Today we talk about powerful knowledge, a concept that has sparked a major debate about what should be taught in schools. My guest is Michael Young, a professor of Sociology of Curriculum at UCL’s Institute of Education.

Michael’s work in the sociology of education has been criticized by both the Right and the Left. That’s why I wanted to sit down with him to unpack what he even means by powerful knowledge and how it applies to schools. Where did the idea come from? How has his own thinking evolved over his career?

Michael Young has worked at the Institute of Education for over 50 years. A student of Basil Bernstein, he has had a major impact on the field of sociology of education since the publication of his first book, Knowledge and Control, in 1971. Much of our conversation today focuses on his 2008 book, Bringing Knowledge Back in.

Citation: Young, Michael, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 188, podcast audio, February 24, 2020. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/michaelyoung/

Will Brehm 2:14
Michael Young, welcome to FreshEd.

Michael Young 2:16
Thank you. I am very delighted to be involved.

Will Brehm 2:19
So, you have this idea of powerful knowledge and it, sort of, has taken on a life of its own, in many ways. Could you just define the concept of ‘powerful knowledge’? How would you tell a student, for instance, what this idea is?

Michael Young 2:34
I think that there would be many definitions, and what I can do is say something about the starting ideas that, in fact, led to it. And then, I suppose what I wanted to do when I came up with the idea, and I do not know if it is uniquely me … but there was … I was focusing more on educational research in sociology, and I thought that it was important that, in fact, we refocused how we approach questions about the curriculum in sociology. And so … I came up … I gave a talk at the Institute in about 2007, 2008, about the future direction of research. And … it … and I made this distinction, which I think is a very important one, between knowledge of the powerful, and powerful knowledge. And, on the whole, the sociological tradition has been to focus on knowledge … the curriculum, as knowledge of the powerful, and that comes from, basically, a left Marxist tradition, which basically sees the knowledge that people get access to as ideology, masking the nature of the societies that, in fact, they’re in.

Will Brehm 3:48
So, for instance, it would be the people in power who are writing the curriculum, writing the syllabi, writing the textbooks, their knowledge, their interests are being reproduced inside the curriculum. And that is the knowledge of the powerful.

Michael Young 4:02
And, in a sense, what the sociologists did was to expose this. And I felt that there was time … we had to stop. Because, actually, it was an oversimplification this… was… Although that knowledge of powerful ideas got some truth in it, it is also true that, in fact, people can get quite other kinds of things from being educated in a school system … university system … in a Western capitalist society. And, what they can get is access to if I call ‘powerful knowledge’. So, in a sense, there is a tension within education systems in capitalist society, on the one hand, wanting to perpetuate a particular social order, but also having an alternative … but … to give access to criticism of that social order. And this is an argument that, in fact, Basil Bernstein makes quite powerfully in his work.

Will Brehm 4:57
Right. So, what would be an example, in today’s world, of powerful knowledge, as you see it?

Michael Young 5:03
Johan Muller, who’s a colleague I work with from Cape Town, he and I decided … we had to try and write a paper, actually trying to answer that question. And, I think the important thing to say is that, in fact, and this is where Bernstein comes in, is that, in fact, the meaning of powerful knowledge depends on the … area … the field of knowledge you’re talking about. And, in a sense, there is a tendency for the model from the natural sciences, to be seen as a definitive one, across the whole of the field of knowledge. Because, unequivocally, if we think back to industrialization, the knowledge that is transformed the society is the scientific knowledge, and the increasing emphasis of the sciences, in industry, manufacturing, and so forth. But I am not wanting to negate that, but what is extremely important is to recognize that, in a sense, the knowledge fields are differentiated. And that, in fact, you have the social sciences, you have the humanities, you have the unity. And, I think the key thing … this is the point that Bernstein makes, which I think is quite useful, that, in fact, depending on which which field you’re in, knowledge progresses in different ways, new knowledge is developed in different ways … according to where …now in the natural sciences it’s developed through the process of greater generalization and abstraction. So that, in fact, Einstein incorporates Newton and all the nineteenth century, in his field … it does not mean that they were wrong, but they were partial. And Einstein provided a broader theory, quantum theory and so forth, is an attempt to combine those, and there is the endless attempt in physics, which is to bring, in a sense, relativity and quantum theory together.

Will Brehm 6:59
Right. So … so basically powerful knowledge, in a way, you’re saying, is that once you differentiate between fields or disciplines, there are different sort of traditions with in those disciplines that, sort of, legitimate …

Michael Young 7:12

Will Brehm 7:12
… powerful knowledge. And, I think one of the words you use is ‘specialized …

Michael Young 7:16

Will Brehm 7:17
… knowledge’. So, what is the difference between ‘specialized knowledge’ and say ‘non-specialized knowledge’?

Michael Young 7:22
Well, non-specialized knowledge is the knowledge that is developed without reflection in communities, and is valuable to make sense of the world that people grow up in. So there’s, in a sense, non-specialized knowledge, it’s about the streets you live in, whether there’s a shop here or there, what bus is going where they go, that’s everyday knowledge, as discussed, for instance, particularly by the psychologist Vygotsky, and indeed … it’s … Durkheim uses the term ‘profane knowledge’ for that … that … it’s … it’s knowledge of experience. I think the big difference between specialized … starting something … between specialized and non-specialized, is that it is knowledge from experience, or it is knowledge that goes beyond experience. And that, in fact, I quite often give the example that, in fact … a city … a young person in the city … knows quite a lot … has a lot of knowledge of the city that he or she has grown up in. And, at the age … depending … seven or eight or nine, he certainly meets a geography teacher. And, the geography teacher has specialized knowledge of cities, what happens to them, how they have changed, different parts of the city affect, in different kinds of ways. And, in a sense, you get what … the … some of the researchers say is a disruption, disruption between the specialized knowledge of a field like geography, which relies upon research, inquiry, debates, within its community, and the everyday knowledge, which is also about the city, urban geography or urban sociology, is about the city. So is the young boy growing up in the city …

Will Brehm 9:09
Or the black taxi driver’s knowledge …

Michael Young 9:11
That is right … taxi drivers … is knowledge indeed, yeah…yup, yup.

Will Brehm 9:15
But that would be everyday knowledge.

Michael Young 9:16
That would be everyday knowledge, yes indeed.

Will Brehm 9:17
That would be the profane to use Durkheim’s word.

Michael Young 9:20
Yeah, yeah …that … But, in a sense, the interesting thing is that there is also a difference between codified and uncodified knowledge…

Will Brehm 9:30

Michael Young 9:31
… and, in a sense, specialized knowledge means that, in fact, it is more than just organizing knowledge … I mean … the taxi driver’s knowledge is codified, so you can test them, do they know it? – and so forth. But it is not specialized. In the sense that it never progresses, you just have to keep up with what’s going on when the new roads are built, and so forth. And, in a sense, it is different from … the … the person who lives in an area who has uncodified knowledge about the names of the streets, and the pubs, and the shops, and things like that …

Will Brehm 10:07
Right, exactly, exactly. Okay. Now … I mean … you know, the specialized/non-specialized knowledge, it seems like it is a dichotomy that might be too absolute, in a way. Would you … you know … is there some gray area where there could be types of powerful knowledge that is both specialized and non-specialized?

Michael Young 10:25
I think that in a modern industrial society, these categories … I mean … to use the term that the great German sociologist Max Weber uses, ‘ideal types’, they are not descriptions, and therefore, somebody’s knowledge will always have bits of specialized and bits of unspecialized, but when you move, say, from everyday knowledge of a city to a geography teacher, then you get a focus and a specialization that is focused. It does not mean that you throw out the unspecialized knowledge, but it is a different way of thinking. And, in that sense …it is a … students find it difficult to make that step.

Will Brehm 11:07
So … so … okay. So, we have knowledge that is specialized, we have knowledge that is unspecialized as ideal types, and then we still have this knowledge of the powerful. And would that … be … that sort of fits into specialized and non-specialized as well.

Michael Young 11:22
The knowledge of the powerful is a way of thinking about specialized knowledge. Whereas powerful knowledge is another way of thinking about specialized knowledge. Because, in a sense, if you’re approaching it from the point of view of knowledge of the powerful, you focus on ideological assumptions, you focus on who has the knowledge, what interests does it protect? – and so for those kind of things, so it’s not so much … so it’s a question of how you think about it, rather than that.

Will Brehm 11:53
Right, right. Okay. And so, I mean, we have spent a lot of time talking about knowledge. What about the word ‘powerful’, like, how are you conceptualizing the very idea of power?

Michael Young 12:02
I think it is … quite … it is an important point. Johan Muller and I, we wrote a paper in ‘The Curriculum Journal’ last year, which, in fact, revisits the question of power. Because we realized that, in a sense, and particularly important for education, that, in fact, for instance, you come across new literature or new sciences then, in a sense, on the one hand, that is powerful knowledge, but it also has powers through knowing it, and therefore, what we realized was that, in a sense, power can either mean … can mean power over, it also means power to do certain things, to think certain things. So, in a sense, power has always got those dimensions. And the problem was, to some extent … is what sociology’s emphasized, it is always the power of domination. Because it is a very powerful, it’s a very significant factor, in societies, the domination of knowledge. But it tends to neglect the fact that, in fact, students, from whatever social class, can actually acquire knowledge that empowers them. So that, in a sense, somebody like Paulo Freire is talking about the emancipatory potential of knowledge. Whereas, in fact, somebody like Althusser and Bourdieu is talking about dominating power of knowledge.

Will Brehm 13:29
Right. Okay.

Michael Young 13:29
So, there are two very, very different notions of knowledge.

Will Brehm 13:32
Yeah, very different notions …

Michael Young 13:34
That makes it a complex issue for students actually studying and thinking about it. They want to see it as simple, that either it is power over or it is power to …

Will Brehm 13:44

Michael Young 13:45

Will Brehm 13:46
And it is both …

Michael Young 13:47
And it is both…

Will Brehm 13:47
… at the same time.

Michael Young 13:48
Yeah, at the same time, yes …

Will Brehm 13:49
…and that is difficult to then unpack …

Michael Young 13:51
… and this is somethings that is always true …

Will Brehm 13:53
Right …

Michael Young 13:53
… about social …

Will Brehm 13:54
Right …

Michael Young 13:54
… organization.

Will Brehm 13:56
And so, would all specialized knowledge be powerful?

Michael Young 14:00
Would all specialized knowledge be powerful? Again, it depends. The reason why people specialize is to further knowledge and, in a sense, to make it, generate new ideas, extend their imagination about the world, or make predictions more powerful. So that the purpose of specialization is always to increase the power. I think that … but on the other hand, for instance, if you take the Gnostic knowledge of physicists, about the nature of the atom, then that, actually, can lead to Hiroshima. As much as it can lead to a way of producing energy.

Will Brehm 14:44
Right, right … so …

Michael Young 14:45
And so, it is not so much whether it is always powerful, but it’s powerful with different consequences.

Will Brehm 14:52
And in different times. So …

Michael Young 14:53
Yah, yah …

Will Brehm 14:53
… so, at one time, it …

Michael Young 14:54
Yah, yah …

Will Brehm 14:54
…it can be a domination over …

Michael Young 14:56
…that’s right …

Will Brehm 14:56
… certain people, and other times it can be …

Michael Young 14:58
… and you cannot really, you cannot really escape that …  we have the dramatic case of it now about artificial intelligence, it’s actually incredibly productive, the things it can enable us to do, but also it has very, very negative consequences as well, as we know from, you know, the Cambridge Analytica project, and all those kind of things.

Will Brehm 15:19
Exactly. And I guess this is where some issues of politics come in, because then there has to be choices that are made … by how these, sort of, new knowledge in different fields gets applied to society or applied in society, right? So …

Michael Young 15:33
But it is a most tricky issue for politics …

Will Brehm 15:36
Oh, of course …

Michael Young 15:36
… because, in a sense, it is not unambiguous right …ly … right … or left.

Will Brehm 15:42
Exactly. Right. And there is, yeah, exactly …

Michael Young 15:44
People want to find things …of, you know, that the Labour Party can go in for or the Conservative Party, but it is not like that …

Will Brehm 15:50

Michael Young 15:51
…knowledge is not like that.

Will Brehm 15:52
Right. So, I mean, this, sort of, brings up this idea of, you know, what is truth? And we, sort of, live in this moment of ‘fake news’. And where journalism is, sort of, you know, they feel the need to present both side ism. So, in every article there is, you know, here is what one person says, but we also have the opposite take by this other group with that has other interests. Do you think that powerful knowledge, this idea that we’ve been talking about, can actually help, you know, societies today, sort of, get over or get through this idea of ‘fake news’ and where truth is relative and anyone can have as many different truths as we can count?

Michael Young 16:32
I think the notion of … there are two things need to be clarified there, I think. One is that, in fact, there is a difference between, if you are like, I cannot think of quite the right term, the difference between absolute truth, and with something more like procedural truth. I mean, there is … and, in a sense, I would use the term for procedural truth, better knowledge rather than, in fact, another version of truth. There’s always better knowledge knowledge. And that takes you back to the fact that there’s better knowledge in different disciplines, there is better plays, better films. And then the reason … what ‘better’ means is that you can get the background, the argument, the evidence, and, so forth, for why you claim to be better. And it is very, very important that, in fact, school education, in particular, actually focuses on better knowledge.

Will Brehm 17:25
So, isn’t one person’s idea of ‘better’ different from another’s?

Michael Young 17:29
Well, it’s potentially better, but, in a sense …one of the things that schools try to do is to give students access to the specialized communities who spend their life on trying to clarify the better knowledge, and that gives the historians … they don’t have an answer, you know, anybody can have a view about the origins of the American War of Independence or whatever, but what historians do can document you, what happened and why, and the arguments that they can make. And, in a sense … and therefore we turn to them, but we do not turn to them for an absolute truth, we turned to them because, in fact, what … the way that the …the issue … I would say the way … it is important for everybody to be thinking about knowledge, not necessarily about powerful knowledge, that is not always that helpful.

Will Brehm 18:25

Michael Young 18:26
But, in a sense, if they think about powerful knowledge, they will realize that they are involved in some judgment, but there are limits to their judgment, because of specialization. I cannot make a judgement about some technical thing involved in artificial intelligence. But I can make some broader judgments about what assumptions about intelligence the AI people are making, because I am, you know, that is what philosophers and sociologists do. So, there is a question of where your own specialization applies.

Will Brehm 19:00
So, you know, it is interesting this idea of trying to, you know, view specialized knowledge, or view powerful knowledge within specialized fields, within specialized disciplines. Because, at the same time, in higher education, we hear a lot about trying to be cross-disciplinary, transdisciplinary, trying to not simply work within single disciplines, but work across disciplines, to get at certain issues that don’t fall neatly in one area, right? So, for instance, one example that I can think of is climate change, right? Because that obviously has issues that not only impact, you know, environmental studies and physics and, you know, but also sociology, also technology. So how, you know, how do you understand or how can cross-disciplinary thinking fit within ideas of powerful knowledge?

Michael Young 19:50
Climate change, I mean, I’m not a geographer, but climate change is a very interesting example, because there was a debate about whether, in fact, climate change should be introduced or not … and it’s … in the primary school. And some people thought it should because it is relevant, and practical, and happening every day. I would make the argument that, in fact, that is fine but, if you do not really know what climate is, then to think about the consequences of climate change is absurd. So, I would take the view that, in a sense, the starting assumption of schooling is to focus on, if you like, disciplines, which provide you with the intellectual basis for being transdisciplinary. And, I would not introduce, I mean, certainly I used to teach chemistry, as a schoolteacher, and I used to feel much happier … I often had to teach physics and biology, but I did not know much, but I did not feel that I was such a good teacher then. Whereas, I knew my subject, and that’s why people could basically get excited about it, if I taught them, and also, they could learn. So, I think that, in fact, it is very important to see the interrelationships between the discipline, or the subject, and the interdisciplinary inquiry. Because, of course, you look at the, for instance, UCL’s range of research, a lot of it is interdisciplinary. But the people who work in interdisciplinary fields have a strong background in some discipline or other.

Will Brehm 21:28
Right, so they are, you know, you need to specialize in a particular knowledge tradition. But then you also have to have the skills to be able to talk to people and work with people in other disciplines.

Michael Young 21:38
But I think that what’s really important there is, particularly at the school level, it’s slightly different, but has similarities to the university level, is that, in fact, what a subject… cause we … in England anyhow we tend to talk about subjects in schools, disciplines in universities, very crude distinction, but nevertheless. And that … what’s … what’s very important, I think, is that, in fact, if you come to school, from your everyday knowledge, a subject gives you a sense of your identity as a learner, of whether you’re progressing, what’s better knowledge and what less good, and in a sense, it provides an important resource for you. Because, and also, at some point or rather, you may come across the boundaries of the subjects, and then you know … what … what you can speak about, and what, in fact, you need to inquire or talk to colleagues in other subjects, and so forth. So … I think … I think the boundaries between subjects have a very important role for the progress of learners.

Will Brehm 22:39

Michael Young 22:40
And we have gone against that. I mean, I now find… I don’t teach Masters courses, as I used to, but what I used to find was that, in fact, the disciplines had got broken up, and there were these interdisciplinary modules, and I would have 20 or 30 students, and some of them have never done any sociology before, some of them had done lots. And that is not the best context …

Will Brehm 23:05
Right …

Michael Young 23:05
…for taking them on …

Will Brehm 23:06
… because how do you teach …

Michael Young 23:08

Will Brehm 23:08
… such a diverse group of students?

Michael Young 23:09
And I am not sure you do. You see, I think that … they … they would be better to have done some courses in sociology or economics and psychology …

Will Brehm 23:17
… before moving up to

Michael Young 23:19
… then move up …

Will Brehm 23:19
Right, right. I mean … so … and going back to this issue of climate change, so before you can learn about … the … what’s happening in climate change in a cross-disciplinary way, you need to have the … real … good foundation of what climate is.

Michael Young 23:32
And it is quite an abstract concept ‘climate’…

Will Brehm 23:33
It sure is, yeah, yeah…

Michael Young 23:34
Yeah, I mean, like weather, and all these things, yeah…and… yeah …

Will Brehm 23:39
… and climate is not weather, it is … not …

Michael Young 23:40
… no, no, it is not … exactly. And, that is important, you know…

Will Brehm 23:43
So, what then do you think of someone like Greta Thunberg? You know … this … she’s the 16-17 year old that is making all of these speeches and, sort of, leading a massive social movement across the world to get politicians to address the issue of climate change or what … what … she calls the climate crisis. Like, is she working in powerful knowledge? Or, is this more of the everyday knowledge? Like … how would you … How would you understand the phenomenon of Greta Thunberg?

Michael Young 24:12
Well, it is good question, actually. I mean, she is obviously a very bright and thoughtful girl, no question about it. And, she is thought a lot about the issues, and so forth. But … I think … I do not think she is so much a leader; I think she is being used. And, I do not use that negatively. But then people think if we can show that there’s somebody of her age, we’ve got these things, she represents something, they may convince some people that, in fact, another academic, who really knows about it, who has the specialized knowledge, which she doesn’t have, she’s got a concern, and, I think, we can respect that. But I think she is being used as a …sort of … rather like that extraordinary Pakistani girl, Malala.

Will Brehm 24:59
Yeah, yeah …

Michael Young 25:00
I mean, she got used, you know, got the Nobel Prize, not because, in one sense, she deserved it, but to symbolize something that she stood for, was the, kind of, courage and bravery … and it … kind of … concerned about … and I think they’re very much the same. And I am sure that Greta will get some kind of Nobel prize, at some point, just because, in fact, for a 16-year-old to do that everybody thinks it’s wonderful. They cannot really criticize because she’s only 16…

Will Brehm 25:26

Michael Young 25:27
But I do not think … it is not the knowledge …that’s the important thing, it’s a symbol of the young girl.

Will Brehm 25:33
I think one of the things that’s so powerful about Greta is her ability to take specialized knowledge in the research literature, in diverse fields that focus on climate and climate change, and say them in ways that are so easily understood by people, from politicians to, you know, other schoolchildren, but also to adults, right? Who aren’t in that specialized knowledge? So, she is almost … I see her almost as translating this specialized knowledge into, sort of, everyday knowledge, and it’s become popularized, in a way, where now there’s, sort of, this common language, you know, even the idea of calling it the climate crisis, rather than climate change, you know, in many ways that discursive change … is … or linguistic change … is to her credit.

Michael Young 26:18
Yeah, no … but it might have been an adult, it could have been somebody else…

Will Brehm 26:22

Michael Young 26:22
But, in fact, it is symbolic that it is not an adult …

Will Brehm 26:25
…Right …

Michael Young 26:25
…and therefore, people, in a way, have to listen to it … I do not think she is done a massive amount of reading …

Will Brehm 26:32
… I, see, I actually think she has …

Michael Young 26:33
…well, she is obviously done… more than most 16-year olds, but I, in a sense, I think it is less… I mean, I agree with you that her ability to articulate, and to express, in accessible lang … is admirable. It is almost as if she is a specialist in communication, rather than in climate knowledge …

Will Brehm 26:53
…Yeah …Yeah, right … I mean, that’s … yeah … that is a good point, because she really is capable of talking about some of these complex issues …

Michael Young 27:00
But I think it is her as the symbol, rather than just what she says.

Will Brehm 27:06
Yeah, it is complex, you are, sort of, becoming multiple things, right? As she is gaining more and more famous … and … you know, her face is known all over the world. So, you know … in … I read a little bit about your history before coming into this interview. And it is quite striking that … I learned that … in … when you were a young lecturer, I think about probably the same age I am now, in the same Institute, you wrote a book called ‘Knowledge and Control’ …

Michael Young 27:33
That is right …

Will Brehm 27:34
… which was very much about how knowledge or school knowledge is socially constructed to … basic … to privilege the ruling classes, those with power, and disadvantage the workers. Fast forward 50 years, we are beginning to, sort of … a … you know … in this conversation today, we’re not really talking about the social construction of knowledge anymore. You are talking about powerful knowledge. These disciplinary knowledges …

Michael Young 27:59
I mean … I realized that, in a sense, the development of … First of all, I think that, in a sense, unless you … … unless you’re a very religious person, social construction is a rather banal notion that is true. That all knowledge is humanly constructed by groups of people in particular contexts. And what is important to say about that is that, I think, is that one of the things that is continued to … is that therefore, it is also always potentially accessible to anyone. Because it’s a human thing, it’s not, you know, it’s not God, you know, it’s not the universe or something like that, and, or some divine being or creator, or anything like that. And I think that was … but if you follow through the social construction, you end up by saying … focusing only on the social  … and … and therefore, on the whole, on par, and true knowledge is a knowledge that the powerful have, you get to knowledge of the powerful. And, you do not actually get to any understanding of knowledge, the knowledge itself disappears. Because it is all social. It is kind of a … it is a, kind of, sociological imperialism…

Will Brehm 29:10
Yeah. Right.

Michael Young 29:11
… because … and it’s interesting that, in fact, you know, Marx, who was the first social constructivist, if you like, I mean, he had this notion of post the revolution, something more like primitive communism, where everybody was able to do everything. Now, I think that is a mistake … he was an anti-specialization person. And so, I think, I realized, and I suppose I got a lot of flak, for the first time, not the only time in my life, a lot of flak from the academics, and people, about social constructivism … and rightly, but I want to hold on to the fact that it’s still got an element of truth, just, we tend to convert it into the whole truth. And, that was … I think … that … that was what was misleading. So, and I think I particularly … what was important for me was … in … in the early 90s, I went … I spent a lot of time in South Africa, as a kind of consultant with the Democratic Movement on developing a new education system, because obviously, they were just about to abolish apartheid, which was, in a sense, determined their education … so now what were they were going to do? And, the only theory I had at the time was a socially constructed theory, which basically said, basically, you should let everyone be free to construct their own knowledge. And, in fact, because that is what people used to …flag … wave a flag saying, knowledge is a social construct. But, of course, the poor teachers have not a clue. They were there in the schools and what on earth did they do? And, in a sense, there was chaos in the schools. And, in a sense … and what I have been doing ever since is trying to recover from that idea, to realize that there is actually something real about the world. This is why social realism comes, there’s something real about the world. We do not just social construct, as we will, we social construct an external world, whether it is social or material, or whatever … and we try and improve our understanding of that … material … of that world. And I … then … and then I went back, and I came across Durkheim, and I reread Durkheim, who I read and misunderstood when I was an undergraduate. And, and he was the starting point for me, and the influence of Bernstein as well. And indeed, Vygotsky. So, I looked for an alternative. And, in a sense, ‘Bringing Knowledge Back In’ … the book is a, kind of, conclusion. But it is not a conclusion, it does not solve the problem, it just says ‘here is a way of thinking that is much better than the way we’ve had before’. And then … that social realism, but, in fact, that requires you to accept the importance of specialization, to accept the importance of an external world, to accept the importance … you never have the absolute truth. You are always trying to improve it. I mean, the people in quantum physics are trying to improve quantum physics…. to make it a more adequate account of, you know, of the atom …

Will Brehm 32:06
So, from social constructivism to social realism, and now you are bringing knowledge back in in your working … where to next?

Michael Young 32:16
Well, I mean, I think that the … when we came to powerful knowledge, and the idea that there is better knowledge, and that that should be the basis for the curriculum, for all pupils, because in England, as you probably know, and probably is the same in the States, we had a kind of diversified model of knowledge that, in fact, for the kids who appeared to be in quotes, not ‘academic’, you would give them something more like everyday knowledge. And, of course, that actually kept perpetuating the inequalities for them. So, in a sense, so the … the … thing that I am focusing on now, primarily, is that, in fact, the curriculum is about stipulating the best knowledge, right? And that is fine. I think you can do that, but if you are thinking about education … that, in fact, the educational problem is the stipulation and the de-transmission problem. And that, in a sense, because you cannot transmit the knowledge that is produced by researchers, there has to be … Bernstein called ‘recontextualization’ of that, and which involves the relationship between the teacher and the pupil. And that, in fact, if you don’t do that, and you think it’s only the curriculum and stipulation, then … you … you get a curriculum, which involves expecting people to mug up to memorize, to reproduce, you don’t actually give them an access to knowledge, which is about changing their thinking. You do not.

Will Brehm 33:47
Well, Michael Young, thank you so much for joining FreshEd, really a pleasure to talk today. Thank you very much.

Michael Young 33:53
Not at all. I have enjoyed the discussion.

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Today Raewyn Connell returns to FreshEd to talk about her new book, The Good University. In it, Raewyn takes a deep dive into the labor that makes a university possible while also detailing the main troubles the institution currently faces.

She argues that a good university must work for the social good rather than for profit. It must embrace its democratic roots and protect the process of being truthful.

Raewyn Connell is Professor Emerita at the University of Sydney. She is an active trade unionist and advocate for workers’ rights, student autonomy and educational reform.

Photo by Peter Hall

Citation: Raewyn, Connell, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 157, podcast audio, June 3, 2019. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/raewynconnell2/

Will Brehm  1:30
Raewyn Connell, welcome back to FreshEd.

Raewyn Connell  1:31
I’m very glad to be here.

Will Brehm  1:33
So, congratulations on your new book. And just halfway through this book, when I was reading it, you tell this wonderful story about this famous Jacaranda tree at the University of Sydney. And I want to just ask, what made this tree so famous? And why did you end up writing about it?

Raewyn Connell  1:48
Well, it’s a very beautiful tree. It has lovely purple flowers, and it’s absolutely covered in blossom at a certain time of year, which happens to correspond with when graduations are held. So, for many years, since the invention of color photography, all the graduates would go and stand in front of the tree in their robes and get the photographs at the end of their degree. And it’s all in front of this sort of mock Gothic sandstone building in golden stone. It’s a lovely picture. Well, a few years ago, five or perhaps eight years ago, the University began including in its advertising, a picture of a tutorial group -a discussion group- sitting on the lawn in front of this tree in full bloom. And that was a lovely picture for advertising with the mock Gothic building behind suggesting how ancient and venerable the University was. Unfortunately, it wasn’t true for two reasons: one, no tutorials are allowed to meet on that lawn. Two, the tree actually blossoms after tutorials are over. So, the thing was a fake! And it seemed to me that that somehow represented what was happening in universities as they became more commercialized. There was more fakery and misrepresentation. And just a couple of years after that image was used in the advertising, the tree died. Now, no biologist among my friends would agree that the tree died of shame but one suspected, and that somehow to me symbolized that the university in some sort of crisis. Yeah, universities in general. Well, by corporate standards, there’s no crisis. You know, the higher education industry is booming. There are now more than 200 million university and college students around the world. The flow of fees and money into the system is bigger than ever before. So, from a profit-making and corporate growth perspective, we’re doing wonderfully in universities. But, by other standards, there are terrible problems. I mean the casualization of academic labor force, virtual end of the prospect of a career for very large numbers of university teachers, the growing level of distrust and antagonism between workforce in universities and the managers, the growing level of inequality within universities just in sheer money terms, the level of anger that you see in conflicts in universities now, and of course, the decline of government support for higher education in most parts of the world, not quite all, which escalates in some countries like Hungary -it’s a famous example recently- of outright attacks by government on the university sector -at any rate, parts of it- showing a kind of political antagonism to good higher education, which is very disturbing, indeed. And in that kind of sense, yeah, there is a crisis that’s bubbling/boiling up around us.

Will Brehm  5:25
Yeah, I mean, I’ve seen photos of many years ago, protests in Chile, just recently, protests in Brazil. Even in the UK, there’s been these mass protests of university lecturers fighting for basically better pensions and better wages and trying to resist this sort of corporatization of the university. So where do we begin? If this is this crisis that we see -and in your book, you basically start by looking at the foundations of the university, and really focus on the massive amount of labor that universities do in a way. All the different types of people that make a university possible require huge amounts of labor. Can you talk a little bit about, you know, what sort of labor actually happens based on your long career in universities?

Raewyn Connell  6:17
Well, what I do in the first chapters of the book is show how research, the production of knowledge, has to be understood as a form of work -a complex and intricate kind of work, but work nevertheless, with a workforce in certain conditions. And the same for teaching too. Education involves a form of labor by the teachers and by the students for that matter. And we have to understand the circumstances in which this work is done, the relationships that shape the work in order to understand the production of knowledge and the educational process itself. Now as the universities have got more commercialized and commodified, this labor has been changing. And the conditions of this labor has been changing. So, the academic work: Well, there’s a much higher level of casualization and insecurity for academic workers, as more of the face-to-face teaching is done by people in insecure, short-term jobs. The role of academics in longer term jobs has also changed. They’ve become a kind of middle management group responsible for organizing a casualized, insecure workforce. There’s been an intensification of labor. This is not unusual in today’s economy. That’s true in other industries as well. But it’s quite striking in academic work. The growth of a long hours culture, the decline of the sense that you have time to sit and think and look around, read around and come up with fundamental new ideas -this is now harder simply because of the change in the kind of work. And there’s more control over academic labor via audits and measurement, and management surveillance. Even a simple decision, like when you’ve done some research, you’ve written an article about it, where you publish it, that used to be your own decision as to where you should publish it to reach the audience who needed to know. No! That doesn’t apply anymore. There are now management pressures to publish only in high-prestige journals in the most central countries in the world, and so forth. So, that’s a very significant set of changes in academic labor. And for non-academic workers, what I call the operations workers, who are half the workforce of universities, the work also has been changing -sometimes in the same ways. There’s more sort of surveillance and control from above, so fewer people are just trusted to get on with a job, assume that they know what their job is, and they should get on with it -there’s less and less of that. More surveillance, more auditing. But there’s also more outsourcing of work in universities. That is, workers who actually work for the university, but are not employed by the university, rather employed by another company, which has a contract with the university management and that changes relationships in universities too as it would in any place where that kind of thing happened. Because people working in an outsourced basis for another company don’t have rights, don’t have recognition on campus, are not likely to be there long-term so they can’t develop long-term relationships with the teaching or research staff, and there’s just less of the basic, ground-level know-how on which universities have depended in order to work effectively as organizations. So, more control concentrated at the top means less effective work down below. And that has been happening on a large scale in universities.

Will Brehm  10:25
And has there been any consequences or impacts on student learning? I mean, this seems to be a major function of the university. So, with these various reforms, with this corporate-style management, this power residing at the top in these administrations, what effect on the student?

Raewyn Connell  10:42
Two things: One, because corporate management drives for lower wage costs, lower labor costs, they’re terribly interested in technologizing university teaching. So, MOOCs are the classic example of that, the massive online open courses, which have something like a 90% dropout rate, I mean they’re quite stunning. But in other ways too, the learning experience is more computerized, more technologized, therefore, more -and this is the other side of it- in various ways more formalized. So, we have more frequent and technologically controlled testing. There’s less scope for ambitious but out of the way learning practices by the students. They’re more, sort of on a prescribed path all the time. I can remember -this is, you know, I’m now one of the older generation very much. When I was an undergraduate doing a history program, we actually had two years in the middle of the degree with no exams at all. We had an exam at the end of the two, but for two years, we could pursue our own learning interests, we had to attend courses, lectures, tutorials, and so forth. But we weren’t tested. And, you know, modern students, I think -and this applies to schools, as well as universities- are tested to within an inch of their lives sometimes. And I think that really degrades the kind of learning experience that a university should be.

Will Brehm  12:25
So, one of the things you mentioned earlier was that there’s something like 200 million students enrolled in higher education around the world. And in a way, this is very much a massification of higher education. So many more people today are going to university than say 50 years ago. And we talked-

Raewyn Connell  12:45
-and that’s a good thing.

Will Brehm  12:46
Right. That’s a good thing. And universities often talk about this in terms of equity, and diversity, and opportunity, and enlarging that student base. But in your book, you start calling the university sort of “privilege machines”. You talk about how they actually produce inequality. And so, I wanted to know, in your mind, how are universities complicit in the production of inequality?

