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Today we look at the role of education in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. My guest is Parfait Eloundou, professor and department chair of development sociology at Cornell University and member of the independent group of scientists writing the Global Sustainable Development report. I spoke with Parfait during a break at the UNESCO Global Education Meeting held in Brussels in early December.

In our conversation, Parfait calls wealth inequality, demographic changes, and parental choices the perfect storm of inequality. Education plays an important role in overcoming this social trifecta of disparity.

We also discuss the assumption of meritocracy in education and the lack of a class analysis in the SDGs.

Citation: Eloundou-Enyeque, Parfait, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 143, podcast audio, January 7, 2019. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/parfait-eloundou-enyegue/

Will Brehm  1:28
Parfait Elondou, welcome to Fresh Ed.

Parfait Eloundou  1:46
Thank You.

Will Brehm  1:48
So, here we are sitting in Brussels at the global education meeting and I just want to start by a very general question: How would you define sustainability? What does sustainability mean to you?

Parfait Eloundou  2:00
Oh, that’s a very interesting question. I mean, sustainability, I’d say is taking the long-term view on development and paying attention to a different kind of standard, not just immediate goals, but the extent to which different nations and the world as a whole can sustain whatever we are trying to accomplish. And you can think of sustainability along two dimensions. One is the environmental side, which is preserving the natural life systems. And the other is the social sustainability that you can keep keep societies in sync, in harmony, you can maintain the social contract, keep everyone engaged, keep institutions viable, and so forth.

Will Brehm  2:51
So what role does education play in the understanding of sustainability in terms of the environment, but also the social side, where does education fit into that picture?

Parfait Eloundou  3:02
Broadly speaking, you can think of education as an institution that is designed to transmit knowledge, values, and therefore to reproduce and to innovate. And so, education is therefore a mechanism for societies to project themselves into the future. By passing on the skills to the current generation, you give yourself as a society the means to survive, and to thrive as you move on. And so, there are different things that you want to pass on, and allow for change in innovation at the same time, and so these things include, again, as I said, the skills, the technology, the values, the knowledge, values of citizenship, values of stewardship, etc. And so, education is really vital as a mechanism for reproduction and for projecting yourself into the future.

Will Brehm  4:01
Is, in your opinion, education a panacea to some of these problems that face the world of climate change, or, you know, the decline of the social contract or of the rise of nationalism, or all the different social ills that we see, environmental ills that we see in the world is, in your opinion, is education, sort of this panacea?

Parfait Eloundou  4:19
Well, panacea is a strong word, but education is very much a powerful instrument. It cannot be a panacea, because the relative importance of it is going to vary from one place to the other, or the different forms of education, they’re going to vary, and so there will be times when education is the most potent forces for transmitting skills. But you can also have societies that are organized in ways that would pass on skills and technology and know-how, outside of a formal education system. But if you consider the today’s world, out of all of the possible institutions that you can rely on to advance the SDGs as we think of them now, I think education is really a very strong candidate and that’s why I was excited to be here and to see how not only we can revamp, revive rural education, but also to see how it links with other institutions and societies.

Will Brehm  5:25
You know, one of the things that I sometimes get confused about with the Sustainable Development Goals is, on the one hand, there is this effort to achieve economic growth as a way of taking more people out of poverty, increasing material benefits to people around the world. But a lot of that growth requires the burning of fossil fuels, and all sorts of extraction of materials from the natural Earth, which seems to counter the push towards environmental sustainability, which is another goal the SDGs, so to me, it’s very hard to keep those two ideas simultaneously in my mind.

Parfait Eloundou  6:09
And that’s to some extent, the creative tension that the world as a whole must negotiate. And scientists in particular play a role in helping everyone think about how these two competing or these seemingly competing objectives can come together and there is not actually two there are three. On the one hand, you want to foster growth, but you want to foster growth that is inclusive, and growth that is, let’s say, “green” in the sense that it preserves the environment and that’s not an easy thing to do. And so, I think the challenge is to find solutions that sort of thread the needle between these three competing objectives.

Will Brehm  6:50
Yeah, and I look at like, the protests in France right now, the yellow jacket protests and I just wonder, you know, growth doesn’t seem to be inclusive, there seems to be a lot of people, a huge amount of people around the world that are being sort of excluded from the growth in the economy that we do see. We are seeing economic growth around the world but only for a few people, it seems like that inequality is just really preventing the ability to have inclusive growth.

Parfait Eloundou  7:21
Yes, I think you’re right on two fronts. The first front is just what you said about the rise in inequality, which is a trend that is almost worldwide, especially when we talk about equality within countries. I think, historically, at least over the last 30 years, what has seemed to happen is that at the same time, as the inequality between countries has kind of shrunk a little, there are massive rise in inequality within the countries. And so that is really a challenge. The second point that you actually rightly point to is the fact that growth, or at least inequality can become an impediment to growth. You know, let’s say 50 years ago, the tendency was to assume that if we just grow the pie, if we just grow the economy, if we take care of GDP growth, everything else is going to fall in place. Then you moved into a regime in which well, people kind of acknowledge grudgingly that at the same time as you take care of growth, you also have to worry about inequality, but now we are reaching a stage where the relationship is actually sort of maybe running in the reverse direction. That is actually inequality may be a first-order question that needs to be addressed before you can even think about growth. Otherwise, you may not have the circumstances and conditions, the safety the social contract, the trust, the peace that you need to make any plans for sustainable growth.

Will Brehm  8:58
In your talk today, you mentioned issues of demography. How does demography fit into this issue of inequality?

Parfait Eloundou  9:06
Well, I think if you take demography in a very simple understanding of let’s say, the number of people and if you take the Bentham notion of the ultimate goal being achieving the greatest good for the many, it follows that demography is a great piece of the SDGs equation. Most of the indicators that you see are rates or ratios in which you have population as a denominator, so we want to increase literacy rate, you know, the fraction of people who can read and write vis-a-vis, the number of the total population, the malnutrition rates, mortality rates, all these are basically questions of access relative to the number of people. And so, you have to watch the two pieces of the equation that is the services that you provide, the goods that you produce, versus the people who are entering this system.

