World alight as regards improving the status of education, improving the accessibility of education beyond the addition of a few more young undergraduates (i.e. slightly increasing the entry numbers to the upper class), or improving the level of educational achievement in them population as a whole. Incidentally, the NUC doesn’t appear to have updated its Net pages since 2011 – is it still going?

    All things considered, when you say that you’re:

    … advocating replacement of the current unsustainable paradigm in favour of one that can further its and humanities objectives.

    … sorry Shawn, but, I just don’t see that happening.

    Peace.

  11. In reply to #9 by Shawn Warren:

    In reply to #7 by Red Dog:

    In reply to #6 by Shawn Warren:

    Perhaps a broader or more direct research net will help you to see the serious problem. You can try the New York and LA Times or the Guardian sections on higher education – that is correct these papers devout sections to the topic, because things are so bad. More directly you can go to the American Federation of Teachers or the American Association of University Professors or any student union association. And the third site I provided in a previous post to you can help direct.

    You are the one making a rather spectacular claim, that the current university system won’t work for the 21st century. As I said to someone else on another thread, the default in science is the null hypothesis, so its not up to me to disprove your claim its up to you to support it and frankly so far you haven’t done that at all.

    I’ll admit to my bias: as an American and someone who values education and yes frankly loves universities I feel a bit threatened by US culture these days. Just this morning I read (I swear I’m not making this up) that a Fox news pundit was attacking their children’s algebra course for teaching the distributive law because they saw that as an example of indoctrinating kids with ideas of redistributing wealth. This is the kind of insane nonsense that US citizens see on a regular basis. So when I see someone claiming: “We do not have to suffer under the current system of institutions (universities/colleges)… and unions (national/local) that is itself not sustainable ” I’m going to be especially critical and not apologize for it.

    Having said that I looked at the New University Cooperative and think it looks like a good idea. I’m all for those kind of efforts. I just think its a big mistake to set them up as alternatives to the current university system. They can supplement it and work with it absolutely.

  12. In reply to #10 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

    Beautiful. Thank you for the thoughtful comment, Stephen.

    About 15 years ago I was involved with a group in Nova Scotia and elsewhere in Canada that was pushing for formal introduction of philosophy to the elementary and secondary systems. We offered and they received (gratis) education, training, curriculum, team-teaching, ran a few pilot sessions, and the will to continue ——– flatline.

    Children in primary and first grade were doing philosophy (in this case using the formal tools of reasoning and logic) without any difficulty. It was gorgeous.

    Ontario offers (and I have tutored) two philosophy courses to high school students (as of about 5 years ago). But there is no reason to believe that has changed since this level of education is also a (criminal) mess – and incidentally might be converted with benefit to the professional and cooperative models (the latter already exists with about 90 cooperative secondary schools operating in the US – teacher owned and run).

    I do appreciate that if the social experiment I am suggesting comes out as I expect (or hope) then we would have a very different status quo. In no small part because the enterprise we speak of is a, perhaps the civic pillar – and mints in the currency of the future, information/knowledge. Control it, make it healthy and you can help do the same for the world. The weld is solid.

    Ok, Stephen, so what about something smaller, like wider public discussion of these alternative means of providing higher education? As we are doing. Or more ambitiously some formal study of their plausibility by a think-tank or university or other interested research group, moving the options to a proper research agenda? It is certainly a sexy cross-disciplinary subject. Or a state pilot project with either alternative model annexed to an existing university? The financial benefits to the existing, host institution are surprising: http://professionalsocietyofacademics.blogspot.ca/2012/12/economic-argument-for-professional-and.html Or as there still exist some institutions in the US (at least) that are not unionized and so have not formed the offending current triad, what about changing what is essentially their business model to operate as a cooperative?

    There are other less revolutionary options…

    We share a view of the purpose of (higher) education, one remote from economic interests. As the literature says, higher education has moved from being a public to private good. And this certainly makes it easier to maintain the status quo…

    I have some responses to e-education (including MOOCs, course sales, etc); and the alternatives I proposer are compatible with and contribute improvement to this inevitable progression in higher education.

    But if I may, your intrigue with the cooperative service model is more instructive.

    Certainly the New University Cooperative is explicitly aimed at providing access to the under-privileged, I would judge Mondragon is less so oriented and this highlights the misconception commonly held about these alternatives.

    First, if we take existing use of the cooperative model in the case of under-privileged access as evidence for its viability, then this seems excellent reason to deploy it in India and China and South Korea and Africa… Or maybe both alternatives belong.

    Second, these are alternative service paradigms, means of production, organization, finance, labour relations and the like. How they are ultimately employed in any given social enterprise is up to us (society and ultimately academics, the only essential, authoritative labour in the sector). And we have the past mistakes of both paradigms from which to cull lessons for their new academic/higher education application.

    Because they have been used to create professions we might dislike or are associated with sectors of society foreign to most (such as agriculture or the under-privileged), does not mean the models are not useful, even an improvement overt the current.

    Third, the cost of higher education under either alternative is not an issue. Both paradigms reduce the total cost of higher education by at least 75% – not tuition, the total cost. It could be free.

    I appreciate your sympathy, but could use your hand.

    You are willing to help with a campaign to introduce critical reasoning (philosophy) to children; but as I indicated at the beginning, the battle is at least as difficult at this level. Perhaps more so, after all at least in higher education you are attempting to affect the education of adults. Try pushing that button with children and then watch the adults.

    No, I think our best bet – and it is along shot I agree – is with tertiary education (and research).

  13. In reply to #11 by Red Dog:

    “You are the one making a rather spectacular claim, that the current university system won’t work for the 21st century. As I said to someone else on another thread, the default in science is the null hypothesis, so its not up to me to disprove your claim its up to you to support it and frankly so far you haven’t done that at all.”

    In reply to #9 by Shawn Warren:

    In reply to #7 by Red Dog:

    In reply to #6 by Shawn Warren

    Yes, the null hypothesis. Philosophy of science. It is up to me to disprove your claim, so to speak. This not really its proper function but keeping in this vein, I might be committing a Type I error and higher education is healthy. However, I believe the material I have directed you to as a start for research in this area precludes the charge of false positive.

    Properly examined this evidence does disprove your null hypothesis. But this is subject matter open to considerable play in meaning – not typical of diseased bodies.

    Of course another possibility is you have committed a Type II error, by (say) failing to use experimental equipment properly (in this case critical investigative and reasoning skills) in your research of the evidence offered to you that disproves the null – and to you it looks like there is no problem, but there really, really is. This would be disastrous, as it often is in medicine.

    As you say, I am making a spectacular claim about the dire state of higher education. But it is spectacular because it is foreign and defies expectation (and certain people’s personal experiences, such as your own), even though almost unanimously those of us in the field who study higher education think the “spectacular claim” now the default, on any reasonable reading of the evidence.

    I am sorry you do not see it, yet. I am happy to keep the dialogue going…

    Cheers

  14. In reply to #12 by Shawn Warren:

    Hi Shawn,

    About 15 years ago I was involved with a group in Nova Scotia and elsewhere in Canada that was pushing for formal introduction of philosophy to the elementary and secondary systems. We offered and they received (gratis) education, training, curriculum, team-teaching, ran a few pilot sessions, and the will to continue ——– flatline.

    Although you took the initiative and invested in the project – so too did the teachers and schools involved. It seems to me that if you want this to grow you have to explore the lack of motivation.

    Children in primary and first grade were doing philosophy (in this case using the formal tools of reasoning and logic) without any difficulty. It was gorgeous.

    What did their teachers and parents think? Was it gorgeous in their eyes?

    I appreciate that taking education down this path is desirable – even an imperative – if we look at the bigger picture. But how much of the bigger picture is visible to parents, teachers, head teachers, administrators and the wider local community who, for better or worse, are paying the bills and voting for the local politicians? Did you cover this off?

    If you were to read my viewpoint as if it were a work of fiction my guess is that your gripe so far would be: Who are all these people, and why should I care?

    Caring about the children is easy. Ask any advertiser; kids sell. They grab our attention and stimulate our energy because that’s how evolution has forged us.

    But when we consider education we must remember that the kids don’t exist in a vacuum; they are a part of society-at-large.

    … there is no reason to believe that … this … criminal … mess [in Ontario High Schools] … [etc.]

    This is why I keep coming back to RDFRS. Strategically they have a clear goal, and it’s the right goal. If the human race ate ‘critical thinking and evidence-based understanding’ we’d all be close to death from starvation.

    Education in most Western countries – and English-speaking parts appear to be the worst – are suffering from this transparent fault line in our politics.

    Recognise that the Ontario school system could be a beacon of hope and progress – but only if it is backed by the people of Ontario. The more the merrier.

    “And just how am I supposed to do that?” I hear you ask. In a word: Organise.

    This is the second thing RDFRS has got right. Tactically we will lose every initiative, like introducing philosophy and critical thinking into schools, if there is no political capital behind it. Sean Faircloth is leading the charge in North America by pointing out that we need elected representatives to rally behind. All of the directors have said (with, to the best my knowledge, the exception of Andy Thompson – but that probably has more to do with his role rather than his personal position) that one thing that is missing is organised Nones.