Raewyn Connell  13:08
Hmm. Well, universities have always been connected with privilege and power throughout their history. So, a phrase like “a college man”, a bit out of date now but it used to be an expression which signaled leisure and money among young people. Well, as the university system has expanded, it’s also become more unequal in itself. So, we’ve now got this massive hierarchy of universities from the very well-funded privileged institutions down to a worldwide mass of higher education institutions, colleges, universities, called different things in different places. And that’s symbolized by the league tables that are now published, you know, with Harvard on top, and MIT and Stanford up there at the top, and your local community college way down at the bottom. Now, the biggest part of the expansion, very recently, has been in privately owned, for-profit universities. That’s now a large sector worldwide. And I would emphasize the for-profit part because what these kinds of colleges sell, basically, is vocational training. They do hardly any research, that’s not their game and they have a very casualized workforce so that you’re not getting a high quality of educational thinking there because people don’t have time and opportunity to do that thinking. But you do have connections with local industries, local businessmen, who are often on the boards, and even involved in developing the curricula of those kinds of colleges. So, what you’re getting then, is an apparent mass expansion but also a change in the character of most higher education as that expansion occurs, which becomes a thinning out of the university or the college experience and a commodification of what it’s taken to be. So, the advertising, the marketing of the for-profit private colleges, is all about what this ticket you’re getting should yield you in terms of future income. Now that benefit often doesn’t happen because labor markets themselves are changing, and the meaning of qualifications in labor markets change. But that’s the way universities, on a mass scale, are now sold. I’m entirely in support of professional education. I think that’s a correct business of universities, and there I differ from some other critics who criticize the idea of professional education. I think that’s a central role of universities. But professional education itself should be an intellectual proposition, it should be involve thinking carefully and at length about the ethics, about the social meaning of the profession that you’re going into, it should involve understanding the clients that your profession is going to meet, so it truly involved social sciences, philosophy, humanities, other technical areas -all of those kinds of knowledges should be involved in good professional education. And I think that is being thinned out now in a very worrying way.

Will Brehm  16:48
So, I guess the obvious question then is, what can be done? What does a university look like that doesn’t embrace this corporate management, doesn’t embrace these sort of for-profit logics that many universities are around the world today? Like, what’s the alternative in a way?

Raewyn Connell  17:05
Well, there are multiple alternatives. It’s not a single blueprint that we should be following. That’s part of my critique of the “league table” mentality that assumes we all want to be like Harvard and we don’t frankly. So, one thing then is diversity. Multiplicity of purposes, and styles, and approaches to teaching, and knowledge. There are multiple knowledge systems in the world. We’ve talked about that kind of thing before. It should be part of the universities thinking. Universities now model hierarchy and even propagandize in favor of inequality. All this jargon that comes out about “excellence” really gets up my nose!

Will Brehm  17:58
I don’t know what it even means!

Raewyn Connell  18:00
It’s just a signifier of inequality, basically. And also, the nonsense that comes out about leadership. Leadership, for what for heaven’s sake! in what direction? Well, I think there is a direction which we should be leading and that’s democracy, and public service, and that doesn’t need hierarchies and league tables for heaven’s sake! Talk about self-satirizing university systems, they’re now developing league tables for public service!

Will Brehm  18:39
So how can a university be democratic? How can that ideal be embraced inside a university?

Raewyn Connell  18:45
Well, parts of it is already there. We do know how to run institutions democratically. And that’s what you know, the last 200 years of global history has taught us. There are ways of doing that. So, we have leaderships that are elected, we have forms of responsibility, from top-down and bottom-up, rather than just one way. We diversify the membership of institutions, we take steps to make social inclusion real rather than simply symbolic and selective. We can’t have a democratic education and a democratic knowledge system in an authoritarian institution, it doesn’t work.

Will Brehm  19:34
So, what would that mean? That would mean giving more power to the professors to make decisions to drive the direction of the university, than the central management?

Raewyn Connell  19:43
More power to the whole of the workforce. Remember that half of the workforce of universities are non-academic and they also have know-how and commitment and ideas and should be part of the governing process of the institution. I mean, what I’m talking about is, you know, you can put in the phrase, ‘industrial democracy’, we know how to do that. We’ve done it in cooperatives, in mainstream industries, we do know how to do that kind of thing. It’s not rocket science. But we have been shifting away from those ideas in higher education, as in other industries recently, and there’s a struggle on our hands, I think. The other thing to remember is that at the core of the modern university is a system of knowledge, which I call the ‘research-based knowledge formation’. So, research is central to the knowledge on which we build our curricula, on which we base our professional practices, and which we give to the world at large, is what universities offer. And there’s a democratic core in research, actually. I mean, we don’t necessarily represent it that way because we give Nobel prizes, to a very few top scientists, or the media will drool over the professor with the furthest away galaxy, or the latest cure for cancer. But in fact, research knowledge is a democratic theme in itself. It’s produced by a whole workforce, not just by individual stars. Particular research programs involve research teams, not, in most cases, individual stars. Or the individual stars are standing for teams of 20, 30, 100 people. And they depend on other teams and other researchers. The term publication, which has become a kind of sight of tension and horror for young academics, is actually a sign of that democratic character of knowledge. We put our knowledge out there when we publish. We put it out there for everyone to see, and for other people to build on. That’s the whole point of publication.

Will Brehm  22:08
Yeah, its publication, not ‘priva-cation’.

Raewyn Connell  22:11
Exactly, exactly! And we’re building in the knowledge system, that universities depend on and produce, we’re building a “knowledge commons”. We’re building a common social resource in research-based knowledge. So, there’s a democratic element at the very heart of universities, which is not necessarily immediately obvious, but it’s there. And we can build on it.

Will Brehm  22:39
And it’s particularly not obvious when, you know, Elsevier and Wiley and Sons, and Taylor and Francis are owning that knowledge commons. And it sort of does take that public out of publication.

Raewyn Connell  22:52
Yeah, that’s a classic example of the harm that’s done by privatization, I think. And it is being resisted. There’s quite a strong movement now to reverse that by open access policies on the part of funders, by a kind of movement among academics towards open access for other ways of circulating knowledge that don’t run into those monetary barriers. That’s a hot topic in universities now and I’m very glad to see that kind of struggle going on.

Will Brehm  23:29
So, the beginning of our talk today, you talked about this sort of fake image that the University of Sydney was promoting, and it sort of gets to this idea of truth. And this idea of, what is the role of the universities in being truth?

Raewyn Connell  23:46
Yeah. I should say that I’m not particularly blaming the University of Sydney. I mean, that’s just where I happen to be. And I happened to know that tree from a long time, because I’m also a graduate of this university. But what the University of Sydney was doing was what the University of Melbourne is doing, the University of Queensland is doing, what all the universities in the country in one way or another have been doing, and internationally too. So, I was trying to give an example of something that is, in fact global, as a problem. And why I think that’s significant is that universities do have a cultural role. I mean, they’re not -the corporation famously has, there’s a lovely saying, by Lord Chancellor of England in the 18th century, that “a corporation has no body to be kept, and no soul to be damned therefore it can do as it likes”. And that is pretty much the attitude of the mainstream corporation. And as universities approach the status of money-making corporations which indeed, some of them now are 100% that, they inhabit that kind of situation. And the problem is that universities DO have a soul. And that soul concerns truth. It’s the cultural commitment to telling the truth. And anyone who has done research, you know, I’ve been a researcher for more than 50 years. And I know how difficult it is to establish truth. But that’s what research is, it’s hard work. It’s a struggle. So, you know, it involves interacting with many people and trying to understand situations and speak the truth. It’s difficult, but it’s what we’re about. And if universities start fudging the truth in advertising, pretending to be what they are not, misrepresenting reality, then they are doing terrible damage to their own cultural position as the institutions that embody truth telling. That seems to be a very, very serious problem. And, and that’s why I get, you know, more angry about what seems to many managements to be just good commercial practice. It’s not good university practice.

Will Brehm  26:05
Are you hopeful that the university will soon move away from this corporate-style management? Or are there examples of universities around the world that are actually doing something different? And yes, it could be a multiplicity and a diversity of different ways of managing and organizing the university but sometimes I get very pessimistic about the whole industry that I have spent the last ten years of my life working in. And I don’t know, is it going to change in my lifetime or am I going to be battling this corporate-style management for the rest of my career?

Raewyn Connell  26:41
It’s a good question. And I think everybody involved in these issues at times despairs at the difficulty of moving in a more democratic direction. And I’m sustained, I think -I mean, I’m originally a historian. So, I’m always interested in the history of institutions. And I took some time when I was working on this project to go back into the history of universities and look specifically at the history of alternative universities. And it turns out, there is a wonderful history of alternative and experimental universities all over the world, which is not all that widely known. But things like, for instance, there’s an extraordinary story of the Flying University in Poland, which was developed back in the 1880s, when Poland or most of Poland was part of the Russian Tsarist Empire. And the Russian regime tried to control universities, to ratify them, and to exert regime control over them. So, the Poles went underground and invented a kind of underground university, which became known as the Flying University because its classes would move around from place to place in Warsaw in order to avoid the police. And taught a whole curriculum, natural science, educational sciences, humanities and so forth, all under the radar. And after the 1905 revolution in Russia, that came to the surface, became legal, became a regular university. Then Poland was invaded by the Nazis and they did it again, under incredible repression during the Second World War. Then the Russians threw the Nazis out and established a communist regime in Russia, which restored the universities but also attempted to control them and the Poles did it again! They had a Flying University teaching all the forbidden kinds of social sciences and humanities. Now, that’s one story, there are anti-colonial universities in India, which was set up by people like Rabindranath Tagore, the poet, back in the 1920s as a place for the meeting of civilizations rather than the Eurocentric curriculum in the universities the British had set up in the colonial system. When the pink tide occurred in Latin America 10 or 15 years ago, a series of progressive governments around the continent, they set up reform universities too. Indigenous universities, working class universities, universities in remote parts of the country with rural populations and so forth, publicly funded, bringing in new groups of people who, for years, they’ve been excluded from the university system. In AotearoaNew Zealand, there’s a university which is based on Maori indigenous culture. Similar things in parts of India, all over Central America, in parts of South America, like Bolivia, there are now indigenous universities which have curriculum that try to blend research-based knowledge with indigenous knowledge and develop curricula that are relevant to indigenous communities. So, there’s lots of experimentation in the history when you go looking for it, and that, to me, is a deep source of hope. People have done it in the past, it’s still possible for us to move in these directions now.

Will Brehm  30:34
And that actually is incredibly hopeful that the system that we’re in today is not static, and it can change and there is a history of change over time. And that’s deeply, deeply hopeful.

Raewyn Connell  30:45
I had a bit of involvement in this kind of work back in the 1960s when I was a radical student among the many other radical students. I was involved in setting up what we called Free University in Sydney, which was a student-directed, cooperative learning institution that did a couple of dozen courses on a variety of issues that we felt were missing from the mainstream university curricula. I’ve taught in publicly funded universities that were part of another reform movement, the kind of “Green Fields” universities set up in the 1960s and 70s in countries like Australia, Britain, the United States. The expansion of the University of California was a good example of that, places like UC Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara Davis, were involved. You know, experimentation with curricula, combinations of disciplines, student-centered teaching practices, lots of really interesting educational innovation happening in those institutions over a period of 20-25 years. So even in the mainstream system, it is possible to innovate and democratize in inventive ways.

Will Brehm  32:04
Well, Raewyn Connell, thank you so much for joining FreshEd. You know, I read your book, and it’s like a love letter to the university itself. And it’s critical but supportive and offers so much beautiful history. So, I mean, I can’t recommend it enough. And I just want to say thank you for writing the book and getting these ideas out there. And, as a young academic, I must say that I am actually very hopeful of being in this industry and in this career and hopefully getting involved in some of these new movements to diversify the university. So, thank you very much for joining FreshEd and you’re always welcome back on in the future.

Raewyn Connell  32:40
That’s great to hear. Thank you.

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Are there limits to what can be said on college campuses? When a far-right-wing speaker is disinvited to speak on campus, is it an issue of Free Speech?

My guest today, Neal Hutchens, explores these issues in his research and writing. Ultimately, his look at the legal issues facing universities when it comes to free speech and academic freedom goes to the heart of the purpose of higher education. What are colleges for?

Neal H. Hutchens serves as Professor and Chair in the University of Mississippi School of Education’s Department of Higher Education. His latest opinion piece on campus free speech laws was published in The Conversation in April.

Today’s episode was put together in collaboration with the Education Law Association.

Citation: Hutchens, Neal H., interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 156, podcast audio, May 27, 2019. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/hutchens/

Will Brehm 2:04
Neal Hutchens, welcome to FreshEd.

Neal Hutchens  2:05
Thank you very much, Will. I’m very happy to be here.

Will Brehm  2:08
So, about two years ago Ann Coulter, her appearance at the University of California, Berkeley was cancelled. Why was this event canceled?

Neal Hutchens  2:17
So, Ann Coulter, who is very much a conservative pundit -likes to play that role of conservative lightning rod- was invited by a student group at University of California, Berkeley to appear on campus. Berkeley is of course historically a center of free speech and expression in protests -that goes back to the student rights movement of the 1960s. Essentially what happened, with Coulter appearing on campus -and it was at a time that has continued of a lot of tension on campuses about certain kinds of speakers. Especially, I would say even speakers that push the envelope more than Coulter but certainly people like Coulter who want to advance a certain agenda. They want to really hit people’s buttons, they want to incite, they want to be provocative. So essentially what happened, there was a disagreement over where to have the event. The University was worried about -not just supporters of Coulter- but individuals who are opposed to her, so counter-protesters. And that’s happened at UC Berkeley several times in the last couple of years, certainly, and it’s something we could talk about later what happened at the University of Virginia and in Charlottesville, where we had riots that became deadly. So, you had Neo-Confederate white nationalist protesters and counter-protesters. So, it’s something that we have seen in the last several years that at certain times colleges and universities have speakers on campus, not just controversial, but institutions really have to worry about issues of safety for their students and for others attending. And so, with Ann Coulter, it really became a dispute over when to have the event, where to have the event. You had disagreements over whether she was being denied access but essentially pulled out. Later there was some litigation involving the student groups and others that had supported her being there with the university that was settled in 2018. Where the university agreed to pay some attorney fees but said essentially, we’re not having to change anything. We’re just entering into this settlement to avoid paying a larger amount. But you also had groups that are supporters that said this is a great victory for free speech rights. So that got a lot of headlines also at Berkeley and at other places you’ve had Milo Yiannopoulos. You’ve had Richard Spencer, sometimes. Charles Murray, who is another speaker that has gained headlines and you’ve had individuals protesting their appearance on campus. But this is kind of a dynamic -it gains a lot of headlines- but that we’ve seen played out on college campuses, especially in recent years. It’s not necessarily new issues of speech and expression and protest. They’ve been going on for decades at college campuses, but it’s really taken on a new profile and a new level of attention in recent years. And I think some of that is probably because we have certain kinds of organizations that are really pushing certain kinds of speakers on campus. I think they have a political agenda behind it. But that’s a way I think, to kind of contextualize what was happening with Ann Coulter’s appearance that did not happen at UC Berkeley.

Will Brehm  5:36
So, for UC Berkeley, the University, the administration was concerned about student safety and that was the sort of reasoning for canceling the event, not the issue of trying to limit free speech. Is that how they interpret what happened?

Neal Hutchens  5:55
I think that if you talk with the leadership of the institution, that would very much be their view is that instead of trying to regulate the content of the speech or the viewpoints expressed, the institution has an interest in safety. It also has an interest in keeping on the everyday functioning of the institution going even while you have speaking events going on. Now, Coulter and her supporters would have challenged that, “No, the institution is trying to shut down views because it doesn’t like us”. Again, I think a point could be made that I think sometimes for speakers like Coulter, or the organizations, especially some of the national ones that support her, they also get a lot of mileage out of being allowed on campuses. In other words, they’re pushing to be provocative so that really is part of the agenda. I think, if you peel back a little bit and examine it. But for institutions, by and large, and especially for public institutions, something that we’ll probably chat about soon is that they do have special legal responsibilities under the First Amendment, where they’re limited in being able to pick and choose speakers based on liking or disliking the message that they’re delivering. For instance, when Penn State University decided to not allow Richard Spencer who’s a white nationalist on campus: in its announcement, the University made very clear that its concern over safety was the guiding rationale for not allowing Spencer on campus. It said in the statement, the University did, that the university and its leadership were totally against all of his views. They were in opposition to any kind of values of the university, but it said, we’re not seeking to not have him on campus because of the views but because of the safety issues. And that’s something that gets muddled in a lot of these debates, is that institutions, you’ll have fingers pointed at them with the accusation that they’re really trying to stifle speech. But that can get muddled into the fact that they’re also really trying to regulate speech on campus in a way to, again, ensure safety and also all the other kinds of things that are happening on a college campus from classes to other events. And that’s not to say that institutions don’t violate these standards. I do think that institutions sometimes will overstep or overreach when it comes to regulating speech on campus but that’s certainly not always the case. And I think there are a lot of college administrators that they want to uphold the law and they want to make sure they’re following their policies and practices.

Will Brehm  8:41
Do you think that when some of these institutions do overstep the regulation of speech as you say, is there sort of a bias against right wing, conservative discourse and ideologues who come onto campus? Because you know, you hear about the Spencer’s and the Coulter’s, but you rarely hear about big events on campus that cause the same sort of political storm of more left-leaning or progressive thinkers that are also being invited on campus.

Neal Hutchens  9:15
I think that, one: that would be a really interesting area of empirical study. So, for instance, we have some research that would indicate that most college professors or a lot of college professors are left-leaning politically. But I think that’s a very distinct issue from whether or not institutions are more apt to shut down conservative speakers. I think something that would have to go into consideration of that issue, and I will admit, my view on this is I think that there are certain groups that have really seized up on the idea of free speech as political camouflage for other issues. I think Turning Point USA is a great example for that. Really using the idea of speech to push forward a political agenda. I think that in the current presidential administration we’ve seen that. For instance, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, when he was in the part of the Trump administration came out very forcefully for free speech. I’m a native of Alabama. I remember that when Jeff Sessions was a political leader in Alabama, he tried to block LGBTQ student organizations and events. And so, I think that there’s been a narrative put forth that colleges and universities are seeking to block conservative speakers, because I really think it benefits a larger political agenda. And I do think there are some counter examples we can consider. So, for instance, we certainly have private colleges and universities that do regulate student speech very heavily. One example would be Liberty University. So, the president of Liberty University is a very strong supporter of President Trump. Liberty University has been noted on several occasions for censoring student journalists. There have also been issues in the past about the student democrats on campus, so that would be one example. For our religious colleges and universities that often do get left out of the conversation from certain groups, there’s been a lot of debate and struggle over LGBTQ student organizations and not allowing those on campus. I’ll give you another example of how this can often play out. So, Tennessee is a state like several other states that has enacted a campus speech law. So, the idea was -and if you look at the supporters in Tennessee- the legislature said, “We need this law because colleges and universities are often censoring conservative speakers”. So, we have a law in place in Tennessee. Roughly at the same time that this law has been passed and enacted, you’ll find that legislators and others in Tennessee have really been against an event called “Sex Week” at the University of Tennessee, which is sponsored by a student organization. And so that would be an example of -and you find you find these examples again and again of where, you know, and you can find them on the political left or the political right. But certainly, the idea that only conservative ideas can be a threat in relation to free speech. Another example would be that we had former Senator Kerry, who was invited to give a commencement speech at Creighton University. And the Republican leadership in that state said, “No, no, no, he shouldn’t be allowed to give the commencement speech”, and he actually pulled out. And so, that’s an example of how really these threats to speech can come from either side of the political spectrum. PEN America -which among its roles as an advocacy organization promotes freedom of speech and expression -it issued a report recently that I think is really informative. And it talks about there’s really not a free speech crisis on America’s college campuses but there are threats that exist. And these threats can come from either side of the political aisle. And also, the fact that I think that certain organizations have really pushed this idea of a free speech threat to advance an agenda that really has other political components to it. That’s much different than say, for instance, the American Civil Liberties Union, which I think if you look at their stance on free speech ideas, tends to be more neutral. Whatever the nature of the speech is, there are certain protections that should adhere to it. Another example of, I think a more neutral party in a lot of the campus free speech debates, would be the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, FIRE as it’s often called -it’s become a really pivotal player in campus speech debates. So, FIRE will tend to take heat, I notice from both the political left and the political right, because they tend to advocate kind of for either side. You know, an interesting thing, for instance, would be if you go to a site like Turning Point USA and see the kind of litigation they’re supporting. You’ll see it coming from one side of the political spectrum. It tends to be if you take an organization like FIRE, or even the ACLU, you’ll see that they’ll become involved in speech cases that might be labeled the political left or the right or really, that don’t fit any, in our conventional notions of the political spectrum in the United States.

Will Brehm  14:44
So, you know, a lot of this obviously has to deal with the First Amendment, the freedom of speech. But we also know that American higher education is filled with public universities and private universities, and religiously affiliated universities. What are some of the legal issues that are circulating within these different types of institutions when it comes to speech and protecting speech?

Neal Hutchens  15:12
So that’s a really important distinction that can get lost in a lot of these conversations. For public colleges and universities, the First Amendment, which is often talked about -what that means is that they’re part of the government. When I teach a class on education law, and I have people that work at public colleges and universities, I’ll say, “Raise your hand if you work for the government”. And sometimes people don’t really raise their hands and I’ll say, “Raise your hand if you work for so and so institution which is a public institution”, and I’ll say, “You work for the government, you’re part of the government”. And so, to work at a public college or university means that you are part of the government. And under the First Amendment, there are limits on what the government can do in relation to the speech rights of individuals. And that holds true at public colleges and universities. So, a lot of the speech debates that have grabbed the headlines for instance, they’ve involved where student groups or others have invited a speaker onto campus. And in those kinds of situations where a college or university has created what’s often called a forum, a space for a particular kind of speech, usually under the First Amendment, outside of some pretty narrow exceptions, the government doesn’t get to pick and choose messages. And so, for instance, let’s say that I’m an administrator at a public college or university and we have a policy that student groups can invite speakers to campus. We’ve said any recognized student group is allowed to reserve certain space on campus for speakers. Now they have to be a recognized student group. They have to make sure that they do the application to reserve the space, they have to follow other kinds of rules. If they have done that, and I see Ann Coulter is scheduled to speak on campus, I, as an administrator at a public college or university cannot decide, “I don’t like the views of Ann Coulter. So, I’m just not going to let Ann Coulter speak.” Those are the kinds of things that are just very much textbook, elementary examples of violations of the First Amendment. Now, in the case of Richard Spencer, or the events that we saw at the University of Virginia, those start to be harder questions because I actually think that that’s where institutions have to look at the fact that these speakers are not really engaged in speech as much as they’re engaged in threats. And so, what are called “true threats”, or sometimes you’ll hear the term “direct threats”, those aren’t protected by the First Amendment. And so, I think where institutions are wrestling, when you have various groups that are wanting to bring speakers onto campus that -not just controversial- but that are really crossing over into threats. At my own institution, the University of Mississippi, we really recently wrestled with that issue. We’re of course in Mississippi, which is in the deep south, this is an institution that really has a historical legacy to deal with in terms of segregation. Our institution, in the last several years, has removed the state flag from campus. But for instance, we have Confederate monuments on campus, which we’re in the process of probably relocating. We had Neo-Confederates come to campus. People really didn’t want them here, but the institution was left with, how do you regulate that in the First Amendment? And these Neo-Confederate groups, I think, really, the institution had to really look closely at them and engage in a lot of outreach to see was the rhetoric really speech that the university couldn’t regulate on content grounds, or was it crossing over into threat -and that’s some of what institutions are having to deal with. And after Virginia where we had a counter-protestor who was killed in the events that happened at the University of Virginia, it shows that institutions have to take that very seriously. When Richard Spencer, several years ago, Richard Spencer, again a white nationalist, was scheduled to speak at Auburn University, and the University wanted to not allow him to speak. A court said, “No. The University has to allow him to speak”.  But there was actually some violence that erupted after that. No one luckily was killed, like what happened at Virginia. But in light of that, institutions have had to look at their policies for when outside speakers can come to campus. And so, there’s been some talk about, and for instance, Texas A&M University after Spencer was there changed their policy. I think Auburn University if they hadn’t changed it, they were looking at it. But in all these contexts, if a forum has been existed for speakers -either for invited speakers or even if the university has opened up a forum to outside speakers- generally under the First Amendment, outside of some particular exceptions, like true threats, the university cannot engage in the business of picking and choosing what views that it likes.

Will Brehm  20:18
So, I mean, one of the questions I have that comes up is that the distinction between a “true threat” and speech -like that line, I would imagine, is quite blurry.

Neal Hutchens  20:30
It can be blurry in the sense that -again, when rhetoric has crossed that line, and I do think that’s something that institutions as they’ve kind of become the societal focal point for a lot of these speech disputes. I mean, think about it. There are a lot of public places that these groups could decide that they want to go and show up and have events. No one is saying, “We’re going to head to the DMV. The DMV parking lot is where we want to have our major protest.” It shows the importance of higher education in society to colleges and universities. So, colleges and universities have been targeted for particular reasons and we’ve seen an escalation in the last several years by certain groups that are doing that. And I do think that after what happened at the University of Virginia, institutions have had to quickly ramp up how sophisticated they are about that. Now, I think one could say, one of the components has been in that is actually I think, for instance, campus law enforcement, or even campus security, coordinating with local and state law enforcement officials to actually get background on these individuals. One of the things that you’ll hear about when you have speakers like this coming to campus is actually engaging with them and reaching out to understand what their motives are. To understand events that may have happened. But one of the things I think that can cause consternation is that the idea of a true threat is something that could be restricted under the First Amendment is not that actually the individual has, maybe they don’t even have an intention of carrying out the threat. But if they are targeting particular individuals or groups, and is an actual credible threat of harm, or physical violence, then I think institutions absolutely can and should take action. And I don’t think that you would have advocacy groups like the ACLU or FIRE, certainly, they’re not going to argue with that. Where things get a little hazier tends to be often, for instance, under the disruption standard. And so, for instance, recently at the University of Arizona, you had a group of students that were referred to as the “Arizona 3”. There were a group of ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] officers that were speaking on campus. The students wanted to engage in some kind of protest or disruption, that somewhat, although it looks like the presentation by the ICE officers was allowed to continue. The protesters followed the officers, at least somewhat to their car, and the students were arrested. And initially, there were criminal charges filed against the protesters. As I understand it, those charges have now been dropped. But that has also tended to be -there’s the threat issue, but I think the disruption issue, especially is where a lot of colleges and universities are trying to decide, at what point should we, for instance, have individuals arrested? Or at what point is this really in the educational realm, and at most we’re really looking at maybe the Student Conduct process, or also the fact that this is again, educational. We have students who are very engaged in what they’re doing. Maybe we should take a step back and before we say, our first option is to engage in some kind of discipline, maybe this is an educational moment. I remember not too many years ago, there was a lot of angst over the fact that college students were not engaged. They were passive, they didn’t care. And so now guess what, we have a lot of college students who care.

Will Brehm  24:16
Maybe very engaged. Too engaged for some people’s likings I would imagine.

Neal Hutchens  24:20
Yeah, I mean, I that’s it. It’s like, we want you to be active and engaged. But don’t do it so much that it makes us uncomfortable or disruptive. Colleges and universities are really, they’re mimicking, or they’re mirroring what’s happening in society. There’s just a lot of tension. There is a lot of disagreement. And so, for institutions, I think it’s very hard when students have this passion. And I’m now really speaking of students. I’m not speaking of external speakers. But for our student population, I think we have to be careful to be too legalistic, or to react too harshly to the fact that students are engaged in this process of activism and discovery. And so, for instance, that’s why I advocate if students were to take over an administrative building, I don’t think the first option is that you call the police and have people arrested for trespassing. I think your first option is, you talk, you engage. And hopefully through that process, in addition to listening to the students and the issues they’re bringing out, it’s also a chance for the students to consider what are the appropriate forms of activism? How, when should we take certain action? When should we not? Now I also think that we’re just in a period of where there’s a reexamination of what speech standards should be. The United States, under our federal constitution, and a lot of private institutions have adopted very robust free speech principles. This isn’t exactly the same that all countries do. So, for instance, in France and Germany, you can[not] have certain kinds of speech in France, anti-Semitic speech. Certainly, in Germany, images or speech related to Nazism can be restricted. You have libel laws in the UK that are much more friendly for individual suing under those laws. And so, it’s not that I’m saying that the United States automatically needs to change what it’s doing. But you certainly have a group of students and scholars and others who are saying, also, we maybe need to reexamine some of our free speech standards. Prioritizing our free speech standards, and ignoring other kinds of standards, such as a commitment to diversity inclusivity. And so, I think that is a divide that’s happening. And it’s something that’s playing out intellectually. But I would also say as someone who is an advocate of free speech. Well, that’s what we advocate all the time, exploring and testing ideas. And that’s also happening with what should speech standards be. So, for instance, it was really interesting. In the last year or so you’ve had two really prominent constitutional law scholars, Robert Post at Yale, and then Erwin Chemerinsky and they both wrote these op-eds where they really took different views of how free speech should play out on campus. So, these are two very distinguished scholars who are offering different viewpoints for this. So, I do think that these ideas are also being contested in a way that we’ll see -some of the students who don’t want certain kinds of speakers on campus, one day, they’re going to be the judges and the attorneys. And they may challenge how these standards should work.

Will Brehm  27:35
So, we’ve been talking a lot about public schools. And I know you mentioned that some private universities have taken very broad interpretations of what free speech looks like on campus. But are private universities held to a different standard when it comes to free speech in a legal manner?

Neal Hutchens  27:52
In general, they very much are held to a different standard. So, I talked about the public colleges and universities, their governmental actors, state actors. So that puts a responsibility on them to follow first amendment rules in regulating speech, and especially student speech or other speech on campus. Private colleges and universities don’t have to do that. And we see that, for instance, with religious private institutions. They can have a mission that will state that, you know, individuals enrolled in that institution or teach in that institution have to sign statements of faith. And so, they’re actually as private entities, they also have First Amendment protections related to speech and religion, that allow them to carry out their mission. The only real exception we have in California, they have a law called the Leonard Law, that it applies to private, secular institutions and requires that private, secular institutions have to give the same speech rights to students, as do public institutions under the First Amendment. But in general, private colleges and universities have much more legal leeway. And some institutions give much less discretion to students and their speech rights. But there are a lot of private colleges and universities that view freedom of expression and speech as really integral to part of what the institution is supposed to be about. And so, in their policies and other guiding principles, they give free speech, freedom of speech that’s very akin to the First Amendment. You’ll sometimes hear about the University of Chicago principles on free speech a lot recently. So, University of Chicago is a great institution, it’s also private. And so private colleges and universities, where a legal responsibility would come in for them is, if in their standards, for instance, in policies pertaining to students, if there’s a statement, we believe in free speech rights, we don’t regulate speech on the basis of viewpoint. But then they would, in fact, do that a student could have a contract-based claim. In general colleges and universities for all types of institutions but it’s especially important for private institutions, when they look at the student and the university and maybe they’re in a bit of dispute, they’ll apply contract-like principles. And so, if you think about student handbooks, or other things like that, that’s part of the contract. So, institutions have a legal responsibility to follow the terms they’ve set out the contracts and student disciplinary codes, student handbooks and other places.

Will Brehm  30:30
It’s such a fascinating topic, because it seems like what we’re debating is actually the purpose of higher education. Whether it’s an area where a diversity of speech can exist, whether there’s threats, and how they’re articulated, things like student activism. I mean, it really seems like these debates are so vital and important to the very foundations of what we mean by higher education.

Neal Hutchens  31:01
I think that’s right. And that’s why, I noted earlier that when you have groups and protesters, they don’t head down to the DMV in large, most of the time -I’m sure there are protests that happen at the DMV, probably spontaneously, at times.

Will Brehm  31:15
Just anger, just absolute anger.

Neal Hutchens  31:17
But Turning Point USA has not pushed for the President to issue an Executive Order about the DMV and freedom of speech. So, these are special places and institutions. I really think they’re a battle place for ideas and values. And so just as our society right now is very polarized, these ideas and values are playing out on our college campuses. I also think one thing to note about a lot of these speech debates that are happening is they’re really only one kind of the speech that happens on college campuses. So, for instance, I’m a faculty member, I had to go through a process called tenure. And I had to publish as part of that. And in that process, while I may think that I view that there were some important speech rights included under the First Amendment, it wasn’t unfettered. So, one of the things in general on free speech for the government is that it doesn’t engage in evaluating ideas. But if I’m a chemistry professor, my colleagues who are evaluating me for tenure and promotion, they absolutely evaluate my ideas. If they think they’re rubbish, I may not get tenured. If they think that what I’m teaching is incorrect, I can be in trouble. Likewise, in the classroom, free speech doesn’t exist in the same way as it does outside of the classroom. If I’m a student who does not believe in evolution, and I want to be a biology major, and I’m taking a class that is dealing with a section with biology, and I’m asked about evolution, and my response is, “Everything was created in six days”. My free speech rights protect me for saying that. No, that’s not how it works. And courts have been very consistent, that in certain circumstances, colleges and universities and professors and administrators, we can actually heavily regulate speech. And so, I think one of the things in this universe of free speech debates on campus is to realize that actually a lot of speech that does take place in higher education is supposed to be of a certain kind, of a certain quality. That’s why we have concepts like peer review, so things can be vetted, they can be tested. And so, I think that that sometimes doesn’t necessarily get recognized the nuance of all the different kinds of speech that happens on our college campuses. And a lot of the protests and other things -and I think this is part of the debate of college campuses. Is to what extent should our college campuses, just be kind of the general public forum for debate? In other words, you show up, you get to say whatever you want, there’s no evaluation of quality of that. And I think you certainly have some groups and entities that would say, at least part of the college campus, that’s absolutely what it needs to be. I think where we’re seeing somewhat of a pushback is that you have other advocates for certain kinds of values, including the educational mission to say these things don’t align with the educational mission. And if we look at that educational mission, we evaluate the quality of speech and ideas every day, students don’t earn certain grades because of the quality of the speech, because the ideas are deemed bad or shoddy. People go to conferences, academic conferences, or they present on campus, I know that when I’ve presented in front of peers, including at campus talks, people disagree with me, and they tell me, “Those are really bad ideas that you have Hutchens.” And that’s part of what we do. And we actually don’t treat all ideas as exactly equivalent. I mean, that’s part of this -in the scientific process, for instance, you’re testing things, you’re looking for those answers. And so, I do think though then it becomes an interesting question that really has been pushed to the fore that in this environment of higher education, in which ideas are actually often heavily contested, and people actually are evaluated for their speech and ideas. They maybe don’t earn the highest grade in the class. Maybe they submit a dissertation or another paper that has to be revised, or maybe someone doesn’t get tenure, or they don’t get a job. Well, then how much are we just the general public sphere where there is no evaluation of the ideas? And so, Robert Post who I talked about earlier, who is at Yale Law School, a leading person writing on academic freedom and constitutional law, he really thinks institutions have gone too far in just saying part of our job is to just be this general place for free speech and expression. We need to push back against that. We need to question with student groups and others, what’s your educational purpose for having this speech on campus? And so, I do think that’s a countervailing push that we’ve seen against some of the Free Speech Movement. And you know, what will be interesting to see in 5 or 10 years, do we see some change in how some of the rules work? Or do we actually just open it up more in terms of what we see for instance, under certain state laws that have been passed?