Will Brehm  10:09
So we just we’ve I mean, on the one hand, yes, we want to provide the services and better services like education and health and everything else the SDGs proposed, but at the same time, we need to think about that denominator about the total number of people in this world, and that this world, it would be unsustainable to have, say, 50 billion people living on this planet, for instance…

Parfait Eloundou  10:28
For instance, yes, and so but it’s not always, that is starting point. That is to maintain some kind of balance between the resources and people. But the denominator itself is also a little bit complicated, I think, out of the total population, you still need to consider questions about the composition and starting very simply with age composition. So, in a population where you have a majority of people who are extremely young, so as not to be able to work, it’s a different proposition, than if you have a larger share of the population in your adult working ages. And so, you have to consider composition, not just in terms of age, but also in terms of education. So, raising the levels of education and so forth. So, population is both the numbers but also the competition.

Will Brehm  11:23
Yeah, and different countries and regions would have different sort of composition. So, in Japan, for instance, where I live, the composition is heavily skewed towards older people, and they’re having problems of paying for social security systems, and the like. But of course, other regions sort of have a youth bulge and the question is, well, what do these children when they become adults do in this world? So, can you talk a little bit about maybe that sort of phenomenon and the youth bulge in some some regions of the world?

Parfait Eloundou  11:55
Yeah, you’re right, the notion of a youth bulge is basically the situation where you have a large proportion population that is in the young adult ages. And so just to, to stress that population in itself doesn’t give you the full picture. So, these young people have a potential strength in terms of the economy, if they are put to work. On the other hand, if they are not put to work, if they have very limited prospects or employment, they become a source of instability and insecurity. And so, population is always in that sort of contingent situation where its impact in a given society is going to depend on what you make of it.

Will Brehm  12:40
And so, what is the role of education in helping these countries with the youth bulge, allow the children move from school to work?

Parfait Eloundou  12:52
Very, very, very good question. I think the first role is to train them and train them well. And by this, you mean quality of education in the classic skills, but also increasingly embracing soft skills and new skills that are in demand in the labor market. Then education systems maybe called to actually take one step further and get involved in facilitating the transition from school to work. And this is a topic on which I’ve worked a little bit. And it’s, it’s quite a concern in many countries, in Latin American as well, in Sub Saharan Africa, because you have large cohorts of young people who have really completed the course of education but having a very difficult time finding employment. And so, there are many things that happened during that phase, to begin, you have a loss of skills, if you stay out of the labor force for a long time, you may not have the opportunity to acquire new skills, it’s a period of stress, if you’re looking for employment, and not really knowing when the next job is going to be available. It’s also a loss of identity in many ways because having lost identity or the label of a student, now you don’t really have any fallback identity to carry and so that can be a problem, not to mention all the risks that are involved associated with being idle. So, if you leave, you take young adults who leave school at 20-21, this is an age of risk and decision-making choices regarding your health, regarding your consumption, diet, and so forth. And so, making the right choices at this juncture of the life cycle is pretty important. And unless they’re well accompanied, I think it’s a very delicate period.

Will Brehm  14:53
Yeah, and it makes me think about sort of what we call today, the gig economy and how, you know, service sector is so massive in many parts of the world. And part of those services are basically taking “one-off” jobs to deliver food or to do an Uber or what do you know, whatever it is. And so, I just wonder how is the gig economy sort of impacting that work or that school to work transition?

Parfait Eloundou  15:23
Well, I think the flow of information, I mean, to be able to take advantage of that sort of fluid work environment, you have to have a very strong flow of information so that at least the young would-be workers know where the opportunities are and can actually try to compete. And that’s not always the case in the countries that are having the largest youth bulge. And so that’s one first issue. The other issue that I’d like to mention briefly, is, I think when you think about life trajectories and career trajectories, they’ve really been a great elevation of aspirations. I think today’s young adults are very creative, the world is their oyster. And so, they no longer peg their dreams to the local environment, I think they dream big and they dream wide and they dream far and so the restrictions to their local environment become even more restrictive, and or at least felt as being extremely restrictive,

Will Brehm  16:34
That must partly be a result of the very education system.

Parfait Eloundou  16:38

Will Brehm  16:39
I mean, it must, it creates sort of this aspirational, this sort of competitive sort of environment among youth thinking, how do I get ahead? And so, sometimes that might mean crossing borders or getting into that sort of global upper-class.

Parfait Eloundou  16:56
Yeah, in that global upper class. Which, again, is partly a fiction, and so the education system plays a part in terms of dealing these aspirations, but you also have the mass media, the Internet, and so you get exposed to sort of a virtual dimension of that global middle class, which, again, is partly fiction.

Will Brehm  17:21
Yeah, it seems like the issue of class is so important in thinking about sustainability. And I wonder, do you know, is UNESCO and the UN and all of the work that’s being done on SDGs, in your opinion, are they bringing in the issue of class well enough, like or is that something that needs a little bit more thought?