    Look at how religions are involved in schools in your area – the Catholic resistance to the anti-bullying bill, or Laurel Broten’s agreement on guidelines whereby students of all faiths are allowed special privileges so they can worship at school, the OACS, the list seems to just go on and on …

    What are the Nones in Ontario doing about this, beyond shouting at their TV screens when these people get their way?

    Is it enough?

    I do appreciate that if the social experiment I am suggesting comes out as I expect (or hope) then we would have a very different status quo.

    I think you may be missing my main point here Shawn. The status quo is the status quo because it has built-in resistance to change. What is your strategy for overcoming that resistance? When it comes to changing fundamental parts of how education is viewed and maintained by the wider society you need to consider vested interests, power bases, motivations, meme competition, and more … You don’t seem to me to have a grasp of the mountain you have set out to climb. Without wishing to be rude, you look like an Alpine Walker ready to take an afternoon stroll in the Summer foothills. The reality is it’s a cold Winter out there and you’ve set your sights on the Mont Blanc peak.

    … the enterprise we speak of is a, perhaps the civic pillar – and mints in the currency of the future, information/knowledge. Control it, make it healthy and you can help do the same for the world. The weld is solid.

    Your preaching to the converted. When you talk about control you will raise political hackles. If I have control, if take the driving seat, who will I displace? Will they be happy about that? Who are the passengers, and how do I persuade them I’m the best person to drive – or navigate?

    OK, Stephen, so what about something smaller, like wider public discussion of these alternative means of providing higher education? As we are doing.

    Now your heading in the right direction.

    Or more ambitiously some formal study of their plausibility by a think-tank or university or other interested research group, moving the options to a proper research agenda?

    Ah, research. Will it have political traction in a World that, as discussed above, is rather short on critical thinking at the mo.? I may be guilty of being too flippant, perhaps it will have POLITICAL VALUE? Because, let’s be clear about this, that’s the only value that counts.

    Or a state pilot project with either alternative model annexed to an existing university?

    That I do like. To compete with the popularity of the Catholic schools you will, of course, have to ensure that those schools beat them in terms of overall results.

    The financial benefits to the existing, host institution are surprising …

    Good, there will be takers then.

    Or as there still exist some institutions in the US (at least) that are not unionized and so have not formed the offending current triad, what about changing what is essentially their business model to operate as a co-operative?

    Your asking me? I know about many subjects – mostly only enough to be dangerous – but with the management of education I’m not prepared to get into detail.

    There are other less revolutionary options…

    We share a view of the purpose of (higher) education, one remote from economic interests. As the literature says, higher education has moved from being a public to private good. And this certainly makes it easier to maintain the status quo…

    Yes, this is a big part of the problem. It seems to me that the whole public-private-good argument is a false dichotomy. If I’m better educated I’m not the only one who benefits. Not only that but even if my education adds nothing to my earning powers society will be better off. There is value on both sides of the equation.

    Certainly the New University Co-operative is explicitly aimed at providing access to the under-privileged, I would judge Mondragon is less so oriented and this highlights the misconception commonly held about these alternatives.

    First, if we take existing use of the co-operative model in the case of under-privileged access as evidence for its viability, then this seems excellent reason to deploy it in India and China and South Korea and Africa… Or maybe both alternatives belong.

    Sorry Shawn, you lost me. What is the co-operative model? I had a good look round the NUC site but came away as ignorant as when I arrived there.

    Second, these are alternative service paradigms, means of production, organization, finance, labour relations and the like.

    If you say so. I cannot judge, I cannot see what the alternative model is. What is the co-operative model for the supply of education?

    How they are ultimately employed in any given social enterprise is up to us (society and ultimately academics, the only essential, authoritative labour in the sector). And we have the past mistakes of both paradigms from which to cull lessons for their new academic/higher education application.

    Because they have been used to create professions we might dislike or are associated with sectors of society foreign to most (such as agriculture or the under-privileged), does not mean the models are not useful, even an improvement overt the current.

    Fair enough.

    Third, the cost of higher education under either alternative is not an issue. Both paradigms reduce the total cost of higher education by at least 75% – not tuition, the total cost. It could be free.

    I must remain sceptical while I do not have a co-op model in view.

    I appreciate your sympathy, but could use your hand.

    First, I need to know what you plan to achieve. Then I need to hear how you plan to achieve it. I also need to feel that we can achieve something that I think is worthwhile. I would like to get some idea of why doing this is important. Lastly, I’ll need to know what you need – how I might be able to help.

    Again, Shawn, I don’t wish to appear rude but you appear to be missing some vital elements of a political leader. The nature of the fight you want to get into is political, and in democratic Ontario that means working with people – lots of people. You need to have a clear message, you need to recruit people, you need to motivate people, you need to talk to people and link what they with what you want, you need to win arguments – lots of arguments, you need to recognise who your natural allies and enemies are and work with them as those tendencies dictate. You need organisation – people, places, resources, links to the Media, etc..

    If you can’t see how to do that, you need to find a political leader to work with. I don’t want to sell you short here, your commitment and passion come across – even via text – and you are obviously sincere. Most political leaders would give their right arm for a supporter like you – and if you choose the right one they will repay you.

    You are willing to help with a campaign to introduce critical reasoning (philosophy) to children; but as I indicated at the beginning, the battle is at least as difficult at this level. Perhaps more so, after all at least in higher education you are attempting to affect the education of adults. Try pushing that button with children and then watch the adults.

    Politics is not about pushing buttons. Politics is about listening and engaging with people.

    I think our best bet – and it is along shot I agree – is with tertiary education (and research).

    To be honest, I don’t feel motivated by tertiary education. I believe that I speak for most of the World – including most graduates. Tertiary education has become subject to economic pressures because the oligarchy has labelled it a means to an end (in many countries merely formalising what most of us knew anyway).

    There is a useful debate to be had about improving critical thinking in tertiary education. There are also traditional ways of combating the current dearth A.C. Grayling’s College. But, in the end, it is improving the levels of critical thinking from primary and secondary levels that will pay the greatest dividends and vastly improve so many more lives.

    If you’re going to interest me, and many more like me, in tertiary education your going to have to climb the Matterhorn too.

    Peace.

  15. In reply to #14 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

    In reply to #12 by Shawn Warren:

    Hi Stephen,

    Sorry for the delay in my reply. Again thank you for your thoughtful contribution.

    You are not being rude at all. You are being very helpful. Besides, philosophers have thick skins protected by our desire for the truth, no matter what. Like the scientist if I should find that the proposal or some aspect of it will not work, then I will consider it progress and approach the problem anew.

    The weaknesses you identify in me are spot on. And you clearly know a thing or two about activism and organizing. As you suspect I know very little, but am learning on the fly.

    What did their teachers and parents think? Was it gorgeous in their eyes?
    But how much of the bigger picture is visible to parents, teachers, head teachers, administrators and the wider local community who, for better or worse, are paying the bills and voting for the local politicians? Did you cover this off?

    The entire community right up to a handful of important politicians thought it wonderful. In the end there simply was no money – the same problem faced by higher education. There was no money for music, physical education, teacher’s aids…..so certainly none for philosophy and the boards would not let the voluntary teaching continue without proper curriculum integration and at least the hope of funding enough to sustain the program.

    Sorry Shawn, you lost me. What is the co-operative model? I had a good look round the NUC site but came away as ignorant as when I arrived there.

    Yes I was as well. Please ignore them for the moment. First, as with the professional, I am only interested in the formal organizational and operational features of these paradigms. How they are applied in practice to any given higher education system is, as the sociologists use the term, a matter of biology. But certainly where communities struggle to obtain goods and services or recognition of their rights one common response is to form a consumer, worker, or social benefit cooperative (each with their own subtleties).

    I am leaning more toward this version of the proposal for reform in part because it places tertiary education in the social economy, where it belongs, and can lean on a well-established global network of cooperative federations.

    I respect and admire Prof. Dawkins and Prof. Grayling put I must say Grayling’s response and Dawkins’ participation in this New College that is a traditional way of combating the problem is not acceptable, from where I sit.

    Grayling says in the piece you linked, “the business model might seem unusual for a group of professors who are, for the most part, “pink around the gills and a little bit left of centre”, but he said government cuts meant going private was the only way to provide a high-quality humanities education and he predicted more universities would go private.

    It is the economic reality,” he said. “The £9,000 cap is completely unsustainable. The true cost is way more and that ceiling is going to have to be burst. Other universities might also think ‘either we sink or go independent’. Almost all of [the professors signed up] have served our time with decades in public sector higher education and we have seen it get more and more difficult. It is quite a struggle now to see into the future with how we can cope with these cuts. Either you stand on the sidelines deploring what is happening or you jump in and do something about it.”’

    Of course you can see that from where I sit this private path is not “the only way” to provide high-quality education, especially in the humanities. There are two other alternatives, while everyone – even the laudable Dawkins and Grayling – can only see public or private. In philosophy this is called a false dilemma.

    So Stepthen, do you want to jump in and do something about it? I can only hint at what is needed and strategy in this forum.

    One thing that can be done and what I am trying to do here is have the members of RDF lobby the Foundation to look into these alternatives (get them on a proper research agenda). I am composing a piece of correspondence I hope to ultimately get into Dawkins’ hands, somehow – this site seemed a decent place to start. You could help in its composition and delivery, or publicity of the alternative models for service in other arenas or ears that might be sympathetic. If you know or know of anyone who can do a proper costing of both models or can develop a business plan for an independent (professional or cooperative) practice in (say) philosophy or sociology or history…then this would also be helpful.