Will Brehm  36:43
Well, I for one am going to keep following your work over the next 5 to 10 years to see what ends up happening. Neal Hutchens, thank you so much for joining FreshEd. It really was a pleasure to talk today.

Neal Hutchens  36:53
Thank you very much. I really enjoyed it.

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Climate change and its effects aren’t some future possibilities waiting to happen unless we take action today. No. The effect of climate change is already occurring. Today. Right now. Around the world, people have been displaced, fell ill, or died because of the globe’s changing climate. These effects are uneven: Some countries and classes of people are more affected by global warming than others. Still, the United Nations estimates that catastrophic consequences from climate change are only a decade away. That’s the year 2029. [Editor’s note: The IPCC report is from 2018 and gave a 12-year prediction, so it should read 2030, not 2029.]

What is the role of education policy in an era of detrimental climate change?

My guest today is Marcia McKenzie, a professor in the Department of Educational Foundations at the University of Saskatchewan and director of the Sustainability Education Research Institute. She recently has been awarded a grant to research UN policy programs in relation to climate change education and in June will release a report for the United Nations that reviews country progress on climate change education and education for sustainable development.

In our conversation, we talk about what countries are doing or not doing in terms of education and sustainability, and we reflect on some of the existential questions that climate change brings to the fore.

Citation: McKenzie, Marcia, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 154, podcast audio, May 13, 2019. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/mckenzie/

Will Brehm  2:24
So, Marcia Mckenzie, welcome to FreshEd.

Marcia McKenzie  2:26
Thank you very much. Great to be talking with you.

Will Brehm  2:27
So, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change -which is a UN body, the IPCC I think, is the acronym- says that there is a decade left to make significant changes to avoid catastrophic consequences from climate change itself. So what role do you think education plays in mitigating some of these catastrophic consequences from climate change that the IPCC says might happen in 10 years? I mean, that is 2030.

Marcia McKenzie  3:00
Yeah. Well, I don’t know if you’re familiar with David Suzuki, a Canadian environmentalist who created his foundation decades ago, and he says now if he knew how long it was going to take us to take action, he would have got into education much earlier. So, yeah, and when we see that the problems with climate change, it’s not because we don’t have the scientific understanding of what’s happening. It’s not that we don’t have the technical ability to move to other energy forms and address climate change and mitigate still the worst of its impacts, but we don’t. We’re not taking the action that’s needed because we lack the will, you know, socially and culturally and politically. So, I think that is the role of education in terms of as the UNFCCC, which was the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which was signed back in 1992. With all the different member parties that meets every year at the COP [Conference of the Parties] meetings. And there is a commitment to education, training and public awareness that’s in that agreement that member parties to UNFCCC have signed on to but, because we don’t have a lot of research on it, you know, any data, we don’t even really have a good understanding of what makes good climate change education, we haven’t been doing as much as we can be or could be. And yet, there’s this recognition and even in that, that 2018 IPCC report, the recognition that we really need to be doing a better job of education in order to have people pushing for the change we need, right?

Will Brehm  4:47
So basically, you’re saying that everyone recognizes education is like, deeply important, but we: one, we don’t know exactly what all these different countries are doing. And two: we don’t know what actually makes good education, for, or about climate change to mitigate some of these solutions. So, I mean, and we have 10 years before…that seems like a pretty big challenge. What do we do first? Is the first step to just sort of get an understanding of what’s happening around the world and all countries that are signatory to that convention?

Marcia McKenzie  5:21
Well, I think both can be done in conjunction. So there is quite a bit of good work and understanding in other disciplinary fields, say on the sociology of climate change denial, Kari Norgaard’s work, for example, where she talks about not just the, you know, what you might think of as denial in terms of saying, “No, climate change is not caused by humans”, or we don’t even agree it’s happening, but more of the subtle forms of denial that you and I and, you know, most listeners are probably engaged in where, yes, you know, climate change is happening, you know, that it’s being caused mostly by human activity. And yet because of the realities of does this mean the planets not going to be habitable for humans within a generation or two? And we don’t know how to take action, you know, people turn away from that. Right? So, she calls it implicatory denial where you are implicated in it, you don’t know what to do, you kind of live this double life.

Will Brehm  6:20
I understand that climate change happens but I’m still going to eat red meat, and fly to conferences, and buy a big SUV.

Marcia McKenzie  6:27
Exactly! And there’s other literature as well in anthropology, climate change, communication around the importance of framing such emotional issues in terms of cultural frames and priorities that are important for different groups, whether it’s a business community, a Christian religious community, or indigenous community. Candis Callison, who’s an anthropologist and Media Studies person has written about that as well in a really powerful way. So, I think we need to be bringing those insights that have been developing over the past decade or so in other fields more into education, and into both policy and practice. Because what we see right now a lot of what’s being done as climate change education, whether it’s in formal education, K-12, or higher education, or in science communication, for example, that governments may be doing and so on, is still there much just based on educating people on the science of climate change.

Will Brehm  7:29
Like it exists. Yeah.

Marcia McKenzie  7:30
And here’s how it works with the assumption that therefore people are going to be empowered to take action. But we know from longer histories of research and environmental education, as well as other fields that have looked at things like Holocaust education, when things are so emotional, so difficult that you really need to take those aspects on and wrap it into how we do education and not just teaching the science but actually look at ways to engage people in, “Yes, this is difficult and there is grief involved and there is loss” and how do you kind of wade through that, and engaging it so that we actually look at it rather than look away.

Will Brehm  8:15
It’s quite existential realizing we could be the last generation of human species and how then do you teach about it? I mean, it is totally emotional, it is totally devastating in a way and I mean, that connection to the Holocaust. I never made that connection, but I can see where educators might learn a lot from Holocaust education and other sort of genocide, conflict issues that people have to work through.

Marcia McKenzie  8:43
And I guess the second part you’re asking about in terms of looking at what different countries are doing. I think that is really key. And I’m hopeful. I don’t know if that is naive, maybe but because education is a commitment that member parties have signed on to in committing to it with the joining the UNFCCC framework. If we can develop better data and on what countries are doing and then use that to sort of leverage change. So, if you can say, “In Canada, we’re doing this in, you know, Sweden, they’re doing that, and you can kind of compare and contrast. So, who’s got it in their formal education system? And how are they doing it? Right. So, it’s going back to the first point, it’s not just is it there, but how is it being done? What’s the quality as well as the quantity and developing that data, which I mean, we have the capability to do that and a new study will be released later this year in a few months just developed that we did with UNESCO and the UNFCCC and it was an analysis of all the country submissions to the UNFCCC from 194 member countries to look at how they’re already talking about how they’re engaging in climate change education in those submissions, so that we can, by pulling that out of the submissions and looking at it together, then we can sort of set some here’s a baseline of where we’re at or where we’re at with our reporting, and where could we be next year or the year after through the COP process?

Will Brehm  10:25
Right. And so that is -it sounds like what you’re describing is using some sort of evidence, global evidence, comparable evidence from all different countries involved in the UN. But really, it being used as a political project to sort of force particular change. I mean, that is what it sounds like. It almost reminds me of PISA, you know using the sort of same test all over the world and, it has become very, very political and there’s plenty of research about that.

Marcia McKenzie  10:56
Yeah. And it’s kind of -because I consider myself a critical researcher, critical policy researcher and you know, a lot of the work done on large-scale assessment and testing is quite, you know, there’s a lot of skepticism and concern, and how do you compare across different countries and socio-economic considerations, and all these very complicated and fraught. And so, it’s kind of ironic, I guess, to be in the situation of thinking, well, here’s an issue where we’re running out of time, if there’s any chance that data can help us, then let’s mobilize that.

Will Brehm  11:32
Right. Any tool we can find, let’s use it.

Marcia McKenzie  11:34
Yea, exactly!

Will Brehm  11:35
So, what would worry you? In this sort of political project and getting this data, are there worries? Because, from a critical scholar, you look at other examples like PISA and sure, there’s plenty to be critical about PISA and I’ve had people on the show talk very critically about it. So, from your thinking through this climate change education or education about climate change and sustainability, what are the worries that you might have?

Marcia McKenzie  12:04
So yeah, I guess one of my concerns potentially with amassing that kind of global data is the way that these type of things can be used almost like branding on a product, you’d buy in the supermarket where it says it’s green, and then it’s sort of like guilt free shopping or whatever. But often there’s, we call it greenwashing because it’s not necessarily a sustainable product, or it’s much more complicated and things going on behind the scenes. So, I mean, that is a concern anytime you’re using data like this to kind of give gold stars or silver stars or you know, who’s doing it right. And where they kind of get off the hook, like, Okay, you got it there you say on paper that you’re doing it, therefore, that’s good enough. And what’s represented in a policy document doesn’t necessarily reflect what’s happening on the ground either. So, there are definite limitations to that type of assessment. I mean, anything that there is so far around education and sustainability more probably, at a global level of data collection is self-reported data. So, say that’s collected through UNESCO. Right now, there is some and that’s it’s being used in some of the indicators related to education and sustainability currently.

Will Brehm  13:19
So, there’s a validity issue?

Marcia McKenzie  13:21
There’s a validity issue. So yeah, I mean, at least something that’s not you know, it’s good to also have things that are not self-reported, as well as the self-reported options. But then, even better, would be finer grained analysis, like, comparative case studies at a global level that can help us also inform our understandings of what makes quality climate change education that is able to kind of empower and lead to changed action and that’s culturally appropriate in different settings.

Will Brehm  13:53
What sort of examples can you point to like currently that we know about of, you know, quote, unquote, good policy into action. You know, things happening on the ground in schools or in a country?

Marcia McKenzie  14:07
Well, in the research, and I should say I direct the Sustainability and Education Policy Network, which is a partnership of international researchers and organizations. And so, we’ve been doing research in Canada the last number of years -comparative research there- and also doing some other global projects. But looking at the Canadian example, you know, BC is somewhere that stands out for its action around climate change and other sustainability issues in both K-12, and formal education as well as more broadly. And so, there’s a number of things that lead into or I think, support that activity. I mean, one just culturally, it’s on the west coast. It’s got more of a cultural prioritization. That’s led to different things like provincial mandates for carbon action plans within schools and then we’ve got, say the City of Vancouver, it has a green mandate with the municipal politics. So, all these things kind of coalesce together so that you see stronger policy and curriculum at say the Ministry of Education level, which would be where the curriculum is developed for the province as well as different school division levels, as well as at the post-secondary institutions -like UBC is well known for its sustainability work. So yeah, and there’s great organizations there as well like the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, has a BC branch that has developed great climate justice curriculum that a lot of teachers are using in schools.

Will Brehm  15:56
So, there’s a lot of work happening in that part of Canada and it seems like its government, its non-governmental, schools are involved, cities are involved. They have the green mandate in Vancouver. How much of that is connected to the sustainable development goals of the UN? Right? I mean, so, you know, is that something that’s happening because they’re doing it for their own sort of political economic reasons in Western Canada? Or is it a response from, “Oh, the SDGs, are here and we have to meet them?”

Marcia McKenzie  16:34
Yeah, it’s an interesting question and one of the things I’m really interested in is policy mobility. So how these things like the SDGs, where do they come from? And then what impact do they have in different countries or different regions? And I think there’s a couple of different things that could factor into uptake of the SDGs or, you know, what effect they’ve had. One is, you hear about organizations or governments, who keep doing what they’re doing but they kind of orient it to the “flavor of the day” or whatever. So, I’ve talked to organizations that are like, “Well, you know, we were doing education for sustainable development. Now, we’re going to do SDGs, you know, that’s what we put on our grant applications. But we don’t -our programs don’t change, but”. So, I think, there’s some of that, but at the same time, I think the global policy programs do have a big effect. And in some places like my province, where I live in Canada, in Saskatchewan, we’ve seen absolutely the effect of the UNESCO Decade of Education for Sustainable Development-

Will Brehm  17:47
In what ways, like how does it manifest?

Marcia McKenzie  17:50
So, you know, in 2009, there was a Minister’s mandate around environment, conservation, and sustainability. So, they were recognizing, okay, we need to be doing more on this. We need to get it into the curriculum. And then they talked to folks next door in Manitoba, where they had been working with education for sustainable development and the Deputy Minister there, at the K-12 level was involved in the Council of Ministers of education, which is sort of a national advisory body of all the provincial ministries, and he had been seconded to UNESCO, so you see this kind of flow through of actually, Gerald Farthing was deputy minister at the time in Manitoba, and other folks as well that are back and forth between UNESCO Paris and the ESD section there and different Canadian places and this would be parallel in some other countries. But then you get the flow through so that the Ministry of Education in my province is talking to Manitoba, and suddenly they bring in the same folks to do the training of educational leaders and the school divisions across the province in ESD.

Will Brehm  18:58
There is a policy flow, and does it go back to UNESCO? Like does the lessons and experiences of the teachers who are getting this training and putting it into practice, get sort of that knowledge get picked up and somehow is mobile back through the channels to UNESCO to inform the SDGs and what they do in other countries or how they conceptualize what you know, quote unquote good practice is?

Marcia McKenzie  19:22
Yes, I think that is the case that there’s some of that. We just got some new funding to do a study of three UN policy programs that have a focus on climate change education and when we were -we did some initial pilot interviews for that and talking to folks from different countries that have been involved with UN programs. Before we really heard from them about how through UNESCO people coming -there’s someone from Southern Africa that we interviewed, who was involved in the environmental education and ESD work there and through UNESCO people coming- to their meetings, they were able to give feedback on what was working or not working. Or priorities in different Southern African countries and to feel like that was taken back to UNESCO and then shaped kind of later renditions of things. So, I think there is some of that for sure.

Will Brehm  20:18
Yeah. And then I mean, then you the UNESCO Secretariat would have to sort of leverage that knowledge to push other countries in ways. I mean, it’s a very political process. Really, you know, for me, and that’s what’s so fascinating is how UNESCO has to -its member driven but that Secretariat also has a very sort of clear political agenda. And we just hope that they’re doing right, and they’re going to be successful. And, you know, they have a lot of power behind the SDGs in a way.

Marcia McKenzie  20:50
Yeah, it’s very interesting and kind of who is at the table of deciding what these policy programs are going to be, and different countries that support different policy programs like ESD had its origins in Japan, and Japan’s very supportive of UNESCO and so yeah, there’s a lot of interesting politics.

Will Brehm  21:11
Yeah. I mean, when I read SDG 4.7, you know, I mean, it’s like this “catch-all” indicator, or sub-indicator, and you see that education for sustainable development, the ESD, which definitely comes from Japan, that’s where I live. And so, it’s a really, really, really big thing. But then in Korea, as Aaron Benavot was telling me, it’s all about global citizen education. So how do they fit together? You know do they fit together? Or is it just, we’re using this discourse to please two different nation-states?

Marcia McKenzie  21:43
Yeah, it’s very interesting. I mean, global citizenship kind of came along, after, in kind of the work of UNESCO from what I understand, but they are both under one division. So, there’s a section of ESD and a section of global citizenship and they work together as colleagues and there’s a lot of overlap obviously, depending how you understand education for sustainable development, but it does definitely have social aspects in there that would overlap with some of the global citizenship priorities. So, you know, in some other work we’ve been doing -for a report that will be launched in June as well -a 10 countries study and looking at focus on ESD and global citizenship education across the education policies and curricula of 10 countries. And so, you can kind of see through that process, where there’s overlap, and which countries may focus more on the environmental aspects versus the social and citizenship aspects, and I don’t know why. I’m interested to find out more about that, in terms of the politics of the different countries, but I don’t think I can comment on that.

Will Brehm  23:02
No worries. It’s just that it’s so fascinating to see how these different -because it is a member-state organization. So, the member states have a lot of power, but the Secretariat is sort of managing all of this and so the politics in that sort of global level is really quite fascinating. And I think, quite hidden as well. And, you know, it’s very hard unless you are at that table, it’s very hard to know what is actually happening.

Marcia McKenzie  23:25
And I think my sense is that the UNFCCC is even more, so you know, really sees itself or is understood as meant to be neutral and facilitating the process for member-states. But the priorities or motions need to come from the member states. So, in talking to Adriana Valenzuela who’s the education focal point for the UNFCCC about how great it would be if we could get education data on the negotiating table, and she’s like, Oh, that sounds great, but we can’t bring that forward. It would need to be a member-state. So, it’s almost like I would need to maybe work with Environment Climate Change Canada to bring it to the negotiating table to then see if we could get it there. Whereas I think this seems to be a little -UNESCO doesn’t have that same framework of the COP meetings and, you know, decision making in what’s going to be included and, you know, nationally determined contributions being put forward under the Paris Agreement and everything it’s much more kind of technical than the UNFCCC.

Will Brehm  24:31
Yeah, yeah, right. I mean, it’s really quite fascinating. As an academic, I keep thinking like it would be so great to do like an ethnography of that global process.

Marcia McKenzie  24:40
Well, that’s what we’re trying to do. And we just got the funding to do it as well.

Will Brehm  24:46
You’ll have to come back on and tell me about it once you end up doing it. One of the things that I struggle with, with the SDGs and thinking about education for sustainability or, you know, to reduce climate change is the inclusion of economic growth in the SDGs. It’s one of the SDGs. It’s seen as what countries should be maximizing -having more growth, which, you know, will put more carbon into the air, which will ultimately make climate change even worse into the future. And at the same time, including all these environmental sustainability goals of trying to make the world more sustainable. And for me, those are contradiction. And I don’t know how education for sustainability will square that contradiction.

Marcia McKenzie  25:41
Yeah, there’s been discussion of that for sure. Because you could be say, moving forward climate action while increasing gender disparity, you know, so kind of the conversation that you need to be moving them all forward, not some at the expense of others, but that’s so hard to do with 17 priorities and never mind all the you know, I think it’s 169 target under the 17 goals. But it’s the same problem that we’ve had with sustainability before that or say education for sustainable development which a lot of people see as having at least three pillars, as they’re often called, of the social, the economic, and the environmental and oftentimes people would, or still do, separate those three out. So, in my province where this is a priority that I’ve had superintendents tell me, “Well yea, we’ve got it in the curriculum now, we do it in our school division and so if you’re doing economy, social or environment, you can tick that you’re doing ESD. So, basically everything humans would be concerned with has something to do with the social, or the environment. So, you know, it becomes meaningless. So, I think it is a challenge for the SDGs even more so in a sense because at least with three pillars, you can say, Okay, these need to be nested and you can’t have economic prosperity if it’s harming the environment or harming the social. Environment is the biggest and then social then economy are nested together. Whereas the SDGs with 17, it’s much more complicated.

Will Brehm  27:21
It seems like we need to have different definitions. Like so of the economic, what does economic prosperity mean? To me, it seems like we need a new way to define that rather than GDP per capita, for instance. Right. I mean, because if that’s the goal, then we’re going to sacrifice all these other things that we say we care about.

Marcia McKenzie  27:44
Yeah, there was a presentation yesterday on the OECD and one of the folks that have worked there in the past was talking about how they’re just starting to look at well-being indexes and that would be great to see more countries go that way sooner rather than later.

Will Brehm  28:04
Yeah. I mean, are you an optimistic person? Like, do you think that in these 10 years that we’re now saying is sort of the critical moment. So, for 2020-2030, for instance, do you think the global community is really going to be able to radically alter its practices through education?

Marcia McKenzie  28:30
Yeah. I don’t know. It may be through other means. You know, it’s been really interesting the last few months to see the school climate strikes and you know, from starting with one person that fell on everyone’s kind of minds and hearts and suddenly people are out there all over the globe doing climate action strikes in schools and so I think it you know, it’s, I hope that that type of activity will just build as we’ve all got it kind of weighing on us, but no one feels like they can do enough on their own. Obviously, our governments aren’t taking.

Will Brehm  29:10
Yea a lot of governments say go back to school. Don’t strike!

Marcia McKenzie  29:13
Yeah, yeah, exactly. So, I think education is as part of that, you know, potentially. The more we can do the better to give more people the skills to feel they can take action and make change and have the knowledge that they need and to be able to work together and all those things, but I mean, within the time frames, realistically, it’s going to have to be other things as well. Some of those people that are educated, mobilizing a lot of other people. So yeah, I don’t know. And I think it’s also a question of, you know, we always talk about climate change mitigation and adaptation. Well, what does climate change adaptation education look like right?

Will Brehm  29:43
And what would that be adapting to? You know, flooding everywhere, two degrees hotter everywhere.

Marcia McKenzie  30:01
Yeah. So, I think part of the key to the mitigation part too probably is -because it’s such an emotional, difficult issue that we need to be facing the impacts and how people around the world are already being devastated by the weather effects related to climate change, and so on.

Will Brehm  30:23
Yeah, I mean, like, how do you prepare? I mean, there’s already countless deaths happening due to climate change, and climate migration is happening all over the place already. And it’s only going to get worse. There’s going to be more deaths caused by climate change. You know, hundreds of millions or billions I, you know, it’s probably pretty hard if you’re a demographer to sort of calculate that out. Yeah, but some percentage of that will be children. It’ll be a lot of children that will end up dying. And so, the question is, like, you know, climate change adaptation education, you know, how do you teach the ability to grieve for that large number of people? I don’t know. I mean, it’s sort of this is why for me, it becomes a sort of like, existential moment.

Marcia McKenzie  31:05
Yeah, I know, I know, I have a 13-year-old daughter and I don’t actually talk to her very much about my work in this area. I mean, I tell her I do research and work on sustainability and climate change education, but I don’t go on at length about the outlook. But -through the climate school strikes- she learned more through some of her friends and came home just a couple of weeks ago in tears, you know, writing, drawing in her journal that we only have 12 years left, why isn’t anyone doing anything? And you know, it’s intense.

Will Brehm  31:41
That’s powerful. That seems to be what is needed. You know that sort of powerful, emotional response. Like a cliff that’s in the distance, that we can see. It’s coming into view.

Marcia McKenzie  31:57
And we were talking about what’s needed and how we need to change lifestyles and our expectations. We were talking about, “what would it be like to move into apartment?” she’s like, “well, that’s not a problem. Like, I’d rather say let’s move into an apartment rather than, you know, half the planet or worse goes extinct”.

Will Brehm  32:17
Yeah. Right. You’re willing to sacrifice some sort of luxuries now, knowing that it actually could -that is sort of that change in attitude that we were talking about earlier. Like maybe I shouldn’t be eating meat all the time and I shouldn’t be flying around the world.

Marcia McKenzie  32:35
But I think it’s one thing for people in their 40s or 60s or 80s. You know, you can think oh, gosh, is it going to be really bad for our kids or grandkids generation? But it’s another thing for a child to look forward and say, am I going to be able to live out my full life or is it going to be just a nightmare before then.

Will Brehm  32:59
And is that sort of conversation happening at the global level? Because to me, that seems to be the most important conversation to be having.

Marcia McKenzie  33:07
It is.

Will Brehm  33:10
But it is it being reflected in some of these sort of, you know, the global meetings on climate change and sustainability. And, you know, what we can do? Is that even being like -it’s certainly not an indicator. In no way is it an indicator of the SDGs.

Marcia McKenzie  33:23
Yeah, I mean, I think people are aware, and, you know, it’s the underlying passion. Someone like Aaron Benavot, who was director of the GEM report, Global Education Monitoring report. And, the last GEM report that he did had a focus on sustainability and was really fantastic, but you can tell he’s got that passion in him. And for a lot of people that are doing this work, they have that in them. You know, we all have hypocrisies, or tradeoffs, but, you know, that is driven by that desire to do change. But sometimes when you get together at a meeting, then you kind of take that as an assumption and just move on to trying to move things forward.

Will Brehm  34:15
Well, Marcia Mckenzie, thank you so much for joining FreshEd. Please come back on when you have more of this ethnography of what’s happening at the global level.

Marcia McKenzie  34:24
Great. Thank you very much for having me. Great to meet you.

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OverviewTranscriptTradução para portuguêsFrançais TranscriptionResources

How can we define comparative education? That question has long vexed scholars in the field. My guest today is Angela Little, who has spent her entire career in comparative education and has wrestled with this very question.

Angela argues that it is best to define the field through shared action rather than agreed-upon definitions and talks about has long of being an academic-slash-practitioner. She also discusses has spent role that southern theory plays in the field of comparative education.

Angela Little is Professor Emerita at the University CollegeLondon, Institute of Education, University of London.

Citation: Little, Angela, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 139, podcast audio, December 10, 2018. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/angelalittle/

Will Brehm 1:49
Angela Little, welcome to FreshEd.

Angela Little  1:51
Thank you very much.

Will Brehm  1:52
So, let’s talk about the field of comparative education which we both are somehow members of. Many people have a hard time even defining what it means. What is comparative? What is education? At one point we included international into the name of the field. So, comparative and international education. What’s your take? What is comparative education as a field?

Angela Little  2:17
Okay, well, this is not going to be a short answer.

Will Brehm  2:21
[Laughter] That’s okay.

Angela Little  2:22
For me, comparative education is about extending the boundaries of our knowledge about education. Moving it beyond national systems of education. It’s about making something that appears to be rather unfamiliar, studying it making it familiar and in the process of making it familiar possibly making -what originally was familiar- making that rather strange so that one can see, for example two education systems from both sides, as it were. I know that from my own experience, my early teaching experience in Nigeria was very, very informative in this sense. I wasn’t a student of comparative education at that time and I suppose in a sense, I was doing international education. I had moved from England to Nigeria, and I was teaching mathematics. But doing that made me sit up and think about the way in which British education was organized. It was rather similar in Nigeria, but there were distinct differences as well. So, for me, comparative education is about making the unfamiliar familiar and making the familiar strange. Add to that international. Now, if I was being pedantic, “inter-national” means between nations, so in which case you might think that international education was exclusively about relationships between educators and policymakers in two or more different countries. And I suppose that a lot of the writing on educational borrowing and lending would fall therefore into that category. But I think, “international” is used in many, many different ways. For some people international is equivalent to global in some sense. And we have international organizations and we have all kinds of international exchange programs. So, if we take the broader meaning of international, I think that then comparative education probably becomes subordinate to international. International is a very general category that covers analysis, it covers advocacy, and it covers action and activity and add them to the mix development or development studies or international development. Well, I think for several decades now, development has usually referred to two things: It’s referred to the development of education in what are known as developing countries and at the same time, it refers to those agencies that are involved in different forms of cooperation with those countries in order to develop education for the development of society. But I like to go back to a definition that was offered by George W. Parkin, back in the mid 1970s. George Parkin was a New Zealand educator and for a brief period of time, he was a visiting professor at the Institute of Education in London. And for him, comparative education was about the contribution that education makes to the development of societies everywhere in the world. So for him, development did not refer to exclusive -it wasn’t a matter of geography, it wasn’t a matter of Africa, Asia, Latin America- he was interested in the contributions education makes to the development of society, economy, polity all over the world. So, that would include in Europe, it would include comparisons between Germany and the US for example. So, you can see from what I’ve said so far, how broad a field it is, and how inclusive it is, I think,

Will Brehm  6:11
Yeah, eight years ago, you published this piece in Comparative Education?

Angela Little  6:16
In Compare.

Will Brehm  6:17
In Compare, excuse me. And in that piece, you basically say, you know, enough of the debate about definitions! Our field has done this for a while, ever since it’s become a “field”. What is comparative education? And rather, you argue that we should really think about shared action. What we do should be the way in which we define what our field is rather than the meanings of these words. Has that worked out in the last eight years? Do you think that the field has moved in that direction?

Angela Little  6:53
[Laughter] Well, clearly if you look at the the journals that have been published in recent years -and I retired officially eight years ago, so I don’t look at these journals in the way that I used to- but I do occasionally dip in. And there’s still a high degree of what I would sometimes call, “navel gazing” and then attempt to actually -I think it’s a little bit, there’s a certain irony in that sometimes these articles that reflect on “the field” of comparative education are often about boundary setting. Whereas for me, I mean the beauty of comparative education is about boundary extension. And I find it slightly ironic sometimes that one is trying to draw distinctions between real comparative educationists and non-comparative educationists. I mean, at the same time, I do see the value in reflecting on the field by those who practice in the field. And I perhaps ought to say a little bit about the background to the the piece that you referred to in Compare because it’s not a conventional journal length article. The editors of Compare were putting together a special issue to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Compare and they invited a number of contributors -six or seven I think- to write. And then they -as one always does with a journal- they put the papers out for independent review. And one of the papers that was sent to me for review was actually by Mark Bray and I think it was probably the introductory paper giving an overview of his take on what comparative education was. And in that article -and I perhaps ought to have it in front of me now so that I quote it correctly and apologies to Mark if I don’t quote it correctly, but- he basically referred to the subtitle of the journal Compare, which I believe is “A Journal of Comparative and International Education”. And since Compare is the journal in a sense that belongs to the British Association of International and Comparative Education, I think he was querying, why international shouldn’t be placed before comparative. And at one level -this is a good point- I suspect, but I don’t know, because I wasn’t involved in the naming of the journal but I suspect that the subtitle derived from the fact that one of the predecessor organizations was called the British Comparative and International Education Society. So in that, so comparative came before I and that’s when the journal was established. So, I suspect that it’s just continued. But anyway, be that as it may, it just got me thinking. And so the subtitle of my little piece, which is just a commentary really. The editors I think, decided that once they put the papers out for external review, I think some of the comments that came back on the papers prompt them to then say, well, okay, we’ve got our six or seven or articles now let’s invite three or four people to write short think-pieces on the articles and also their take on the field. So, it’s a very short article and that’s how it came about. So, I said in that article that we should look a little bit more carefully at both what we do together and what we want to do together in terms of the type of research that we want to do. And I don’t know how far we’ve got with that agenda. I think one of my goals was for a greater appreciation of diversity and diversity of education practices and education policies from around the world. And to some extent, the rise of the articles that are appearing from a younger generation written about, I think it’s called “Southern Theory”. And I think to a large extent many of these calls sort of echo some of what I was trying to argue for. And indeed, I think that my goal for a greater appreciation of diversity as well as commonality. I mean, I don’t see every system as so unique from every other system that they cannot be compared and common elements drawn out, not at all. My search would always be for similarity and dissimilarity, diversity and commonality, universality and specificity. I don’t like the “either-or”. I think that constantly in comparative education, you’ve got to be very aware of both poles of those dimensions.

Will Brehm  11:34
So, what then of method? How does method -the comparative method- fit into this idea of not having either-or’s but having this universalism and specificity? You know, how does method fit in?

Angela Little  11:49
Okay, well, I think my concern about method occurs at two different levels. One is that when I moved to London to the Institute of Education, I moved from the Institute of Development Studies. And I moved to what at that time was a department of International and Comparative Education. But what that department was was basically a merger of two rather separate historical departments each with their own history and each with their own traditions. And the comparative education group who were a very small group, they -or some of their predecessors- had been very, very concerned about staking out a particular methodological approach to comparative education. There were, you probably heard of the right out of from Edmund King and Brian Holmes, or Brian Holmes was in the London Institute, Edmund King was in King’s College. They had quite different approaches to comparative education, both of which I could see had value. But it seemed to me that there was a lot of argument in that particular literature about which method was superior and which method should be followed and which method the students should follow. Coming from the other side and I had come from an Institute of Development Studies and stepped into what was then called the Department of International Comparative Education. But that the part that dealt with developing countries previously had been called education in developing countries and colleagues in that group -and I was part of that subgroup- were not nearly so concerned about that all these methodological papers. So, I think I felt at that time that method was getting in the way of the content of inquiry. The other methodological dispute, if you like, that has exercised me from time to time is what has become quite a major dispute in the social sciences, certainly in Britain, between those who promote what they call qualitative analysis and those who promote quantitative analysis. And I value both and for me, it depends very much on what you’re trying to find out. So, it’s in that sense that I say it’s your problem that from which your choice of methods should be made.

Will Brehm  14:18
Yea. Methods are tools that you use to answer the research question that you posed.

Angela Little  14:23
But you will be aware from discussions with a lot of research students that they struggle with this greatly. And for some students doing research, whether it’s comparative research or non-comparative research, they feel that doing research is doing a case study or doing a survey, right? Now, okay, they need to know, they need to find out about those those methods or those tools. But the much more challenging question for me is, why do you choose that method or that method? Or why not think about using both methods but in series? You can use a qualitative approach for the first phase of your work followed by a quantitative survey or vice-versa. And some researchers who combine the methods often produce very, very, very fine work. And when I say combine, I think, again, it’s very, you know, combination is a warm word, it’s a comforting word. It’s like interdisciplinarity or we’ll have a interdisciplinary approach to this problem. But there are points at which in fact, you do have to draw boundaries and you have to say, well, okay, in this research at this first stage of the research, I think it is best approached through qualitative means which might be unstructured interviews with people, with teachers, with students about a range of issues so that you elicit from them what they consider to be the most salient dimensions of a particular problem. At a later stage you may move that into a survey questionnaire, because at that point you might be asking questions about how many or how much or what percentage and as soon as you ask those questions, you’re talking about a quantitative approach. Now, I think the difficulty for students is that sometimes they are fed this quantitative vs qualitative.

Will Brehm  16:19
As is if they have to choose.

Angela Little  16:20
As if they have to choose! But then if they then move to a phase where they realize they can use both, the danger then is that they do neither properly. They fall between the two stools. And I think that actually students who use both approaches they possibly have a more difficult time because they have to master what that approach is. They have to do the work properly. They have to do it with scholarship.