Parfait Eloundou  17:44
Yeah, definitely needs a lot more thought. To begin, class has both purely economic and then a cultural dimension. And so, if we just consider the economic dimension, that is just consider the different economic clusters or the difference in salary ranges, I think the discussions of class or the discussions of inequality have for long time shied away from relative disparities and relative deprivation, and just focus on absolute deprivation. In other words, don’t worry about the top 1%, don’t worry about the top 5%, just worry about the bottom 10%, and make sure that you have as few people as you can, that live under $1 a day or $2 a day, right. And so that has been part of the, I wouldn’t say obfuscation but at least part of the orientation. But for whatever it’s worth, there’s just a tremendous yearning for a better future for everybody. In all my years working in development, I have yet to see somebody who would be happy to live with $2 a day, you know, you get them to $2 or $5 a day, and they and they say, you know, that’s, it’s, I’m fine, I’m good, you can rest easy I’ll stay here for the rest of my life that I’ve never personally seen that. And so that, to me, brings the need to sort of confront head on the relative deprivation and the extent to which people can achieve mobility and the terms under which that mobility is achieved. The extent to which this so-called American dream, which is basically a universal dream, which is if you work hard enough, if you apply your talent, if you play by the rules, if you’re dedicated enough, you can aspire to a better future or your children can aspire to a better future. And so that dream is not deferred -I mean, different people have used different terms, you know- as the poet has said is a dream deferred some have seen it as hijacked, but it’s becoming less and less to attain. But what remains, however, and what is sometimes problematic, I don’t know, I mean, it can be seen as problematic is the illusion of a dream. I think, once you, if there was just a clear acknowledgement and a clear understanding, a shared understanding then I think the realistic expectation that you ought to have if you, you know, meet circumstances, A, B and C and D will be to reach let’s say, you know, this income level, and that’s the bar and we set a realistic bar, I think it might be a slightly better situation than to dangle this exceptional success stories that are interesting, or can be inspiring, but a very, very, very, very, very rare.

Will Brehm  21:04
Yeah, I mean, it sounds like what you’re saying, and correct me if I’m wrong, is that there is a sort of myth of meritocracy,

Parfait Eloundou  21:13
A myth of meritocracy and a myth of extreme mobility. It’s both, you know. There’s this misconception or over-estimation of how far you can go. And at the same time, as there’s a need to debate the terms and the ways in which people may experience that mobility.

Will Brehm  21:33
And I guess what sometimes frustrating about discourses on education is that there’s an assumed belief in meritocracy in the idea of education, that, you know, if you just try hard and you do well, and you increase your test scores, you will get better jobs, you will have better lives, you will, you will be rewarded with what you can receive or what you deserve, because of the hard work you that you put in. And sometimes I feel that that sort of assumption goes uncritiqued.

Parfait Eloundou  22:05
Yeah, you’re absolutely right. I mean, education tries, the education system by large tries its best, otherwise it wouldn’t really retain any credibility whatsoever. But it’s true, we have to recognize that this system is not sort of a perfect meritocracy. I mean, I remember even before I could consciously formulate these ideas as a seven-year-old growing up in Cameroon having very good grades, I had excellent grades throughout my entire curriculum but at the same time, knowing full well that I had many friends that I knew were smarter than me, but for some reason, didn’t get good grades. And so, to me, it was always a problem I said, I just could not understand reconcile the two: the belief in meritocracy, but also the awareness of my close friend’s intelligence. And so, I think the way you make sense of it is that the school system recognizes some forms of intelligence at the expense of others, sometimes those forms of intelligence that are recognized, maybe functional, i. e, for society, that is the skills or the talents that are most useful in society at a given point but sometimes it may not really be the case. I think, and so the real debate is, number one, to what extent what we learn in school is really what you need to learn to be a good worker, to be a good citizen, to be a good parent, to be a good neighbor, and B: to what extent the school system sort of set a level playing field in which everybody gets treated the same. I said before, that teachers and school systems really try hard I can say, because I’ve been a teacher for a long time, but at the same time, you have all these unconscious biases that creep in. I mean, if you see a student, you know, always toy these ideas, and you have to fight against that constantly. If you see a student wearing glasses and looking sort of poised and attentive during your classes, there’s a tendency to assume that they are a good student or smart student. On the other hand, if you see a student slumped in their chair, you may make different kind of inference. And it may well be that this is a super smart student who happened to just be bored by your class. And this is just one example. And you have all the other circumstances and baggage and disadvantages that students bring into the class. You know, the family environment where they come from, the backgrounds the neighborhoods they come from, the resources or lack of that they bring to the classroom make it difficult for schools to be a perfect meritocracy. And so how to fix that is quite a challenge.

Will Brehm  25:05
Well, Parfait Eloundou, we’ll have to answer that question another time. So, thank you very much for joining FreshEd. It really was a pleasure to talk.

Parfait Eloundou  25:12
Oh, it was a pleasure, the pleasure was all mine.

Will Brehm 1:28
Parfait Elondou, bienvenue à Fresh Ed.

Parfait Eloundou 1:46

Will Brehm 1:48
Donc, nous sommes ici à Bruxelles, à la réunion sur l’éducation mondiale et je voudrais juste démarrer par une question très générale : Comment définiriez-vous la durabilité ? Que signifie la durabilité pour vous ?

Parfait Eloundou 2:00
Oh, c’est une question très pertinente. Je veux dire, la durabilité, je dirais que c’est le fait de prendre le développement dans une perspective à long terme et de prêter attention à un type différent de norme, pas seulement aux objectifs immédiats, mais à la mesure dans laquelle les différentes nations et le monde dans son ensemble peuvent soutenir ce que nous essayons d’accomplir. Et vous pouvez envisager la durabilité selon deux dimensions. La première est l’aspect environnemental, qui consiste à conserver les systèmes de vie naturels. Et l’autre est la durabilité sociale, qui permet de maintenir les sociétés en phase et en harmonie, de maintenir le contrat social, de maintenir l’engagement de chacun, de maintenir la viabilité des institutions, etc.

Will Brehm 2:51
Quel rôle joue donc l’éducation dans la compréhension de la durabilité en termes d’environnement, mais aussi de l’aspect social, où l’éducation s’inscrit-elle dans ce tableau ?