    The cooperative model can also place elementary and secondary education in the social economy and has done so all over the world for over a century, including the US. (I understand you are not as motivated by the equally dire straights at the tertiary level.) But this has not happened for tertiary, with two notable exceptions: Mondragon University and People’s College of Law.

    Please consider: Here is a weak but more thorough treatment of what follows: http://professionalsocietyofacademics.blogspot.ca/2013/01/higher-education-in-social-economy.html

    Education has always been an explicit principle of the cooperative business model, unlike the current capitalist in which education is a commodity to be traded, individually valued as a means to further capitalist participation and far from a democratic state.

    Cooperatives can mass-diversify and are scalable to the global level, where the known effective supports are in place (e.g., a cooperative banking system such as a credit union).

    Much of the support required is already available in examples such as the large federated Mondragon or Lega in Italy and others around the world, including movements shaken but still deeply rooted such as the Antigonish Movement in my home province, Nova Scotia – which resulted in founding of the respected Coady International Institute.

    In a digital age uniting these groups to an end of establishing a cooperative higher education presence around the globe is not implausible. Mondragon is accredited with a very small but actual Humanities Faculty (education and media/communication) and along with other federation a strong cooperative banking system. Couple this with advocacy from a legal school like the CPL and its alumni and I think you can begin to see the possibilities….

    I lay out some of my other reasoning on how these alternatives can change things at the proposal’s blog: http://professionalsocietyofacademics.blogspot.ca/

    Thank you for the Sean Faircloth line. I will investigate.

    Hope to hear from you again.

    Shawn

  16. In reply to #15 by Shawn Warren:

    Hi Shawn,

    Sorry for the delay in my reply.

    Likewise. Pesky real life.

    You are not being rude at all. You are being very helpful. Besides, philosophers have thick skins protected by our desire for the truth, no matter what.

    Good to know. Many posters have very thin skins.

    The weaknesses you identify in me are spot on. And you clearly know a thing or two about activism and organizing. As you suspect I know very little, but am learning on the fly.

    I would never call myself an expert. I’ve done a little – exclusively in single-issue politics.

    What did their teachers and parents think? Was it gorgeous in their eyes?
    But how much of the bigger picture is visible to parents, teachers, head teachers, administrators and the wider local community who, for better or worse, are paying the bills and voting for the local politicians? Did you cover this off?

    The entire community right up to a handful of important politicians thought it wonderful.

    That really covers my main concern. From your description; this was a primary or secondary level pilot?

    In the end there simply was no money – the same problem faced by higher education. There was no money for music, physical education, teacher’s aids … so certainly none for philosophy …

    I have never understood that style of thinking. If something is important, it’s important enough to continue to receive the same proportion of resources in hard times. If the percentage of the budget was 5% before it should be 5% after budgets are cut. I would assume that the number of teaching hours has not been cut? The time is still available, the kids are still there, and the schoolrooms too …

    For example: Do the budget cuts mean that children under 16 get no physical education?

    Do the budget cuts mean that last years teachers’ aids were handed back to suppliers?

    I’m also confused that teaching philosophy requires any resources above and beyond teacher-training, time and a lesson plan most of which will be in place year-on-year? I suppose there might be some incidental costs like chalk and chalk-board wear-and-tear but that is surely a cost so minor it will disappear in the rounding errors in the capital budget (i.e. school building, ten year plan). Is it really likely to show up in the annual budget?

    … and the [school] boards would not let the voluntary teaching continue without proper curriculum integration and at least the hope of funding enough to sustain the program.

    This is a management detail that I don’t pretend to understand. Even if volunteer teachers is not the same as getting the teaching for free they’ve already agreed that philosophy is important – where’s the fire? If it was integrated last year, how does it magically become disengaged this year?

    I suppose that what I’m trying to get across here Shawn is that these are the sort of things we never stop fighting for – like free speech. The price of education is the same as the price of freedom; eternal vigilance. Wearing and tedious though it sounds (and I only have to type it out) you’ll have to fight for philosophy in the curriculum every year for the foreseeable future.

    By the sounds of things you have had to take such a significant step back this year that you have left yourself with even more work to do.

    This is in the nature of political work. Lobbying for change takes years from people’s lives. My neighbor has been lobbying for a change of planning regarding a local park and school. She thought it would be a doddle, and it would all be over in the space of six months. More than a year later she is still working almost full time on this one policy issue, supported by scores of local residents and businesses, and the end of the argument is still nowhere in sight. Several times the Council appeared to be ready to think again. It never happened. Local politicians are expert at finessing different groups of voters and manipulating the local press. They also hate changing policies or plans. Beware.

    What is the co-operative model?

    First, as with the professional, I am only interested in the formal organizational and operational features of these paradigms. How they are applied in practice to any given higher education system is, as the sociologists use the term, a matter of biology. But certainly where communities struggle to obtain goods and services or recognition of their rights one common response is to form a consumer, worker, or social benefit co-operative (each with their own subtleties).

    I am leaning more toward this version of the proposal for reform in part because it places tertiary education in the social economy, where it belongs, and can lean on a well-established global network of cooperative federations.

    Sorry to be a pedant and it’s terribly old fashioned of me I know, but, whenever you say ‘cooperative’ my mind reads: ‘functioning as a barrel maker’ or, occasionally, ‘a coop operator’ (as in: chicken coop). I beg you to use a hyphen. I really needed to get that out of my system.

    My understanding then is that you are primarily interested in co-ops because they are a great self-support model for those who, individually, have too little access to resources. As a member of my local (retail grocery) co-op and a long time admirer of housing co-ops (in Britain the finance-only versions were originally known as Building Societies – the all-hands-on-deck version is gaining new popularity) I understand.

    Reading between the lines this could mean several different models for an education co-op:

    • A largely finance-based co-op. Individuals, and / or businesses, fund scholarships. This has the advantage of being institution neutral.

    • A group of like-minded people fund a specific course either for themselves or for those in need.

    • An academic (or academics) join forces with self-funders to provide courses according to demand (i.e. desired outcome).

    • An academic (or academics) join forces with self-funders (poss. incl. other funders, e.g. gov’t.) to provide courses.

    • An academic (or academics) provide courses pro-bono. This could be in addition to above funding models for materials / textbooks, ICT, exam fees, etc..

    Did I miss anything important?

    The only observation I feel it is safe for me to make, Shawn, is that all these models require that someone, somewhere, starts the ball rolling. In most cases they also require a group that quickly harnesses a large pool of self-motivation. It seems to me, and my knowledge of how co-ops work is very limited, that this is how all co-ops get started.

    In addition, limited access to resources or not, a co-operative enterprise is still that – an enterprise. It requires capital. While you and I have already discussed how education costs are coming down in many respects we can’t take this trend as read. For many types of course, and in many situations, costs will need to be met. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that academics cannot live by study alone.

    I see also that you are enthused by the idea of helping the underprivileged. I suspect that means you would prefer to award course places on a needs basis first (over previously recorded academic, or artistic merit, for example)?

    You would follow this by sorting applicants by student-specific criteria (gender, race, family and medical history, housing project address, etc.)?

    Perhaps you would also favor courses (e.g. career-specific in a high-economic-need area in order to favor post-education employment)?

    Where funded courses are more likely, you might also favor specific institutions – e.g. those that have supported the co-op in the past?

    You seem curiously shy to define which of these models – or whether some other model – is the best in your own judgement. You need fear no censure from me – I’m ignorant of these matters, as previously noted.

    I respect and admire Prof. Dawkins and Prof. Grayling but I must say Grayling’s response and Dawkins’ participation in this New College that is a traditional way of combating the problem is not acceptable, from where I sit.

    Yes, I can see that.

    To be fair, Prof. Grayling is reacting to a different set of pressures compared to those driving your initiative. Specifically; he is trying to address the loss of critical thinking in humanities – even in the best universities, the loss of focus on education as an end in itself, and the ridiculous way in which tertiary education is funded in Britain – where politicians have far too much say over how tertiary education is delivered.

    Grayling says in the piece you linked, “the business model might seem unusual for a group of professors who are, for the most part, ‘pink around the gills and a little bit left of centre’, but he said government cuts meant going private was the only way to provide a high-quality humanities education and he predicted more universities would go private.

    For the record: I think Grayling is spot on.

    I support the new college and its aims (In spirit only. I am, alas, impecunious and not an academic). That the college will, initially, only accept paying students with access to pots of cash is sad – but not an inevitability for the future. With people like Grayling and Dawkins involved I assure you that scholarships will be high on their list of things to do.

    Building an educational establishment with a good reputation, and a generous and successful alumni, is a long road. Patience is a virtue. This is a lesson all educationalists need to learn.

    You share more with Grayling than you appear ready to admit Shawn:

    Either you stand on the sidelines deploring what is happening or you jump in and do something about it.

    That’s very special. We have an over-abundance of ‘Armchair Academics’.

    Of course you can see that from where I sit this private path is not “the only way” to provide high-quality education, especially in the humanities. There are two other alternatives, while everyone – even the laudable Dawkins and Grayling – can only see public or private. In philosophy this is called a false dilemma.

