Friday, 18 January 2008

Education, where knowledge is capital

This post continues from the previous, which Iwill not sum up because I just wrote it.

Because of the widespread availability and value of data, there is decreasing value in keeping it in one's head - which ecological psychology also describes. So education must become about something more than “just” transmission of knowledge – or facts, really:

"didactics does not simply consist in the transmission of information; and competence, even when defined as a performance skill, does not simply reduce to having a good memory for data or having easy access to a computer...what is of utmost importance is the capacity to actualise the relevant data for solving a problem...and to organise that data into an efficient strategy" (p51).

An earlier post showed that talked about the need for legitimate knowledge and the system of legitimacy established results in a flat network of inquiry, an increasing interdisciplinarity which functions to delegitimise the old system (which is not a huge loss) because the metanarration project is a paradoxical one, which undermines itself.  This impacts education as well:

"The idea of an interdisciplinary approach is specific to the age of delegitimation and its hurried empiricism" (p.52) and education becomes "training in one's ability to connect the fields" - one giant Glass Bead Game

I think "hurried empiricism" is one of the loveliest descriptions.

The loss of boundaries and the need to be able to cross them in lots of sensible ways is probably the cause of a lot of academic anxiety and angst, as well as creativity...and is probably now a life skill that may well find its way into graduate attributes one day:

"This capacity to articulate what used to be separate can be called imagination..."

And finally, the postmodern characteristic that stole modernity's obsession with speed and growth and translated it into the circulation of knowledge as capital:

"Speed is one of its properties." (p.52)

And of all the things that has changed the nature of knowledge - and with which university-based knowledge can not compete in the knowledge economy, speed may well be it. But that is idle speculation on my day I'll write about that. Sticking to Lyotard for now...the last 2 bits of paper can fit here, as we consider changes to the approach to education, including our increasing tendency to collaborative approaches:

"The emphasis placed on teamwork is related to the predominance of the performativity criterion in knowledge [where] justice and truth are thought of in terms of the probability of success (p.52).

In general, teamwork does in fact improve performance...[and is] especially successful in improving performativity within the framework of a given model, that is for the implementation of a task. [It is] ... less certain when the need is to 'imagine' new models."

Gives us a new angle on the apparent need for both acquisitive and co-constructive approaches, described by Sfard Lyotard suggests education will be divides into 2 purposes:

"...either for the selection and reproduction of professional skills, or for the promotion and 'stimulation' of 'imaginative' minds ...  on a mass scale ... [or] on a smaller scale in conditions of aristocratic egalitarianism" (p. 53)

Getting a little speculative himself here really. Nearly there...last quote. What happens to the university as knowledge changes in this way? It may well be on the way out, not least because of the loss of any need or desire for an expert:

"one thing that seems certain is ... [it is] sounding the knell of the age of the Professor: a professor is no more competent than memory bank networks in transmitting established knowledge, no more competent than interdisciplinary teams in imagining new moves or new games. (p53)"

Exaggerated this may be, but we can see what Lyotard means. Very much like Benjamin's work of art, the digital reproduction of knowledge reduces the value - and indeed the need - for the "original". As I've said several times, this is not a big loss. However, for universities it might feel like a big loss. Despite the optimism we might feel about the reduction in knowledge's elitism, still following Benjamin's consistent point, the aristocratic system has been replaced by a commodified one - one which masquerades as egalitarian. 

Egalitarian qualities, in education (including collaborative metaphors) though, might not be egalitarian at all, but, by increasing efficiency, egalitarianism serves the system of knowledge-as-capital.

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