Parfait Eloundou 3:02
De manière générale, on peut concevoir l’éducation comme une institution destinée à véhiculer des connaissances, des valeurs, et donc à se reproduire et à innover. Et donc, l’éducation est un mécanisme permettant aux sociétés de se projeter dans l’avenir. En transmettant les compétences à la génération actuelle, vous vous donnez, en tant que société, les moyens de survivre et de vous épanouir tout en avançant. Il y a donc différentes choses que vous voulez transmettre et qui permettent en même temps de modifier l’innovation, et ces choses comprennent donc, encore une fois, comme je l’ai dit, les compétences, la technologie, les valeurs, les connaissances, les valeurs de la citoyenneté, les valeurs de l’intendance, etc. Ainsi, l’éducation est vraiment vitale en tant que mécanisme de reproduction et de projection dans l’avenir.

Will Brehm 4:01
L’éducation est-elle, à votre avis, la solution à certains des problèmes auxquels est confronté le monde du changement climatique, ou, vous savez, le déclin du contrat social ou la montée du nationalisme, ou tous les différents maux sociaux que nous voyons, les maux environnementaux que nous voyons dans le monde, est, à votre avis, l’éducation, une sorte de panacée?

Parfait Eloundou 4:19
Eh bien, la solution est un mot fort, mais l’éducation est un instrument très efficace. Elle ne peut pas être une solution miracle, car son efficacité relative varie d’un endroit à l’autre, et les différentes formes d’éducation varient, et il y aura donc des moments où l’éducation sera la force la plus efficace pour transmettre des compétences. Mais vous pouvez aussi avoir des sociétés qui sont structurées de manière à transmettre des compétences, de la technologie et du savoir-faire, en dehors d’un système d’éducation formel. Mais si vous considérez le monde d’aujourd’hui, parmi toutes les institutions possibles sur lesquelles vous pouvez compter pour faire progresser les SDG comme nous le pensons maintenant, je pense que l’éducation est vraiment un candidat très fort et c’est pourquoi j’étais enthousiaste d’être ici et de voir comment non seulement nous pouvons rénover, relancer l’éducation rurale, mais aussi de voir comment elle s’articule avec d’autres institutions et sociétés.

Will Brehm 5:25
Vous savez, l’une des choses que je confonds parfois avec les buts du développement durable, c’est que, d’une part, il y a cet effort pour atteindre la croissance économique comme moyen de sortir plus de gens de la pauvreté, d’augmenter les avantages matériels pour les gens du monde entier. Mais une grande partie de cette croissance nécessite la combustion de combustibles fossiles et toutes sortes d’extraction de matériaux de la terre naturelle, ce qui semble aller à l’encontre de la poussée vers la durabilité environnementale, qui est un autre but des SDG, donc pour moi, il est très difficile de conserver ces deux idées simultanément dans mon esprit.

Parfait Eloundou 6:09
Et c’est dans une certaine mesure, la tension créative que le monde dans son ensemble doit gérer. Et les scientifiques en particulier jouent un rôle en aidant tout le monde à penser à la façon dont ces deux objectifs concurrentiels ou apparemment concurrents peuvent se rejoindre et qu’il n’y en a pas deux en fait, mais trois. D’une part, vous voulez encourager la croissance, mais vous voulez encourager une croissance qui est inclusive, et une croissance qui est, disons, “verte” dans le sens où elle préserve l’environnement et ce n’est pas une chose facile à faire. Je crois donc que le défi consiste à trouver des solutions qui permettent de faire le lien entre ces trois objectifs concurrents.

Will Brehm 6:50
Oui, et je regarde les manifestations en France en ce moment, les manifestations de la veste jaune et je me demande, vous savez, la croissance ne paraît pas être inclusive, il semble y avoir beaucoup de gens, un grand nombre de gens dans le monde qui sont en quelque sorte exclus de la croissance de l’économie que nous voyons. Nous constatons une croissance économique dans le monde entier, mais pour quelques personnes seulement, il semblerait que l’inégalité empêche vraiment la capacité d’avoir une croissance inclusive.

Parfait Eloundou 7:21
Oui, je crois que vous avez raison sur deux fronts. Le premier front, c’est justement ce que vous avez dit sur l’augmentation des inégalités, qui est une tendance presque mondiale, surtout quand on parle d’égalité à l’intérieur des pays. Je pense qu’historiquement, du moins au cours des 30 dernières années, ce qui paraît se produire, c’est que dans le même temps, alors que l’inégalité entre les pays a en quelque sorte diminué, il y a une augmentation massive de l’inégalité à l’intérieur des pays. C’est donc un véritable défi. Le deuxième point que vous mentionnez à juste titre est le fait que la croissance, ou du moins l’inégalité, peut devenir un obstacle à la croissance. Vous savez, disons qu’il y a 50 ans, la tendance était de penser que si nous nous contentons de faire croître la tarte, si nous nous contentons de faire croître l’économie, si nous nous occupons de la croissance du PIB, tout le reste va se mettre en place. Puis on est passé à un régime dans lequel les gens reconnaissent à contrecœur qu’en même temps qu’on s’occupe de la croissance, il faut aussi s’inquiéter des inégalités, mais nous arrivons maintenant à un stade où la relation va peut-être dans le sens inverse. En fait, l’inégalité est peut-être une question de premier ordre qu’il faut régler avant même de penser à la croissance. Sinon, vous risquez de ne pas avoir les circonstances et les conditions, la sécurité, le contrat social, la confiance, la paix dont vous avez besoin pour planifier une croissance durable.

Will Brehm  8:58
Dans votre discours d’aujourd’hui, vous avez évoqué les questions de démographie. Comment la démographie s’inscrit-elle dans cette question de l’inégalité?

Parfait Eloundou 9:06
Eh bien, je crois que si vous prenez la démographie dans une compréhension très simple de disons, le nombre de personnes et si vous prenez la notion Bentham du but ultime étant d’atteindre le plus grand bien pour le plus grand nombre, il s’ensuit que la démographie est un grand morceau de l’équation des SDG. La plupart des indicateurs que vous voyez sont des taux ou des ratios dont le dénominateur est la population, donc nous voulons accroître le taux d’alphabétisation, vous savez, la fraction de personnes qui savent lire et écrire par rapport au nombre de la population totale, les taux de malnutrition, les taux de mortalité, tous ces éléments sont essentiellement des questions d’accès par rapport au nombre de personnes. Et donc, vous devez surveiller les deux éléments de l’équation qui sont les services que vous proposez, les biens que vous produisez, par rapport aux personnes qui entrent dans ce système.