    Whoa! Easy there tiger. I’m sure Grayling & Dawkins are aware of co-operative models for funding education. However, the number of successful examples – compared to the number of successful colleges that use student / bequest / alumni funding, or government funding, is tiny. I’m even tempted to call the co-op sample vanishingly small … sorry, but, it is.

    So Stephen, do you want to jump in and do something about it? I can only hint at what is needed and strategy in this forum.

    No need to be secretive. No-one’s here now except you, me and the Mods. It’s not like you have a new patent pending … or is it?

    Kidding aside: Education reform, as previously advised, is a political endeavour. The more people you can involve the better.

    One thing that can be done and what I am trying to do here is have the members of RDF lobby the Foundation to look into these alternatives (get them on a proper research agenda).

    I have no knowledge of the Foundation’s financial state (again, I’m not in a position to help at the moment), but I suspect that they are unlikely to be in a situation to research education co-operatives.

    The obvious thing to do would be for you to write to them. I say you, because you’re Professor Shawn Warren of Alternative University, are you not?

    I am composing a piece of correspondence I hope to ultimately get into Dawkins’ hands, somehow – this site seemed a decent place to start.

    Well ahead of me there.

    You could help in its composition and delivery, or publicity of the alternative models for service in other arenas or ears that might be sympathetic. If you know or know of anyone who can do a proper costing of both models or can develop a business plan for an independent (professional or co-operative) practice in (say) philosophy or sociology or history…then this would also be helpful.

    Given your experience you are in a far better position than I am to come up with business model costings. Also, I advise that a posted letter would be a good way to start address here. To avoid wasting your time write a simple one-page letter that introduces what you have in mind and asking about the Foundation’s education strategy.

    The co-operative model can also place elementary and secondary education in the social economy …

    Sorry Shawn, you lost me again: social economy?

    … and has done so all over the world for over a century, including the US. (I understand you are not as motivated by the equally dire straights at the tertiary level.) But this has not happened for tertiary, with two notable exceptions: Mondragon University and People’s College of Law.

    I’m running out of time (my turn to cook supper). I haven’t had time to look up People’s College of Law. Do you have a link?

    Please consider: Here is a weak but more thorough treatment of what follows: http://professionalsocietyofacademics.blogspot.ca/2013/01/higher-education-in-social-economy.html

    I’ll look into this and get back to you.

    Education has always been an explicit principle of the co-operative business model, unlike the current capitalist in which education is a commodity to be traded, individually valued as a means to further capitalist participation and far from a democratic state.

    Co-operatives can mass-diversify and are scalable to the global level, where the known effective supports are in place (e.g., a co-operative banking system such as a credit union).

    Given that I have worked in the banking industry and that a global co-operative credit union doesn’t spring readily to mind …

    It also seems to me that education has a powerful tendency to be hierarchical, but I will not demur at this point.

    Much of the support required is already available in examples such as the large federated Mondragon or Lega in Italy …

    Again, a link would be good.

    … and others around the world, including movements shaken but still deeply rooted such as the Antigonish Movement in my home province, Nova Scotia – which resulted in founding of the respected Coady International Institute.

    In a digital age uniting these groups to an end of establishing a co-operative higher education presence around the globe is not implausible. Mondragon is accredited with a very small but actual Humanities Faculty (education and media/communication) and along with other federation a strong cooperative banking system. Couple this with advocacy from a legal school like the CPL and its alumni and I think you can begin to see the possibilities….

    I remain to be convinced. I also, I hope, remain open-minded.

    I lay out some of my other reasoning on how these alternatives can change things at the proposal’s blog: http://professionalsocietyofacademics.blogspot.ca/

    Again, out of time this time round, but it’s on my reading list for later tonight.

    Thank you for the Sean Faircloth line. I will investigate.

    As above, you would be well advised to write to Sean and ask about priorities. As he is a strategist I suspect Sean will be keen only if your ideas clearly match the Foundation’s current goals. He will be particularly leery of any proposal likely to spread the Foundation too thinly in any area.

    I’ll be back once I’ve had a chance to inwardly digest some of the links near the end of your last post.

    Peace.

  17. In reply to #16 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

    In reply to #15 by Shawn Warren:

    Hi Stephen,

    Sorry about the missing links in the last reply. If you go the the blog the Jan 14 post explains a little better what I have in mind and includes embedded links.

    The entire community right up to a handful of important politicians thought it wonderful.

    That really covers my main concern. From your description; this was a primary or secondary level pilot?

    Yes it was at the elementary level in grades primary to 3.

    My understanding then is that you are primarily interested in co-ops because they are a great self-support model for those who, individually, have too little access to resources. As a member of my local (retail grocery) co-op and a long time admirer of housing co-ops (in Britain the finance-only versions were originally known as Building Societies – the all-hands-on-deck version is gaining new popularity) I understand.

    An academic (or academics) join forces with self-funders (poss. incl. other funders, e.g. gov’t.) to provide courses.

    Did I miss anything important?

    Yes, but the option I quote here is the one I think best captures what I have in mind.

    The only observation I feel it is safe for me to make, Shawn, is that all these models require that someone, somewhere, starts the ball rolling. In most cases they also require a group that quickly harnesses a large pool of self-motivation. It seems to me, and my knowledge of how co-ops work is very limited, that this is how all co-ops get started.

    Well there is a large pool of poorly compensated adjunct labour on the US, UK and Canada, not to mention India and China. In the US 70% of the teaching in post secondary institutions is done by adjuncts. Of course since what I am suggesting is foreign to them (where union-think dominates) and radically resistant to the status quo, I am finding it difficult to generate a critical mass of self-motivation. Particularly in the US, the psychology of adjunct academics is damaged in unfortunate ways that perpetuate the current state.

    This is why I am working on a plan to approach certain operators in the social economy to activate and coordinate their very large and properly motived pool – as I indicate in the blog post.

    There is also a large pool of students motivated right now and active for change, across both hemispheres. But again the problem is that not enough people are aware of the alternatives I propose and most that are aware either do not understand or appreciate their transformative abilities.

    Publicity and education – some of the same challenges faced by co-operatives (or spelling is schizophrenic in Canada, bouncing between the English and the American. I normally use the English, including the hyphen in ‘co-operative’, but I write a lot about this to the US public and I slip into the habit…).

    The system is poor, run by capitalist interests (or mindsets), while the principal interested parties in the civic enterprise, students and academics, are powerless. This sounds like a circumstance the co-operative model was created to address.

    I see also that you are enthused by the idea of helping the underprivileged. I suspect that means you would prefer to award course places on a needs basis first (over previously recorded academic, or artistic merit, for example)?

    I do not know. Choosing need “over” merit (ability or promise) is something that should be carefully considered. I do believe that the alternatives I propose could dramatically increase access on any measure compared to the current system, where the only way that seems available is the opening of a private university like New College.

    Also want to make sure you are not inaccurately conceiving of the proposal. Academics are independent “workers”, though under the “supervision” of a professional body (code of ethics/conduct and all). This body does not dictate policy and practice as the government or administration do in the current system. For instance administration of higher education is almost entirely done by the practicing academics (as it is in legal and accounting practices, for instance). Also the government would have no more say in key aspects of policy and practice in higher education than they do in established professions of law or medicine. This is a well-worn administrative model with understood public-professional relationship dynamics.

    You seem curiously shy to define which of these models – or whether some other model – is the best in your own judgement. You need fear no censure from me – I’m ignorant of these matters, as previously noted.

    I suggest the blog.

    To be fair, Prof. Grayling is reacting to a different set of pressures compared to those driving your initiative. Specifically; he is trying to address the loss of critical thinking in humanities – even in the best universities, the loss of focus on education as an end in itself, and the ridiculous way in which tertiary education is funded in Britain – where politicians have far too much say over how tertiary education is delivered.

    Actually we are concerned with exactly the same set of pressures. They have chosen, as I say, the only option they see available to them. I do not blame them. The current system, including its universities and colleges, is iconic, monopolistic.

    The reasons that compel them to open this private institution are exactly the same reasons that compel me to develop and promote these alternatives.

    Whether it the UK, US or Canada, there is no additional money and in fact public funding has been dramatically cut over the past 15 years, with no improvement in sight. Just like the elementary schools that cancel music, teacher’s aid programs and philosophy initiatives because there is no money, the Humanities and other faculties that do not obviously lead to a tech or manufacture or management job are being cut and depleted. Our view of the purpose of higher education leans more and more to the practical, vocational line, out of fiscal necessity.

    If the Humanities are a necessary part of proper education, filled with (inter alia) education in proper reasoning, understanding of history, appreciation for art, etc., then the Foundation needs to correct this, I agree. I do not agree with the means Grayling has chosen.

    No, Grayling and I are moved by the same pressures caused by the same circumstance.

    I support the new college and its aims (In spirit only. I am, alas, impecunious and not an academic). That the college will, initially, only accept paying students with access to pots of cash is sad – but not an inevitability for the future. With people like Grayling and Dawkins involved I assure you that scholarships will be high on their list of things to do.

    Building an educational establishment with a good reputation, and a generous and successful alumni, is a long road. Patience is a virtue. This is a lesson all educationalists need to learn.