Will Brehm  16:48
And in a four-year PhD program. I mean, how do you actually become an expert in two very different ways of doing research?

Angela Little  16:56
Yeah, yeah. So you know, it used to be a shorthand used by some of my colleagues in Britain. You know, are you a “Quant”? Or are you a “Qual”? Meaning, are you a quantitative researcher or a qualitative researcher and I used to just back off at that point and say look, it’s really not helpful. Fortunately, there are a few pieces of writing in the literature that very helpfully draw out the distinctions. Not, I would say, within our comparative education field, but in other fields that they’re in the, if you like, the comparative social sciences, you will find that.

Will Brehm  17:34
So, another big issue beyond method in comparative education and the name of comparative education, the meaning. Another issue that I -I guess being in the field for just about a decade now- I’ve noticed is that comparative educationalists -those who go through that academic trajectory- often end up working in development agencies or ministries of education, or you know, all sorts of NGOs, nonprofits, and then even the academics who are professors of comparative education often do work with these same groups over their career. So, they sort of have their foot in the world of practice and theory at the same time. They’re a practitioner but they’re also in the academy. So, you know, how do you think scholars should balance this role of the ability to analyze issues of comparative education, but then also participate in particular advocacy for education?

Angela Little  18:43
Hmm, that’s a very good question and I suppose I am one of those who has had her feet in both camps in a variety of ways. I think for those who move on from comparative and international education into a full-time position in an international organization or in an international NGO or a national NGO, I think within that organization, they need to be strong to request time for analysis. I know that in some international organizations, the pace of the discourse and all the funding imperatives are so -it’s so rapid- that the priority list of you know, “what is it today”, changes very rapidly, and I think sometimes there’s just no time for the analysis. If they cannot do the analysis themselves, or they don’t feel they’ve got the time to do the analysis, I think they need to cultivate around them a group of people -they could be consultants they might even be mentors, I’m not sure- who do have the time, who continue to have the time for analysis and those are people who are still in universities. So, I think that it’s hard if you move out of the field into a full-time position into one of these advocacy and action organizations. If you are fortunate, very fortunate, in being able to continue with a university job and at the same time, then are being invited to get involved in advocacy, I think you’re in a different position. I think that you still have -the academy still has- the opportunity for some amount of time for considered analysis, for sabbatical leave, for contributing to refereed journal articles. And I think one has to recognize the privilege of that position and value it and not allow any, “research time”, to be frittered away on advocacy and action work. It’s very tempting because the advocacy world and the action world is in many ways very exciting, very stimulating. And also, it gives you an entree to discourses that you might not otherwise have access to if you were in your “ivory tower”, as it were. So, I think analysis versus advocacy, I make that distinction quite strongly. I make it to my research students as well, because I don’t know whether you’ve had this experience but I have had in the past some -maybe not many, but some- research students who know the answer to their question before they’ve even addressed it. So they know what they want to recommend, and they haven’t done the study. Now, in this case, the advocacy is in front of the analysis. And it’s very, very hard in some cases to persuade students that they just need to forget about the recommendations and step backwards. Now a PhD over three or four years, I think for many people, including I think many academics, is one of the most privileged times of your life because you really do have time to read, you have time to analyze, you have time to think. And if you get through that period, and you’ve mastered a variety of skills, and you’ve developed a set of attitudes to education in the world, I think it places you in a very, very good position, even if you then move into a full-time job where it’s full of advocacy and action and getting on with spending money. It’s a tough one. I think that the other point I would make is that I would hope that if you have studied comparative and international education, that you retain a critical stance on many of the assertions, which come out of international organizations. International organizations have their own needs, they need to legitimize themselves, they need funding, they need to keep moving and they need to keep processing or reprocessing messages. And they often make grand claims about “X” leads to “Y” in most of the world and therefore “X” should lead to “Y” in the rest of the world. Now, if you’ve done comparative and international education in principle, you’ve got access to the resources that would enable you to test that proposition. And with the internet, now you’ve got even more access to resources. So, I would say to people just keep that critical hat on.

Will Brehm  23:33
It must be hard for some to keep that critical hat on when they end up working in development agencies that are trying to push their model: the best way to do this type of learning or solve this type of educational problem. I mean, I would imagine that they’re sort of bound by the need to advocate for that “solution” being offered. I can just see how that might be very challenging to stay critical. You want to be critical, but at the same time your job is telling you regardless of the circumstances, you have to say that this model is right.

Angela Little  24:14
Okay. I accept the constraint of that situation. At the same time, I would say take every opportunity you can to attend conferences. And much more than that, take every opportunity you can to present your work at conferences, knowing that if some members of the academy are there, they may be quite critical of what you’re doing, but use that critique to help you to reflect. Perhaps don’t rely on yourself and your peers to do all that self-reflection. Most organizations do have periods of time for in-service training or continuous professional development and some organizations and DFID actually -this is the Department for International Development- in recent years has been really quite good in encouraging many of its staff to attend, for example, the UKFIET conference, the United Kingdom Forum for International Education and Training. And those of us, who have been in that forum for a very long time -since its inception- were always very pleased when members of development agencies come and participate with us. Sometimes they request space for a panel to talk about their latest position paper. And sometimes it is possible to give them that space and they know that there will be a critique, there will be a lot of questions. But as members of the Academy, I think we try not to do that. We try to critique in a way which is constructive, not destructive. And I think sometimes it might be quite threatening for people to do that. But we also have to remember that, of course, many of the people who work in the development organizations are our former students. So, there is already a degree of trust there and there’s already an experience of analysis and academic life. And I think that’s very positive.

Will Brehm  26:09
So, you wrote that piece in Compare eight years ago looking at the main challenges to the field at that time. I know you said you retired around that same time that you published that piece but if you were to look at the field today, what would the main challenges be, the ones you see today? And are they different from the ones you saw eight years ago?

Angela Little  26:32
I think that today, even over that short space of time of eight years, I think the amount of information which is available on the internet, I mean, it’s just exploded. So, students actually have no excuse now. When they used to come along and say, I can’t find that report. I can’t find this, I can’t find that. If they’re looking for reports that have been produced from these so-called international agencies, there’s no excuse, most of that stuff is on the net. Where I think it’s still problematic in some countries is gaining access to what we might call the grey literature, the grey policy literature within countries, because a lot of that is not made available on the internet, and also, of course, historical material. And for that, you just have to search. You have to do old-style searching, sitting in archives and going through the material. In terms of the approach to problems, you drew my attention to a couple of writings on what might be generally termed, “Southern Theory”. And I think perhaps eight years ago that was beginning to take off. I think there’s more of that around in 2018 than I might have predicted in 2010. And I think on balance that’s very, very positive, as I said before, I think it it feeds into my predilection for the study of diversity. Where I’m just a little bit, I would wish to be a little bit cautious about some of that writing because some of it is imbued with the language of racism and I find that that’s tough. I think that when you have worked in a field for 45 years and when you have seen and been part of changing the -creating a much more diverse staffing profile for example in- a department that you’ve been associated with for two or three decades. Change is slow but one has seen change. Considerable amount of change. I think some of the language of those who call for Southern Theory and a counter hegemony, in effect. I think the language needs to be considered carefully if we are to move towards a comparative and international education field which is truly inclusive. There’s a certain danger that what is being called the Northern hegemony, certain danger that the call is to replace it with a Southern hegemony. I don’t buy into that partly because I’m not sure that I buy into all of the caricature of the Northern hegemony anyway. But I do, I think that those who are calling for a greater level of contribution from those who know systems, in the so-called “South” from the inside -and who are themselves extremely good scholars- to see a greater contribution only to be welcomed and invited. Nearly 20 years ago now, I undertook an analysis of the articles which had appeared in Comparative Education over the previous 20 year period. The year 2000 was when Comparative Education was doing yet another set of reflections on the condition of the field. And what I did was an analysis of of these about four or 500 articles. And I was interested in the four C’s: context, content, comparison, and contributors. So, the question of content was addressed to George Parkin’s issue about geography. And I found a pretty good spread of countries that were addressed in the articles. Content was what was the problem area that the articles were addressing. And that was incredibly diverse, incredibly diverse. I mean, everything from higher education to language policy, to pedagogy, to relations between education and development. Very, very wide. The third area was comparison. Now this one was very interesting because I took my cue from Parkin and some of the comparative educators before him. And perhaps working from maybe even Kandel’s position, I was looking for articles which compared two or more countries. And actually, I found that the vast majority of articles were only focused on one country. And I felt for me that didn’t devalue them. I just felt that if they were articles that were going to appear in a comparative education journal, they needed to be written with another author, maybe who have been looking at something similar in another country. I think that single country studies are absolutely essential for comparison. I don’t think you can “compare” until you’ve done a proper study of two countries or a team has done a proper scholarly study of the countries that they purport to compare because I think there’s a great danger otherwise that your comparisons become very, very surface level. Okay, so that was the comparison dimension. And the fourth dimension was contributors. And I found that there was a very heavy concentration of the contributors in Northern institutions. Now, they themselves may well have been from the South. They may have done their PhDs in the South but they have migrated to institutions in the North. Now, I think one of the challenges we have in the development of the collective development of higher education around the world if how can we find ways of distributing the skills of comparative and international education more equally across the globe so that in turn, those who have the skills can work in diverse parts of the world to develop scholarship in those parts of the world? Because if there’s this continued migration to the institutions in North America and Europe -and when I say the South, I rather exclude Australia and New Zealand and I think they would exclude themselves from what is referred to as the South. So perhaps not, not entirely perhaps- but if people are migrating, if academics are migrating to these good centers and departments of international comparative education, I think that worries me for the field. It doesn’t worry me for the individuals. The individuals are making very, very rational individual decisions. But I worry for the next generations of scholars from those countries who wish to stay in -not to stay in their country but who wish to- do comparative education in other countries, but then who wish to contribute to comparative international education in their country.

Will Brehm  33:50
And in a way that would contribute to this idea of Southern theory.

Angela Little  33:54
Yes, absolutely. Absolutely.

Will Brehm  33:58
Well, Angela Little Thank you so much for joining FreshEd today, it was really a pleasure to talk.

Angela Little  34:02
Thank you very much.

Will Brehm 1:49
Angela Little, bem-vinda ao FreshEd.

Angela Little 1:51
Muito obrigada.

Will Brehm 1:52
Vamos falar sobre o campo da educação comparada, do qual, de certa forma, somos ambos membros. Muitas pessoas têm dificuldade em definir o que significa educação comparada. O que é “comparada”? O que é “educação”? A certa altura acrescentamos “internacional” ao nome do campo. Então, educação internacional e comparada. Qual é a sua opinião? O que é a educação comparada?

Angela Little 2:17
Muito bem, não vai ser uma resposta curta.

Será Brehm 2:21
[Risos] Tudo bem.

Angela Little 2:22
Para mim, a educação comparada é sobre ampliar as fronteiras do nosso conhecimento sobre a educação. Movendo-o para além dos sistemas nacionais de educação. Trata-se de fazer algo que parece pouco familiar, estudá-lo tornando-o familiar e no processo de o tornar familiar, possivelmente tornando-o originalmente familiar. Por exemplo, dois sistemas educativos de diferentes locais. Sei isto pela minha própria experiência, a minha experiência enquanto professora no início da minha carreira na Nigéria foi muito, muito informativa nesse sentido. Eu não era uma estudante de educação comparada na época e suponho que, de certo modo, eu estava a estudar educação internacional. Mudei-me de Inglaterra para a Nigéria e estava a ensinar matemática. Mas esta experiência fez-me pensar sobre a forma como educação britânica estava organizada. Era bastante semelhante na Nigéria, mas também havia diferenças. Então, para mim, a educação comparada é sobre tornar o familiar desconhecido e familiarizarmo-nos com o estranho. Adicione a isso o internacional. Agora, se eu estava sendo pedante, “inter- nacional” significa entre nações, então, nesse caso, pode-se pensar que a educação internacional trata exclusivamente a relação entre educadores e políticas em dois ou mais países. E suponho que muitos dos textos sobre borrowing and lendingestão enquadrados nesta categoria. Mas julgo que a palavra “internacional” é usada com uma variedade, muito, muito grande. Para algumas pessoas, internacional equivale a global, de certa forma. E nós temos organizações internacionais e todos os tipos de programas de intercâmbio internacional. Então, se internacional tiver um significado mais amplo, julgo que a educação comparada provavelmente se torna subordinada do internacional. Internacional é uma categoria muito abrangente que inclui análise, inclui incidência política [advocacy] e inclui ações e atividades que são adicionadas aos estudos do desenvolvimento ou ao desenvolvimento internacional. Bem, eu julgo que desde já há várias décadas, o desenvolvimento normalmente se refere a duas coisas: ao desenvolvimento da educação naqueles que são conhecidos como países em desenvolvimento e, ao mesmo tempo, refere-se àquelas agências que estão envolvidas em diferentes formas de cooperação com esses países, a fim de desenvolver a educação para o desenvolvimento da sociedade. Mas eu gosto de voltar a uma definição de George W. Parkin, em meados da década de 1970. George Parkin foi um educador da Nova Zelândia e por um breve período de tempo foi professor visitante no Instituto de Educação em Londres. E para ele, a educação comparada era sobre a contribuição que da educação para o desenvolvimento das sociedades em todo o mundo. Então, para ele, desenvolvimento não se referia a exclusivamente – não era uma questão de geografia, não era uma questão de África, Ásia, América Latina – ele estava interessado na contribuição da educação para o desenvolvimento da sociedade, da economia, das políticas em todo o mundo. Então, desta forma incluiria a Europa, incluiria comparações entre a Alemanha e os EUA, por exemplo. Então, você pode ver pelo que eu disse até agora, quão amplo é um campo, e como é inclusivo, penso eu.

Will Brehm 6:11
Sim, há oito anos publicou um artigo na Comparative Education?

Angela Pequeno 6:16
Na Compare.

Will Brehm 6:17
Na Compare, desculpe. E nesse artigo, basicamente refere, sabe, já chega de debater as definições! O nosso campo fez isso durante algum tempo, desde que se tornou um “campo”. O que é a educação comparada? Em vez disso, argumenta que deveríamos pensar em ações partilhadas. O que fazemos deve ser o modo pelo qual definimos o nosso campo e não o significado das palavras. Julga que isto funcionou nos últimos oito anos? Pensa que o campo se moveu nessa direção?

Angela Little 6:53
[Risos] Bem, claramente, se olhar para os artigos das revistas que foram publicados nos últimos anos – e eu reformei-me oficialmente há oito anos, então eu não olho para essas revistas do mesmo modo que antes – mas faço-o ocasionalmente. Ainda há um alto grau do que às vezes eu chamo de “olhar para o umbigo” e então tento realmente – eu acho que é um pouco, há uma certa ironia nisso algumas vezes esses artigos que refletem sobre “o campo” da educação comparada são frequentemente sobre a criação de fronteiras. Contudo, para mim, quero dizer a beleza da educação comparada é sobre expansão das fronteiras. E às vezes acho irónico que alguém esteja a tentar fazer distinções entre que investigadores que fazem educação comparada “real” e investigadores que não fazem educação comparada. Quero dizer, ao mesmo tempo, vejo o valor de refletir sobre o campo por aqueles que o praticam. Talvez eu deva falar um pouco sobre o contexto do artigo que mencionou da Compareporque não é um artigo com um tamanho convencional de uma revista. Os editores da Compareestavam a organizar uma edição especial para comemorar o 40.º aniversário da Comparee eles convidaram um conjunto de autores para colaborar nesse número – seis ou sete – para escrever. E então eles – como sempre fazemos com uma revista – os artigos foram para uma revisão independente. E um dos artigos que me foi enviado para rever foi, na verdade, de Mark Bray e acho que foi, provavelmente, o artigo introdutório que oferece uma visão geral sobre a sua perspetiva do que era educação comparada. E nesse artigo – e talvez eu devesse tê-lo na minha frente agora, para que o pudesse citar corretamente, peço desde já desculpa ao Mark se não o citar corretamente, mas – ele basicamente referiu-se ao subtítulo da revista Compare, que eu acredito que é “Uma Revista de Educação Comparada e Internacional”. E como a Compareé uma revista que de certa forma pertence à Associação Britânica de Educação Internacional e Comparada [British Association of International and Comparative Education], penso que ele estava a questionar, porque é que o internacional não deveria ser colocado antes do comparado. E de certa forma – isso é um bom argumento – eu suspeito, mas não sei, porque não estive envolvida na atribuição do nome à revista, porém suspeito que o subtítulo derivou do fato de uma das organizações predecessoras se chamar Sociedade Britânica de Educação Comparada e Internacional [British Comparative and International Education Society]. Então, comparada veio antes de mim e foi quando a revista foi criada. Então, suspeito que apenas continuou. Mas de qualquer modo, seja como for, isso fez-me pensar. E assim surgiu o subtítulo do meu pequeno artigo, que é apenas, realmente, um comentário. Os editores, penso eu, decidiram que, uma vez que eles colocassem os artigos para revisão externa, eu penso que alguns dos comentários que voltaram nos artigos os levaram a dizer, muito bem, nós agora já temos os nossos seis ou sete artigos, agora vamos convidar três ou quatro pessoas apenas para escrever recensões críticas sobre os artigos e também sobre as suas visões sobre o assunto. Então, é um artigo muito pequeno e foi assim que surgiu. Então, naquele artigo disse que deveríamos olhar com mais cuidado para o que fazemos juntos e o que queremos fazer juntos em termos do tipo de investigação que queremos fazer. Eu não sei quão longe fomos com esta agenda. Penso que um dos meus objetivos era um maior reconhecimento da diversidade, da diversidade de práticas e políticas educativas em todo o mundo. E, até certo ponto, os artigos que estão a surgir escritos por uma geração mais jovem são sobrepenso que se chama, “Teoria do Sul” [Southern Theory]. Penso que uma grande parte muitas destas perspetivas ecoam um pouco do que eu estava a tentar argumentar. E, de facto, penso que meu objetivo é um maior reconhecimento da diversidade e da partilha de interesses. Quer dizer, eu não vejo cada sistema tão único em relação a outros sistemas que não possam ser comparados e de alguma forma extraídos elementos comuns. A minha a busca seria sempre por similaridade e falta de similaridade, diversidade e de partilha de interesses, universalidade e especificidade. Eu não gosto do “um ou do outro” [either-or]. Penso que, constantemente, na educação comparada temos que estar muito consciente destes dois polos dessas dimensões.

Will Brehm 11:34
Então, e o método? Como é que o método – o método comparativo – se enquadra nesta ideia de não ter um ou outro, mas ter esse universalismo e especificidade? Sabe, como é que o método se enquadra?

Angela Litle 11:49
Bem, penso que minha preocupação com o método ocorre a dois níveis distintos. Uma é que, quando me mudei para Londres, para o Instituto de Educação, mudei-me do Instituto de Estudos do Desenvolvimento. E mudei-me para o que naquela época era um departamento de Educação Internacional e Comparada. Mas esse departamento era basicamente uma fusão de dois departamentos históricos bastante separados, cada um com sua própria história e cada um com suas próprias tradições. O grupo de educação comparada, que era um grupo muito pequeno, eles – ou alguns de seus antecessores – estavam muito, muito preocupados em estabelecer uma abordagem metodológica específica para a educação comparada. Houve, provavelmente já ouviu falar de Edmund King e Brian Holmes, Brian Holmes estava no Instituto de Londres e Edmund King estava no King’s College. Eles tinham abordagens bastante diferentes para a educação comparada, e eu via um valor acrescentado nisso. Mas pareceu-me que havia muita discussão nessa literatura em particular sobre qual o método que era superior, qual o método que deveria ser seguido, e qual método que os estudantes deveriam seguir. Vindo do outro lado, vim de um Instituto de Estudos do Desenvolvimento e entrei no então chamado Departamento de Educação Internacional e Comparada. Mas a parte que lidava com países em desenvolvimento já tinha sido chamada de educação em países em desenvolvimento e colegas daquele grupo – e eu fazia parte desse subgrupo – não estavam tão preocupados com todos esses documentos metodológicos. Então, penso que senti naquele momento que o método estava a atrapalhar o conteúdo da investigação. A outra disputa metodológica, se a podemos chamar assim, que me tem exercitado de tempos a tempos tornou-se numa grande disputa nas ciências sociais, certamente em na Inglaterra, entre aqueles que promovem o que chamam de análise qualitativa e aqueles que promovem a análise quantitativa. E eu valorizo ambos e, para mim, depende muito do que está a tentar descobrir. Então, é neste sentido que julgo que a escolha dos métodos está dependente de cada um.

Will Brehm 14:18
Sim. Os métodos são ferramentas que usa para responder à pergunta de investigação que colocou.

Angela Little 14:23
Mas estará ciente, a partir discussões com vários estudantes que estão a frequentar unidades curriculares de investigação, que eles têm grandes dificuldades com este aspeto. E para alguns alunos que fazem investigação, seja investigação comparada ou não comparada, eles pensam que fazer investigação é fazer um estudo de caso ou fazer um questionário, certo? Agora, tudo bem, eles necessitam de saber, necessitam de descobrir esses métodos ou essas ferramentas. Mas, para mim, a questão muito mais desafiadora é, porque é que escolhe este ou aquele método? Ou porque não pensar em usar os dois métodos, mas em séries? Pode usar uma abordagem qualitativa para a primeira fase do seu trabalho, seguida de uma investigação quantitativa ou vice-versa. E alguns investigadores que combinam os métodos geralmente produzem um trabalho muito, muito bom. E quando digo combinar, penso que, novamente, é muito, sabe, combinação é uma palavra calorosa, é uma palavra reconfortante. É como interdisciplinaridade ou teremos uma abordagem interdisciplinar para o problema. Mas há pontos em que, de fato, temos que estabelecer limites e temos que dizer, bem, nesta investigação, nesta primeira fase da investigação julgo que é melhor abordado através de  métodos qualitativos que podem ser entrevistas não estruturadas com pessoas, com os professores, com os alunos sobre uma variedade de questões, para que produza o que eles consideram ser as dimensões mais salientes de um problema em particular. Posteriormente, pode colocar essas questões num questionário, porque, nesse momento, pode estar a fazer perguntas sobre quantas ou quanto ou quais percentagens e, assim que fizer estas perguntas, está a falar de uma abordagem quantitativa. Agora, acho que a dificuldade para os alunos é que às vezes eles são “alimentados” com esta dicotomia quantitativo vs. qualitativo.

Will Brehm 16:19
Como se tivessem que escolher.
Angela Little 16:20
Como se tivessem que escolher! Mas então, se eles se movem para uma fase em que percebem que podem usar ambos os métodos, o perigo é não seguir os procedimentos corretos. Eles ficam entre duas possibilidades. Julgo que, na verdade, os alunos que usam ambas as abordagens possivelmente têm mais dificuldade porque precisam dominar estas duas abordagens. Eles têm que fazer o trabalho corretamente. Eles têm que fazê-lo recorrendo a uma bolsa de estudo.

Wil Brehm 16:48
E num programa de doutoramento de 4 anos. Quero dizer, como é que se pode tornar, verdadeiramente, umespecialista em duas formas bastante diferentes de fazer investigação?

Angela Little 16:56
Sim, sim. Sabe, costumava ser uma abreviatura usada por alguns dos meus colegas na Grã-Bretanha. Sabe, é um “Quant”? Ou um “Qual”? Significa que é um investigador quantitativo ou qualitativo e eu costumava recuar nesse ponto e dizer olha, realmente essa perspetiva não é útil. Felizmente, existem alguns textos na literatura que fazem uma distinção relevante. Dentro do nosso campo da educação comparada, eu diria que não, mas em outros campos em que eles estão, se preferir, as ciências sociais comparadas, encontra-a.

Will Brehm 17:34
Então, outra grande questão que extravasa a questão dos métodos na educação comparada e o nome “educação comparada” é o seu significado. Outra questão que – eu penso que está presente no campo quase há uma década – tenho notado é que quem está ligado à educação comparada – aqueles que passam por uma trajetória académica – e muitas vezes acabam a trabalhar numa agência de desenvolvimento ou num Ministério da Educação, ou sabe, todos os tipos de ONG, organizações sem fins lucrativos, e até mesmo os académicos que são professores de educação comparada, frequentemente trabalham com esses mesmos grupos ao longo das suas carreiras. Então, têm um pé no mundo da prática e outro no da teoria ao mesmo tempo. Eles são práticos, mas também estão na academia. Então, sabe, como pensa que os estudiosos devem equilibrar esse papel da capacidade de analisar questões de educação comparada, mas depois também participar em ações específicas de educação comparada?

Angela Little  18:43
Hmm, esta é uma pergunta muito boa e suponho que eu seja uma daquelas pessoas que tiveram os pés em ambos os lados de várias formas. Julgo que para aqueles que passam da educação comparada e da educação internacional para um trabalho a tempo integral numa organização internacional ou numa ONG internacional ou numa ONG nacional, eu penso que dentro dessa organização, eles precisam ser fortes para pedirem tempo para análise. Eu sei que em algumas organizações internacionais, o ritmo do discurso e todos os imperativos de financiamento são tão – é tão rápido – que a sua lista de prioridades sabe, “o que é hoje”, muda muito rapidamente, e eu julgo que por vezes há não há tempo para análise. Se não podem fazer a análise por si, ou não sentem que têm tempo para fazer a análise, julgo que necessitam de ter à sua volta um grupo de pessoas – podem ser consultores, ou mesmo mentores, não tenho a certeza – quem tem tempo, quem continua a ter tempo para análise, e essas pessoas são geralmente quem continua nas universidades. Então, julgo que é difícil se sair do campo para um trabalho a tempo numa dessas organizações de incidência política [advocacy]. Se tem a sorte, muita sorte, e conseguir continuar com um trabalho universitário e, ao mesmo tempo, ser convidado para se envolver em incidência política [advocacy], penso que está numa posição diferente. Considero que se ainda tem – a academia ainda tem – a oportunidade de ter algum tempo para análise ponderada, para uma licença sabática, para contribuir com artigos com revisão por pares em revistas. E julgo que é necessário reconhecer o privilégio de ter essa oportunidade e valorizá-la e não permitir que qualquer “tempo de investigação” seja desperdiçado em trabalho de incidência política [advocacy] e ação. É muito tentador, porque o mundo da incidência política [advocacy] e da ação são, em muitos aspetos, muito empolgantes, muito estimulantes. E também, lhe dá acesso a discursos que de outra forma não teria acesso caso estivesse na sua “torre de marfim”, por assim dizer. Então, eu penso em análise versus incidência política [advocacy], faço esta distinção com bastante veemência. Faço isso mesmo para os meus alunos de investigação, porque não sei se teve essa experiência, mas eu tive no passado alguns – talvez não muitos, mas alguns -estudantes de investigação que já sabem a resposta às perguntas de investigação mesmo antes de as redigir. Então, eles sabem o que querem recomendar, mas ainda não fizeram o estudo. Neste caso, a incidência política [advocacy] está à frente da análise. E é muito difícil, em alguns casos, persuadir os alunos que só precisam esquecer as recomendações e voltar atrás. Um doutoramento de três ou quatro anos, penso que para muitas outras pessoas, julgo que inclusivamente para muitos académicos, é um dos momentos mais privilegiados da sua vida porque têm realmente tempo para ler, tempo para analisar, tempo para pensar. E se passar por esse período, já dominou uma variedade de competências e desenvolveu um conjunto de atitudes em relação à educação no mundo, julgo que isso o coloca numa posição muito boa, mesmo que mude para um trabalho a tempo repleto de incidência política, ação e gestão de financiamentos. É difícil. Porém, julgo que outro ponto que gostaria de acrescentar é que espero que alguém que estudou educação internacional e comparada mantenha uma postura crítica sobre muitas das afirmações que vêm de organizações internacionais. As organizações internacionais têm as suas próprias necessidades, elas precisam de se legitimar, precisam de financiamento, precisam continuar em movimento e precisam continuar processando ou reprocessando as mensagens. E muitas vezes fazem grandes reivindicações sobre “X” leva a “Y” na maior parte do mundo e, portanto, “X” deve levar a “Y” no resto do mundo. Agora, se estudou educação internacional e comparada, em princípio, terá acesso aos recursos que permitem testar essas proposições. E com a internet, agora consegue-se ainda mais acesso a recursos. Então, diria às pessoas para manterem o “chapéu” da crítica.

Will Brehm 23:33
Deve ser difícil para alguns manterem o “chapéu” da crítica, quando acabam a trabalhar em agências de desenvolvimento que estão a tentar impulsionar o seu modelo: a melhor forma de fazer esse tipo de aprendizagem ou resolver esse tipo de problema educacional. Quer dizer, imagino que eles estão ligados à necessidade de defender a “solução” que está a ser oferecida. Posso apenas imaginar como pode ser bastante desafiador permanecer crítico. Quer ser crítico, mas ao mesmo tempo o seu trabalho está a dizer-lhe, independentemente das circunstâncias, que o modelo que está a usar está certo.

Angela Little 24:14
OK. Eu aceito a restrição dessa situação. Ao mesmo tempo, diria que deve aproveitar todas as oportunidades para participar em conferências. E muito mais do que isso, aproveite todas as oportunidades possíveis para apresentar o seu trabalho em conferências, sabendo que, se alguns membros da academia estiverem lá, eles podem ser bastante críticos sobre o que está a fazer, mas use essas críticas para o ajudar a refletir. Talvez não se limitar apenas à sua autorreflexão e à dos seus colegas. A maioria das organizações tem períodos de tempo para formação em serviço ou desenvolvimento profissional, e algumas organizações e precisamente o DFID – isto é o Departamento para o Desenvolvimento Internacional do Reino Unido- nos últimos anos tem sido muito bom a encorajar muitos de seus funcionários a comparecer, por exemplo, no UKFIET, o Fórum do Reino Unido para Educação Internacional e Formação [United Kingdom Forum for International Education and Training]. E aqueles de nós, que estão nesse fórum há muito tempo – desde o início – ficam sempre muito satisfeitos quando membros de agências de desenvolvimento participaram connosco. Às vezes, solicitam espaço para um painel para terem oportunidade de falar sobre seu mais recente documento de posicionamento. E às vezes é possível dar-lhes esse espaço e eles sabem que haverá crítica, haverá muitas perguntas. Mas como membros da Academia, penso acho que tentamos não fazer isso. Nós tentamos criticar de uma maneira construtiva, não destrutiva. E penso que às vezes pode ser bastante ameaçador para as pessoas fazerem isso. Mas também temos que lembrar que, é claro, muitas das pessoas que trabalham nas organizações de desenvolvimento são nossos ex-alunos. Então, já existe um certo grau de confiança e já existe uma experiência de análise e vida académica. E penso que isso é muito positivo.

Will Brehm 26:09
Então, escreveu o artigo da Comparehá oito anos, olhando para os principais desafios do campo naquele momento. Eu sei que disse que se aposentou na mesma época em que publicou esse artigo, mas se fosse olhar para o campo hoje, quais seriam os principais desafios, aqueles que identifica atualmente? São diferentes dos que viu há oito anos?

Angela Little 26:32
Penso que hoje, mesmo nesse curto espaço de tempo de oito anos, penso que a quantidade de informação disponível na internet, quero dizer, acabou de explodir. Então, os estudantes agora não têm desculpa. Quando apareciam e diziam, não consigo encontrar o relatório. Não consigo encontrar isso, não consigo encontrar aquilo. Se estão a procurar relatórios que foram produzidos a partir das chamadas agências internacionais, não há desculpas, a maioria das informações está na internet. Onde considero que ainda é problemático em alguns países é o acesso ao que podemos chamar literatura cinzenta, a literatura cinzenta referente a políticas dos países, porque muita desta informação não está disponível na internet, e também, claro está, material histórico. E para isso, apenas precisa de investigar. Tem que realizar pesquisa à “moda antiga”, ir para os arquivos e rever o material. Em termos da abordagem às diferentes problemáticas alertou-me para alguns escritos sobre o que poderá ser chamado de “Teoria do Sul”. Julgo que talvez há oito anos isto estava a começar. Considero que há mais disso em 2018 do que eu poderia ter previsto em 2010. Julgo que o balanço é muito, muito positivo, como eu disse antes, penso que isso alimenta a minha predileção pelo estudo da diversidade. Onde eu estou apenas um pouquinho, eu gostaria de ser um pouco cautelosa sobre alguns escritos, porque alguns estão imbuídos na linguagem do racismo e julgo que isso é difícil. Penso que quando se trabalha numa área há 45 anos e quando vê e faz parte da mudança de criar um perfil de pessoas muito mais diversificado, por exemplo, em um departamento ao qual tem estado associado durante duas ou três décadas. A mudança é lenta, mas já se viu mudança. Uma quantidade considerável de mudança. Na realidade, alguma da linguagem(s) daqueles que clamam pela Teoria do Sul e uma contra-hegemonia. Eu penso que a(s) linguagem(s) necessitam de ser consideradas com precaução se quisermos que haja uma movimentação para uma educação internacional e comparada que seja verdadeiramente inclusiva. Há um certo perigo para o que está a ser chamado de hegemonia do Norte, está a ser substituída por uma hegemonia do Sul. Eu não entendo isso em parte porque eu não tenho certeza se compro toda a caricatura da hegemonia do Norte de qualquer maneira. Mas eu acredito que aqueles que estão a pedir um maior nível de contribuição daqueles que conhecem os sistemas, no chamado “Sul” de dentro – e que são, eles mesmos, extremamente bons académicos – é para contribuírem e apenas para serem bem-vindos e convidados. Há quase 20 anos, realizei uma análise dos artigos que apareceram na Comparative Educationno período de 20 anos. O ano de 2000 foi quando a ComparativeEducationestava a realizar um conjunto de reflexões sobre as áreas. E o que fiz foi uma análise desses cerca de quatro ou 500 artigos. Estava interessada nos quatro C’s: contexto, conteúdo, comparação e colaboradores [context, content, comparison, and contributors]. Então, a questão do conteúdo foi endereçada à questão de George Parkin sobre geografia. E eu encontrei uma boa distribuição de países que foram abordados nos artigos. O conteúdo era a problemática que os artigos abordavam. E isso foi incrivelmente diversificado, incrivelmente diverso. Quer dizer, tudo, do ensino superior à política linguística, à pedagogia, às relações entre educação e desenvolvimento. Muito abrangente. A terceira área foi a comparação. Agora, este foi muito interessante porque segui a sugestão do Parkin e alguns dos investigadores de educação comparada antes dele. E talvez trabalhando talvez a partir da posição de Kandel, estava à procura de artigos que comparassem dois ou mais países. E, na verdade, descobri que a grande maioria dos artigos estava focada apenas em um país. E eu senti que esse aspeto não os desvalorizou. Eu apenas senti que, se fossem artigos que aparecessem numa revista de educação comparada, precisariam de ser escritos com outro autor, que talvez estivesse à procura de algo similar em outro país. Julgo que os estudos de um único país são absolutamente essenciais para a comparação. Não penso que se pode “comparar” até que se tenha feito um estudo apropriado de dois países ou uma equipa tenha feito um estudo académico adequado sobre os países que pretendem comparar, porque penso que há um grande perigo caso contrário as suas comparações se tornam-se muito, muito superficiais. Muito bem, então essa foi a dimensão de comparação. E a quarta dimensão foram os autores[colaboradores]. E descobri que havia uma concentração muito grande de autores nas instituições do Norte. Agora, eles mesmos podem ter sido do Sul. Podem ter feito os seus doutoramentos no Sul, mas migraram para instituições no Norte. Agora, julgo que um dos desafios que temos no desenvolvimento de um desenvolvimento coletivo do ensino superior em todo o mundo é como podemos encontrar formas de distribuir as competências da educação comparada e internacional, de forma mais igualitária em todo o mundo, de modo a que, por sua vez, aqueles que têm as competências possam trabalhar em diversas partes do mundo para desenvolver o campo nessas partes do mundo? Porque se há essa migração contínua para as instituições na América do Norte e da Europa – e quando digo o Sul, eu excluo a Austrália e a Nova Zelândia e considero que elas se excluem do que é chamado de Sul. Talvez não, talvez não inteiramente – mas se as pessoas estão a migrar, se os académicos estão a migrar para esses bons Centros e Departamentos de educação internacional e comparada, penso que isso me preocupa para o estado do campo. Não me preocupa pelos indivíduos. Os indivíduos estão ta tomar decisões individuais muito, muito racionais. Mas eu preocupo-me com as próximas gerações de académicos daqueles países que desejam permanecer – não para ficar no seu país, mas que desejam fazer educação comparada em outros países, mas que desejam contribuir para a educação internacional comparada em seu país.