Will Brehm 10:09
Donc nous avons juste, je veux dire, d’une part, oui, nous voulons offrir les services et de meilleurs services comme l’éducation et la santé et tout le reste que les SDG ont suggéré, mais en même temps, nous devons repenser à ce dénominateur concernant le nombre total de personnes dans ce monde, et que ce monde, il serait insupportable d’avoir, disons, 50 milliards de personnes vivant sur cette planète, par exemple…

Parfait Eloundou 10:28
Par exemple, oui, et donc mais ce n’est pas toujours, c’est le point de départ. C’est pour conserver une sorte d’équilibre entre les ressources et les personnes. Mais le dénominateur lui-même est aussi un peu difficile, je pense, sur la population totale, il faut encore envisager des questions de composition et débuter très simplement avec la composition par âge. Ainsi, dans une population où la majorité des personnes sont extrêmement jeunes, afin de ne pas pouvoir travailler, c’est une proposition différente que si vous avez une plus grande part de la population en âge de travailler. Et donc, vous devez considérer la composition, non seulement en termes d’âge, mais aussi en termes d’éducation. Il faut donc élever les niveaux d’éducation, etc. Ainsi, la population est à la fois un chiffre et une concurrence.

Will Brehm 11:23
Oui, et différents pays et régions auraient une composition différente. Au Japon, par exemple, où je vis, la composition de la population est largement orientée vers les personnes âgées, et elles ont des problèmes pour payer les systèmes de sécurité sociale, etc. Mais bien sûr, d’autres régions ont une sorte d’explosion de la jeunesse et la question est de savoir ce que font ces enfants quand ils deviennent adultes dans ce monde. Pouvez-vous nous parler un peu de ce genre de phénomène et de l’explosion de la jeunesse dans certaines régions du monde?

Parfait Eloundou  11:55
Oui, vous avez raison, la notion d’explosion de la jeunesse est essentiellement la situation dans laquelle vous avez une grande proportion de la population qui est en âge de devenir un jeune adulte. Et donc, juste pour souligner que la population en elle-même ne vous donne pas une image complète. Ces jeunes ont donc une force potentielle en termes d’économie, s’ils sont mis au travail. D’un autre côté, s’ils ne sont pas mis au travail, s’ils ont des perspectives ou un emploi très limités, ils deviennent une source d’instabilité et d’insécurité. Ainsi, la population est toujours dans ce genre de situation incertaine où son impact dans une société donnée va dépendre de ce que vous en faites.

Will Brehm 12:40
Et donc, quel est le rôle de l’éducation pour aider ces pays à faire face à l’explosion de la jeunesse, à permettre aux enfants de passer de l’école au travail ?

Parfait Eloundou 12:52
Très, très, très bonne question. Je pense que le premier rôle est de les former et de bien les former. Et par là, vous voulez dire la qualité de l’éducation dans les compétences classiques, mais aussi de plus en plus dans les compétences non techniques et les nouvelles compétences qui sont demandées sur le marché du travail. Les systèmes d’éducation sont alors peut-être appelés à faire un pas de plus et à s’impliquer pour favoriser la transition entre l’école et le travail. Et c’est un sujet sur lequel j’ai un peu travaillé. Et c’est une préoccupation dans de nombreux pays, en Amérique latine aussi, en Afrique subsaharienne, parce qu’il y a de grandes cohortes de jeunes qui ont vraiment terminé leurs études mais qui ont beaucoup de mal à trouver un emploi. Et donc, il y a beaucoup de choses qui se passent pendant cette phase, pour débuter, vous avez une perte de compétences, si vous restez hors de la population active pendant une longue période, vous n’avez peut-être pas la possibilité d’acquérir de nouvelles compétences, c’est une période de stress, si vous cherchez un emploi, et vous ne savez pas vraiment quand le prochain emploi sera disponible. C’est aussi une perte d’identité à bien des égards, car après avoir perdu votre identité ou l’étiquette d’étudiant, vous n’avez plus vraiment d’identité de repli à porter et cela peut donc être un problème, sans parler de tous les risques liés à l’oisiveté. Donc, si vous partez, vous prenez les jeunes adultes qui quittent l’école à 20-21 ans, c’est un âge de risque et de choix de décision concernant votre santé, concernant votre consommation, votre alimentation, etc. Il est donc très important de faire les bons choix à ce stade du cycle de vie. Et s’ils ne sont pas bien accompagnés, je pense que c’est une période très délicate.

Will Brehm  14:53
Oui, et cela me fait penser à ce que nous appelons aujourd’hui l’économie du spectacle et à la façon dont, vous savez, le secteur des services est si important dans de nombreuses régions du monde. Et une partie de ces services consiste essentiellement à prendre des emplois “ponctuels” pour distribuer de la nourriture ou pour faire un Uber ou quoi que ce soit d’autre. Et donc, je me demande comment l’économie du spectacle a un impact sur ce travail ou sur la transition de l’école au travail ?

Parfait Eloundou 15:23
Eh bien, je crois que le flux d’informations, je veux dire, pour pouvoir profiter de ce genre d’environnement de travail fluide, il faut avoir un flux d’informations très fort afin qu’au moins les jeunes travailleurs potentiels sachent où sont les opportunités et puissent réellement tenter d’être compétitifs. Et ce n’est pas toujours le cas dans les pays qui connaissent la plus forte explosion de la jeunesse. C’est donc une première question. L’autre question que j’aimerais aborder brièvement, c’est que je pense que lorsque vous pensez aux trajectoires de vie et de carrière, elles ont vraiment été une grande élévation des aspirations. Je pense que les jeunes adultes d’aujourd’hui sont très créatifs, le monde est leur huître. Et donc, ils ne rattachent plus leurs rêves à l’environnement local, je pense qu’ils rêvent grand et ils rêvent large et ils rêvent loin et donc les restrictions à leur environnement local deviennent encore plus restrictives, et ou du moins ressenties comme étant extrêmement restrictives,

Will Brehm 16:34
Cela doit être en partie le résultat du système éducatif lui-même.