    Yes. Or they could start the long reputation-alumni building road but under a more social-oriented model, and one that does not have to hope for eventual underprivileged access. Under the co-operative model the underprivileged are at least as important as the privileged and so treated equally.

    Whoa! Easy there tiger. I’m sure Grayling & Dawkins are aware of co-operative models for funding education. However, the number of successful examples – compared to the number of successful colleges that use student / bequest / alumni funding, or government funding, is tiny. I’m even tempted to call the co-op sample vanishingly small … sorry, but, it is.

    I agree they are aware of co-operative models. This does not mean they are aware of their use for higher education (as I have conceived it). I believe the proposal is original. I would have to disagree that the co-operative model is small and vanishing. We just finished the Year of the Co-operative (a UN initiative), the economy of late has shaken the status quo and the internet has made social activism more effective (education being a key to co-operative success).

    If you look at the examples I identify in the blog post (and there are others) they are not marginal concerns on either the national or international scene, and they are certainly not vanishing – they (as is common) survived the economic downturn very well and have posted impressive ROIs, investmenting in co-operative enterprises with impressive growth figures.

    No need to be secretive. No-one’s here now except you, me and the Mods. It’s not like you have a new patent pending … or is it?

    I mean only that this format does not afford the kind of space necessary to convey all the information/thinking. I keep none of my thinking on this matter secret. That is the point, I want it heard, thought about, discussed, researched… There is no Master Plan I have devised to be sprung on the world if only I could get on CNN.

    Given that I have worked in the banking industry and that a global co-operative credit union doesn’t spring readily to mind …

    They do not have the presence of the majors, but they are stable and growing. They are certainly capable of backing such a movement on a national level in Spain and Italy, and perhaps globally if properly motivated and organized.

    If you have some knowledge in banking and some time I would like to hear your views (say) the Mondragon banking system and whether it might be suitable financial support for a co-operative higher education system.

    Best Wishes

  18. Hi Shawn,

    I’m going to start where I had to break off in my last post. Hopefully, this will not create confusion.

    The co-operative model can also place elementary and secondary education in the social economy …

    I’m glad you think that. I can’t see a path that takes us from tax – government – school, to; co-operative – school. In particular there are potential problems with disenfranchising politicians.

    (A) – At best, politicians will want some kind of handle on standards – at worst they will see long term dogmatic opportunities in power over the curriculum and examination processing. The worst of all possible worlds is exactly what we have in Britain. Exams will not cover this off as they only give a snapshot of the results of education – when it may already be too late. That leaves curriculum, inspections, examinations (incl. coursework, such as dissertations and art portfolios) and mid-course testing. In addition, never underestimate the oligarchy’s ability to innovate. The recent story about vouchers in the US – giving parents and schools the power to undermine good curricula – is a case in point. In Britain we have two other twists; Government-funded free schools (as in: free to ignore most of the rules) which are not monitored. The political angle is so important in what you’re trying to achieve that I’m going to label this paragraph (A).

    I will label several early sections because we appear to be repeating ourselves. That way I won’t have to type this again.

    Britain’s experience is instructive as regards political interference in education. The dogmatic right began by setting up a national curriculum. The dogmatic left then took power for ten years and added free (so-called ’faith’) schools and, of course, re-writing the curriculum. They also trashed a highly regarded and mature examination system in order to, as they saw it, equalise opportunity and curry favour with working class voters. In reality they presided over a huge devaluation of the overall system. This is particularly hard to understand given that politicians are supposedly focused on increasing economic activity (While, in the ’80s, foreign companies queued up to invest in Britain this source of development appears to have dried up in recent years). It is important to note that Scotland and Northern Ireland are different. The increase in dogma in education in most of Britain has led to an increase in dogma in education for these regions too – mostly an increase in nationalism and other forms of sectarianism.

    (B) – There is a basic problem made crystal clear by these shenanigans: Where are the teachers? (NB. When I say teachers I include college lecturers) If we were talking about medical care or vaccination, building bridges or developing water systems, ICT, finance, defence, earthquakes or any one of a hundred other subjects – a professional or two (putting it mildly) would step forward. In education we have unions, but no professional bodies. As a result any political dialogue with teachers takes a shortcut to dogmatic name-calling. This is not constructive. Teachers have a big part to play if they can leave behind political posing. It seems to me that, like all the social ’sciences’, teaching suffers from not having a scientific base. With no substantive foundation educators are trained using the likes of the pseudo-scientist Piaget. This is leaving a vacuum in the public debate just as much as it tears holes in the constantly shifting, dogmatic, fashions of ’philosophical’ education ’theory’. While I appreciate (as per my previous post) that professions are the bête noires of the oligarchy, teachers and lecturers really need to get a grip. If they continue to label themselves as a trade, they will continue to be side-lined in the debate over the advancement of education and they only have themselves to blame.

    You could, like Coursera, start by being unaccredited. This leaves the question, which I covered in a previous post, of the value of a non-accredited course. Coursera are getting round this in the short term by borrowing their University partners’ clothes (brands).

    Politicians have been less shy, in recent decades, about making retrospective law. However, I think we can probably get away with asking for the free transfer of state-owned assets like buildings.

    It seems to me that progressive taxation is required to ensure that the children of impoverished parents continue to have access to education. That appears to mean that we can only cut out government if, and when, co-ops have become prosperous enough to offer scholarships and sophisticated enough to apply means testing.

    Once you get to the position where education is offered free by co-ops to the needy, you will immediately get the problem of weeding out free-riders.

    But never say die.

    … and has done so all over the world for over a century, including the US (I understand you are not as motivated by the equally dire straits at the tertiary level). But this has not happened for tertiary, with two notable exceptions: Mondragon University and People’s College of Law.

    Mondragon Uni. does not seem to be particularly revolutionary – with the exception that it appears to have an exclusive relationship with Mondragon Corporation?

    Getting employers to pay part of the education fees of students and offering students employment as part of their education is a model with a distinguished, and centuries old, history here in Britain. Such schemes are called apprenticeships.

    Apprentices make sense for technical employers (for skilled crafts like a jeweller, and semi-skilled occupations like nursing and social work) and, to a lesser extent, general commercial businesses. They have singularly failed to take off in the arts and sciences. The professions and most of the humanities are also not, typically, sources of apprenticeship. It isn’t difficult to see why. However, see below, I can see that a split funding model might work in certain circumstances.

    Aside from the fact that Mondragon has extended this model into the area of a business school, it does not seem to offer any lessons on how develop education in a progressive society. Indeed it gives the impression of having a narrow focus – offering vocational training tailored to its partner’s (Mondragon Corporation’s) needs? Is this fair, perhaps I missed something?

    Before I’m accused of being a snob, let me just say that I think vocational education is necessary, under-valued and highly worthwhile.

    Basically, I don’t see how that model helps us to meet our mutual desire to work towards life-time learning and breaking the ’economic-imperative-only’ model of education.

    The tiny People’s College of Law has impressively low fees, and an equally impressive and radical admissions policy. It also claims to provide “ … excellent and focused preparation for the First Year Law Students’ Exam and General Bar Exams … ”, yet can only manage a California Bar Examination pass rate of 10% (’97 to ’10).

    While I appreciate that creating lawyers is not necessarily the PCL’s main focus it’s not a great advert. Again, before I’m labelled elitist, let me just say that, as an end in itself, more well-trained para-legals is a very good thing.

    The PCL appears to offer nothing that cannot be found in the existing models of education (including the OU, apprenticeships and Coursera). Even if PCL students are being supported (apprentice-style or through straight funding) by social economy institutions and unions (the PCL Site is not clear on this point) it’s hardly a revolution waiting to happen. Many people would resist the emergence of such a model – resources gleaned by charities in particular are not, ostensibly, for training para-legals.

    Please consider: http://professionalsocietyofacademics.blogspot.ca/2013/01/higher-education-in-social-economy.html

    In the blog you say:

    To protect their enterprise, students and vocation academics must better assert themselves as a unique and valued class of labour – independent of institutions.

    I’ve heard this kind of language before and I’ve never bought into it. It seems to me that there are types of human activity that are not easily classified as enterprises and studying is one. The institution looks after the enterprise aspect of education – which leaves the academics and students to work independently of that enterprise except where they help the institution to account for resources and advertise. Indeed, it seems to me that such a split is essential to ensure an environment conducive to study.

    Even the institution is not clearly an enterprise in the commercial sense. It is held to account for the resources it consumes, the advanced citizens it releases back into society and the quality of that advancement. But, in essence, it can lose money and still succeed.

    (C) – Despite being a highly socially active environment (concerns over basic resources and the future having been banished to the margins for the present) being a student, in my experience, is an exercise in solipsism. ’Expanding’ one’s own mind is a very personal journey. It’s a major reason, in my view, for expanding lifetime access to tertiary education. I have great difficulty matching that view with the idea of ’academic labour’. I certainly had the idea that my own studies would lead to improved employment, but that doesn’t explain sitting up into the night discussing religion, philosophy and politics – three subjects notable only for their absence in my timetable.

    In addition, I would refer the idea of academic labour back to my paragraph (B). The label Academic Labour fits far too easily into the language of the oligarchy. You will pique the interests of the dogmatic left and right – but anyone right of left-of-centre will be immediately suspicious and distance themselves from you. You will make no progress in getting what educators have to say, heard.