Will Brehm 33:50
E de uma maneira que contribuiria para essa ideia da “teoria do Sul”.

Angela Little 33:54
Sim, absolutamente. Absolutamente.

Will Brehm 33:58
Bem, Angela Little Muito obrigado por participar no FreshEd de hoje, foi realmente um prazer conversar consigo.

Angela Little 34:02
Muito obrigada.

Translation by Rui da Silva and Rosa Silva

Want to help translate this show into other languages? Please contact info@freshedpodcast.com

Will Brehm 1:49
Angela Little, bienvenue à FreshEd.

Angela Little  1:51
Merci beaucoup.

Will Brehm 1:52
Discutons donc du domaine de l’éducation comparée dont nous sommes tous deux en quelque sorte membres. Beaucoup de gens ont du mal à définir ce que cela veut dire. Qu’est-ce qui est comparatif ? Qu’est-ce que l’éducation ? À un moment donné, nous avons inclus l’international dans le nom de ce domaine. Donc, l’éducation comparative et internationale. Qu’en pensez-vous ? Qu’est-ce que l’éducation comparée en tant que domaine ?

Angela Little 2:17
Bon, eh bien, ce ne sera pas une réponse brève.

Will Brehm  2:21
[Rire] C’est bon.

Angela Little  2:22
Pour moi, l’éducation comparative vise à élargir les limites de nos connaissances en matière d’éducation. Il s’agit de l’amener au-delà des systèmes nationaux d’éducation. Il s’agit de rendre quelque chose qui semble peu familier, de l’étudier pour le rendre familier et, ce faisant, de rendre peut-être familier ce qui l’était à l’origine, ce qui le rend plutôt étrange, de sorte que l’on puisse voir, par exemple, deux systèmes éducatifs des deux côtés, pour ainsi dire. Je sais par expérience que ma première expérience d’enseignant au Nigeria a été très, très instructive en ce sens. Je n’étudiais pas l’éducation comparative à cette époque et je suppose que, dans un sens, je faisais de l’éducation internationale. J’avais quitté l’Angleterre pour le Nigeria et j’enseignais les mathématiques. Mais cela m’a fait réfléchir à la façon dont l’éducation britannique était structurée. C’était assez semblable au Nigeria, mais il y avait aussi de nettes divergences. Donc, pour moi, l’éducation comparative vise à rendre familier l’inconnu et à rendre étrange ce qui est familier. Ajoutez à cela l’international. Maintenant, si j’étais pédant, “international” signifie entre nations, auquel cas vous pourriez croire que l’éducation internationale concerne exclusivement les relations entre éducateurs et décideurs politiques dans deux ou plusieurs pays différents. Et je présume qu’une grande partie des écrits sur l’emprunt et le prêt de matériel éducatif relèveraient donc de cette catégorie. Mais je pense que le terme “international” est employé de nombreuses façons différentes. Pour certaines personnes, international est équivalent à mondial dans un certain sens. Et nous avons des organisations internationales et nous avons toutes sortes de programmes d’échanges internationaux. Donc, si nous prenons le sens plus large d’international, je pense que l’éducation comparative devient probablement secondaire à l’international. L’international est une catégorie très générale qui couvre l’analyse, la défense des intérêts, l’action et l’activité, et qui s’ajoute au mélange développement ou études sur le développement ou développement international. Eh bien, je trouve que depuis plusieurs décennies maintenant, le développement fait généralement référence à deux choses : Il s’agit du développement de l’éducation dans ce qu’on appelle les pays en développement et, en même temps, il s’agit des agences qui sont engagées dans différentes formes de coopération avec ces pays afin de promouvoir l’éducation pour le développement de la société. Mais j’aime retourner à une définition proposée par George W. Parkin, au milieu des années 1970. George Parkin était un éducateur néo-zélandais et, pendant une brève période, il a été professeur invité à l’Institut d’éducation de Londres. Et pour lui, l’éducation comparative concernait la contribution de l’éducation au développement des sociétés partout dans le monde. Pour lui, le développement n’est donc pas exclusif – ce n’est pas une question de géographie, ce n’est pas une question d’Afrique, d’Asie, d’Amérique latine – il s’intéresse à la contribution de l’éducation au développement de la société, de l’économie, de la politique dans le monde entier. Ainsi, cela comprendrait, en Europe, des comparaisons entre l’Allemagne et les États-Unis par exemple. Ainsi, vous pouvez voir, d’après ce que j’ai dit jusqu’à présent, à quel point ce domaine est large et inclusif, je pense,

Will Brehm 6:11
Oui, il y a 8 ans de cela, vous avez publié cet article dans l’Éducation Comparative?

Angela Little  6:16
En guise de comparaison.

Will Brehm  6:17
Dans Comparer, veuillez m’excuser. Et dans cet article, vous dites en gros, vous savez, assez du débat sur les définitions ! Notre domaine le fait depuis un certain temps, depuis qu’il est devenu un “domaine”. Qu’est-ce que l’éducation comparative ? Et vous dites plutôt que nous devrions vraiment envisager une action commune. Ce que nous devrions faire, c’est définir notre domaine plutôt que de définir le sens de ces mots. Cela a-t-il marché ces huit dernières années ? Croyez-vous que le domaine a évolué dans cette direction?

Angela Little  6:53
[Rire] Il est évident que si vous regardez les revues qui ont été publiées ces dernières années et que j’ai pris ma retraite officielle il y a huit ans de cela, je ne regarde plus ces revues comme avant – mais je m’y plonge de temps en temps. Et il y a encore une grande part de ce que j’appellerais parfois “l’observation du nombril” et j’essaie ensuite de – je crois que c’est un peu, il y a une certaine ironie dans le fait que des fois, ces articles qui réfléchissent sur “le domaine” de l’éducation comparative portent souvent sur la définition de limites. Alors que pour moi, je veux dire que la beauté de l’éducation comparative est l’extension des limites. Et je trouve parfois un peu ironique qu’on essaie de faire des différences entre les vrais éducateurs comparatifs et les éducateurs non comparatifs. Je veux dire, en parallèle, que je vois l’intérêt d’une réflexion sur le terrain par ceux qui pratiquent dans ce domaine. Et je devrais peut-être dire quelques mots sur le contexte de l’article auquel vous avez fait référence dans Comparer, car il ne s’agit pas d’un article de longueur conventionnelle. Les rédacteurs de Comparer préparaient un numéro spécial pour célébrer le 40e anniversaire de Comparer et ils ont invité un certain nombre de contributeurs – six ou sept je pense – à écrire. Puis, comme on le fait toujours avec une revue, ils ont soumis les articles à un examen indépendant. L’un des articles qui m’a été envoyé pour examen était en fait celui de Mark Bray et je crois qu’il s’agissait probablement de l’article d’introduction donnant un aperçu de son point de vue sur ce qu’était l’éducation comparée. Et dans cet article – et je devrais peut-être l’avoir sous les yeux pour le citer convenablement et m’excuser auprès de Mark si je ne le cite pas correctement, mais – il faisait essentiellement référence au sous-titre de la revue Comparer, qui est, je crois, ” Un Journal d’éducation comparative et internationale “. Et puisque Comparer est la revue qui appartient en quelque sorte à la British Association of International and Comparative Education, je pense qu’il se demandait pourquoi l’international ne devrait pas être mis avant le comparatif. Et à un certain niveau – c’est un bon point – je soupçonne, mais je ne sais pas, parce que je n’ai pas participé à la dénomination de la revue mais je soupçonne que le sous-titre découle du fait qu’une des organisations précédentes s’appelait la British Comparative and International Education Society. Donc, en cela, la comparaison est venue avant moi et c’est à ce moment-là que la revue a été établie. Je pense donc qu’elle a simplement poursuivi ses activités. Mais quoi qu’il en soit, cela m’a fait réfléchir. Et donc le sous-titre de mon petit article, qui n’est qu’un commentaire en fait. Les éditeurs ont décidé, je pense, qu’une fois les articles envoyés à un examen externe, je pense que certains des commentaires qui leur sont parvenus les ont amenés à dire, eh bien, d’accord, nous avons nos six ou sept articles, invitons à présent trois ou quatre personnes à écrire de courts articles de réflexion sur les articles et sur leur vision du domaine. C’est donc un article très court et c’est comme ça que ça s’est fait. J’ai donc dit dans cet article que nous devrions étudier un peu plus attentivement à la fois ce que nous faisons ensemble et ce que nous voulons faire ensemble en termes de type de recherche que nous voulons faire. Et je ne sais pas où nous en sommes avec ce programme. Je pense que l’un de mes objectifs était de mieux comprendre la diversité et la diversité des pratiques et des politiques éducatives dans le monde entier. Et dans une certaine mesure, la montée des articles d’une génération plus jeune sur lesquels on écrit, je crois que cela s’appelle la “théorie du Sud”. Et je crois que, dans une large mesure, beaucoup de ces appels font en quelque sorte écho à ce que j’essayais de défendre. Et en effet, je crois que mon but pour une plus grande appréciation de la diversité ainsi que des points communs. Je veux dire que je ne considère pas chaque système comme si unique par rapport aux autres systèmes qu’il soit impossible de les comparer et de dégager des éléments communs, pas du tout. Ma recherche sera toujours celle de la similarité et de la dissimilitude, de la diversité et des points communs, de l’universalité et de la spécificité. Je n’aime pas le “ou bien”. Je pense qu’en éducation comparée, il faut constamment être très conscient des deux pôles de ces dimensions.

Will Brehm  11:34
Donc, qu’en est-il de la méthode ? Comment la méthode – la méthode comparative – s’inscrit-elle dans cette idée de ne pas avoir l’un ou l’autre, mais d’avoir cet universalisme et cette spécificité ? Vous savez, comment la méthode s’inscrit-elle dans cette idée ?

Angela Little 11:49
Bien, d’accord, je crois que ma préoccupation au sujet de la méthode se situe à deux niveaux différents. Le premier est que quand j’ai déménagé à Londres à l’Institut d’éducation, j’ai quitté l’Institut d’études du développement. Et je suis passée à ce qui était alors un département d’éducation internationale et comparative. Mais ce département était en fait une fusion de deux départements historiques plutôt distincts, chacun ayant sa propre histoire et ses propres traditions. Et le groupe d’éducation comparative, qui était un très petit groupe, eux – ou certains de leurs prédécesseurs – avaient été très, très soucieux de définir une approche méthodologique particulière de l’éducation comparative. Vous avez probablement entendu parler de ce droit par Edmund King et Brian Holmes, ou Brian Holmes était à l’Institut de Londres, Edmund King était au King’s College. Ils avaient des approches très différentes de l’éducation comparative, dont je pouvais voir qu’elles avaient toutes deux de la valeur. Mais il me paraissait qu’il y avait beaucoup d’arguments dans cette littérature particulière pour savoir quelle méthode était supérieure et quelle méthode devait être suivie et quelle méthode les étudiants devaient suivre. Venant de l’autre côté, je venais d’un Institut d’études du développement et j’ai fait un pas dans ce qui s’appelait alors le Département d’éducation comparative internationale. Mais la partie qui traitait des pays en développement s’appelait auparavant l’éducation dans les pays en développement et les collègues de ce groupe – dont je faisais partie – n’étaient pas si concernés que ça par tous ces documents méthodologiques. Je pense donc qu’à cette époque, j’avais le sentiment que la méthode faisait obstacle au contenu de l’enquête. L’autre différend méthodologique, si vous voulez, qui m’a parfois préoccupé est ce qui est devenu un différend majeur dans les sciences sociales, certainement en Grande-Bretagne, entre ceux qui promeuvent ce qu’ils appellent l’analyse qualitative et ceux qui promeuvent l’analyse quantitative. Et j’apprécie les deux et pour moi, cela dépend beaucoup de ce que vous essayez de découvrir. C’est donc dans ce sens que je dis que c’est votre problème qui doit guider votre choix de méthodes.

Will Brehm  14:18
Oui. Les méthodes sont des outils que vous employez pour répondre à la question de recherche que vous avez posée.

Angela Little  14:23
Mais vous savez, d’après les discussions que vous avez eues avec de nombreux étudiants en recherche, qu’ils ont beaucoup de mal à faire face à cette situation. Et pour certains étudiants qui font de la recherche, qu’il s’agisse de recherche comparative ou non comparative, ils ont l’impression que faire de la recherche, c’est faire une étude de cas ou une enquête, n’est-ce pas ? À présent, ils ont besoin de savoir, ils ont besoin de découvrir ces méthodes ou ces outils. Mais la question beaucoup plus difficile pour moi est de savoir pourquoi vous décidez de choisir telle ou telle méthode. Ou pourquoi ne pas envisager d’utiliser les deux méthodes, mais en série ? Vous pouvez employer une approche qualitative pour la première phase de votre travail, suivie d’une enquête quantitative ou vice-versa. Et certains chercheurs qui associent les méthodes produisent souvent un travail très, très, très fin. Et quand je dis associer, je pense, encore une fois, que c’est très, vous savez, l’association est un mot chaleureux, c’est un mot réconfortant. C’est comme l’interdisciplinarité ou nous aurons une approche interdisciplinaire de ce problème. Mais il y a des points où, en fait, il faut tracer des limites et dire, bon, d’accord, dans cette recherche, à ce premier stade de la recherche, je pense qu’il est préférable d’aborder le problème par des moyens qualitatifs qui peuvent être des entretiens non organisés avec des personnes, avec des enseignants, avec des étudiants sur toute une série de questions afin d’obtenir d’eux ce qu’ils considèrent comme les dimensions les plus saillantes d’un problème particulier. À un stade ultérieur, vous pouvez passer à un questionnaire d’enquête, car à ce stade, vous pouvez poser des questions sur le nombre, la quantité ou le pourcentage et dès que vous posez ces questions, vous parlez d’une approche quantitative. Maintenant, je pense que la difficulté pour les étudiants, c’est que parfois on leur donne cette approche quantitative ou qualitative.

Will Brehm  16:19
Comme si elles devaient choisir.

Angela Little  16:20
Comme s’ils devaient choisir ! Mais s’ils passent ensuite à une phase où ils se rendent compte qu’ils peuvent se servir des deux, le danger est alors qu’ils ne fassent ni l’un ni l’autre convenablement. Ils tombent entre les deux tabourets. Et je pense qu’en fait, les élèves qui emploient les deux approches ont peut-être plus de difficultés parce qu’ils doivent maîtriser cette approche. Ils doivent faire le travail correctement. Ils doivent le faire avec une bourse.

Will Brehm 16:48
Et dans un programme de doctorat de quatre ans. Je veux dire, comment devient-on vraiment un expert dans deux façons très distinctes de faire de la recherche ?

Angela Little 16:56
Oui, oui. Donc vous savez, c’était une abréviation employée par certains de mes collègues en Grande-Bretagne. Vous savez, êtes-vous un “Quant” ? Ou êtes-vous un “Qual” ? C’est-à-dire, êtes-vous un chercheur quantitatif ou qualitatif et j’avais pour habitude de prendre du recul à ce moment-là et de dire “regardez, ça n’aide vraiment pas”. Heureusement, il y a quelques écrits dans la littérature qui font ressortir les distinctions de manière très utile. Non pas, je dirais, dans notre domaine de l’éducation comparative, mais dans d’autres domaines qui relèvent, si vous voulez, des sciences sociales comparatives, vous trouverez cela.

Will Brehm 17:34
Donc, une autre grande question au-delà de la méthode dans l’éducation comparative et le nom de l’éducation comparative, la signification. J’ai constaté que les spécialistes de l’éducation comparée – ceux qui ont suivi cette trajectoire universitaire – finissent souvent par travailler dans des agences de développement ou des ministères de l’éducation, ou vous savez, toutes sortes d’ONG, d’organisations à but non lucratif, et puis même les universitaires qui sont professeurs d’éducation comparative travaillent souvent avec ces mêmes groupes au cours de leur carrière. Ainsi, ils ont en quelque sorte les pieds dans le monde de la pratique et de la théorie en même temps. Ils sont praticiens, mais ils sont aussi dans le monde universitaire. Ainsi, vous savez, comment pensez-vous que les universitaires devraient concilier ce rôle de capacité à analyser les questions d’éducation comparée, mais aussi à participer à la défense de l’éducation en particulier?

Angela Little  18:43
Hmm, c’est une très bonne question et je pense que je suis de ceux qui ont eu les pieds dans les deux camps de diverses manières. Je pense que pour ceux qui passent de l’éducation comparative et internationale à un poste à plein temps dans une organisation internationale ou dans une ONG internationale ou une ONG nationale, je crois qu’au sein de cette organisation, ils doivent être forts pour demander du temps pour l’analyse. Je sais que dans certaines organisations internationales, le rythme du discours et tous les impératifs de financement sont tels -il est si rapide- que la liste de vos priorités, “qu’est-ce que c’est aujourd’hui”, change très vite, et je pense que parfois il n’y a tout simplement pas de temps pour l’analyse. S’ils ne peuvent pas faire l’analyse eux-mêmes, ou s’ils ne pensent pas avoir le temps de la faire, je pense qu’ils doivent former autour d’eux un groupe de personnes – qui pourraient être des consultants, voire des mentors, je n’en suis pas sûr – qui ont le temps, qui continuent d’avoir le temps d’analyser et qui sont encore à l’université. Je crois donc qu’il est difficile de quitter le terrain pour un poste à plein temps dans l’une de ces organisations de défense et d’action. Si vous êtes chanceux, très chanceux, de pouvoir continuer à travailler à l’université et que vous êtes en même temps invité à vous engager dans la défense des droits, je pense que vous êtes dans une position différente. Je pense que vous avez encore -l’académie a encore- la possibilité de disposer d’un peu de temps pour une analyse réfléchie, pour un congé sabbatique, pour participer à des articles de revues arbitrées. Et je pense qu’il faut reconnaître le privilège de cette position et l’apprécier à sa juste valeur, et ne pas permettre qu’un quelconque “temps de recherche” soit gaspillé pour des travaux de plaidoyer et d’action. C’est très séduisant parce que le monde de la défense des droits et de l’action est à bien des égards très excitant, très stimulant. De plus, cela vous permet de vous lancer dans des discours auxquels vous n’auriez peut-être pas accès si vous étiez dans votre “tour d’ivoire”, pour ainsi dire. Je crois donc qu’il faut faire la distinction entre l’analyse et l’action, et je le fais avec beaucoup de force. Je le fais aussi pour mes étudiants en recherche, parce que je ne sais pas si vous avez eu cette expérience, mais j’ai eu dans le passé quelques – peut-être pas beaucoup, mais quelques – étudiants en recherche qui connaissent la réponse à leur question avant même de l’avoir posée. Ils savent donc ce qu’ils veulent recommander, et ils n’ont pas fait l’étude. À présent, dans ce cas, le plaidoyer se trouve devant l’analyse. Et il est très, très difficile dans certains cas de persuader les étudiants qu’il leur suffit d’oublier les recommandations et de faire un pas en arrière. A présent, un doctorat sur trois ou quatre ans, je crois que pour beaucoup de gens, y inclus, je crois, beaucoup d’universitaires, c’est l’un des moments les plus privilégiés de votre vie parce que vous avez vraiment le temps de lire, vous avez le temps d’analyser, vous avez le temps de réfléchir. Et si vous passez cette période, et que vous maîtrisez diverses compétences, et que vous avez développé un ensemble d’attitudes à l’égard de l’éducation dans le monde, je pense que cela vous place dans une très, très bonne position, même si vous passez ensuite à un emploi à plein temps où il est plein de défense et d’action et où vous continuez à dépenser de l’argent. C’est un travail difficile. Je crois que l’autre point que je voudrais soulever est que j’espère que si vous avez étudié l’éducation comparative et internationale, vous conservez une position critique sur de nombreuses affirmations, qui proviennent des organisations internationales. Les organisations internationales ont leurs propres besoins, elles doivent se légaliser, elles ont besoin de financement, elles doivent continuer à bouger et elles doivent continuer à traiter ou retraiter les messages. Et elles font souvent de grandes affirmations sur le fait que “X” mène à “Y” dans la plupart des pays du monde et que, par conséquent, “X” devrait conduire à “Y” dans le reste du monde. Maintenant, si vous avez fait de l’éducation comparative et internationale en principe, vous avez accès aux ressources qui vous permettraient de tester cette proposition. Et avec l’Internet, vous avez maintenant encore plus accès aux ressources. Alors, je dirais aux gens de conserver ce chapeau critique.

Will Brehm 23:33
Il doit être dur pour certains de conserver ce chapeau critique lorsqu’ils se retrouvent à travailler dans des agences de développement qui essaient de pousser leur modèle : la meilleure façon de faire ce type d’apprentissage ou de résoudre ce type de problème éducatif. Je veux dire, j’imagine qu’ils sont en quelque sorte liés par la volonté de plaider pour que cette “solution” soit proposée. Je vois bien que cela peut être très difficile de rester critique. Vous voulez être critique, mais en même temps, votre travail vous dit que, quelles que soient les conditions, vous devez dire que ce modèle est bon.

Angela Little  24:14
D’accord. J’accepte la contrainte de cette situation. Parallèlement, je vous dirais de saisir toutes les opportunités qui vous sont offertes pour participer à des conférences. Et bien plus encore, saisissez toutes les opportunités de présenter votre travail lors de conférences, en sachant que si certains membres de l’académie sont présents, ils peuvent être assez critiques de ce que vous faites, mais utilisez cette critique pour vous aider à réfléchir. Ne comptez peut-être pas sur vous-même et sur vos pairs pour faire toute cette auto-réflexion. La plupart des organisations prévoient des périodes de formation en cours d’emploi ou de développement professionnel continu et certaines organisations et le DFID – c’est-à-dire le ministère du développement international – ont vraiment bien réussi ces dernières années à inciter un grand nombre de ses employés à participer, par exemple, à la conférence UKFIET, le Forum britannique pour l’éducation et la formation internationales. Et ceux d’entre nous qui participent à ce forum depuis très longtemps – depuis sa création – ont toujours été très heureux quand des membres d’agences de développement viennent participer avec nous. Parfois, ils demandent un espace pour qu’un panel puisse discuter de leur dernière prise de position. Et des fois, il est possible de leur donner cet espace et ils savent qu’il y aura une critique, qu’il y aura beaucoup de questions. Mais en tant que membres de l’Académie, je pense que nous essayons de ne pas faire cela. Nous essayons de faire une critique constructive et non destructrice. Et je pense qu’il peut parfois être très menaçant pour les gens de faire cela. Mais nous devons aussi nous souvenir que, bien sûr, beaucoup de personnes qui travaillent dans les organisations de développement sont nos anciens étudiants. Il y a donc déjà une certaine confiance et une expérience de l’analyse et de la vie universitaire. Et je pense que c’est très positif.

Will Brehm  26:09
Vous avez donc écrit cet article dans Compare il y a huit ans en examinant les principaux défis auxquels le domaine était soumis à l’époque. Je sais que vous avez dit que vous aviez pris votre retraite à peu près à la même époque que vous avez publié cet article, mais si vous deviez regarder le terrain aujourd’hui, quels seraient les principaux défis, ceux que vous voyez aujourd’hui ? Et sont-ils différents de ceux que vous avez vus il y a huit ans ?

Angela Little 26:32
Je crois qu’aujourd’hui, même sur ce court laps de temps de huit ans, je pense que la quantité d’informations disponibles sur Internet, je veux dire, a tout simplement explosé. Donc, les étudiants n’ont plus d’excuse maintenant. Quand ils venaient me dire : “Je ne trouve pas ce rapport”. Je ne peux pas trouver ceci, je ne peux pas trouver cela. S’ils cherchent des rapports qui ont été produits par ces soi-disant agences internationales, il n’y a pas de raison, la plupart de ces documents sont sur le net. Là où je crois que c’est encore problématique dans certains pays, c’est l’accès à ce que nous pourrions appeler la littérature grise, la littérature politique grise à l’intérieur des pays, parce qu’une grande partie n’est pas disponible sur Internet, et aussi, bien sûr, le matériel historique. Et pour cela, il suffit de faire une recherche. Vous devez faire des recherches à l’ancienne, en vous installant dans les archives et en parcourant le matériel. En ce qui concerne l’approche des problèmes, vous avez attiré mon attention sur quelques écrits sur ce que l’on pourrait généralement appeler la “théorie du Sud”. Et je pense qu’il y a peut-être huit ans, cette théorie commençait à prendre son essor. Je crois qu’il y en a plus en 2018 que ce que j’aurais pu prédire en 2010. Et je pense que dans l’ensemble, c’est très, très positif, comme je l’ai dit précédemment, je pense que cela renforce ma prédilection pour l’étude de la diversité. Là où je suis juste un peu, je voudrais être un peu prudent sur certains de ces écrits parce qu’une partie est imprégnée du langage du racisme et je trouve que c’est difficile. Je pense que quand on travaille dans un domaine depuis 45 ans et qu’on a vu et participé à l’évolution de la -création d’un profil de personnel beaucoup plus diversifié, par exemple dans un service auquel on est associé depuis deux ou trois décennies. Le changement est lent, mais on a vu le changement. Les changements sont importants. Je pense que certains des propos de ceux qui réclament la théorie du Sud et une contre-hégémonie, en fait. Je crois que ce langage doit être examiné avec soin si nous voulons évoluer vers un domaine de l’éducation comparative et internationale qui soit réellement inclusif. Il y a un certain risque que ce qu’on appelle l’hégémonie du Nord, un certain risque que l’appel soit de la substituer par une hégémonie du Sud. Je n’y crois pas, en partie parce que je ne suis pas sûr de croire à toute la caricature de l’hégémonie du Nord. Mais je crois que ceux qui réclament une plus grande contribution de la part de ceux qui connaissent les systèmes, dans ce qu’on appelle le “Sud” de l’intérieur – et qui sont eux-mêmes de très bons chercheurs – pour voir une plus grande contribution, sont accueillis et invités. Il y a près de 20 ans maintenant, j’ai entrepris une analyse des articles qui étaient parus dans Comparative Education au cours des 20 années précédentes. En 2000, l’éducation comparée a fait une nouvelle série de réflexions sur l’état du domaine. Et j’ai analysé ces quatre ou cinq cents articles. Et je me suis intéressé aux quatre C : contexte, contenu, comparaison et contributeurs. Ainsi, la question du contenu a été adressée à la question de George Parkin sur la géographie. Et j’ai constaté qu’il y avait une bonne répartition des pays abordés dans les articles. Le contenu était le domaine problématique abordé dans les articles. Et c’était extrêmement varié, extrêmement varié. Je veux dire, tout, de l’enseignement supérieur à la politique linguistique, à la pédagogie, aux relations entre l’éducation et le développement. Très, très large. Le troisième domaine était la comparaison. Celui-ci était très important, car je me suis inspiré de Parkin et de certains des éducateurs comparateurs qui l’ont précédé. Et peut-être même que, travaillant dans la position de Kandel, je cherchais des articles qui comparaient deux ou plusieurs pays. Et en fait, j’ai trouvé que la grande majorité des articles ne se concentraient que sur un seul pays. Et j’ai senti pour moi que cela ne les dévalorisait pas. J’ai simplement estimé que s’il s’agissait d’articles destinés à être publiés dans une revue d’éducation comparée, il fallait qu’ils soient écrits avec un autre auteur, qui avait peut-être étudié quelque chose de similaire dans un autre pays. Je crois que les études portant sur un seul pays sont absolument essentielles pour la comparaison. Je ne pense pas qu’on puisse “comparer” avant d’avoir fait une étude appropriée de deux pays ou qu’une équipe ait fait une étude scientifique appropriée des pays qu’ils prétendent comparer, parce que je pense qu’il y a un grand danger sinon vos comparaisons deviennent très, très superficielles. Ok, donc c’était la dimension de comparaison. Et la quatrième dimension a été déterminante. Et j’ai remarqué qu’il y avait une très forte concentration des contributeurs dans les institutions du Nord. À présent, il est fort probable qu’ils soient eux-mêmes originaires du Sud. Ils ont peut-être fait leur doctorat dans le Sud, mais ils ont migré vers des institutions du Nord. Maintenant, je pense que l’un des défis que nous avons à relever dans le développement du développement collectif de l’enseignement supérieur dans le monde est de savoir comment nous pouvons trouver des moyens de répartir les compétences de l’enseignement comparatif et international de manière plus égale dans le monde afin qu’à leur tour, ceux qui ont les qualifications puissent travailler dans diverses parties du monde pour développer l’érudition dans ces parties du monde. Parce que s’il y a cette migration continue vers les établissements d’Amérique du Nord et d’Europe – et quand je dis le Sud, j’exclue plutôt l’Australie et la Nouvelle-Zélande et je crois qu’ils s’excluraient eux-mêmes de ce qu’on appelle le Sud. Donc peut-être pas, pas tout à fait – mais si les gens migrent, si les universitaires migrent vers ces bons centres et départements d’éducation comparative internationale, je pense que cela m’inquiète pour le domaine. Cela ne m’inquiète pas pour les individus. Les individus prennent des décisions personnelles très, très rationnelles. Mais je m’inquiète pour les prochaines générations d’universitaires de ces pays qui veulent rester – pas rester dans leur pays mais qui souhaitent – faire de l’éducation comparée dans d’autres pays, mais qui souhaitent ensuite contribuer à l’éducation internationale comparée dans leur pays.

Will Brehm 33:50
Et d’une manière qui contribuerait à cette idée de la théorie du Sud.

Angela Little 33:54
Oui, tout à fait. Absolument.

Will Brehm 33:58
Eh bien, Angela Little Merci beaucoup d’avoir rejoint FreshEd aujourd’hui, c’était vraiment un plaisir de parler.

Angela Little 34:02
Merci beaucoup.

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Does social science as it is commonly understood and practiced work in post-socialist settings? That may sound like an absurd question, even a bit crude.

My guests today, Alla Korzh and Noah Sobe, see limits to the very social imaginaries underpinning social science.

They argue that the diversity of post-socialist transformations challenges the existing paradigms and frameworks of theory and method used in much social science today.

Together with Iveta Silova and Serhiy Kovalchuk, Alla and Noah co-edited a 17-chapter volume entitled “Reimagining Utopias: Theory and method for education research in post-socialist context.” The book explores from many perspectives the shifting social imaginaries of post-socialist transformations to understand what happens when the new and old utopias of post-socialism confront the new and old utopias of social science.

Alla Korzh is an assistant professor of international education at the School for International Training Graduate Institute, World Learning.

Noah Sobe is a professor of cultural and educational policy studies at Loyola University Chicago and past president of the Comparative and International Education Society.

Citation: Korzh, Alla and Sobe, Noah, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 122, Podcast audio, July 9, 2018. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/korzhsobe/

Will Brehm 2:34
Alla Korzh and Noah Sobe, welcome to FreshEd.

Alla Korzh 2:38
Thanks for having us, Will.

Noah Sobe 2:39
Thanks a lot, Will, it’s great to be here.

Will Brehm 2:41
So I want to just start by asking, what do you mean by the word utopia?

Noah Sobe 2:47
Part of choosing that title was to recognize that alongside the political and economic project that was state socialism, there was also a particular social vision. So ideas of equality were important, even dignity, democracy were important names, of course, sometimes honored in the breach. So basically like invoking utopias, we’re trying to elevate the importance of social imaginary. 20th century socialisms had their social imaginaries and part of post-socialism is the encounter of different utopian visions for what makes a good society, the good human being, the good future.

Will Brehm 3:29
And whose utopia is are these?