Parfait Eloundou 16:38

Will Brehm 16:39
Je veux dire, ça doit, ça crée une sorte d’aspiration, une sorte d’environnement compétitif chez les jeunes qui pensent, comment puis-je progresser ? Et donc, parfois, cela peut impliquer de traverser des frontières ou d’entrer dans cette sorte de classe supérieure mondiale.

Parfait Eloundou 16:56
Oui, dans cette classe supérieure mondiale. Le système éducatif joue un rôle dans la concrétisation de ces aspirations, mais il y a aussi les médias, l’Internet, et on est exposé à une dimension virtuelle de cette classe moyenne mondiale, qui est en partie une fiction.

Will Brehm 17:21
Oui, il paraît que la question de la classe est très significative dans la réflexion sur la durabilité. Et je me demande, savez-vous si l’UNESCO et l’ONU et tout le travail qui est fait sur les SDG, à votre avis, fournissent suffisamment la question de la classe, comme ou est-ce quelque chose qui a besoin d’être un peu plus réfléchi ?

Parfait Eloundou 17:44
Oui, il faut vraiment penser un peu plus. Pour commencer, la classe a une dimension à la fois purement économique et ensuite culturelle. Et donc, si l’on considère seulement la dimension économique, c’est-à-dire si l’on considère seulement les différents pôles économiques ou la différence des échelles de salaires, je crois que les discussions de classe ou les discussions sur l’inégalité ont longtemps évité les disparités relatives et les privations relatives, et se sont juste concentrées sur les privations absolues. En d’autres termes, ne vous préoccupez pas du 1% supérieur, ne vous préoccupez pas des 5% supérieurs, préoccupez-vous seulement des 10% inférieurs, et assurez-vous que vous avez le moins de personnes possible, qui vivent avec moins d’un dollar par jour ou deux dollars par jour, c’est vrai. Cela a donc fait partie, je ne dirais pas de l’obscurcissement, mais au moins d’une partie de l’orientation. Mais quoi qu’il en soit, il y a un énorme désir d’un meilleur avenir pour tout le monde. Pendant toutes mes années de travail dans le développement, je n’ai jamais vu quelqu’un qui serait heureux de vivre avec 2 $ par jour, vous savez, vous leur donnez 2 ou 5 $ par jour, et ils disent, vous savez, c’est, c’est, je vais bien, je vais bien, vous pouvez vous reposer, je vais rester ici pour le reste de ma vie que je n’ai jamais vu personnellement. Et donc, pour moi, cela amène le besoin de faire face à la privation relative et à la mesure dans laquelle les gens peuvent atteindre la mobilité et les conditions dans lesquelles cette mobilité est atteinte. La mesure dans laquelle ce soi-disant rêve américain, qui est fondamentalement un rêve universel, c’est-à-dire si vous travaillez suffisamment, si vous appliquez votre talent, si vous respectez les règles, si vous êtes suffisamment dévoué, vous pouvez aspirer à un avenir meilleur ou vos enfants peuvent aspirer à un avenir meilleur. Et donc ce rêve n’est pas différé- je veux dire, différentes personnes ont utilisé différents termes, vous savez – comme l’a dit le poète est un rêve différé ; certains l’ont vu comme détourné, mais il devient de moins en moins à atteindre. Mais ce qui reste, cependant, et ce qui est parfois problématique, je ne sais pas, je veux dire, on peut le considérer comme problématique, c’est l’illusion d’un rêve. Je pense qu’une fois que vous, s’il y avait juste une reconnaissance claire et une compréhension claire, une compréhension partagée, alors je pense que l’attente réaliste que vous devriez avoir si vous, vous savez, rencontrez les circonstances, A, B et C et D sera d’atteindre disons, vous savez, ce niveau de revenu, et c’est la barre et nous fixons une barre réaliste, je crois que ce serait peut-être une situation légèrement meilleure que de brandir ces réussites exceptionnelles qui sont intéressantes, ou peuvent être inspirantes, mais une très, très, très, très, très, très rare.

Will Brehm  21:04
Oui, je veux dire, on dirait que ce que vous dites, et rectifiez-moi si je me trompe, c’est qu’il existe une sorte de mythe de la méritocratie,

Parfait Eloundou 21:13
Un mythe de la méritocratie et un mythe de l’extrême mobilité. C’est les deux. Il y a cette idée fausse ou cette surestimation de la distance que l’on peut parcourir. Et en même temps, il est indispensable de débattre des conditions et des modalités de cette mobilité.

Will Brehm 21:33
Et je présume que ce qui est parfois frustrant dans les discours sur l’éducation, c’est qu’il y a une croyance supposée en la méritocratie dans l’idée de l’éducation, que, vous savez, si vous faites des efforts et que vous réussissez, et que vous améliorez vos résultats aux tests, vous aurez de meilleurs emplois, vous aurez de meilleures vies, vous serez, vous serez récompensé avec ce que vous pouvez recevoir ou ce que vous méritez, grâce au dur labeur que vous avez fourni. Et parfois, j’ai l’impression que ce genre d’hypothèse n’est pas critiqué.

