Friday, 9 January 2009

Why is it bad to commodify university-based knowledge?

This is a short post. My son tells me it is the weekend.

Why is it bad to commodify university-based knowledge? That is, why do we feel that there is a moral problem with it? For me, I'd describe the feeling as "ick".

Firstly, many people, including me, think commodification in intrinsically a problem: it reduces things - knowledge - to exchange value.

Secondly, there are a range of reasons why commodification is especially a problem in universities. They relate to some traditional values associated with what goes on in them:

1. Education as a right of citizenship. (This has not always, to all people, extended to higher education.)

2. Teaching as gift-giving

3. Academic work as gift-culture (in that knowledge is shared freely often unconnected to financial remuneration)

4. Knowledge as its own reward - in liberal education tradition it has intrinsic value

5. Research as independent and disinterested - with no regard for personal gain (which is a result of knowledge is its own reward)

"There's plenty of money out there. They print more and more every day. ... Only a dummy would give this up for something as common as money. Are you a dummy?" (Grandpa George, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)

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