Noah Sobe 3:33
That’s a good question Will. Just in terms of thinking about utopias, I think in a lot of ways we were inspired by an eminent Polish historian and philosopher named Bronislaw Baczko, who worked for many years in Switzerland and France. And kind of like Benedict Anderson did with his work on national imaginaries, in books like Utopian Lights Baczko put the importance of social imaginaries on the research horizon. Utopia is no place, right? I mean, it has its origins and Thomas More’s 16th century political fiction, of course, that was inspired by Plato. But the notion of utopia quickly escaped more, and I would propose, kind of has become the paradigmatic form of the social imaginary across Europe and North America. Of course, more often than not we encounter utopias in ruins. But the idea is that examining utopias is one strategy for engaging with possible futures, right, possible futures of human societies.

Will Brehm 4:44
What are socialist utopias?

Noah Sobe 4:48
There multiple socialist utopias, and there are multiple socialisms. I think, you know, key pieces involve ideas about human equality, human dignity, even commitments to democracy as sort of difficult as it is sometimes to wrap our mind around that, given the totalitarian political forms that many socialisms took. But they were also, you know, a lot of, sort of, quite laudable social goals — gender equality, a fair economic system — that are quite different than the utopias of capitalism, for example. So I think what’s particularly fascinating about the post social spaces that those don’t vanish, you know, they continue, they get reconfigured, and they interact with other social imaginaries is that people bring in and that are brought in.

Will Brehm 5:52
Does the post socialist utopia or imaginaries not only connect to these socialist utopias views of the past, but does it also embrace some more of the capitalist utopias that you were also talking about? Do they sort of merged together?

Noah Sobe 6:09
Yeah, I mean, I think so we chose the title reimagining utopias because it describes sort of what’s happening on the ground. I mean, it describes what’s been happening in post socialist settings, other settings as well. But the post social settings are the one we focus on over the last 20 to 30 years. So we’re describing a process of sort of coexistence and conflict, a negotiation that’s taking place in the world, in classrooms, right, in offices and homes, basically, as people navigating, you know, navigate changing global situations. But there’s another, there’s a sort of second important dimension to reimagining utopias that we’re trying to develop or play within the book. And that relates to the notion of social science. I think it’s quite possible to consider a lot of European North American social sciences as a utopian project in and of itself, as riven with social imaginary. And so the scientists, the researcher of society, generally is committed to the idea that better, sort of firmer, fairer, more just knowledge of society is valuable for aiding a transition from what is now to what will be next. There’s a lot of utopian thinking and social visions that are embedded in processes of social science research. And certainly, we saw a lot of the research that was done on post socialist, particularly Eurasia and other parts of the world as well, you know, powerfully shaped by those imaginaries. And so one of the things we’re trying to do in the book is to rethink some of that. To actually reimagine the social imaginaries, the utopias that are embedded in social science, that are embedded in comparative education.

Will Brehm 8:13
Before we jump into that larger topic, I do want to ask a little bit about what sort of contexts were you looking at. Post socialism I would imagine covers many parts of the world, so what contexts were of interest to you?

Alla Korzh 8:29
This is a really good question, Will. By post socialism, we really mean any country that has experienced some form of socialism and has been on this pathway, or transition to neoliberal capitalism. So initially, when we started this project, we really looked at the former Soviet Union as that post socialist space. But then we realized that there are other countries that have had similar transformations within different contexts within different cultural contexts. And those are countries in Asia and Africa. And we’ve included those in our edited volume, we have contributors who have focused on Ethiopia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, so it’s pretty comprehensive.

Will Brehm 9:21
And would this also include countries that are still socialist, but also embracing lots of neoliberal capitalism? Like, they’re not post socialist, not outside of socialism.

Alla Korzh 9:33
Yes, definitely.

Will Brehm 9:35
So, Vietnam and, say, China.

Alla Korzh 9:38
Exactly. Because every country, even on this post socialist trajectory, is still grappling with, you know, the vestiges of socialism as it sort of embracing in at its own pace, embracing these forms of neoliberal capitalism.

Noah Sobe 10:00
Will, I think you’re question is a great one, because it also raises sort of what we and others mean by the concept of “post.” So it’s really not a break and a departure from but a turn, you know, as Alla was saying, it’s about grappling with the legacies and your example of Vietnam is a perfect example of that. In theory, a socialist state, but one in which socialism has certainly taken a turn and taking on new forms and been combined with other things. So, I would say in that sense, it is, you know, accurately post socialist and like the other settings examined in the book.

Will Brehm 10:38
Noah, you said that earlier that there were many different socialisms. So, I would imagine there are many different post socialisms.

Noah Sobe 10:44
I would agree with that. Alla?

Alla Korzh 10:46
Yes, most definitely. And I think we’re probably part of the group of scholars who critique the transitology approach to post socialism who view it as a sort of this linear or temporal transition, like a quick break away from socialism into a post socialism and really recognize the diversity of post socialist experiences and transformations and therefore every context will have perhaps some similarities, but also very much diverse intricacies of those transformations. So, yes, see, it would entail multiple post socialisms.

Will Brehm 11:27
If we connect this to this idea of social science, and these, you know, the utopian thinking in social science, how are some of these different posts, socialisms, sort of producing social science — what are the different ways in which we can think of what social science is? You know, social science as way of producing certain certain knowledges and that they’re actually quite different from this transitology approach, or this linear thinking of what post socialism is. But if there’s this diversity that you’re talking about, then, you know, what does that diversity look like in terms of what is valid knowledge? How do we produce knowledge in these different contexts?

Alla Korzh 12:22
So through our book, we have seen obviously, that an over reliance on Western dominant knowledges often results in the displacement of non-Western knowledges, experiences, rendering them as insufficiently scientific for example. And our contributors have demonstrated a number of ways to produce and validate knowledge in post socialist contexts. And one of them is the use of local traditions of knowledge production. And what we mean by that is the rediscovery of the forgotten or discarded meanings of certain concepts and practices as a way of creating spaces for multiple knowledges to coexist. African scholars, like Woldeyes and Melisa, in our volume, interrogate, for example, the notion of good education and the indigenous meaning and understanding of what good education means in juxtaposition with Western imposed concepts and values. So again, one way is the use of local traditions of knowledge production. Another way is — it’s more of a methodological approach — is to stay flexible, a sort of flexibility and creativity with culturally appropriate methods. What we’ve seen is that a lot of research tends to rely on traditionally established data collection methods, qualitative data collection methods, such as surveys, or interviews, and focus groups observations or document analysis to produce valid knowledge of post socialist contexts. And they might be, you know, the sort of rigorously conceived studies, but they might not necessarily be capturing the nuanced realities of the post socialist lived experiences. Namely, if we look at the method of surveys, for example. When employing surveys, we can generate a ton of data, but it might not be the most credible data, especially when surveys are run in contexts with political historical and cultural legacies of Soviet state control and surveillance over public knowledge and performance. Another method that comes to mind is formal interviews and focus groups. Those methods might actually evoke memories of interrogation which in Soviet contexts, resulted in public arrest or detention, which further complicates the data gathering and the credibility of data. And therefore, as some of our contributors shared, it’s important to reimagine the culture with appropriate methods and replace formal interviews with conversational interviews, for example. This conversational methods should not be discarded as invalid or less scientific or less rigorous. They might be a more culturally appropriate in certain contexts where a participant might feel more comfortable being surrounded by family members and community members to be sharing that knowledge with the researcher. And finally, what’s important to highlight as in order to navigate this theoretical and methodological dilemmas, one must remain critically reflexive throughout the entire research process, questioning their own subjectivities, and carefully rethinking the representation of the other and recognizing the multiple forms of knowledges of our participants and treating them as equal collaborators and co-constructors of that knowledge.

Will Brehm 16:36
Would that mean — this last point of being reflective and making sure you’re accurately representing others, and bringing them in as co-collaborators, some of what we might call in, in western science, quote unquote, research participants — does this actually mean sharing with people that you’ve had these sort of conversational engagements with things that you’ve written or basically, quote, unquote, analyzing data, but data has, of course, being reimagined as well here? How do you actually create this reflective moment in these post socialist contexts?

Alla Korzh 17:16
It’s important to stay critically reflexive throughout the entire process and to engage the participants not only in, you know, in the data collection, but also, you know, traditional in the West, you know, we would call the strategy of member checking when we engage participants in checking for accuracy of rendering that data in the transcripts, but also interpretation. It’s not enough just to check in with a participant and say, am I you know, did I capture it correctly and accurately. But it’s important to really engage them in the interpretation of their knowledge in that local context. And I think this would be a really important point for a researcher to stay critically reflective about the adoption of this Western frameworks, Western interpretations of the local phenomena and checking in with the participant if what we think is happening, indeed, whether that resonates with their own understanding of their own lived experience.

Noah Sobe 18:30
You mentioned research participants. Another term that gets used quite a bit in western social science is the informant. I mean, so you can imagine just sort of how, how problematic that term is, I mean, also collaborator. These are problematic terms in parts of the world. Or even take the, you know, the process of human subjects, you know, informed consent, Oh, don’t worry, this thought, just sign your signature, and it’s just going to go in a drawer. And no one’s ever gonna look at it. You know, I just need your consent. I mean, these are some practices that in certain circles, people sort of take as natural as the best way and as unchallengeable. But in other parts of the world, they raise serious problems and relational problems, but also problems around how knowledge is generated and how people frankly, are respected.

Will Brehm 19:21
I want to ask a very practical question. So if not, research participant or informant or collaborator then what?

Noah Sobe 19:29
Well, I think participant isn’t completely corrupt. Allah, what do you think?

Alla Korzh 19:35
I’ve embraced the term participant throughout my research and also teaching.

Noah Sobe 19:55
But I think the fact that there is no one best answer is telling. So this book was designed as a research methods text, and it’s very different than most research methods texts. It’s not a sort of how to bake a cake type of recipe. Instead, one of the things that all our authors engage with across the book, and there was a really nice, multi year collaborative process that led to this, but one of the things that pretty much everyone engages with is this notion of the dilemma. I mean, researchers in the field face dilemmas, and one of them, we’ve just been talking about how you think about conceptualize and interact with the people that you’re studying people, assuming you’re studying people. And to think of it as a dilemma sort of frames it as something that around which we do have to make choices. And we have to hope that we’re going to make better choices. And next time, we’ll make even better choices. I mean, so there are better and poorer ways to do this. But at the same time, there’s no, like, there’s no magic solution, and you sort of what you do in Kyrgyzstan is going to be very different than what you do in Vietnam and Poland. So to frame it as a dilemma, you know, so not only you know, how you identify researchers, but how you collect data, how you analyze data, all those dimensions, I think are really critical,

Will Brehm 21:19
There’s no necessarily universal answer here. It’s context specific. It’s historically specific. That’s quite interesting sort of way to reimagine the way in which social sciences even done in a sense. I’d like to ask were you influenced by Raewyn Connell’s Southern Theory in this work on reimagining post socialisms?

Noah Sobe 21:45
Yeah, Connell’s work, other people’s work on Southern Theory has been really influential. You know, I also think of Asia as Method as an inspiration. There are a lot of connections between doing work and post socialist settings and in post colonial settings. So, one of the things Alla was just going over with, in terms of some of the research methods like, you know, the questionability of a survey or formal interviews, you know, really turn on some of the same questions about the bases on which we generate knowledge, the sort of conditions of possibility that make it possible to know things in the world, which is something that people working in a post colonial tradition are very much challenging. And so that’s one of the clear connections with what the editors and the contributors to this book are doing, and working with working in a post socialist setting to really challenge, work with, and challenge ourselves around, you know, how it is we think about this whole knowledge producing project.

Will Brehm 22:57
How does this then impact the way we think about about the social world? So, I mean, for example, let’s say this big topic of globalization and theories of globalization — does this reimagining post socialisms sort of create new meanings and new insights into this sort of phenomenon of globalization?

Noah Sobe 23:20
So it’s a great question, Will. I think that, you know, one of the things that exploring the variety and variability within post socialist context shows us is that, for one, we need to rethink how we think about context in the first place. It’s something that we shouldn’t just take as a given fact. But we should understand how contexts are produced. And clearly, global processes and global phenomenon are one piece of that as our indigenous local and the other sort of many layers kind of influences, techniques, practices, and so forth, that go into creating the embeddedness of any educational interaction. You know, the other thing that I think when you read across the book becomes very clear in relation to globalization is that globalization is as much a reaching in as it is reaching out. That, you know, while we should be long past the point where we conceive of local as a place in the global as a force, although we still see features of that in a lot of comparative education scholarship. The globalist constructed in remote parts of central Asia in ways that are very similar to how its constructed in Brussels or New York, and we need to, I think, examine sort of the production, reaching out to the global as much as the global reaching in and I think you see both across the book.

Alla Korzh 24:58
I think what our volume contributes to is, you know, the existing body of scholarship and knowledge in globalization studies on the divergence of local experiences and transformations. I think this is one of the key arguments that we’re trying to make is that it is important to pay attention to the diversity of post socialist educational reforms and processes, as much as there’s this not wholesale but there’s definitely a Western reform adoption process happening across the region, but the way they are being re-adopted and re-contextualized or indigenized in local contexts have very different and those nuances really need to be uncovered and theorized and reflected on. And along the lines of what Noah mentioned earlier about the highlight of the book being the dilemmas of field work as much as we’re seeing the commonalities across so many of our contributors in terms of what dilemmas they faced, there’s so many nuances also about those dilemmas, as they are contextualize in those cultural landscapes.

Will Brehm 26:22
Is there an example of some of these dilemmas that you could point to, to show this diversity of differences in fieldwork in these post socialist contexts?

Alla Korzh 26:34
I would say one of them is grappling with methods. Again, thinking back to surveys or focus groups or interviews or even, you know, diaries, for example. And one of the dilemmas is that we go into the field expecting those methods to work because, you know, they’ve been tested in so many contexts, but they might not necessarily be culturally appropriate. For example, when conducting research in my own work, with institutionalized orphans, where their behaviors have been sanctioned by the school authority. And any signed survey will result in some sort of repercussion for that. And I think this is one of the dilemmas that is also being shared by some of the contributors of this book. Another ethical dilemma is IRB. I feel like this is one of the probably widely cited concerns and field work dilemmas across the contributors of this book is how to navigate it in the contexts, in post authoritarian contexts where a signed informed consent results in sense of fear, suspicion and discomfort because individuals are situated in this cultural historical legacies of Soviet state control over public knowledge and performance. So, the way a researcher navigates it is perhaps you know doing away with informed consent forms and instead of replacing it with oral consent which still justifies voluntary participation but at the same time it reduces that potential risk and it alleviates that pressure from having to physically sign a form and then fearing for their lives. Noah Sobe 28:55 I think one thing that’s important about the book is that

Noah Sobe 29:01
the contributors are all researchers who for the most part got PhDs in North American and European universities; many of them grew up under socialism or post socialism — not all — but they are all acutely aware of the power differentials involved in research.In times it’s a researcher returning to community that she or he belongs to but in a different role and at times it’s a researcher entering a community that he or she does not belong to. But in each of these instances you have some of the playing out of these global local interactions that we’re studying and I think what one of the strengths of the book is that everyone’s paying attention to that positionality and not just treating positionality as something that you dispatch with at the beginning of a research project you sort of mitigate it but actually analytically using it. I mean there’s a lot to be gained from engaging with positionality and sort of reflexively engaging with the knowledge that you’re working on trying to develop.

Will Brehm 30:12
We’ve obviously talked a lot about sort of individual research practice — what happens when a researcher goes to these different contexts or returns to the context from where one is from — and we’ve also obviously talked a little bit about this institutional review board, the IRB, how there’s some sort of institutional structures from particularly Western universities but of course that structure has moved to other universities as well around the world and that also causes problems. But I want to end our conversation look at a different area and that is the field of comparative and international education. What does some of the insights you’ve gained from this book tell us about the field of comparative and international education?

Noah Sobe 30:59
Well, one of the things, Will, we looked a lot about the production of research and I would say — Okay, if not one of the weaknesses, one of the one of the subjects for the next book, let’s say, okay — is that I don’t think we engaged enough with the afterlife of research. What happens with and to research after it’s produced, both to the producer of the research and to those who are researched and to those who use it. And I think that’s very important for thinking about European North American knowledge that’s produced about post socialist spaces, even if it’s produced in some of the ways that we’re working within the book. To me, that’s something that the whole field of comparative education would do well, to spend more, you know, to give more attention to the afterlife of research, what happens once we get that publication out or make that conference presentation? What happens to that knowledge? But that’s kind of not really answering your question. That’s the answer your question by saying, you know, here’s one thing that book doesn’t do. I don’t know, Alla, I would be tempted to say, you know, one of the things that it does is, you know, give us new tools for new methods tools, new ways of thinking about methods.

Alla Korzh 32:23
Yeah, absolutely. I think what really led us to this book is the lack of critical reflection on how to mobilize theory and methodology and methods in post socialist educational research contexts. In particular, there’s been plentiful research done in the fields of anthropology and sociology that had examined the field work dilemmas and the adoption and re-contextualization of theories in post socialist spaces. But we hadn’t seen anything in the fields of education, especially in the field of comparative and international education. So we hope that this is a meaningful contribution that allows us to critically think about how to mobilize theory in a critical way, not just adopt in Western theoretical frameworks, but thinking about how those frameworks really relate to that context and what meaning they carry for our participants as we are engaging them in the co-construction of knowledge, in addition to how we mobilize methodologies and methods in a culturally responsive, culturally sensitive ways that really allow us to tap into the lived experiences of individuals and generate credible and meaningful data that accurately portrays the non Western realities.

Will Brehm 33:58
Alla Korzh and Noah Sobe, thank you so much for joining FreshEd today.

Noah Sobe 34:02
It was a pleasure, Will. Thank you.

Alla Korzh 34:03
Thank you so much.

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Today we take a critical look at human rights. My guest is Radha D’Souza. Radha has a new book entitled: What’s wrong with rights? Social movements, Law, and Liberal Imaginations

In our conversation, we discuss why there has been a proliferation of human rights since the end of World War II and how these rights have actually furthered the interests of the transnational capitalist class.

Radha also discusses education as a human right and the challenge it has for social movements and unions such as Education International.

Radha D’Souza teaches law at the University of Westminster, London.

Citation: D’Souza, Radha, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 120, Podcast audio, June 25, 2018. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/radhadsouza/

Will Brehm 1:59
Radha D’Souza, welcome to FreshEd.

Radha D’Souza 2:02
Thank you, Will, for having me on this program. I’m delighted to be here today.

Will Brehm 2:07
How are human rights commonly understood today?

Radha D’Souza 2:12
Commonly, people when they speak about human rights, they have in mind a set of claims that they can make about certain basic needs for human life. For example, it could be civil and political rights: right to fair trial; right not to be tortured; and these kind of rights are called civil and political rights. Or they may be social economic rights: rights to education, rights to health, rights to housing, those kind of rights. Or they could be Cultural Rights: rights of indigenous people, and so on. But the key thing about rights in popular imaginations is that rights are universal, that every individual has them by virtue of being human. That is why they understand it as human right.

Will Brehm 3:12
How many rights are there?

Radha D’Souza 3:15
When the United Nations was established at the end of World War Two, in 1945, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights enumerated about 28 rights; there was a list of 28 rights. Today, it is estimated that international law recognizes more than 300 rights, so human rights have proliferated phenomenally in the last 70 years.

Will Brehm 3:46
Why? Why has there been a proliferation of human rights?

Radha D’Souza 3:50
Well, we can see if we look at the history of rights that the prefix ‘human’ was added only after the so called New World Order was established after World War Two. Now, why does that order need this expansion of rights? Earlier, before the World Wars happened in the 19th century, 18th century and so on, rights were largely confined to nation states, they were only available to citizens against states. But after World Wars, we find that capitalism changed in its fundamental character; it became transnational, it became monopolistic, it became finance driven. And these kinds of expansion of capitalism and intensification of capitalism required a proliferation of new types of rights. And that is why we see all sorts of new rights. Most of them are international in character, and most of them are rights that actually meet the needs of transnational monopoly, finance, capitalism.

Will Brehm 5:18
Could you give an example of a right that meets the needs of transnational financial capitalism?

Radha D’Souza 5:28
Okay, let’s look at the proliferation of rights, the ways in which rights have proliferated. We have all sorts of rights now, you know, rights to surrogacy, rights to land, indigenous people, including a right to happiness. Now, if you look at the UN General Assembly, it adopted a resolution in July 2011 called ‘Happiness: A holistic approach to development.’ Now, you might wonder what happiness has got to do with transnational monopoly finance capitalism, right? And can happiness be legislated at all? I mean, can people demand from the state a right to be happy in the same way as they can demand from the state right not to be tortured, for example? But when we actually — and it may on the face of it sound a little strange that we have a right to happiness, which is now part of the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 — but when we start looking behind these rights, we can see that there are a lot of important organizations like EU commissioners, European Union commissioners, who are advocating for this right; the OECD, the Organization for Economic [Cooperation and] Development, has published guidelines on measuring subjective well-being for national statistical offices for the use of bureaucrats, etc.

Who’s driving this new right to happiness? On the one hand, we see large corporations are trying to de-unionized workers, deny them collective bargaining rights, which they always had. On the other hand, these very same corporations are also introducing what they call work life balance programs. Now, these work life balance programs have led to a large coaching industry which has about 47,000 employees and estimated to be around $2 billion US dollars a year. So one of the things that the right to happiness provides for people, or underprivileged people in developed countries, is the right to tourism. So now you can straightaway see the link between tourism industry and the right to happiness. And similarly, you have in the social, the economy… the SDGs or the Sustainable Development Goals 2030. Now these goals were established as successor to the Millennium Development Goals and the Millennium Development Goals set out about eight goals to achieve basic needs of people. So the goals like, for example, primary education, eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, universal gender equality, the goal to reduce child mortality and so on. Now, these goals where we know that it’s questionable whether they have been achieved at all. But regardless there was an eighth goal, which was to achieve Global Partnership. And this is the only goal in the Millennium Development Goal 2015 that was actually achieved because it was about establishing private public partnerships and induct global corporations, trust funds, private foundations, and so on into the very heart of the UN’s work.

Now, following on from that, we need to ask, if the Millennium Development Goals were not achieved, why do we need Sustainable Development Goals? And why do Sustainable Development Goals 2030 include the right to happiness? Right, and then you can see a whole lot of big players, for example, the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation, the Clinton Foundation and so on taking up many of these development projects. And how do they plan to deliver on it? They deliver on — now because poverty has not been eradicated women are not equal. There’s no universal primary education yet. So instead of addressing those, now we have a new goal: let’s try to make people happy. Because people can obviously be happy even without anything, right? Because even slum children now are very happy when they kick footballs on streets, for example. There is momentary happiness, and it takes attention away from the fact that even if slum kids are happy, playing football on the streets — probably with a torn ball — and still feel happy, maybe questions of education, housing, health, you know, don’t really need to take center stage, or we don’t need to give it as much importance as we’ve been doing so far. So it kind of deflects attention from all of those things. And I think that is really one of the problems.

How does it deflect attention? Because the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 has led to this whole indicator industry, if we can call it that. How do we measure happiness? mathematical methods, you know, with a complete array of methodologies, multiple disciplines, including psychology, religious studies, sociologists, Development Studies, all getting together to list a number of factors, which, if they exist, we can say the person is happy. And that completely changes the meaning of happiness. And instead those indicators become ways of measuring, you know, development and saying, ‘Okay, these kids in the slums are happy playing football.’ So maybe, you know, they are somewhat developed. And that completely skews the whole thing. And I think it takes us away from the reality that as human beings we live in this community, whether we are rich or poor, and happiness is an attribute of being human. And regardless of our social status or conditions, we will always seek solidarity with other human beings and that will always bring us some level of happiness.

Will Brehm 12:55
So, are you saying that the the human right to happiness that’s embodied in the Sustainable Development Goals actually furthers the interests of a transnational capitalist class?

Radha D’Souza 13:10
It does. It does it at several levels, because at the level of poverty and all those basic needs, as I’ve just said, there is no need to deliver on them. So, there is no need to feel guilty because rich people are also unhappy, poor people are unhappy, rich people are happy sometimes. So, there is no need to give it the kind of primacy that we have given it all these years. It operates at the level of corporate management and so on, because of this work life balance, so that employees are driven to work more and more and the technologies have increased the intensity of work and yet, you know, there is no sense of solidarity because the trade unions are gone, communitarian life of employees are gone, entire towns have been dis-established. So, all those other social factors which give people some kind of social identity, solidarity, and so on is taken away. So the corporations need to step in and and do something about it. So instead of returning their communities in lives, they take over even their most personal lives by making, you know, work life balance a corporate goal and creating an industry coaching industry around it.

Will Brehm 14:45
Has capital been interested in rights before they were human rights? So you said human rights sort of came around post World War Two and sort of proliferated as transnational capitalism sort of grew globally. Before World War Two, the idea of rights, were they also connected to capitalism in any way?

Radha D’Souza 15:11
Absolutely. I said that the prefix ‘human’ was added to rights after World War Two. And before World War Two, say in the 17th and 18th centuries, rights did not have the prefix ‘human.’ When people talk about rights, it included property rights, as well as human rights. And rights are absolutely instrumental in establishing capitalist societies. Now, if we look at pre-capitalist societies, pre-capitalist societies were land based societies. Land was the central organizing principle for the social order and as land based societies, people and nature were united. This does not mean that there was no exploitation or whatever. I mean, serfs were exploited, etc. But their connection to nature was…their lives were embedded in nature. They were not disconnected from nature.

What capitalism, in contrast, is a commodity based system, so it’s commodity producing system. And that means that everything in capitalism needs to be commodified, bought and sold, exchanged and so on. And one of the first commodifications we see is commodification of land. So capitalism is establish by commodifying land, and when land becomes private property, and land becomes alienable, that means people can buy and sell it, which could not, was not, possible in the feudal system. Then people are displaced from land, because to get clear title, you have to buy it, sell land without the people. And when people are displaced from land, you have labor, a free labor market.

So you have two kinds of markets. One is the land market and the labor market. And these two are absolutely foundational for capitalism and commodity production, and a system based on commodity production. Now, rights are the means that actually reorganized society. They reorganize our relationships to nature, our relationships to each other, the capitalist and the worker, our relationship to land and forests and water and so on, and our relationships to each other in society, on the basis of rights. So capitalism kind of transforms, you know, property, a land, which is a social relationship between ourselves and nature into a thing, a commodity, and it transforms labor, which is an inherent property of being human, we have always worked and we can only live by working and that labor is transformed into another kind of commodity. And I think rights are the ones that established the system and rights establish in right bearing individuals. And each right bearing individual is right bearing because they have something to give and something that they need and can receive. And this is basically the basis of capitalist systems. And capitalism works on contracts. Because to produce commodities, to exchange commodities, individuals need to be able to arrive at contractual relations. And all contracts presuppose the existence of at least two right bearing parties. And that is the relationship between commodity production contracts as social relationships and rights as the concepts or the other basic idea that establishes right bearing individuals that can enter into contractual relations. So there is an absolutely inalienable, intrinsic relationship between rights and capitalism.

Will Brehm 19:48
On this show, I’ve spoken with a lot of people who do research on education privatization, the ways in which education has become commodified in so many different parts around the world. Do you think rights and human rights, since since education is a human right, as you said earlier — have rights played or furthered the commodification of education in your opinion?

Radha D’Souza 20:14
It has because, look, education has always historically, has always been central to social reproduction. Because what education does is reproduces the social order, it trains the next generation to take over the reins. This is not being or what capitalism does. This turns that into an education and education becomes an investment. And as an investment, it becomes meaningful only if it can produce returns. So education then loses its meaning as a way of, understanding the social order and how we can continue our social life. It becomes an individual personal investment. And with the right to education, we also see education itself becoming an industry in so many different ways. If you look at the internal management of educational systems, they are very much run like corporations. If you look at the disparities, they mirror the larger capitalist societies, you know: those with education and those without education, those who use it to make capitalism more profitable are the ones that go very high up, and those who use their education for social justice or to improve things in the world, you will find that they are not making much money out of their investment. But also the methods used. For example, we have these huge organizations, educational companies, you know, who produce databases who produce various kinds of technologies, they’re making money out of it. Let me give you a very simple example. Now, I work for a University. The University pays me a salary, but when I write something, I can’t give it to people free of charge to read. And because there are journals, academic journals, there are publishers and they all claim that they have a right to make money out of it, even though they have not spent anything on my work. So it’s a strange situation. We are in a position because I don’t need the money because the university’s paying me a salary. And education companies, I’m not doing anything, they’re only charging readers exorbitant sums of money $35, $40, to read an article for what, for doing nothing, because the technology is now so freely available that I can let anybody who wants to read my articles, but I’m not allowed to do that.

Will Brehm 23:25
And this comes back to the issue of having rights to commodify, in a sense, articles and books — very essential features of higher education.

Radha D’Souza 23:37
Yes, it is absolutely central to that, because education is about passing on our knowledge to others, and learning from others. So why do we need to pass on knowledge to others? And why do we need to learn from others as educators? Presumably there is something called a social good, presumably there is something called future generation, and we want the societies and the world to continue. And that is why this exchange of knowledge, both accumulated knowledge from the past and new knowledge is necessary to solve problems, just iron out difficulties, and to see how we can continue human life in the future. But this purpose is taken away. When education becomes a commodity, human life gets a backseat, social well-being gets a backseat and education becomes a product which has to be sold in the market. And increasingly, research is linked to corporations linked to government, social policy, to international organizations, and all of that, where it is designed to improve their productivity. But as social beings, we need a critique of society, constantly reviewing our practices, evaluating our practices, and, and trying to make improvements in our social life for society to continue. What education as a commodity does is exactly the opposite.

Will Brehm 25:23
Seeing education as a social good is something that organizations like Education International would most likely advocate for. Education International being the global federation of teacher unions around the world. But Education International also supports the human right to education. They sort of see that as one of the justifications for what they do. And so the question I guess I have is: to create education as a social good, can human rights help in that cause? Or is it actually just sort of undermining it because human rights have become sort of helping the political agenda of the global capitalist class?

Radha D’Souza 26:08
That’s a good question, Will, because I think one of the things I do in this book is to examine what the disjuncture between property rights and human rights does. Because that’s where we started this conversation. In the 17th and 18th centuries, rights included property rights, as well as human rights and in fact, rights, property rights and labor rights were very closely tied. And the justification for property rights was really about labor theories. You know,  John Locke, for example, he says, he asks how can we call a piece of land mine and he says, because I labor on it, and therefore add value to it. So anything that we add value to through our work becomes property, my proper, private property, and so labor and property rights or social rights and property rights were entwined in the traditional thinking, or what we call enlightenment thinking, the European enlightenment. But after World War Two, we find that the property rights are disassociated with human rights. And I think this is the problem that we have today.

And your question is really an example of this disassociation. Because when people think about human rights, they think about, oh, children need to go to school, or, you know, people need — must have the right to go to a university or whatever. But they forget why the education industry wants human rights to education. See, and when…we see the property relations and education as a property, intellectual property, as is a post World War, you know, it has really expanded as a transnational, right, we see the industry itself, we see copyrights and all these kind of rights to my thoughts, which has become a form of property, because ultimately, that’s what it is, my thinking has become somebody’s property. And we don’t make the connection between these two things when organizations like this union, that you refer to, Education International, when they demand human rights, they’re only thinking about what we want from rights. But what I say is, you should also question why they want rights, why does the education industry want rights? Why do research foundations want rights? And why do corporations want intellectual property rights and so on. And when we start to ask why they want rights, then we start to see the connection between property rights and human rights. And this is what has been severed in the last 70 years. And that is why people continue to imagine that if they demand human rights, that somehow they can achieve it. But it only becomes an aspirational statement when it is not linked to the realities and how rights actually operate in the world. And that’s that’s the crucial point.

Will Brehm 30:07
I’d like to ask a personal question about how you navigate the space of academic publishing, because you just said that your thoughts become property. And we’ve been talking a little bit today about the academic publishing industry and how it’s, it’s very, it’s commodifying an essential part of higher education: books, articles. And you just put out a book and I think it’s published by Pluto Press.

Radha D’Souza 30:38
That’s right.

Will Brehm 30:38
How do you navigate signing contracts with publishers and knowing that your thoughts and your hard work is literally going to be the property of some other entity?

Radha D’Souza 30:52
It’s a difficult to navigate, especially at an individual level, because — and this is where the reality that we are social beings, we live in a social setting, and we can only change the world collectively becomes so important — because at an individual level, what is my option, either I publish, or I don’t publish. And even there, there is a lot of gatekeeping that happens. I mean Pluto is amazing; is one of the few, you know, radical book publishers around Left really remaining. But generally, if you look at the other big publishing names, they decide what they will publish and will not publish. And that will depend on the market that will depend on their judgment of your ideas. Say, I have an amazing idea, which is a radical idea. Or I write a piece of literary work, which is completely, you know, new genre, for example. If the publishing industry does not come on board, and some publisher does not agree to publish my work, I cannot communicate with the world. And in order to communicate with the world, then I’m under pressure to tailor my thoughts, to tailor my thinking, and my style and, you know, genre, to whatever is marketable. And that makes the gatekeeping a hugely problematic thing for our rights to intellectual freedom, you know, rights to knowledge, to conscience, all of those things. And I think the journals, it’s even worse because with journals, there are gatekeeping, gatekeepers who will decide, you know, you have not cited x or y or z and therefore, your article is unpublishable, or you’re right your ideas are too radical, therefore, they will not be publishable and it is through this kind of gatekeeping, that we are unable to produce knowledge that addresses the real problems of the real world and the people who are really in need of solutions.

Will Brehm 33:16
So, in your book, you argue that the 21st century needs a new counter social philosophy. What does that look like in your opinion?

Radha D’Souza 33:27
You see, all problems of the modern world are, in one way or another, related to three types of questions that we have: questions about human relations to nature, questions about human relations to each other, and questions about our inner lives, you can call it emotional life, psychological life, spiritual life, whatever you want to call it. Now, in ancient times, philosophy helped us to understand these relationships, helped us to understand our place in the world, our purpose in life, the meaning of life and our actions. What are the long term effects of what we do or don’t do.