    Education has always been an explicit principle of the co-operative business model, unlike the current capitalist in which education is a commodity to be traded, individually valued as a means to further capitalist participation and far from a democratic state.

    I ask you to consider:
    - (B)
    - The oligarchy has a vested interest in undermining democracy, and undermining education for the masses is a big part of this
    - I have so far not seen a new direction for education in co-ops

    An academic (or academics) join forces with self-funders (poss. incl. other funders, e.g. gov’t.) to provide courses … here is the [model] I think best captures what I have in mind

    This model, if it includes colleges, is the Further Education College or Apprenticeship model (in Brit-speak).

    If you exclude a central organisation like a college you will end up re-creating a large part of it – Administration. With distance learning and the Net my guess is that the administration of student applications, registrations and course-monitoring becomes easier, but it is hardly going to become non-existent. Then there is the administration of the curricula, with the probable attendant challenges of splitting coursework between academics. Then there is the prospectus and advertising, fee taking and managing the books, teaching resources and timetable. There are no simple substitutes for any of these things – you will need a secretariat. Add funding from commerce and/or Government (I refer you to (A)) and you will need academic monitoring, feedback management, results monitoring, more substantial finance checks and balances, and more. You’re back where you started – you have a College.

    Indeed, it seems to me that if it were possible to manage without a co-operative institution, a college, Mondragon would have done so.

    I can see the opportunity to create a new, larger-tent (for want of a better expression), apprentice scheme. Above I noted that this hasn’t happened – but that has to do with length of course, academic content and a lack of payback for employers in an open market where demand is high. It should be possible to include at least some humanities and social science courses under an apprenticeship funding model. Because of the differences we probably shouldn’t call them apprenticeships – it could be too confusing. There may also be opportunities by thinking of this from an overall employment market perspective and pitching to certain employers. In this way you could cover non-vocational courses and include co-op funding without creating a stand-alone college. As certificates would be awarded by existing, accredited, colleges we could also expect uptake to be faster in earlier years – definitely a couple of big plusses there.

    In the US 70% of the teaching in post-secondary institutions is done by adjuncts [and] what I am suggesting is foreign to them (where union-think dominates) and radically resistant to the status quo, I am finding it difficult to generate a critical mass of self-motivation. Particularly in the US, the psychology of adjunct academics is damaged in unfortunate ways that perpetuate the current state.

    I refer you to (B). I agree with your goal here, we disagree on procedure. You’re thinking co-ops – I’m thinking profession. There is room in the dialectic for both views – but we have a problem: Resources are always limited. We need to agree a way forwards or risk being too scatter-gun. A lack of focus will mean we fall short of any political target we set.

    In addition, your model of a profession appears to be different to mine. Referring to your blog post Professional Translation of the Core Service Relationship in Higher Education, I simply do not see tertiary education “ … re-engineered under the professional service paradigm … ”. Where are the professional bodies? Where are the studies of professional ethics, procedure and practice? Where are the agreed, objective, goals for a profession in education? Where is gathered and collated the evidence of best practice, and where are the agreed criteria for the training and recognition of a professional ’educator’? Where is the document that, it is universally agreed, describes a teacher and teaching? Where is the description of the limits of the role of teacher, lecturer, tutor and mentor? Where have these professionals set up their tribunals to hear disagreements and infringements?

    Some of the lecturers and professors of the best universities may put on airs and graces (and they may be professionals in other respects) but that doesn’t alter the facts: The activity of teaching is a trade, not a profession.

    An academic trade is sufficient to fully define the conditions under which they provide service, including (but not limited to): course offerings and schedules; quantity and quality of students; fees; practice; quality and quantity of support staff, facilities and equipment; and research/publication output.

    This is why I am working on a plan to approach certain operators in the social economy to activate and co-ordinate their very large and properly motived pool – as I indicate in the blog post.

    It isn’t clear here what you mean by operators. I assumed you meant individuals rather than institutions?

    There is also a large pool of students motivated right now and active for change, across both hemispheres. But again the problem is that not enough people are aware of the alternatives I propose and most that are aware either do not understand or appreciate their transformative abilities.

    Again, (C). Students may be becoming politically active because of the commercialisation of education – undermining some of the aspirations of tertiary education and raising personal costs – but the reality is that, at best, the political capital these students represent is a pressure group within a minority interest. It is very difficult to know if recent changes will be permanent, and whether they will be increasingly accepted as normal in future decades. Only educating the masses to a higher degree seems likely, to me, to counter the oligarchy’s propaganda in the longer term on this subject.

    In the meantime students come and students go. You may be right; there may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to engage students in changing the tertiary paradigm going begging. But I look back to the ’60s and compare them to the ’70s and I’m forced to conclude that students are not engaged in study, primarily, as a social goal. In addition, turnover is swift. The World will soon forget, as it always does. I’m not wasting my time on any more of this kind of thing.

    Publicity and education – some of the same challenges faced by co-operatives [are the same?] … The [education] system is poor [meaning both: badly managed and skint?], run by capitalist interests (or mind-sets)

    You put your finger on the nub of a problem there. Educational institutions are in a marketplace – like it or not. Until a fully centralised soviet-style distribution of education resources is implemented it’s what we have to work with. Given that soviet-style distribution has been, or is being, given up by every country that has tried it with the exception of those unmatched paragons of human development North Korea and Cuba …

    As above, educational institutions are essential. That they have to get their hands dirty with advertising and other promotional work and with political lobbying, and with suppliers of commercial products and services, some capitalist thinking within them is not only normal, it’s highly desirable. If you think co-ops will change this, please explain – lots of detail please.

    … while the principal interested parties in the civic enterprise, students and academics, are powerless. This sounds like a circumstance the co-operative model was created to address.

    As above (C ) & (B).

    I do believe that the alternatives I propose could dramatically increase access on any measure compared to the current system [etc.].

    Shawn, I’m sorry to be such a complete dunce but, I still fail to see where the motivating force comes from?

    Also want to make sure you are not inaccurately conceiving of the proposal. Academics are independent ’workers’, though under the ’supervision’ of a professional body (code of ethics/conduct and all).

    This would be a big change, as per my (B): They are currently employees who work according to their employers’ terms, policies and procedures. Creating a professional body – even one limited to tertiary teaching – would be no small feat. Indeed, it is an undertaking of such magnitude that I strongly urge you to consider it an entirely separate challenge and project to co-operative funding.

    This body does not dictate policy and practice as the government or administration do in the current system. For instance administration of higher education is almost entirely done by the practicing academics (as it is in legal and accounting practices, for instance).

    This part I like.

    Also the government would have no more say in key aspects of policy and practice in higher education than they do in established professions of law or medicine.

    Never underestimate the oligarchy. It is, sadly, all too easy to find someone in a profession prepared to argue the toss. However, if that person were bound by professional courtesy and obligation …

    Happily, at this stage in the conversation our definitions of professional appear to be merging?

    … there is no additional money and in fact public funding has been dramatically cut over the past 15 years, with no improvement in sight.

    If you go away from this conversation with only one thought, Shawn, I would like it to be this: Resources will always be limited, and doubly so for education. Top US institutions like to point to the huge funds they have amassed – mostly from their alumni. My response: Is the tiny number of graduates you produce a good return on that investment. No. All they have proved is that elitism is self-perpetuating.

    Shawn, you really need to get this central to your thinking: Winning the argument is not dependent on the size of the resource pool. This goes back to my 5% argument in a previous post. If you have a good enough idea you will win a share of the resources no matter what.

    Our view of the purpose of higher education leans more and more to the practical, vocational line, out of fiscal necessity.

    True, and short term. Politics never has more short-termism than when the politicians have to cut budgets and raise taxes. Be cheerful. Change happens.

    [Grayling, et al, at NCH] could start the long reputation-alumni building road but under a more social-oriented model, and one that does not have to hope for eventual underprivileged access.

    No hope involved. Intrigued by our conversation I checked up. It turns out that NCH has had a strong commitment to maintaining open access to Higher Education from the get-go.

    Under the co-operative model the underprivileged are at least as important as the privileged and so treated equally.

    That is true only as far as access to funding is concerned – and therefore only superior where scholarships are not available (providing, as we appear to agree, we have no plan to undermine selection by ability).

    (D) – One thing that intrigues me about a co-operative model for funding tertiary education is pay-back. For example: In a housing co-op I either invest some money, or lend my reputation and commitment to a combined loan, or put in my own labour (incl. skill – such as electrician, if I have any). I can see how a collective puts money into a fee pot to be distributed to successful college applicants. But where is the payback? In particular, where is the payback if I studied, say, philosophy? I am also reminded of the story of Albrecht Dürer. The story of his Brother and the praying hands is almost certainly apocryphal but it highlights a problem. If I do invest in a co-op and join the queue what happens if I don’t meet entry requirements – or I lose my place for some other reason?

    We just finished the Year of the Co-operative (a UN initiative), the economy of late has shaken the status quo and the internet has made social activism more effective (education being a key to co-operative success).

    For myself, initiatives always make me think carefully about why they’re needed …

    Thanks for the late news (2012 was the Year of the Co-operative). It passed me by …

    The political-economy changes could just as easily be interpreted as having re-enforced the status quo.

