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Wed Jun 1 15:13:38 CEST 2016

[Moderator&#39;s Note: The last day for comments will be tomorrow=E2=80=94T=
uesday, May 31=E2=80=94after which Cristina will have the opportunity to re=
Hi all -<br>
&quot;[the destruction of the ecosphere] &quot; not the work of ignora=
nt people. It is, rather, largely the result of work by people with BAs, BS=
s, LLBs, MBAs, and PhDs. (David Orr <a href=3D"tel:1991" value=3D"+661991">=
1991</a>; What is education for?)<br>
This has been a richly stimulating and generally optimistic discussion of t=
he potential role of universities and higher learning in the &#39;great tra=
nsition&#39; for which so many of us yearn. Cristina started this cookie cr=
umbling by seeing universities in the sway of such modern constructs as =E2=
=80=9Cmarketization=E2=80=9D and =E2=80=9Cinternationalization,=E2=80=9D bu=
t, in Paul&#39;s words, still &quot;holding the potential to become a trans=
formative agent =E2=80=93 if it can transform itself&quot;.<br>
While most comments have variously explored the silver lining in the HEI sa=
ga, I&#39;d like to drag us back to the darkening cloud Cristina so clearly=
 identified early on: =E2=80=9CHEIs have been too focused in recent decades=
 on serving short-term goals of economic performance and national competiti=
veness in the context of a socioeconomic system that prioritizes the instru=
mental value of knowledge and technology in the pursuit of growth=E2=80=9D.=
 This thunderhead remains fully capable of drowning the reform parade even =
before it assembles and gets underway.<br>
Cristina also acknowledged the view of some analysts that =E2=80=9CHEIs pri=
marily impart information and knowledge that fit within existing paradigms=
=E2=80=9D. Arguably, this perspective gains credence daily. Modern universi=
ties more reflect than shape contemporary society, a reality that has been =
reinforced in recent decades by the decline in public funding, by universit=
ies=E2=80=99 increasing dependence on private capital and by the creeping c=
orporatization of even public institutions. Many universities are gradually=
 becoming subsidized research arms of the corporate sector.<br>
Such trends inevitably influence university teaching, research and institut=
ional form. To give one example, there is little financial support for rese=
arch in organic agriculture or agro-ecology but millions flow from Monsanto=
 and its clones to agriculture faculties that develop biocides, fertilizers=
 and genetic modifications, i.e., patentable products with market value. Fo=
r contemporary society, exquisitely sophisticated and inherently sharable k=
nowledge of crop ecology, soil husbandry and climate wields no such economi=
c leverage.<br>
Meanwhile, professors of computer science, medicine, microbiology, business=
/commerce, engineering and the like receive ever-higher salaries and the ri=
chest research grants (these disciplines produce the most economically valu=
ed research and the universities=E2=80=99 most marketable students) while t=
heir colleagues in the arts, history, philosophy, etc., see their programs =
wilt in financial drought or dry up completely. Not surprisingly, the publi=
c scarcely notices. Indeed, the notion that universities exist to produce b=
etter citizens =E2=80=93 e.g., young people with the intellectual capital n=
eeded to navigate the =E2=80=98great transition=E2=80=99 to a more equitabl=
e and ecologically sustainable society =E2=80=93 seems quaintly out of fash=
ion. There is plenty of evidence that both the HEIs and most of their incom=
ing students agree that the central purpose of =E2=80=98higher education=E2=
=80=99 is better employment possibilities and higher salaries.<br>
I underscore these negatives for a simple reason. The university cannot ful=
ly assume the role of transformative agent unless it throws off the yoke of=
 dependence on private capital and its allegiance to corporate values. For =
HEIs to transform themselves they must be largely supported by their commun=
ities and align themselves with the broader public interest. But universiti=
es themselves are unlikely to spark so radical a transition. As matters sta=
nd, the needed revolution in higher education depends more on the prior tra=
nsformation of wider society than the converse.<br>
Did I mention not to hold your breath?<br>
Bill Rees<br>
Transition Network [mailto:<a href=3D"mailto:gtnetwork at"=
>gtnetwork at</a>]<br>
Sent: April 29, 2016 10:02 AM<br>
Higher Calling for Higher Education (GTN Discussion)<br>

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