Capitalism dismissed these questions as irrelevant, it undermined philosophy. The European Enlightenment thinkers for example, separated philosophy from science and philosophy was a useless part of knowledge and science became the useful part of knowledge. And then a series of separations followed: the separation of Natural Sciences from Social Sciences, separation of law from ethics, separation of society or sociology from law, and so on and so forth. And I could expand. Some European Enlightenment thinkers, like Liebnitz for example, fantasized about transforming all knowledge into an ideal kind of mathematical formula. Now, today, with computing, we see this fantasy being realized, because all computing is ultimately about mathematics. It’s about combinations of zeros and ones. I may be oversimplifying it here, but that’s what it is. Everything can be reduced to numbers, happiness can be measured, intergenerational equity is reduced to the technical definition of 30 years, and so on. But as a result of this, we no longer have any way of knowing our place in the world: Why are we here? What do we want to do? And we have no way of understanding the world around us. Therefore, I say we need to return to these big questions about human life. These are not useless kinds of knowledge, because they don’t produce marketable value, or they don’t produce returns on investments. We still need to understand how to make sense of our actions. And therefore I say, we need to find ways of restoring the three relationships that I talked about: relationships between nature and society, between people, and between ethics and aesthetics. And only a counter philosophy that puts these questions at the center of our knowledge production can help us get out of this terrible mess that we’re in.

Will Brehm 36:43
Well, Radha D’Souza, thank you so much for joining FreshEd it really was a pleasure to talk and a lot of thoughts and more questions are coming in my mind right now. And and I hope audience members will just have so much to think about going forward.

Radha D’Souza 36:58
Thank you so much, Will, it was a pleasure talking to you.

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Today we continue our exploration of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and what it means for education. Last week, we looked at comparative education as a field. Today we look at teachers. What are the prospects and perils of the fourth industrial revolution for teachers?

My guest today is Jelmer Evers. Jelmer is a teacher, blogger, writer, and innovator. He teaches history at UniC in the Netherlands and works with Education International, the global federation of teacher unions. He was nominated for the global teacher prize in 2012 and is known for his book called Flip the System.

Today Jelmer and I discuss his new co-edited volume Teaching in the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Standing at the Precipice, which was published by Routledge earlier this year.

Citation: Evers, Jelmer, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 117, podcast audio, January 4, 2018. www.freshedpodcast.com/jelmerevers

Will Brehm:  1:49
Today, Jelmer and I discussed his new co-edited volume “Teaching in the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Standing at the Precipice” which was published by Routledge earlier this year. Jelmer Evers, welcome to FreshEd.

Jelmer Evers:  2:04
Thank you. Glad to be here.

Will Brehm:  2:06
Why does it seem like every other news article that I read lately mentions something about the fourth industrial revolution?

Jelmer Evers:  2:15
Yeah, I think you are right. That is also I wrote the book. I think there are several reasons for that. I think there is a general fear of disruption, I think people can see that technology is having a major influence on how we live and work and also in education.

But I don’t think that is just it, not just a fear, which is can be right. I think it’s also to do with sort of, the techno-optimism that is sort of like pervasive in the last 10, 15 years are like a dominance of Silicon Valley entrepreneurship start-up culture.

So technology is cool and happening. If you compare to education, education is sort of still an old school. Sort of this is techno utopianism to it.

I also think, at least from an educational point of view, the idea that technology will make these old progressive dream come true, personalize education, I mean, we have we ever been having these discourses for at least 200 years. If you look back at all these, like, older thinking, and books and articles on education, you can still see the similar languages pop up, and now it has the name Fourth Industrial Revolution, or personalized education to it. I think the idea is and there’s grain of truth in it, that it makes it more easier to allow this to happen, although, with lots of caveats.

Fourthly, and that’s something I only learned, like learn later on at least in my teaching career when you start look outside of the classroom, and schools and system etc. has all these policy networks that are out there that have been out there for a long time, and also have been latching on to sort of like this, this whole techno utopist (view) vision of society and also in education.

So this whole 21st Century Skills debate is predating the idea of the fourth industrial revolution. And that’s already been out there for quite some time, at least in the Netherlands, like early 2000s, we’ve been talking about this, and as a means also for politicians, but also for teachers to push for innovation in education. And now we have this sort of like more profound technological change, which I do think is there embedded into it. So that’s why I think it has become stronger, there’s the sense instead of that there is something going on, and it makes it more easy for these narratives to, from whatever viewpoint to take a look at education in that way. But for me, as well, it’s also part of these bigger, bigger, longer neoliberal discourse that has been going on as well and people have been latching on to it, like I would almost feels like GERM 2.0. like the Global Education Reform Movement, as Pasi Sahlberg points out, and now we’re having sort of like these big tech companies pushing into that space as well. And with this teacher ambassadors, and the Google ambassadors and the Apple ambassadors, and it’s a really powerful narratives are both from an optimistic point of view, but also from a fear point of view. So that’s it. That’s what I think, where I think that’s why it’s there.

Will Brehm:  6:03
So the fourth industrial revolution is about what? What is the revolution?

Jelmer Evers:  6:11
Well, I think you have to also look at who coined the term Klaus Schwab from the World Economic Forum in a yearly gathering in Davos, mostly by CEOs, and sort of like academics who buy into that stuff.

And his book has been quite influential. So he coined this term, what’s going on, and it’s his idea is that there was the first Industrial Revolution, of course, steam engine and the second one, early 20 century, late 19th century, with electricity, oil, like mass production, the whole birth of the Ford era and Taylorism, but in the 60s with these reflect the birth of the digital age that the more simple digital revolution, which of course, is a major impact on communications are productivity. And now he’s saying there’s a fourth industrial revolution. And it’s sort of like an exponential technology, where different kinds of strands of technological innovations are now being combined, and accelerated. And you have to think about like AI and robotics, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and like quantum computing, those kind of things. And they’re all like interacting with one another. And there are new industrial sectors, like data scientists, those kind of things to do that, it’s ubiquitous all over the place because everybody needs to be a data scientists nowadays.

So and like gene therapy and DNA. And I mean if you look at it for the whole list that he goes through, it is quite remarkable, I think, what is going on. So you definitely cannot discount the technological change that is going on, I can, I think we can see that all around this. But I think he coins towards that there’s this whole political economy sphere and context to it, but he stays within a certain frame. And I think that’s sort of like the biggest issue that we it’s not a technology that we need to tackle per say, it’s more like, who profits from it? Who owns the technology? Who owns the data? That kind of stuff.

Will Brehm:  8:29
And how are people talking about the ways in which the fourth industrial revolution will impact education?

Jelmer Evers:  8:40
That’s a very interesting question. And that brings me back I think, to the progressive strands and philosophy that we have in education. So for example, if you’re looking for, from a really practical point of view, people are really pushing sort of actors, adaptive platforms, these tutoring platforms that can help students learn at their own pace, maybe you don’t need a teacher anymore, maybe the platform is good enough with all the learning materials, the videos, and the readings, the interactivity, that’s more easy to produce. So there’s already been there. But now sort of like with these algorithms and a promise of activity, I think that’s the main focus right now.

And also that’s where it has the biggest impact. And I think there are some, like, for example if you look at like math skills, basic math skills, I see with my own children, so they’re practicing on the internet for the whole, like drill part of education and teaching, it actually helps. It can ease the formative feedback cycle, that’s great with children work with them on that. So you can outsource a little bit of sort of formative aspect. I think that’s actually a good thing.

But if you look at what kind of articles are you reading, and if teachers will, we will be replaced with AI, and, you know, that kind of stuff. And that’s quite worrying. And it’s completely besides the truth and reality, I think, there are different things going on. But it’s sort of like the basic things. And if you look at the impact of technology in another level, which I think is more progressive is sort of maker education. And so all those technology associated with that as a service with 3D printing, but also like, it’s easy to program, little little computers, etc, those kind of things are having a major impact. And students can be producers, and they can interact with students all over the world, etc. So, I think there is the problem is, there’s this true promise of progressive education, but it’s also sort of like hijacked by more behind the scene by a more standardized form of education. Because if you look at sort of the oldest platforms, they’re trying to sort make these little data points everywhere like the learning goals and then you are run through this maze as a student without the help of any teacher and that sort of like the old standardized dream. So it has this two-face thing to it.

Will Brehm:  11:25
Have you experienced any of these two different faces of the Industrial Revolution 4.0 or whatever it’s called the fourth industrial revolution inside your own classroom?

Jelmer Evers:  11:38
Well, you know, for example, the whole networking, it connects with people all over the world, I can connect with class, with people and other students from all over the world, they are connecting themselves, I mean, I get it, they’re doing it anyway, and I get them anyway.

So that aspect is there, it makes it more easy for me, for example, to create a learning environment where they do have lots of choice, I’m not just fixed to a textbook, for example, while I do also use textbooks, because the students enjoy them, I think working from papers way more efficient than then digital technology that is good or not all these studies that have come out lately that have warned us about sort of like not to go too deep into the digital world, from a learning aspect, but also from an addictive aspect.

So it’s there. And what we’ve also seen is that these types of technologies are being pushed. So we have a major change, we’ve just changed Microsoft, for example, the Microsoft environments, and I don’t think our school which is quite autonomous, and we, as teachers were on board with that you get bombarded with all these actors, policy actors, networks, research people try to sell you stuff. It’s a huge market, also in the Netherlands and more worryingly, I think what we’ve seen, and it was even, I think people from my own school boards were like, part of this, they’re looking into sort of, like, we have a teacher shortage so we can’t pay for it. So we’re going to look at other scenarios. And that means sort of like, and then we’re actually talking about using AI and all these platforms to invest more in that. It will be more cheaper in the long run. So it is definitely affecting us and me still on the ground and lots of different ways, I think.

Will Brehm:  13:44
Do you literally have people coming into your classroom or your school trying to sell you the latest education technology?

Jelmer Evers:  13:52
Well, they’re trying to and trying to approach you, of course, and through different ways, it’s through school leadership, or the board, etc.

I’m usually approached quite often because I write these books and quite well known in the Netherlands, so that sort of like, also, they want to work with us, and we’ve got this product, etc. So that’s definitely a thing.

Will Brehm:  14:14
How does that work? Like, what’s the economy there? Do they want to give you some sort of monetary kickback? Or, like, how does it work?

Jelmer Evers:  14:23
No, no, that’s never the case. That’s the interesting part. And that’s why I always say, No, I said, I mean, I’m happy to consult in any way, as long as you pay me for it. And then usually the conversation stops.

So it’s also a very interesting now it’s just, we give you your, you can try our product for free, and then with your writing little piece on it, or we want to try it out and give us some feedback. So I sort of like free labor kind of thing. So I would say no to that, whilst I do think there are interesting things out there, that definitely help me in my teaching, but it’s definitely a big thing, you can see the major publishers moving from textbooks towards they’re all trying to create this platform, and sort of like trying to create a monopoly and like the major book distributor. And you can see that there are really changing their course, into a sort of, like, a platform kind of way. And they’re actually so big, that they might have a chance for that in the Netherlands.

Will Brehm:  15:26
What is the platform by the way?

Jelmer Evers:  15:28
It’s sort of like, where content’s almost free, but where you want to be where the interaction is ready, where you can gather data, and sort that data and so that’s, you know, that’s sort of, like, if you look at Uber and Airbnb, etc, so they don’t own anything anymore. They don’t own the books anymore. But he might not even own a company anymore. As long as you have enough people on a platform, and it gathers data so that’s a revenue stream, and huge revenue streams for Facebook and Twitter, etc. So, or also doing. And if you have all these learning interactions, then you’ve got all these data points, you can fill this correlations and then you can sell this as look, we know that this works, they don’t really know what works because just the correlation but that’s the days they’re sending a sort of like this model of learning also still don’t know a lot about learning. So that’s sort of like if you can occupy that space. And a lot of people are trying to do that.

Will Brehm:  16:28
So let me just try and get my head wrapped around this. The idea here is that there are these companies, these education businesses that are creating online platforms that they are trying to get students to use and teachers to use. And then while they’re using these platforms that offer all sorts of content, like you said, maybe that has been developed for free externally, they then are collecting data points on how the students interact, and use that material, and then somehow analyze it, and then sell the analysis back to the school. That is the revenue?

Jelmer Evers:  16:39
Yeah, so those kind of things, and also for other products. So you can build off products on that platform as well. And what I’ve been looking for, for example, so I’ve been using all these different kinds of tools, extra credit, and we’ve got a virtual learning environment and all these other things, but they’re not talking to one another. So for me, it would be really useful to have a single point of view that like people are talking about dashboards, for example, learning dashboards. If you can organize that, and then you become sort of like the Spotify of education because you’re already entry point to everything. So you can ask revenue from the people that are providing apps. So you can you can ask for like, small fee from the schools and the students, you can sell your data to other companies again, so this is sort of like how people learn. So that’s sort of like the whole that’s what a lot of companies are trying to do around the world at the moment even in the developing world.

Will Brehm:  17:01
And these sort of companies are I mean, they’re obviously working inside public schools as well. Is that correct?

Jelmer Evers:  18:08
Yeah. So (we have we haven’t) we have a little bit more of a different system in the Netherlands it’s completely privatized nonprofit but that’s more from a historical point of view so it was that religious education was funded just like public education and you know the whole Neoliberal reforms in the end of the 90s early 2000s every school was privatized but with a really strong accountability system Inspectorate etc. Profit is like a big no go, although we have a lot of scandals here in the Netherlands, increasingly, so.

So it is we still consider it public, but a lot of people don’t know how privatized it actually is. And it also makes it more easy to sell this kind of stuff. So if you look at how the government operates, when they’re talking about ICT and ethic and they’re creating these policies, the only people they’re talking to, are actually like the representatives on our boards, like way high up, and the publishers and the ethic people and technology people. So teachers don’t have any say, or schools themselves don’t have any say in those policy networks. They are huge, are well funded. And they know how to approach the ministry, etc. And so it’s been quite worrying. And I’ve been, as a teacher be quite disgusted by the whole direction that has taken the last like eight years or so.

Will Brehm:  19:24
And what direction has that taken in the last eight years?

Jelmer Evers:  19:28
I think we’ve managed to stop a lot of neoliberal discourse, like the standardized testing and the top down managerial sort of like culture that is sort of completely embedded in our schools. I think we’ve managed to stop that. But the whole privatization aspect of it and the whole more it’s more easy to start schools and then people want to do away with the central exams, it becomes more easy to penetrate sort of like our school system through these networks, where our teachers don’t have any say. So I took the whole public aspect of our system is broken without it being really clear to people. So for me, that’s sort of an example of what you see around going on around the world, not just in the Netherlands, it’s happening in a strong system like the Netherlands where you can imagine and you know what’s going on in the United States, but also in the developing world and in African countries, but also Asian countries. I mean, it’s huge and well organized like I see here in the Netherlands as well. So let’s that’s going against I think, I think we’ve another one a lot of sort of, like discourse battles against sort of like that’s how standardized narrative and now we’re up against a new sort of like narrative. And it’s not on a lot of people’s radars. It’s progressive side to it. And that makes it more difficult to counter I think and even be aware of it.

Will Brehm:  20:58
How would you define that progressive side?

Jelmer Evers:  21:01
What do you mean like?

Will Brehm:  21:04
Well, you were saying that education technology sort of furthers the privatization efforts inside schools, not only in the Netherlands, but around the world, and you’re trying to in a sense mobilize against that movement. But because perhaps education technology has this progressive side to it and makes it a little more difficult to mobilize that resistance, can you talk a little bit about that progressive side?

Jelmer Evers:  21:35
Everybody wants to personalize as you want to bring out the talent of the individual student, that’s a given. That’s sort of like one of the major goals, that’s what we do as teachers. If you want to try to build a good relationship, you want to see what’s in there, what comes out of it and improve on that you want to give him every attention or her every attention that he can. So if somebody says, well, here’s the solution that we can give you a real personalized education. Well, before it was just a standard industrial, Prussian solution which is complete nonsense, of course model well it’s based on a faulty premise, that it’s just sort of like jumping through hoops and running through a small like, standardized maze, that it’s sort of like standardized education in disguise, and in another ways. And it’s also like, at least in the Netherlands, and I think definitely in the West, a formative assessment has really taken off in classrooms, and teachers are really aware of it. And I think more research informed on these kinds of developments. And it also buys into that kind of narrative. And it actually helps I’m not against that, per se. But if people then take it to the next level, and start replacing, and like a narrative replacing teachers, and we don’t need teachers anymore, or they’re even better than teachers then it becomes really, really problematic, because those technologies can do that whatsoever at all. If you look at sort of, like what AI experts are saying, it can do and really specific thing really, really well.

But a job and especially in education is so much more than that. And it also has to do with empathy and ethics and morals and bringing up the child as a society, and I sort of like as a and the school is also a small community where it creates sort of like new communities and prepares him for a wider world, which isn’t just about economics and jobs.

So if you, I mean, artificial intelligence can never do that. At least definitely not for the coming 50 years. If you look at all these what AI experts are saying. But at the same time, if you don’t open up, like the times education supplement, for example, it says, well, we need to be really afraid of AI, because they’re going to replace us in that’s just not true. So where’s this narrative just coming from, and then it becomes more easy to sell this kind of things well. But we’re personalized, and how can you be against personalizing education.

So that’s sort of like the real difficult thing I think people are grappling with. And if you’re also then offered incentives to be part of a global network that you can visit conferences, and it’s being paid for, etc. So like, our teachers are now also sort of like in these corporate networks and big tech networks, and that those are the best-funded teacher networks around the world. And they’re having this corporate there, they’re now having a corporate identity instead of a professional identity. So that’s, you know, those are the dynamics that are going on under the heading of personalized education.

Will Brehm:  24:50
It seems slightly analogous to the way in which medical or pharmaceutical companies sort of engage with the medical profession.

Jelmer Evers:  25:01
Yeah, I think there’s definitely and I hadn’t really thought about that way yet. I will have to pursue that as well, I definitely think that’s, that’s the case, and I’ve got a few of my friends are general practitioners, and they definitely have an issue with it. And I know there’s a whole internal debate, like from a professional point of view, but there are lots of people who are buying into the system that goes, you know, it gives them opportunities, it gives them a platform, and it’s the same kind of dynamics. And the problem is, like, the people who are fighting for public education are always underfunded, less network, we’re not at the vows, so to speak. So yet, so that’s you know, and you want to get your voice out. And actually, a lot of people are doing good work. And some of you know, some of the lesson plans that are that they’re talking about, and, and pushing out and really valuable. But if they’re part of this bigger discourse, and I read a, there was a series of the New York Times about these networks, but this kind of networks how Google and Microsoft and Apple are opening up their schools to sell their products.

I don’t think we, as a profession, we have had a real genuine discussion about this. And it also becomes that we’re because we were quite a weak profession, I think, in another sense that we don’t have standard lots of standards, professional bodies, unions have been focusing on bread and butter issues, and it should be way, way wider than they do now. So there’s so many things that we still need to organize around and do and we need to do it globally, I think. It is a global discussion, because these operators, they all operate on a global level. So you can never do it in on a national level, or just on a national level.

So yeah, that’s sort of like the, there are so many things that you need to be involved in. And if you’re, then as a teacher, for example being educated as just focusing on pedagogy and just focusing on the classroom, and you’re not sort of like, brought into this wider discussion, it makes it really hard for people to resist. And that’s also what happened, I think, in the 90s and the 2000s people were, teachers were really being pushed back into the classroom and just sort of like it, then you’ll be, you have to do it you’re told, so this whole history that we’ve had, at least in the 80s and 70s and 60s and more critical pedagogy, but also, like, a really strong profession that’s also being has been undermined. So it sort of makes it really hard to fight back, I think, on these issues.

Will Brehm:  27:41
And so what can teachers do? I mean, if they had, say, a stronger profession, or more professionalized like you were saying, and these global networks, teachers still need to be very literate in all of this new technology, and have a voice at the table, in a sense on how it can be incorporated. So in a sense, how do teachers in your perspective, sort of resist or engage with this large network of education businesses that are in a sense spearheading this fourth industrial revolution?

Jelmer Evers:  28:22
Well, first thing is, I think there’s the idea of a network teacher is really powerful. So they’re actually tapping into something that is really worthwhile. I think, also, if you look at professional development, and why teachers stay in the classroom, that is networking aspect, and collaborative learning is extremely powerful. It’s probably one of the best ways to retain teachers as well, but also for us to become better as a profession. So I think what we need to do is sort of like, try to find ways to support those networks. But then also when we start talking about pedagogy, and good and what is good pedagogy, educational technology, formative assessment, we also start to sort of like pushing these narratives, what education is for, what are all the actors involved in education, what kind of role are you taking, so the networks are always there. And there’s this really powerful network here in the Netherlands, but globally, and I’m talking to teachers from United States, Australia, Africa, African countries, like Uganda, South Africa. So I mean, we’re already connected. It’s just that it doesn’t have a real organizing bit to it. And that’s what I think we’re old fashioned unions that unionism comes in. And I think they need to take a wider approach from just focusing on salaries, for example, or workloads, it’s about being a profession. And I think a lot of unions have already had that, but they also sort of like, let themselves be pushed into this, no more narrow narrative. But just focusing on grassroots networks is not good enough. If you look at sort of, like the field revolutions in the Middle East, the occupy movement, etc.
So if there’s no powerful, political, organized, well-funded movements, combined with this, sort of, like more grassroots network, social media kind of activism. If you can combine those things, I think you have a really, really good chance of sort of, like changing the narrative and our own sort of like what we’ve learned here, at least in the Netherlands, if you if you have a powerful narrative, and if you’re going to influence the general public, you can turn those things around. So we moved away from standardized testing. And I think there’s, there’s a distant, a new sort of, like, powerful grassroots movement and Facebook group that popped up, and they were sort of like a catalyst for a national strike. And you’ve seen those things pop up in the United States as well. So if they’re even comes from like, the, the core of the resistance, like in the, in the red states, Red for Ed. So I think everything is there already, I think, but we need to be more conscious of this. And I think it also starts with being in teacher education.

I don’t think I was sort of educated enough of being (in English or not being) that I was part of a profession and being proud of being part of the profession, what does it mean to go beyond your classroom, and that’s something that we need to take up as well, start with, you know, the people entering into our profession and taking this more holistic approach. And I think everything so I’m quite optimistic actually, that we can achieve change, like flipping the system, that’s what we call it and putting the teachers at this center of it. And because I’ve already seen so many positive changes within schools themselves in school district, but also even on a national level, like New Zealand started turning back on lots of like, toxic neoliberal reforms just recently, so that’s sort of like gives me a lot of optimism that we can turn this around, but it does need to be a conscious effort. And, and that’s we’re still not at that stage. And that’s what we need to push for.

Will Brehm:  32:21
It seems like you’re also advocating for flipping the narrative of the fourth industrial revolution from either techno pessimism or seeing technology as some utopia to actually saying, Wait a second, humans use technology, and it has to, therefore be a political process as to how we use it to sort of flip the narrative completely.

Jelmer Evers:  32:47
Yeah, exactly. And it’s, you know, I’m not a Luddite. I love work, I actually came into, like, education, innovation. I think, like most teachers, through educational technology, that’s a starting point for new apps and new things that you want to try out and actually see, that’s working. And so their technology in itself is not bad. But if you look at sort also how the fourth industrial revolution is portrayed, and what kind of people are pushing it, and then definitely, we’re on the wrong track, I think. And although they talk about changing institutions, I don’t think I don’t see a lot of that happening at the moment. And you can also see, and that’s where the teacher strikes in the United States are so instructive. If you start to go for like more 20 century 19th century activism, and like, go back to what unions and activists did in the emancipate themselves in the second half of the 19th century. If you combine that with new technology, you have a really, really powerful for us.
So I think most people are not against the web. So we were Skyping at the moment, you’re in Japan, and I am here in Brussels. So it would be foolish to discount it. But people really like that sort of like, if you either in this camp or in that camp. But if you that’ll makes it really easy to discount the criticisms are they just against technology, we’re not, but we want to use it. And so that everybody can profit from it, or maybe profit not the right word, but help us create a better world and help our students create a better world. And that’s what it should be about. And most of the systems that are being created and are being funded and lobbied for at the moment are going in the wrong direction including international organizations and big corporations etc.

So if we state that technology is neutral, we can use either for good or for bad, then we are on the right track. But it also needs to be embedded in sort of re-evaluation of the public goods. So if you’ve looked at sort of like, I think if you look at, for example, in economics, that narrative is gaining momentum in ways which I haven’t seen, like in the 70s or 60s, I think when change was dominant. So with Piketty and Dani Rodrik and all these people like really advocating for reassessing how we look at society and economics and politics, etc. So that’s already happening as well. And we need to tap into that, I think, in education, and what like what we flip the system here in the Netherlands and also international those kind of narratives and Pasi Sahlberg and Carol Campbell in Canada and there’s so many people doing the right thing. And systems are also start doing the right thing.

So it’s not that hard to find good examples. It’s just to make more people aware of it and actually start fighting for them. And that there is an alternative out there and it is already working. And that’s, I think, what we if we can, if we can put that into people’s minds, then you can create a really powerful counter movement and a new alternative.

Will Brehm:  35:58
Well, Jelmer Evers, thank you so much for joining FreshEd, and it really was a pleasure to talk today.

Jelmer Evers:  36:03
Yeah, I’ve really enjoyed it. So I love to think about it again. Thank you!

Want to help translate this show? Please contact info@freshedpodcast.com 
Have any useful resources related to this show? Please send them to info@freshedpodcast.com

Today we look at educational privatization in Japan. My guest is the renowned Marxist scholar Makoto Itoh. In our two-part conversation, Professor Itoh argues that both the capitalist market and Soviet system have not produced democratic equality. In both systems, schools have been used to sort people by class.


Makoto Itoh teaches at Kokugakuin University and is professor emeritus of the University of Tokyo. His newest book, written in Japanese, is A guide to Capitalist Economy, which was published in February.

Citation: Itoh, Makoto, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 112, podcast audio, April 16, 2018. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/makotoitoh/



Will Brehm  1:15
Makoto Itoh, Welcome to FreshEd

Makoto Itoh  1:18
Thank you very much for your invitation.

Will Brehm  1:19
It’s really wonderful to sit down today in Tokyo and discuss, well, probably a whole bunch of things about education and your own life and about Marxism. And it’s a good time because you just told me you published a new book called ‘A Guide to Capitalist Economy’, which is published in Japanese a few months ago. So, congratulations on the book.

Makoto Itoh  1:40
Thank you.

Will Brehm  1:42
So, what I’m interested in speaking about today is your understanding of Marxism -you are an internationally renowned Marxist scholar- and applying it to the field of education. How would we apply Marxist thinking to education? So, you know, I’m not really sure where to begin because Marxism is so big of a body of literature but perhaps we can think about the costs of education. Because the costs seem to be one of the big pieces of capitalism: prices and costs.

Makoto Itoh  2:20
Indeed. Well, when we look at education costs today, it is worrying to see how it became so expensive, especially to learn at university level.  The data in Japan for last year said that in private university, it costs in four years in total, 7.4 million yen. So, you can calculate.

Will Brehm  2:48
So, 7.4 million yen is something like $70,0000 US dollars?

Makoto Itoh  2:57
Right. So, it costs very much in private university. And in case of six-year medical students, in total, it costs 27 million yen, whereas average household income in Japan is 5.3 million.

Will Brehm  3:18
So many people wouldn’t be able to even afford to go to medical school and probably very difficult to go to private university.

Makoto Itoh  3:27
That’s right. It is said that almost educational costs of one child for medical department is almost the same as purchasing a house. So, I am afraid that such expensive educational cost cannot be affordable for all parents. The basic idea for democracy is egalitarian, freedom to run for everybody. But that cost prevents such a basis for social democracy, isn’t it? And although rate of university students among the same generation, as you may know, reached just over one half in 2009.

Will Brehm  4:20
OK, so in 2009, 50% of the same generation went to university?

Makoto Itoh  4:30
Four years university.

Will Brehm  4:32

Makoto Itoh  4:32
Whereas in my youth, it was below 10%. At the year 1954, I became a university student in the next year, but at 1954 it equaled 7.9%. So, less than 10%.

Will Brehm  4:51

Makoto Itoh  4:51
So, the rate of higher education at the university level became more and more broadly shared, whereas it became so expensive nowadays. The rate of increase of students among the same generation became very, very stagnant and became slightly down lower to 49.9%. Less than 50% in 2013.

Will Brehm  5:21
Okay, so it’s the numbers of students enrolling in universities has slowed compared to when you were a student?

Makoto Itoh  5:31
No, no, no, the same generation? The rate of university students became lower in several years.

Will Brehm  5:38
Oh, right. And is this mainly because of the costs?

Makoto Itoh  5:42
I guess so. At least one reason. And this affects in various ways. For one thing, students became so busy to earn money while they are students too. So, that they cannot have enough time to enjoy their college life. And, “I’m sorry, I’m busy to do some advice” is a common phrase for the present students and they became so conscious about the career after graduation because they had to earn money for the sake of parents who paid university costs. And many students nowadays, just like in the United States, depend on student loans. And this newspaper reports, that personal bankruptcy, over 150,000 person a year bankrupted now. And this bankruptcy affects naturally to their parents, and sometimes to grandparents due to joint-signatures.

Will Brehm  6:54
This is the students that go bankrupt because of the loans they’ve taken out and they’re unable to pay them back.

Makoto Itoh  7:03
It’s a tragic situation. So, in many cases, it affects the total society broadly.

Will Brehm  7:11
Why do you think this happens? I mean, is this sort of a natural consequence in capitalists’ systems where fees increase and where you have to take out debt? Debt, as Minsky says is a main feature of capitalism. I mean, should we not be surprised that this is happening? Even if it is tragic?

Makoto Itoh  7:35
Hmm. In my years, when I was a student, tuitions for all state universities seems almost nothing. It was so cheap! So, in student period, student friends are so various in their classes. All a mixture of society. Whereas in the present day, in the University of Tokyo, for example, the other statistics says that over one half of students in the University of Tokyo, you can see over 54.8% of students came from the family type, which belongs just under 10% of top richer families this class.

Will Brehm  8:30
Right, so over half of the students come from the wealthiest families

Makoto Itoh  8:36
9.7% of richest families can only afford.

Will Brehm  8:43
The top 10% send more than 50% of the students.

Makoto Itoh  8:50

Will Brehm  8:50
So, there’s huge inequality in the system.

Makoto Itoh  8:55
The University of Tokyo is a major feeding University Japan to occupy Korea for the future bureaucrat, business circle and many other candidates for the future central.

Will Brehm  9:09
Could you explain that? Because this is actually slightly different than in Western universities, where the University of Tokyo holds this very privileged…

Makoto Itoh  9:17
You probably know Gakureki shakai. Gakureki means career of university period. It is important to remember, and I feel unhappy to talk about that from a Marxian point of view. But the University of Tokyo actually did play a very important institution with some other top universities are important to see who became dominant probability to be declared as a candidate for the leading bureaucrats, leading businesspersons of big businesses and in other many fields. So, those are elite institutions and in order to get into such elitist universities there is certainly severe competition and parents have to be rich to hire private teacher to educate their children.

Will Brehm  10:23
And it’s not just private schooling it’s also tutoring or Juku

Makoto Itoh  10:28
Juku. Many costs extra is necessary.

Will Brehm  10:31
So, over the lifetime of a child you have to be able to spend millions and millions of yen to prepare him or her to get into a university like Todai.

Makoto Itoh  10:41
I read in Piketty’s book that only top 2% is able to send their children to Harvard. Almost a similar phenomenon is seen. To jump from that, I read some material of old Soviet. There was elite educational systems which only allowed to small number of elitist state bureaucrats and party bureaucrats. It was very privileged special course nomenclature education system. So, education system is a “for sale” system to discriminate elitist. In the case of Japan and the United States, or capitalist societies, money can serve as such a discriminatory reproduction of elitist capitalist class.

Will Brehm  11:37
Whereas with the Soviet Union it was…

Makoto Itoh  11:40
It was done by privileged political setting. Which is better? [Laughter]

Will Brehm  11:48
That’s right. I mean is there a better? Because the outcome is similar, right? You sort society in a particular way that gives certain people benefits and not others. It is very far from egalitarianism as you were talking about.

Makoto Itoh  12:02
Right. So, egalitarianism as an idea for both socialism and capitalism. But in reality, they failed for Soviet Union, United States, and Japan.

Will Brehm  12:20
That’s quite a difficult contradiction

Makoto Itoh  12:24
Indeed. An ideal society in common sense under the name of democracy cannot work in reality in the market. Just like a political system in the Soviet Union. We tend to be told that Soviet was a privileged, very undemocratic society. But why can’t we see democratic egalitarian social system on the market?

Will Brehm  12:50
Yeah, they might not -capitalism and democracy are not as intertwined as maybe the common assumption.

Makoto Itoh  13:02
Civil evolution from the age of former British or French Revolution has not been achieved in reality in the system of education. Oxbridge, Harvard, MIT, Boston, and the Ivy Leagues in the United States.

Will Brehm  13:21
When you look at education in Japan, but as you were saying, this phenomenon is in many other parts of the world, particularly in market economies, where inequality is increasing, and education is a way to sort of sort society, does Marxist economics help you understand what is going on?

Makoto Itoh  13:45
So, the real problem is that what is the social ground to argue for democracy? Political democracy is achieved by one vote for one person. One other person can be given one vote for election. It is a political way of expression of democracy. And in my belief, I think that economic life in society is supported by labor or work, and economic democracy should be recognized social contribution for egalitarian peoples endeavor to spend certain time of his life or day time to work for other persons or to support themselves or other persons. In usual a person statistically tells us that around 2000 hours a year is working day. And I think there are about 50 million persons in Japan working, or supporting our economic life, excepting certain number of wage workers like politicians and bureaucrats in certain parts. Just like Adam Smith said, they are unproductive classes that not support economic life -to work for services and producing something for other persons, socially. If we calculate 50 thousands persons 2,000 hours each makes total number of hours, 100 billion.

