Friday, 22 August 2008

The loss of privilege

Following from the last post, we now know that the professors against whom protest was directed were not always being obtuse, or malevolent in their responses to student demands for increased say in their own education (though some certainly were and these are worth noting). But, even when some spitefulness is evident, this is not all that is going on. Professors in possession of a hierarchical schema of knowledge simply could not understand student expectations of participation in the university at the same level as the professor, nor could they justify or see any way of abdicating their professorial responsibility and authority: for they felt the weight of the responsibility to protect knowledge, both ancient and new and saw themselves as guardians of an important heritage. This guardianship doesn’t fit with the new schema of knowledge, which is less hierarchical – and it becomes, I suspect, tougher for the next generation of academics to argue for its importance in later years. For when professorial authority was undermined, so was the university’s privileged position as guardian of society’s knowledge.

These conclusions come out of historical stories that I’ll have to tell when I draft my next chapter. I’ll tell these stories later. They’re fun.

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