    The Net is so successful at social activism that it spent all of 2012 under constant attack – and yes I use the words constant and attack advisedly – from the oligarchy. There are many good things to say about the Net, but any such triumphalism is misplaced and naïve. For the record; this is an area where I’m already an activist.

    You mentioned the Lega in Italy. My searches only returned the Northern League (the nationalist/regionalist political movement) and lots of football?

    I also looked up the Antigonish Movement Nova Scotia. While the Movement’s sustainable development through adult education, co-operatives, microfinance and addressing social issues seems wonderfully progressive I can’t quite see how it is different from having co-operatives for commercial activity on the one hand and adult education on the other. Both are interesting ways to address the problems of the people in the Maritimes – and they may even have complimentary results. But I fail to see a new model emerging. I’m sure I’m just being thick again – sorry.

    If you have some knowledge in banking and some time I would like to hear your views (say) the Mondragon banking system and whether it might be suitable financial support for a co-operative higher education system.

    The Mondragon co-operative finance model is both successful and interesting. In many ways it’s similar to the traditional (up to WW2) model of banking. We need to see a return to this, but probably won’t because the politicians are dim and the banks are all too big. For these, among other reasons, the Western economic recession will last longer and never recover some of what was lost. (D)

    Kind regards, Steve.

  19. In reply to #18 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

    Hello Steve,

    I am thoroughly enjoying this exchange. You are helping to develop my thinking in concrete ways. Thank you.

    In response to (A): I would want to draw an important distinction between theoretical (or armchair) work and activist/political (field) work. Theoretical questions about alternative means of providing/facilitating a service or function or human activity (in this case higher education, including its organization, funding, operations and the like) are not the same as questions about how theory might be successfully put into practice, in any given social circumstance. The same is true for instance of modern communications technology that has theoretical and practical dimensions – theoretically we can connect people in a number of new ways, but should we; how could we get the means to them; or get them to adopt and accept it, would the status quo resist it and if so how etc?

    These are questions it sound you might be wrestling with at the moment in your activism.

    I understand that we are happily weaving discussion of these distinct mental exercises, but theoretically the functions you describe can be achieved by the professional model, and in fact are now achieved by the professional model as evinced in law and medicine.

    I know you have read the Professional Translation of the Service Relationship doc on the blog and I am not sure what else you have read of my presentation, but from what you say later in this comment, I think [this material] (https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B6WVGBHb3WVEMnJhczdjSXpmbEU/edit) (especially Chapters 4 and 5) might help us achieve a shared understanding of my notion of a professional higher education service paradigm.

    As a result any political dialogue with teachers takes a shortcut to dogmatic name-calling. This is not constructive. Teachers have a big part to play if they can leave behind political posing…. If they continue to label themselves as a trade, they will continue to be side-lined in the debate over the advancement of education and they only have themselves to blame.

    And what if we lean on different teachers’ philosophies (themselves disenfranchised, such as [Paulo Freire] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paulo_Freire)) that speak to the oppressed? The “revolution” does not have to and will likely not start in the Northern or Western hemispheres.

    Yes, teachers need to become more active, independent of union mentality. I absolutely agree (stop labelling themselves as trades). But I do notice that later you seem to suggest that, as a natural classification, teachers are best described as trades-people (and I presume you include academics (professors) that not only teach but must also generate new knowledge for civilization) This is one of the reasons I have selected service paradigms that promote self-conceptions based in self-representation, autonomy, authority, self-regulation and discipline. The professional paradigm removes the middleman, including the interference of institutional administration, government and union.

    An academic is not a tradesperson. The service they provide is more like that of professionals. The link above explains why this is so.

    However, I think we can probably get away with asking for the free transfer of state-owned assets like buildings.

    The proposal does not require or recommend the use of buildings supplied by government for exclusive use of the co-operative/professional higher education paradigm. Over fifteen years ago when this idea was first kicked around the city of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia was willing to provide (for 1 dollar a year rental) a beautiful heritage property that was in fact a multi-level school, if we could arrange for its renovation and secure support from an existing institution (i.e., under their accreditation). That did not happen in time to prevent its sale to a developer who converted it to condominium lofts. This was a failure to put theory into practice.

    No, I do not theoretically see the need for government sponsored buildings, facilities or infrastructure of any kind, except that which already exists – this is more what I have in mind. The use of expensive to construct and maintain infrastructure is one of the reasons the current paradigm is not sustainable, let alone expandable. Professions do not need such support. Online avenues show promise of reducing this cost but also at the very real [potential of reducing the number of academics] (http://professionalsocietyofacademics.blogspot.ca/2013/01/real-academics-and-virtual-education.html) – when the opposite is desirable, given their unique position in the knowledge chain and the indisputable educational advantage of low student-teacher ratios.

    It seems to me that progressive taxation is required to ensure that the children of impoverished parents continue to have access to education. That appears to mean that we can only cut out government if, and when, co-ops have become prosperous enough to offer scholarships and sophisticated enough to apply means testing.

    Yes, and the models I am proposing so dramatically reduce the total cost of the service and introduce [new revenue] (http://professionalsocietyofacademics.blogspot.ca/2012/12/economic-argument-for-professional-and.html) to the system (including the [state economy] (http://www.international.gc.ca/education/report-rapport/economic-impact-economique/sec_6.aspx?view=d)) that liberation form heavy, if any, government subsidy/investment is well within reach.

    Mondragon Uni. does not seem to be particularly revolutionary – with the exception that it appears to have an exclusive relationship with Mondragon Corporation?

    This is a remarkable difference in relationships. For starters, it does not require a financial relationship with a government that changes its philosophy to suit the economic, social, moral, political aspirations, voting, etc. climate. The Rochdale Principles rule. If you appreciate the co-operative philosophy there is success only where there is co-operation, not competition (as it is understood in the capitalist system). MU is a private, non-profit higher education institution that runs within the economy of a co-operative federation. This is at least unprecedented and I think a fuse for the revolutionary.

    I am working on a post right now that more thoroughly explain its revolutionary character and how the professional service paradigm should be the one operating inside the co-operative paradigm, where now Mondragon uses the traditional institutional, mass-education higher education model (and in this sense it is not revolutionary).

    Aside from the fact that Mondragon has extended this model into the area of a business school, it does not seem to offer any lessons on how develop education in a progressive society. Indeed it gives the impression of having a narrow focus – offering vocational training tailored to its partner’s (Mondragon Corporation’s) needs? Is this fair, perhaps I missed something?

    It is a fair description of the current state of affairs, but things change. For instance, MU officially has a Humanities and Education Faculty. You are correct, even here the focus is on supporting the immediately obvious needs of the co-operative, as is the Business Faculty.

    But to expand programs in Humanities would not be difficult. Each of of the following subjects could easily be consider relevant, legitimate educational material required for success of a co-operative: sociology, political science, philosophy, history, economics, and more – all those that any nation might need to develop and promote its ways. The Mondragon Co-operative Corporation is a lot like a nation within a nation – like First Nations within Canada, a Co-operative Nation within a Capitalist, especially with its Basque origins.

    Basically, I don’t see how that model helps us to meet our mutual desire to work towards life-time learning and breaking the ’economic-imperative-only’ model of education.

    I have addressed the “economic-imperative-only” issue some already, but consider this with regard to a mutual desire for life-long learning: In a culture of co-operation based on explicit principles designed for mutual social benefit, to ensure that the principles are thoroughly assimilated education in both principles and the practice is required across all sectors (from elementary to higher education and from industry to governance).

    We are having this discussion on the RDF, champion of reason and independent thought throughout one’s life (no children are Catholic any more than they are Liberal), the “workers” (that is citizens) of a co-operative nation (if you will) are as a matter of founding principles required to take individual responsibility for innovation and success, stewardship and shepherding of their industry or sector of society – from textiles to teaching. This requires development of a life-long commitment to learning, to educating one’s self about the process and the options, or your textile company fails and students fail to properly understand (say) on measures economic, political, philosophical, historical, etc. the circumstance of co-operatives on the global scene. At least this sort of education is enshrined in the Rochdale Principles, a constitution of sorts for the co-operative nation.

    I believe from here it is a few steps more to expansion of MU (on the model I propose) as a “proper” modern university and then spread of that model across the globe – as other existing institutions are trying to do with dismal success in the BRIC, for instance. We cannot afford the current model there is no chance the BRIC can.

    And I recognize the steps are treacherous, but they are not uninformed or implausible in theory.

    The PCL appears to offer nothing that cannot be found in the existing models of education (including the OU, apprenticeships and Coursera). Even if PCL students are being supported (apprentice-style or through straight funding) by social economy institutions and unions (the PCL Site is not clear on this point) it’s hardly a revolution waiting to happen. Many people would resist the emergence of such a model – resources gleaned by charities in particular are not, ostensibly, for training para-legals.

    The PCL is not necessarily a model for any institution or school in particular. It is an ally in the US, in a state with the second worse higher education circumstance and it is officially recognized with properly motivated alumni. Many Californians have no access to and are financially over-burdened by the current system – fertile ground for a co-operative movement, with legal backing from a co-operative law school that would like to achieve accreditation and avoid the Baby Bar hurdle for its students. Combined with the Co-operative Group Legal Services and the MCC’s Mondragon University, we have lobbyists with shared principles of global mutual social benefit and accreditation. The blog piece I am working on explains this combination more thoroughly.