Will Brehm  15:37
100 billion hours of work every year-

Makoto Itoh  15:40
-supports Japanese society. This is a very clear image to calculate. And it is my fundamental view of society, that our economic life is supported by that number of hours together. Therefore, if we can conceive that each hour is usually estimated equally, each other homogeneous, this is called by Marx abstract human labor, which is the basis for any concrete useful labor. Marx distinguishes labor in that sense and abstract human labor is shared for different kinds of useful concrete labor. So, this forms division of labor in society. If we can recognize that any person even highly educated doctor and taxi driver is as the same person, same human being, which have concepts in their mind, and utilize their internal nature to act and work according to the their conception and execution is the combination to form human ability to work in any places, utilizing language in common and thinking, sharing certain ideas, and can do what they intend to do unlike any other animals who may also work but human labor is different from other animals’ metabolic functions with great nature. It is different from we share ideas, conceptions, and work according to that conception, this is human work. So, if we recognize each other, every working hour is homogeneous, despite of educational cost difference -it is other aspects to be considered- but if we recognize it in such a way, economic democracy should be based upon homogeneity of social contribution of every person’s work labor.

Will Brehm  18:07
So, for instance, like you said, the taxi drivers one hour of work would be equivalent to the doctor’s one hour of work, or the Prime Minister’s one hour of work?

Makoto Itoh  18:18
This is the basic idea.

Will Brehm  18:20
But even the non-wage labor would be valued the same way, right.

Makoto Itoh  18:25

Will Brehm  18:26
So, the stay-at-home mother or father would be valued for one hour of childcare.

Makoto Itoh  18:32
And in order to think in such a way we have to distinct Marxists treatment of skilled labor issue. Even Marx said, skilled labor may be conceived as doing five times of labor in one hour unlike the unskilled labor. I think it is not democratic way of conceptualizing abstract human labor. I would like to revise that on Marx and almost all the Marxian economists still follow Ricardo -Marx traditions to conceive intensified labor by certain skilled work complex laborer. It is not a democratic way to think.

Will Brehm  19:19
No. You don’t want to have different values placed on different types of labor, skilled or unskilled, they all should be equal. That is the egalitarian way.

Makoto Itoh  19:30
Yeah. 100 billion is the same in quality.

Will Brehm  19:36
Yeah. And what I wonder is..

Makoto Itoh  19:37
It is interesting to think in such a way.

Will Brehm  19:40
Yeah, a hundred billion hours of work!

Makoto Itoh  19:43
And if we conceive certain cases nowadays, say Basic Income idea, for example, and some cases of local currency, time data, they treat labor contribution as the same contribution among community. It has a certain, in my belief, it is through communal ways of understanding each other let us recognize our time as a basis of community. It is a good way to think.

Will Brehm  20:18
It seems like it would also sort of naturally lead to people devoting less time in wage labor, because 100 billion hours of labor per year, I would imagine that’s not completely -or you don’t need 100 billion hours to produce the GDP of Japan.

Makoto Itoh  20:44
If we include certain non-market labor, it might be 1.5 times of that size. We don’t care about that. But the important thing is to recognize egalitarian democratic homogeneity in contributing labor activities, either market or no market, it is an important thing.

Will Brehm  21:08
It seems as if the education system, as we were talking about earlier, the sorting that goes on, would not allow for such an egalitarian system as you were saying.

Makoto Itoh  21:23
Yea. It is because privatization of education attributes educational costs to each family or each individual. Therefore, the person who needs higher education, such as medical doctor, has to pay back, as Becker’s human capital theory says as an investment. It is a type of thinking which seems very natural when we live in the individualistic, private, market economy. Whereas in old period, the educational system could be more public, communal, common goods, as you suggest here. And any children, who may come from the poorer family, can receive that education free. If educational system is supported by common funds, in that case, we do not care about educational costs being paid back later by their higher wages, we can still reproduce necessary types of educated, trained persons for each necessary works.

Will Brehm  22:40
To think beyond human capital theory. To not view education as a future rate of return on my individual wage, but rather, as you’re saying, see it more communally. To me, it sounds like that will take a huge shift in imagination of everyday people. Because, I think the person who’s spending 7.4 million yen to go to university is expecting that he or she will get a return on investment that is quite high.

Makoto Itoh  23:20
And the student loan expect that too. That is a privatization of education for individual. But actually, communist economy in Soviet system, higher education, while also very cheap or free to produce most numerous number of higher educated technicians who are produced in Soviet. And in such an educational system, the public way: In that case, why should be pay higher wages to that doctor or to that engineer? We do not need to paying system such a discriminatory way. So probably in Soviet grading of labor was done, but this grading could be much reduced gaps and connected to educational costs, you see. So that sort of system is conceivable. If educational costs can be socialized, educational systems could be more democratic and probably social mobility could be elevated much more. As a result, it might be more activated society and mobility across various families to contribute in suitable places or according to the children’s aspirations could be achieved.

Will Brehm  24:56
Are you hopeful that in the future we will see a transition in society away from this privatization of education that has expanded exponentially under neoliberalism? Or are you hopeful that we will actually shift -in Japan, and in America, and in other places around the world- away from that private notion and value of education.

Makoto Itoh  25:24
At least my generation experiences such cheap education and cost for educational level. We used to think university tuitions almost does not cost. At that time, National University of Japanese educational system served as a sort of recruiting system for different type classes of societies, which meant a sort of a mobility of society was much greater than nowadays. It is my impression, and I think it might be more desirable for social future. And while educational costs bother me for another reason too, which is reducing children. United States still has growing number of population, but Japan is declining population and many other advanced capitalist countries began to see the similar trend for smaller children, ageing society. It is very bad to see for the future of educational system to maintain. And social activity, aspirations, new ideas would be expected lesser degrees due to smaller number of children may make society very, very conservative. All the sociologists say second and third child is more in a sense, non-conservative.

Will Brehm  27:15

Makoto Itoh  27:15
Progressive, if you say. Or act more ambitiously for new ideas than first children. It is because mothers and fathers protect first child more carefully and the second and third are not cared for much.

Will Brehm  27:40
I am the second child.

Makoto Itoh  27:44
So, I understand why you came to Japan.

Will Brehm  27:50
More freedom, I guess. My brother has much more -I mean, my parents are probably listening to this conversation. And they were very good parents. I mean, that’s not an issue.

Makoto Itoh  28:02
You have to say that. [Laughter]

Will Brehm  28:07
You put me in a difficult position.

Makoto Itoh  28:11
And I’m the third child.

Will Brehm  28:13
Ah! That says a lot!

Makoto Itoh  28:15
My elder brother had to take care of my parents. He’s very good. And I feel a bit embarrassing to take care of my parents and go free as you did.

Will Brehm  28:36
And is that what brought you into the academy?

Makoto Itoh  28:40

Will Brehm  28:41
You felt like you had more freedom. You also joined some of the student protests in the 1970’s.

Makoto Itoh  28:48
Sometimes Yes, but not very much. But I was attracted to Marxism just for intellectual aspect. It seems too heavy problems to think. And I used to think everything quickly. But when I encountered Marxist capital, it was heavy, deep, not easy to understand. It is quite a shock to me. And how to understand those heavy deep thinking was an interesting experience. But the first time in my life to encounter such a theoretical system containing so deep work.

Will Brehm  29:42
So, it was a very intellectual pursuit for you?

Makoto Itoh  29:45
Yes, I began to read Marxist capital in what you say the first year of university?

Will Brehm  29:53
Freshmen year.

Makoto Itoh  29:53
Freshmen. Among my classroom friend invited me to join the reading group in our university class.

Will Brehm  30:04
Makoto Itoh, thank you so much for joining FreshEd

Makoto Itoh  30:07
It’s my pleasure.

Will Brehm  30:08
It really was my pleasure. I really enjoyed talking today.

Want to help translate this show? Please contact info@freshedpodcast.com
Have any useful resources related to this show? Please send them to info@freshedpodcast.com



Ted Dintersmith is not your normal Silicon Valley venture capitalist trying to save the world through technology. He’s much more complex.

After producing the film Most Likely to Succeed, which premiered at Sundance in 2015, Ted embarked on a trip across America. For nine months he visited school after school, meeting teachers in ordinary settings doing extraordinary things.

Today Ted joins FreshEd to talk about his new book What School Could Be: Insights and inspiration from teachers across America.

Ted is currently a Partner Emeritus with Charles River Ventures. He was ranked by Business 2.0 as the top-performing venture capitalist in the U.S. for the years 1995-1999.  In 2012, he was appointed by President Obama to represent the U.S. at the United Nations General Assembly, where he focused on education.

Citation: Dintersmith, Ted, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 108, podcast audio, March 19, 2018. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/dintersmith/

Will Brehm:  2:03
Ted Dintersmith, welcome to Fresh Ed.

Ted Dintersmith:  2:05
Great to be here.

Will Brehm:  2:06
So in the fall of 2015, you literally went back to school for an entire school year, not just one school that you went to, but hundreds of schools across every state in America, what on earth made you decide to embark on this journey to go back to school?

Ted Dintersmith:  2:26
A lot of people ask me that, particularly my friends and my family members, because it is a little ambitious to go to all 50 states in a nine month period. And the trip really didn’t take entirely the shape I expected. So initially, I felt this, and I still feel I mean, every single day, I feel the urgency of anticipating what the future is going to be like for our young adults, and having schools adapt and modify and transform themselves to keep pace, which I think very few schools actually are doing for good reasons, because the innovation economy’s sprinting ahead. So I sort of said why didn’t I go on this really ambitious trip to make sure people understand there’s urgency here. But as I traveled and I took it very seriously, I heard the, believe it or not, the advance campaign planning team who did all the work for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. So it’s like, every day from morning, you know, breakfast till the end of the day, which would, the end of the day was typically 10, 10:30 at night with a community forum, I’m just meeting all these people, I’m going to all these schools. And yeah, boy, I just learned so much. I talked to so many interesting people, I saw so many interesting things. And so I thought, it’s like the classic thing, I thought I had something to say to America. And instead they had a lot more to say to me. And then that ultimately led to my writing a book about it.

Will Brehm:  3:50
So okay, so you went across the country speaking with thousands of people, what did you hear? What were people telling you about the state of education in America?

Ted Dintersmith:  4:01
Whether there’s just a million different perspectives on this, and you realize how incredibly complicated and intertwined our education system is, with schools, subject to all sorts of external forces, you know, state legislators, school boards, college admissions, parents, real estate agents, on and on, there are million different things that come into play, when it comes to the decisions that get made in schools. I’d say, if there’s one major takeaway is that in education, we largely have a system that is run by non-educators telling educators what to do, it’s sort of a few things in American society where that takes place. And you find that a lot of the people who project their views on the school really are thinking about the school they went to 30, 40, 50 years ago. And they’re not able to step outside of that kind of dated perspective on what’s to be accomplished in schools, or maybe more importantly, how to assess whether schools are doing a great job. And so you realize that, and this is similar, I think, to one of my perspectives from business is I generally learned a lot more about a business when I talked to the people actually kind of in the trenches doing the work than when I talked to senior managers, and I worked with some very good senior managers. But if you really want to understand what’s going on, talk to the people doing the work. And that’s what I was able to do. And I think it’s unusual because you know, I recognize I’m humble about the fact that I’m a person with a business background interested in education. And when I say that, as soon as you say those words, I have a business background now, and you’re interested in education, a lot of people in the classroom, you know, like the blood drains from their face, because they’ve seen that movie before. And it’s not a particularly good movie. But I found what I really put the time into, listen to them to hear about what they were experiencing. And in particular, to see some of the amazing things they were doing. It was really energizing.

Will Brehm:  6:05
So why is there a disconnect between the people running education and the people basically doing education, right? Like, why are the upper level managers so disconnected?

Ted Dintersmith:  6:17
In my book I talked about this, and the common denominator, and it’s not 100%, nothing ever in life is 100%, but a lot of the people that make their way to the top of these bureaucracies, you know, states, federal, you know, two things. One is they generally have very strong academic credentials. So school work for them, they expect it should work for everybody, they have no beef for the fact that they, you know, got into an elite undergraduate school and then went on to get their PhD from Harvard in the Graduate School of Education. So they are fundamentally aligned with the process of school. And they are also people that were able to work their way through and up to the top of large bureaucracies. So they know how to work a system, they have a mindset around policies and procedures and metrics, and they do what I think they’re inclined to do, what they’ve succeeded within their own personal life. And then they take that and apply it to schools across America. The problem is, a lot of kids have incredible gifts that go beyond the realm of the academic. And when you start to standardize education, so you can measure the progress of kids, I think you largely destroy the learning.

Will Brehm:  7:33
So on this trip of yours, was there anything in particular that you changed your mind about after meeting all of the educators and students and parents and principals? Like, what was the biggest thing that you came away saying, Wow, I really think differently about that now?

Ted Dintersmith:  7:50
Well, I clearly shifted not dramatically, but whatever respect I had for teachers going into the trip, which was a reasonably high level of respect only got higher. I mean, the number of teachers that would share with me, you know, in tears, you know, a variant along these lines, which is, every morning, I have to decide, do I do what’s best for my students, or what the state tells me to do? There are a lot of teachers in that category. You know, an incredibly moving day for me, is going to the national teachers Hall of Fame in Emporia, Kansas, and you see this knoll where they have these plaques and monuments and, you know, not massive monuments, but commemorating the teachers who gave their lives in classrooms for their students. And it just hit me, you know, like, we trust these teachers with the lives of our kids, but we don’t trust them with their own lesson plans. I mean there’s something really wrong there. And so that was one of my biggest things was just sort of an increase in respect and appreciation. As well, you hear all the time people say, you know, well, our teaching forces are innovative or one that really troubles me is why our public schools can’t innovate. And, you know, you realize, you put public schools and No Child Left Behind straight jackets for 20 decade, in 20 years. You tell them what they can’t do day in and day out, and then you criticize them for not being innovative. I mean, that is not fair. Despite it all I met a lot of teachers doing incredible things in public schools that I write about that just blew me away when they were able to think differently about how they want to engage and inspire their kids.

Will Brehm:  9:32
I want to ask you a list of terms basically that are sort of these I don’t know popular faddish policy terms in education today that we hear a lot in the media and a lot of politicians and big education reformers, quote unquote, reformers talk about and I want to hear your perspective of these terms, but from the perspective of all the people you’ve met. And so the first one is 21st century skills. We hear this a lot these days, what is your opinion on 21st century skills?

Ted Dintersmith:  10:05
Would people listen to me? I don’t hear a lot that’s different from what happened back in the days of Plato. And so I think in some ways, thinking that you have to be a creative problem solver, a communicator, whatever. And putting that in the context of the 21st century is a bit of a misnomer.

Will Brehm:  10:23
What about college ready?

Ted Dintersmith:  10:25
You know, this one to me is, and I pointed this in my book as one of the biggest factors impeding innovation in our K through 12 schools, and disengaging so many students. And honestly, lots of the college ready content is not of intrinsic interest to kids, is not terribly relevant to adults, and is largely baked into a system because it’s easy to test. And so I feel like we need to step back and say, we have gone dramatically overboard and pushing college ready onto the agendas of our particular middle school and high school kids.

Will Brehm:  11:03
Stem, STEM education?

Ted Dintersmith:  11:06
Another trendy thing you’ll read all the time, every kid you know, you are not going to do well in the 21st century without a STEM background, which is I think pure baloney. I actually think liberal arts is really important, you know, because they do teach these fundamental things that are important. You know that just as Plato and Socrates took on very challenging issues, kids are immersed in some of these complex ideas you find in literature, or history or philosophy, or any one of a long set of disciplines can be great vehicles for developing skills that are really important. STEM, first of all, and this is in my book as well, as I talked about the fact that, you know, for instance, MIT students on graduation day, somebody had the great idea which I think it actually is a really great idea to videotape these students on graduation day taking on this incredibly difficult challenge, which is they give the students a light bulb, a wire and a battery and say, can you light up the light bulb and kid after kid after kid, you know, cap and gown, you know, degree from the most prestigious Engineering Institute in the world, five on AP Calculus BC, five on AP Physics, 800 on the SAT and MIT blah blah blah, I mean, like, these are the best of the best, they can’t light up a light bulb. What you know, with a wire and a battery, they can’t do it. And, you know, right up the river, I talked about Eric, Missouri at Harvard in what he learned in his physics courses at Harvard. And so I’m actually deeply skeptical that when we say kids are really getting great at STEM, that in a lot of cases, I don’t know that it really goes much beyond memorizing formulas, memorizing definitions would be facile with being able to spend them back on an exam and slightly varied forms. And so, you know, like, I feel like if a kid’s passion is STEM, it can be a great path forward. But I think we need to start blending the academic with a lot more the applied, you know, that kids that are interested in physics need to be shadowing a master electrician and wiring things up and actually making circuits work instead of just memorizing Coulomb’s law and Kirchoff’s law, because I think we’re fooling ourselves when we think we’re producing great scientists and engineers in our colleges, the employers often tell me, they get here, they don’t really understand much of anything, we got to teach it to them as if they’ve never taken these courses.

Will Brehm:  13:29
It reminds me of that one part in your book, where you talk about this presidential summit that you attended when Obama was president. And there was all sorts of discussion all the way up to the Secretary of Education about calculus. You know, calculus is the thing we need to put back into the curriculum and get more kids taking calculus. And, you know, so why is that sort of this narrative that reaches all the way up to the highest levels of policymakers?

Ted Dintersmith:  13:58
Well, I put it back on the policymakers, the people that say things like that, and don’t know what they’re talking about. And they really don’t. I mean, you know, if you can google my background, I mean, I published papers written back before computational resources were really much of anything. When I had to do clothes for medicals by hand, you know, so I’m not without a fair amount of perspective on when calculus actually was useful, and how it’s a lot less used today. I mean, you know, and kids will get done with AP calculus, and you ask them when would you ever use this? Their answer is, I have no idea, you know, but they might be able to, if they’re particularly good at it to a hyperbolic cosine transformation. But Photomath or WolframAlpha does that instantly on your smartphone so we have these kids spend nine months replicating what a smartphone can readily do without ever making a mistake and they never quite get to how to apply it and actually calculus is something that has very limited applicability. You know but if you’re one of these bureaucrats, it just sounds good. You know, oh, well, kids, you know, isn’t it a tragedy that half the kids in America in high schools they don’t offer calculus. And college admissions officers, oh, we really look for kids that have taken on the rigor of calculus. You know, it’s just mind numbing, because most of the kids that take calculus are not taking statistics. You can get great jobs with statistics, it’s important for career, it’s important for citizenship, it comes into a lot of your personal decisions that are consequential and yet, we’re telling kids take something that almost no adult in America uses and don’t take something that’s indispensable across the three most important things in your life, work, citizenship and personal decisions. You know, it’s like and we just owe our kids better than that, we owe our kids a more informed perspective on the things we advocate as being important.

Will Brehm:  15:55
Okay, so going back to this list of buzzwords and ideas and policies. What about charter schools? What did you find about charter schools as you were crossing America?

Ted Dintersmith:  16:05
Well, I think that charter schools, public schools, private schools, take the category, I don’t care which one it is, you can find some great examples of schools, some okay examples and some bad examples. And I actually don’t think those percentages across the type of school that is are all that different. Yet, you know, you read in the newspapers, you look at where a lot of philanthropists direct their money. And so charter schools are dramatically superior to public schools, despite the data that says there’s really not an appreciable difference in performance. And those are performances measured by standardized tests. And there’s a lot of evidence that charter schools are doing, you know, two things. One is they’re trying to somehow dot the kids that are going to test as well, I think you see some of that. And also they are relentless about test prep. And so I think there’s nuance to these things. But we often just try to simplify it. And so there are charter schools out there, my film Most Likely to Succeed is about High Tech High in San Diego, a really spectacular school. It’s a charter school, it was started back in the days when there was a small number of charter schools formed to really prove out bold in different types of innovations. And I think most people would say there’s a role for that. That’s an important thing to have in our education system. Today, though, most charter schools are co-opted by people who are just going to try to grind out better test scores from their students and hold that up as a measure of success. And I think it’s such a shallow view of things that, you know, we just, again, we need to think harder when millions of kids lives around the lines with the policies and decisions and the massive amounts of funding we direct to schools, you know, are tied to things that just don’t reflect careful plot.

Will Brehm:  17:54
So on your trip, when I read your book, it is very, it’s much more optimistic than I actually imagine that would be before I started reading, and I want to get into some of that optimism about you know, there are many schools and systems in America that are basically doing everything different than what you’re just talking about before, you know, I mean, they’re not trapped in this old way of thinking. And there are many educators trying their hardest to innovate within the constraints of the system that exists. So can you tell me a little bit about, you know, the inspirational features of some of these schooling systems? And, you know, what do these really innovative schools look like that you visited and met the teachers and students who attended?

Ted Dintersmith:  18:43
Yeah, it’s so interesting because one of the challenges I faced in writing the book and I hope I met it is that the specifics of the things that blew me away, you know, when you looked at exactly what these kids were doing, there was no rhyme reason they were really quite different. But there were general principles that undergirded them that really made the difference between, you know, a kind of same old same old classroom where kids, you know, just kind of go through the motions and the occasional question is, will this be on the test, versus these classrooms, these schools, these even out of school settings, where kids are just racing ahead, you know, the learning is deep and retained and joyful, and you just sort of say, man, they have got this and which is why I found the whole trip so inspiring, and why I think and remain deeply hopeful that we’re going to make enormous progress in, you know, a relatively short period of time, because we don’t need to invent what works, I mean, it’s being done, you can find something really great in any school in the country, certainly, any community has its great proof points. And so we don’t need to travel to Finland to see better education, you know, we don’t need to travel to Shanghai, you know, I mean, it’s like it’s being done in the US, it is being done in lots and lots of places. And I think one of the things we need to do a better job of celebrating those successes, which is a goal of my book, and encouraging other people not to copy it, but to in their own way, embrace things that help their kids, you know, have better learning outcomes and be better prepared for a world that’s going to be full of opportunity for the people that are creative and bold and, you know, think outside of the box and curious and a bunch of other things that often get left behind in the process of school. But that world for somebody that’s just conditioned to jump through hoops for somebody that’s just good at memorizing content, replicating low level procedures that kid’s going to be in a world of hurt point forward. And so I think it’s that pattern. And that’s why intentionally wrote the book picking things from every state in the country to really reinforce the point that it’s not just in, you know, actually I found Palo Alto I found California to be not that innovative you know, but you can find these great things in places that many people don’t think of its innovative you know, that North Dakota is, you know, the country that Kentucky’s, you know, these there these really great people fighting in every single day to advance learning for their kids.

Will Brehm:  21:22
And do you think all of the different models and systems that you’ve seen that were inspiring? Are they scalable? I mean, you said don’t copy it, right. But how then can it be scaled even a whole school district or a whole state, you know, maybe not think about the national level?

Ted Dintersmith:  21:40
Yeah, and I write about districts. So, you know, I’ve got a great chapter, a great profile of what’s going on in Charlottesville, Virginia, great district level innovation, the state level New Hampshire, so not only can it I mean, it is being scaled but it’s being scaled at a meta level instead of at a prescriptive level. And so what the people that are really thinking carefully about this are doing is scaling a set of conditions instead of scaling, you know, a cookie cutter model of a particular classroom or school. And I think that’s really the difference between, you know, two decades or more of US education policy, which is decided on behalf of everybody across the country, you need to do X and so now we’re going to make you do it. And we will hold, you know, Title One funding out to sort of bribe you to make sure you, you know, march to the right tune on this versus the really informative, thoughtful leaders like, you know, Jenny Barry in New Hampshire who are looking at how do you put in place the conditions that led superintendents and principals and classroom teachers do the things they entered the profession to do? And how do you trust the teachers to lead the way in far more informed assessments. And so to me, that’s really incredibly encouraging, you know, where you look at a model that is not being scaled, as I say with you, Will, on October 17, study x in class y, which, I mean, who the heck wants to live in a world like that students don’t want to, teachers don’t want to, I mean, when we micromanage a curriculum, and say that all kids need to study the exact same thing for the exact same high stakes test, we really are undercutting any real chance of learning and proficiency development among kids, as opposed to putting in place a condition. So let people run with things, set their goals, really just knock it out of the park in terms of accomplishment.

Will Brehm:  23:44
So what are some of these conditions, right? Like, there must be some sort of, I don’t know, more abstract conditions that that might be able to be scaled to the middle level, like you said?

Ted Dintersmith:  23:55
I put it at the top of the list where it works. There’s a high degree of trust, you know, and if you, you know, it’s one of the things that happens, the bigger the bureaucracy, the more the machine moves away from trusting people to implementing policies and procedures to keep something bad from happening. Once you take trust out of the system, once you, you know, look at what we did our brilliance of holding teachers accountable to standardized test they didn’t believe in and I think, shouldn’t have believed in. You know, we’ve really, you know, cut the legs out from under, you know, what our schools are capable of doing, you know, so that’s the first thing I’d say trust. Second thing is having clarity about where you want to get with kids. And, you know, I talked about, you know, schools, districts, even states that are thinking very carefully about what are the, what are the competencies, what are the skill sets and mindsets you want your students to be developing and be clear at that level. And then working back from that, to understand what school experiences will lead to that. And for sure, the competencies that are going to matter going forward are not memorizing content, replicating low level procedures, following instructions. Machine intelligence is already far better at that than any person could ever be. But it is things like, you know, creative problem solving or aspects of citizenship or aspects of character like never giving up. And so the question is, then how do you embed those in the school experience but not fall prey to this cockamamie thing, like, we’re going to have standardized test of grid, you know, like, you know, like we would someday be here, we’re going to have standardized test of creativity, which honestly, kind of falls in the category of a profoundly bad idea. But, you know, and then really tying the student work to authentic accountability, are they producing things they’re proud of that beat some level of some standard, you know, if a kid is really going to be held accountable to their ability to do great work in language arts? How do you test that? Well, you know, it turns out, you know, and this is another thing that I think is so interesting is that, that if you don’t feel the need to roll all these things up into a particular number, it turns out there are easy ways to, you know, make sure the kids are held accountable. I mean, I often share the story that in 25 years in venture capital, I never want to ask somebody what their SAT scores were, what their grade point average was, but I always ask them to send me three or four writing samples of work that they’re proud of. I’ve learned so much, it didn’t take me five hours to read three or four writing samples. And I actually think that that approach said a lot about my successes as a venture guy is I can read their best examples in, you know, a few minutes, 5, 6, 7 minutes, I can read them. And if they were interesting, I could pick up the phone and talk to them and say, you know, of the things you sent me the third one really struck by interest. Tell me more about it, ask him some questions. If it was really their work. If they really mastered it, they had great answers. And so you think about something like the SAT essay question, right? I think this is so telling is that for 12 years, the College Board gave essay questions on the SAT, it’s actually something really useful to do, you know, kid has no prep, you know, no help from any adult, they can’t anticipate the topic, there’s a proctor you really get to see the kids on writing.

If they had just said for all applications, admissions officers, if you want to see an authentic example of the kids work without coaches, without parents, without tutors, click on this and you’ll see their essay. They didn’t do that. No, they said, we got to put a number on it. And so they ran these essays through these, you know, out of work people they’d hire off of Craigslist, who in interviews will say, I didn’t even read the work I just scan it, people have debunked it by taking great writers and having right sheer nonsense and getting a 750 to 800. If they just were, you know, five paragraphs, four to five sentences per paragraph, invert the sentence structure, introduce some vocabulary words that you know, that are unusual or challenging. Bingo 750 to 800.

And you realize like we obsess about rolling it up and do a few numbers when we’re really letting the easy measurement tail wag the learning dog. And so like New Hampshire, there are digital portfolios with these students, teachers lead the way in authentic assessments but they can be audited. So if your school board and your school is saying most of our kids are doing anywhere from well to outstanding in these areas, you can say I want to look at 10 at random portfolios, see for yourself, teachers cross check each other. To me, that’s far better in terms of getting kids to work on authentic, you know, projects and essays and you know, they value creativity, they really do align with developing skills that matter with a thoughtful assessment system or assessment framework as opposed to boom, high stakes test. They’re generating multiple choice or formulaic essays, somebody somehow turns them into a number. And then when they go up 0.7%, everybody says, great, when they go down 0.3%, everybody says the bottom is falling out. I mean, it really makes no sense.

Will Brehm:  29:26
America is sort of known maybe in a more negative way for having very different funding levels between schools based on these property taxes, and then also deeply segregated schools even after Brown versus the Board of Education. How do you think America is going to be? Or do you think America is going to be able to overcome some of these race and class divisions that we find in schooling?

Ted Dintersmith:  29:56
Yeah, it’s a huge issue. And I talked about being, you know, two different schools 10 miles apart, in Mississippi and, you know, it’s just night and day. One is in a building that anybody would probably say should be condemned. And the other one had, you know, just football fields, fields, plural, you know, practice fields, the main stadium I mean, it’s just most beautiful place in the world you can imagine and you find that all over America. I’m not picking on Mississippi is that it’s almost anywhere you go, you can, in 10, 15 miles you can find two school particular here, urban, suburban area, you can find two schools in close proximity with dramatically different amounts of budget, you know, funding is really this, you know, Rodriguez versus the San Antonio decision more than Brown versus the board that drove all that because local property taxes tell the story. And that’s a very difficult gap to get people to face up to, because the ones with the cloud, the ones with the power, you know, are the ones that you know, have their kids going to the better resource schools. And so it’s a huge issue. But then we take something that’s an enormous challenge. And we make it that much worse. Because if you look at the data on how much time kids in the under resourced schools spend doing worksheets. I mean that’s their day, they’re doing worksheets around the clock. They’re giving material that they have no interest in, material that we can’t really explain how it will ever matter them in life, you know, we block them from getting a high school degree because they can’t pass Algebra Two. I mean, you know, like, I got a PhD in math modeling from Stanford. And I’m not sure in my career I ever used anything from Algebra Two. I mean, you know, like, it’s just really astounding the things we pile up block kids from getting a high school degree, because nobody ever steps back and thinks about it. And so what I found, which gave me encouragement, actually, quite a bit of encouragement is when the heart and soul of school was far more aligned with challenges that were messy and ambiguous and connected with the real world where it wasn’t clear what you needed to do to get an A where you knew you were going to fail multiple times and had to just keep coming at it where you know, where it required real out of the box, you know, out of the box thinking that you know, again and again, people would tell me oh my gosh, you know, these underperforming kids, the at risk kids, the kids that we’ve sort of viewed as being not on the right side of the bell curve, they actually blow us away when they’re doing something they care about. And oftentimes a really rich, you know, micromanaged kids fall apart when they’re given that kind of ambiguity. I mean, they paralyzed, they’re paralyzed when they think they might fail. And so it suggests this view that we could better prepare all kids by connecting more of their school experience with taking on, you know, creating and carrying out initiatives that one way, shape or form make the world better that do have lots of ambiguity and lots of messiness, and lots of challenge with them, that’s actually better preparation for them later in life, and starts to make real progress and reversing that achievement gap.

Will Brehm:  33:14
So when I was finished reading your book, I kind of I was left feeling to be honest, that a lot of what you’re saying is about education is really for getting children prepared to enter a workforce that is going to look radically different in the future than it does now. And I just wanted to ask on your journey, did you experience or witness in a sense civics or citizenship, or the ability to learn how to be in the world? Right, like, so how does citizenship education fit within public schooling? I mean, is education only about jobs? Or is there more?

Ted Dintersmith:  33:52
Yeah, and you know, I do write a lot about school experiences, where kids are connected to the world and in different ways, making their world better. And in some of those ways, it’s directly aligned with the career path. And that’s important to me, I mean, I feel like we have given a kid an enormous gift if they come out of high school with the skill set to directly get a job that pays well above the minimum wage. And by the way, I think that’s doable for most kids in school in America today, and their K through 12 years.

And you know, so as opposed to spending the entirety of K through 12 on college ready, which means that the kid leaving high school really has to choose between a crap, a lousy minimum wage job or college, they pick college. You know, the math on that is pretty dreadful with, you know, only half finishing in six years or less. And then of those that finish, only half of those get any kind of a job we normally associate with a college degree. So it’s sort of like you start down the four year path, four-year degree path. And it’s one chance in four in a reasonable time frame, at least the kind of job everybody thinks a guarantees, and of those kids, no matter who they are, you know, 70% are taking on substantial amounts of student loan debt. And trying to pay off student loan debt, if you don’t have a very good job is a nightmare. And so, you know, I look at that. And so I feel like in a ruthless economy, and people need to try, I mean, if they google me, you know, like, I know a lot about innovation. People need to really recognize the fact that machine intelligence is just advancing at a blistering pace. And you know, I tell this story about the team that got funding at Google for the driverless car, which is now I want to say, maybe eight years ago and so they put their careers on hold, they made this big bet on driverless cars, you would think that they would be by and large really optimistic about being able to pull it off and the most optimistic person in the founding groups said that it would take at least 20 years before we’d have driverless cars. So you know, three years ago, driverless cars were three times safer than human driven cars. So if it’s been talked about today, it will be real in 10 years. I mean, it’s just will be real.

So that’s why I push so hard for making sure kids have an ability to plug in to the economy and make their way forward. I don’t think by the way, it’s either or, I don’t think it’s just and actually really celebrate and focus on schools that blend the academics with the career that learn about electricity by shadowing a master electrician instead of studying Coulomb’s law that captured documentaries, you know, the right docu.., produced documentaries to capture aspects of their local history. I think there’s a way to blend.

Experiences are really give kids a career lift with experiences that get them thinking about intellectual ideas. And that’s one of the great roles these teachers play is to say, oh, you’re interested in this, What about this, is sort of move that initial interest to something broader and to really get at the core thing of citizenship you know, I mean, what is it mean to be a citizen i mean, is it you know, AP US history, right? But everybody says that the gold standard for history classes in high school in America is AP US history. You know, it’s like less than a class period on the Constitution. I mean, the number of adults that can explain to you anything about the Constitution is, you know, like you’re lucky if it’s one in 50. And so we give lip service to preparing kids for citizenship, but I don’t think it’s happening. And yet if kids suddenly start proactively identifying opportunities, challenge problems in their community and learn that they can take their own talents and their ability to learn and their ability to just keep going at it with support from their community and they can make a positive difference in their world. That to me is the most important citizenship lesson we can deliver to our kids.

Will Brehm:  37:54
Well, Ted Dintersmith, thank you so much for joining Fresh Ed and best of luck promoting the book.

Ted Dintersmith:  37:58
Well, thank you, thanks for having me and I really love what you’re doing so I hope we get a chance to meet in Tokyo and I’m just cheering you on from afar.

Will Brehm:  38:06
Thank you so much

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