lunes, 22 de marzo de 2010

It Doesn't Make Sense to Make Sense

I work in a very politicized public university, to say the least. During elections convulsion takes over, passionate speeches and their echo resonates in our ears. Faculty, students, and staff go to the electronic media to present in a good light the mission, the purpose, and the future of universities and education in general; teaching as an almost religious duty and formal education as a public good.

Faculty is immersed in a daily life that requires a way of life and behavior with few freedoms, we have to assist students in their work, teach classes, petition for support, promote our work, publish refereed articles and books, participate in academic meetings, review and improve curricula, participate in the administration of the university, plan our work; our tenure depends on fulfilling those tasks faithfully, besides of other requirements that change with time.

Frequently we have to fill forms and ask for proof of our activities to apply for incomprehensible requirements and others that we know have salary consequences. Form filling is a specialty and researchers often ask their students to help them. It is not hard to find those students in the researchers homes performing other duties which are not theirs. It is demeaning.

In this frame of existence it doesn't make sense to make sense. That is, it is becoming more and more evident that institutions of learning do not fulfill the social need of a democratic, modern, participatory education, based on student learning, on the students themselves and not on all that vertical and authoritarian bureaucratic apparatus, that our education system has become.

In the past it was necessary to have professions bringing together diverse similar tasks in their nature, thus professions like Civil Engineering, Accounting, Law, Biochemical, Economics and a few others. Knowledge existed in libraries, in the head of experts and specialized professors in those areas, in periodic specialized printed material from the big and small professional associations, and scientific meetings.

The amount of information was manageable, it was useful to travel to where those sources were. Study abroad where a branch of science and technology was well developed. The cities of science were a dream to visit and we dreamed we were living in such a place, with knowledge and experts concentrated.

The Internet helped to destroy the dream. Education got democratized, informal education was promoted and even invisible education. It contributed to generate a public discussion space on subjects that before, and even today, are untouchable: the very existence of the teacher, his role as expert-teacher, as sole source of knowledge and the very existence of educational institutions, their modus vivendi, the what, how and when to perform the education task. Words themselves like Education, Teacher, University are synonymous to our ears with authoritarianism, imposition, indoctrination, slavery.

It is in this sense that when the university community is asked to promote the University, that the professions, teaching, evaluation, teaching methods, curriculum reforms; are the only things to change, but it is argued, the system is untouchable.

Edgar Altamirano

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