    I’ve heard this kind of language before and I’ve never bought into it. It seems to me that there are types of human activity that are not easily classified as enterprises and studying is one. The institution looks after the enterprise aspect of education – which leaves the academics and students to work independently of that enterprise except where they help the institution to account for resources and advertise. Indeed, it seems to me that such a split is essential to ensure an environment conducive to study.

    I think we might be using the term ‘enterprise’ differently, as I imagine we are the term ‘service’, but on my understanding of your use here I would have to say I do not see it. You describe the current system. It is defunct and not sustainable, with poor quality service, exploitation and exclusion. Institutions are unnecessary, middleman interference in education. I and many others believe this demonstrated by the current crisis (that reaches well beyond financial). In numerous important ways too complex to discuss here, the current system is not conducive to study – the official and popular literature is full of such negative analysis.

    (C) [Education] in my experience, is an exercise in solipsism. ’Expanding’ one’s own mind is a very personal journey. It’s a major reason, in my view, for expanding lifetime access to tertiary education. I have great difficulty matching that view with the idea of ’academic labour’.

    I agree, to an extent. Don not let the term ‘labour’ throw you. However, you wish to categorize the following human behaviour it is required for your solipsistic view of education to even get off the ground (unless you are an Innateist of some sort): Minds need preparation for effective self-teaching and this is achieved through teacher or mentor in some fashion. To choose a basic but representative example, it would have been impossible to teach yourself how to speak or write or read or think without parents (and the rest of the active and passive educational framework of society).

    Further, education and particularly its knowledge component are, like so much human behaviour, fundamentally social. In fact, knowledge has an unshakable normative character, and so morality being a group affair, education is a not solipsisitic phenomenon.

    For a number of years I taught adult literacy on a volunteer basis. We all need to be taught some things and seeing education as a strictly personal endeavour ignores the deep social, political, individual and group psychological, and normative aspects of education.

    Add funding from commerce and/or Government (I refer you to (A)) and you will need academic monitoring, feedback management, results monitoring, more substantial finance checks and balances, and more. You’re back where you started – you have a College.

    Yes, I would have set it up in the professional model, which avoids much of the concern you voice here regarding monitoring, feedback management, etc (as I argue in the document I have given reference to the begnning). But one thing I have learned in trying to present this proposal is most do not understand it, in no small part because the current institutional, mass-education model is iconic. This might be a cause of their failure to even further atomize “worker” control to a society of independent practicing professional academics, rather than the institutional version. It simply never occurred to them. But I have not acquired an authoritative account of their reasoning for MU yet.

    I refer you to (B). I agree with your goal here, we disagree on procedure. You’re thinking co-ops – I’m thinking profession. There is room in the dialectic for both views – but we have a problem: Resources are always limited. We need to agree a way forwards or risk being too scatter-gun. A lack of focus will mean we fall short of any political target we set.

    Again, this is a misunderstanding of my position. This proposal has always been based squarely on the traditional professional model. The co-operative is relatively new. The blog post will explain that I believe the best arrangement is an academic profession to service higher education, but within the principled co-operative federation. I do not see them as mutually exclusive remedies.

    In addition, your model of a profession appears to be different to mine. Referring to your blog post Professional Translation of the Core Service Relationship in Higher Education, I simply do not see tertiary education “ … re-engineered under the professional service paradigm … ”. Where are the professional bodies? Where are the studies of professional ethics, procedure and practice? Where are the agreed, objective, goals for a profession in education? Where is gathered and collated the evidence of best practice, and where are the agreed criteria for the training and recognition of a professional ’educator’? Where is the document that, it is universally agreed, describes a teacher and teaching? Where is the description of the limits of the role of teacher, lecturer, tutor and mentor? Where have these professionals set up their tribunals to hear disagreements and infringements?

    The document you are referring to does not address these – impossible in the blog format. They are addressed to an appropriate extent in the first link of this reply. But what is appropriate? The tense and tone of your questions suggests that there is no academic profession without settling these matters. I agree, but that makes these questions premature. In formally establishing such a profession these and other important decisions and actions will need attention. This is defining the profession, establishing it. I am defining a new service paradigm/movement. If the design is successful, then these questions will progressively gain prominence. Which is not to say they cannot be considered in the subjunctive during the design stage, only that the absence of detailed answers at this stage is no challenge to the theoretical design being proposed.

    Frankly, I consider these questions important but mere detail, as other established professions have some how managed to answer them – providing us with historical lessons for any attempt to do so in a new academic profession.

    Some of the lecturers and professors of the best universities may put on airs and graces (and they may be professionals in other respects) but that doesn’t alter the facts: The activity of teaching is a trade, not a profession.

    Please see reply above.

    An academic trade is sufficient to fully define the conditions under which they provide service, including (but not limited to): course offerings and schedules; quantity and quality of students; fees; practice; quality and quantity of support staff, facilities and equipment; and research/publication output.

    The link at the start is to material that explains how this is mistaken, if I understand you correctly.

    As above, educational institutions are essential. That they have to get their hands dirty with advertising and other promotional work and with political lobbying, and with suppliers of commercial products and services, some capitalist thinking within them is not only normal, it’s highly desirable. If you think co-ops will change this, please explain – lots of detail please.

    I disagree and again I explain why this is not so in some detail in the first link of this post. If you examine the American Bar Association you will find that in one form or another each of the activities you identify is carried out by the professional society or its members. Institutions are not required or recommended, unless your preferred model is mass-education. A preference we simply cannot any longer afford.

    This would be a big change, as per my (B): They are currently employees who work according to their employers’ terms, policies and procedures. Creating a professional body – even one limited to tertiary teaching – would be no small feat. Indeed, it is an undertaking of such magnitude that I strongly urge you to consider it an entirely separate challenge and project to co-operative funding.

    Yes, they do start to merge. I understand the feat is not small. This does not negate its viability or utility, but only perhaps the desire or means to pursue implementation. And I think with benefit the two can be combined for a unique higher education paradigm that offers benefit of such magnitude that the effort required is not surprisingly proportionate.

    If you go away from this conversation with only one thought, Shawn, I would like it to be this: Resources will always be limited, and doubly so for education. Top US institutions like to point to the huge funds they have amassed – mostly from their alumni. My response: Is the tiny number of graduates you produce a good return on that investment. No. All they have proved is that elitism is self-perpetuating.

    Yes, limited resources is precisely why I have developed this proposal – and the NHC its proposal. As for “central thinking,” I believe it is more complicated than you suggest. The professional alternative can easily meet the $10,000 degree challenges issued by Texas, Florida, and other Governors, along with various Foundation such as the Gates and Lumina. I have made the proposal known to all, with not even a response.

    Now this might mean that I do not have a “good enough idea,” but it might also mean that what they consider a “good idea” is not what I do, especially since what I propose would fundamentally shift power in higher education (a recognized cornerstone of an economy) and so society.

    I can see how a collective puts money into a fee pot to be distributed to successful college applicants. But where is the payback? In particular, where is the payback if I studied, say, philosophy? I am also reminded of the story of Albrecht Dürer. The story of his Brother and the praying hands is almost certainly apocryphal but it highlights a problem. If I do invest in a co-op and join the queue what happens if I don’t meet entry requirements – or I lose my place for some other reason?

    I am not sure how higher education would be ultimately financed under a co-operative model. I do know that with the professional service model the total cost is 75% less than the current system. This might mean that fee pots are not required. It does mean ROI and paypacks occur in a more manageable economics. Because the total cost is significantly reduced the risk is marginalized for student or state (or co-operative), especially where the risk is shared as it is under the current system. Education in the Humanities need not be a luxury as it has now become because of finances (a luxury NHC fundamentally exploits).

    I also looked up the Antigonish Movement Nova Scotia. While the Movement’s sustainable development through adult education, co-operatives, microfinance and addressing social issues seems wonderfully progressive I can’t quite see how it is different from having co-operatives for commercial activity on the one hand and adult education on the other. Both are interesting ways to address the problems of the people in the Maritimes – and they may even have complimentary results. But I fail to see a new model emerging. I’m sure I’m just being thick again – sorry.

    It is not different. As I see things they are two hands of the same co-operative body and if you mean by “adult education,” tertiary, then I agree. Of course except for MU there is no example of a co-operative run tertiary education system on a regional, state, national or international scale. This is what I hope to change.

    The Mondragon co-operative finance model is both successful and interesting. In many ways it’s similar to the traditional (up to WW2) model of banking. We need to see a return to this, but probably won’t because the politicians are dim and the banks are all too big. For these, among other reasons, the Western economic recession will last longer and never recover some of what was lost. (D)

    The feat seems impossible and the resistance fortified, but this cannot be reason to dismiss a viable alternative or not attempt to promote its adoption. And I think the players I have identified can help achieve this.

    Again, sincerely this is helpful.

    Cheers

  20. In reply to #20 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

    Hi Shawn, Just a quick not to say I haven’t given up on this conversation. Just very short of time at the moment as moving house.

    Steve.

    Hi Steve,

    Thank you for the note. Good luck with the move. Talk to you soon.

    Shawn

  21. Hi Shawn,

    I am back on-line after moving house (it took ages to get broadband, sorry about that). If your still monitoring this thread please leave a message. I have a lot of time to think about your ideas.

    Peace.

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