Parfait Eloundou 22:05
Oui, vous avez tout à fait raison. Je veux dire que l’éducation essaie, le système éducatif fait de son mieux, sinon il ne serait pas vraiment crédible. Mais c’est vrai, il faut reconnaître que ce système n’est pas une sorte de méritocratie parfaite. Je veux dire, je me rappelle qu’avant même que je puisse consciemment exprimer ces idées, alors que j’avais sept ans et que je grandissais au Cameroun avec de très bonnes notes, j’avais d’excellentes notes tout au long de mon cursus, mais en même temps, sachant très bien que j’avais beaucoup d’amis que je savais plus malins que moi, mais qui, pour une raison quelconque, n’avaient pas de bonnes notes. Et donc, pour moi, c’était toujours un problème que je disais, je ne pouvais pas comprendre de concilier les deux : la croyance en la méritocratie, mais aussi la conscience de l’intelligence de mon ami proche. Et donc, je pense que la façon dont vous donnez un sens à tout cela, c’est que le système scolaire reconnaît certaines formes d’intelligence au dépens d’autres, parfois ces formes d’intelligence qui sont reconnues, peut-être fonctionnelles, c’est-à-dire, pour la société, ce sont les compétences ou les talents qui sont les plus utiles dans la société à un moment donné mais parfois ce n’est pas vraiment le cas. Je pense, et donc le vrai débat est, premièrement, dans quelle mesure ce que nous apprenons à l’école est vraiment ce que vous devez apprendre pour être un bon travailleur, un bon citoyen, un bon parent, un bon voisin, et B : dans quelle mesure le système scolaire établit en quelque sorte un terrain d’égalité dans lequel tout le monde est traité de la même manière. J’ai déjà dit que les enseignants et les systèmes scolaires font de gros efforts, je peux le dire, parce que je suis enseignant depuis longtemps, mais en même temps, vous avez tous ces préjugés inconscients qui s’insinuent. Je veux dire que si vous voyez un élève, vous savez, vous jouez toujours avec ces idées, et vous devez constamment vous battre contre cela. Si vous voyez un élève qui porte des lunettes et qui a l’air plutôt posé et attentif pendant vos cours, vous avez tendance à croire qu’il est un bon élève ou un élève intelligent. D’un autre côté, si vous voyez un élève affalé sur sa chaise, vous pouvez en tirer des conclusions différentes. Et il se peut très bien que ce soit un élève super intelligent qui se contente de s’ennuyer dans votre classe. Et ce n’est qu’un exemple parmi d’autres. Et vous avez toutes les autres circonstances et tous les autres bagages et désavantages que les élèves apportent dans la classe. Vous savez, l’environnement familial d’où ils viennent, les origines des quartiers dont ils sont issus, les ressources ou le manque de ressources qu’ils apportent dans la classe font qu’il est difficile pour les écoles d’être une méritocratie parfaite. Et donc, comment remédier à cela est tout un défi.

Will Brehm 25:05
Eh bien, Parfait Eloundou, nous devrons répondre à cette question une autre fois. Donc, merci beaucoup d’avoir rejoint FreshEd. C’était vraiment un plaisir de parler.

Parfait Eloundou  25:12
Oh, c’était un plaisir, le plaisir était tout à moi.

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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!

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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
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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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Today we dive into the nightmare that is the growing tide of fascism worldwide and the prospects and perils this nightmare holds for public education.

My guest today is the renowned scholar, Henry Giroux.  He has a new book entitled American Nightmare: Facing the challenge of Fascism, which will be published in May.

Henry Giroux is the McMaster University Professor for Scholarship in the Public Interest and the Paulo Freire Distinguished Scholar in Critical Pedagogy.  He has written over 60 books and is considered one of the top educational thinkers today.

Citation: Giroux, Henry, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 106, podcast audio, March 5, 2018. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/giroux/

Will Brehm 1:38
Henry Giroux, welcome to FreshEd.

Henry Giroux 1:41
Nice, Will. Wonderful to be on.

Will Brehm 1:43
You’ve written a new book called American Nightmare: Facing the Challenge of Fascism. Before getting into that book and America and what’s going on currently in America vis-a-vis public education, I just want to ask you, what went through your mind in November 2016 when you realized that Donald Trump won the presidency?

Henry Giroux 2:08
Well, I think what went through my mind was that there’s been a long series of assaults on American democracy and the United States, back especially to the 1970s, when the social contract was under siege and was appearing to collapse. And a discourse of demonization, racism, Islamophobia and objectification and commodification and privatization seemed to take over the country. I thought that Trump was the endpoint of this; he’s sort of the Frankenstein monster that was let out of the room. And I thought it was an incredible tragedy for democracy. And I thought that, unlike some other leftists, I thought that the consequences would be drastic once he assumed office. And I think in many ways, that’s proven to be right.

Will Brehm 2:57
In what ways has it proven to be right over the last year?

Henry Giroux 3:00
Well, I think all you have to do is look at the policies that he’s attempted to implement and the language that he’s used to define his mode of governance. I mean, this is a guy who basically has embraced neo-Nazis, ultra-nationalism. He’s a serial liar. He’s obviously done everything he can to promote an anti-immigration logic. He’s threatened to expel the whole range of young people – 800,000 young people – called dreamers from the United States. He’s lowered taxes for the ultra-rich to the point where that will take an enormous toll on public services and public goods. He’s putting into place a series of people who are basically either inept, or utterly anti-democratic, to run institutions such as the EPA – the Environmental Protection Agency – or a whole range of other institutions, in which they are diametrically opposed to the interest that those institutions represent. Because they’re institutions that suggest that government has a responsibility to basically work for the people. They don’t believe that; they believe that government should only basically serve the financial elite and the financial and economic interest, and that freedom is basically about deregulating business and allowing the corporate elite to run wild. So that’s just a series, among other things, of things that he’s done. But I think that he’s put into place a notion of governance that suggests that the United States is no longer a democracy; that we’re on the road to a kind of neofascism dressed up in the American flag, and it’s very frightening.

Will Brehm 4:43
And so, this is this fascism that you talk about in your new book?

Henry Giroux 4:47
This is the fascism that I talk about, whether we’re talking about the ultra-nationalism that he promotes. Whether we’re talking about the racism, the xenophobia. Whether we’re talking about the logic of disposability, the racial cleansing that is behind many of his policies. The embrace of a corporate elite that replaces the political state with a corporate state. All of these things have echoes of this glorification of national greatness. The claim that he’s the only one who can save America. And we’ve heard this language before. And we heard it in the 1930s. And we heard it in the 1940s. And we heard it later in the 1970s in Latin America. This is a language that suggests that the enemy of politics is democracy. And I think that Trump embodies that language and is basically at work again, in promoting it.

Will Brehm 5:39
And do you see some of what Trump embodies being found in other parts of the world? Just recently, Xi Jinping has … it looks like he’s going to be in power indefinitely in China. And Duterte in the Philippines. And I just read an article about a new ultraright party in Italy that is glorifying Mussolini. So, is this fascist tendency, this ultraright, pronational tendency being found worldwide? And if so, what’s causing it? Why do we see this resurgence of right wing, ultranationalist parties emerging worldwide?

Henry Giroux 6:21
I think there are a couple of things at work. I think that, first of all, what we’re seeing is the emergence of what is called illiberal democracy, the term coined, of course, in Hungary. And I think in many ways, Trump is enabling this, because he’s aligned himself, and actually has celebrated many of these fascists, in ways to suggest that this kind of politics in the 21st century is totally acceptable. So I think in some ways, the most powerful country in the world, in sort of, in many ways, reached out and began to legitimate an anti-immigration and Islamophobic, a racist kind of discourse that is linked to questions of racial purity, and racial cleansing, that has opened up the possibility for many of these countries to basically embrace this logic. And I think there are other issues. Each country has its own issue, but I think the inability of these countries to deal with questions of compassion and justice, these are countries that in many ways have been governed by a neoliberal logic that really has no respect whatsoever for notions of community. No respect whatsoever for notions of compassion. No respect whatsoever for what it means to embrace in a kind of loving way, the possibility of the other. This is a logic that elevates self-interest, nationalism, violence, and the spectacle of consumption to the highest level of acceptance. And I think that what flows out of this in the face of particular kinds of crises that serve as a thread running through all of these countries, is a basic fear of what we might call “the other”, “the stranger”. Couple that with the fact that you have a global capitalism at work that in many ways has taken power away from these countries, so that the only thing that they have left is an appeal to cultural sovereignty. Is that appeal to cultural nationalism. Because basically, you have a ruling elite now that is global. It’s not rooted in nation states. It flows. Politics is based in nation states, and power is global. So, you have an enormous paradigm change in the redefinition of politics itself. And I think that one of the things that happens when you see this is that the states, as the social state collapses, as social goods and social provisions dry up, you have the rise of the punishing state. Because the only thing left for the states to really be able to do this is basically to criminalize social problems and do what they can basically become repressive states. Generally, they can exercise power. That way they can survive. So, I think all of these threads are really common for many of these states, many of these countries.

Will Brehm 9:09
So, you call Trump the endpoint, in a way, in this nightmare that is American fascism. And of course, it has these roots in racism and neoliberalism. It would make sense that the roots here also go through the Democratic Party, that this is not simply a Republican issue in the American context. Would you agree with that?

Henry Giroux 9:33
Yes, I do. I think there are two issues to really understand here. I think that both parties are basically wedded to the financial elite, as we well know. I mean, both parties are funded by the financial elite. On one level, you’ve got a Democratic Party that takes on a sort of liberal discourse, but never challenges in any fundamental way, the massive inequality, or the financialization of the economy, or the rule by bankers and hedge fund managers. They don’t challenge that; they’re in bed with that stuff. On the other hand, you have a Republican Party that now is filled with people who also are wedded to the financial elite. But this is a party that’s been taken over by extremists. They’re not just wedded to the financial elite; they’re wedded to something more than that. They’re wedded to an ultra-nationalism, a sort of notion that white Christianity is the official religion of the United States. They’re wedded to the notion of racial cleansing. They basically have accelerated all of the great tragedies and crimes of the past in ways in which they’re no longer coated. They’ve given them a new visibility. So, they’re not apologetic about their racism. They’re not apologetic about Islamophobia. They’re not apologetic about attacking young people. They’re not apologetic about making short term investments rather than long term investments. And they’re not apologetic about it anyway, about destroying the welfare state and the social contract. But what both parties share is they really believe that capitalism and democracy are the same thing, and that capitalism and democracy is basically something run by the financial elite, by the ruling elite, the 1%. Neither party has any trouble with that argument. There are factions within the Democratic Party that will challenge that – Bernie Sanders and so forth and so on – but they’re marginal and they don’t belong in the Democratic Party. The biggest mistake Sanders ever made was not starting a third party.

Will Brehm 11:29
So, in your opinion, how are capitalism and democracy separate?

Henry Giroux 11:33
They’re separate in the sense that you can’t have democracy when you have a system that promotes massive inequalities in wealth and power; it just doesn’t work. It seems to me to have that degree of inequality, and to support it in every way, to allow all the commanding institutions of a country to be controlled by a handful of elites and corporations, is the antithesis of democracy. Democracy means people have power. They have power to shape the conditions under which they live their lives. They have some power over the economy. They have access, they have social provisions, they have political rights, personal rights, social rights. That doesn’t happen under capitalism. Capitalism is a ruinous system that basically is organized around the production of profit at the expense of human need. That’s not a formula for democracy.

Will Brehm 12:25
And so, what would a social contract look like in your opinion, within this?

Henry Giroux 12:29
At the very least, a social contract would guarantee political rights. But it would guarantee political rights and individual rights along with social rights, meaning that you would have economic rights, you would have a social wage. You would massively limit massive degrees of inequality. It would mean that people would have access to higher education, to health care. All the things that become central to how we live out our sense of agency and make it possible would be part of the social contract and the public good. When you don’t have that, you don’t have a democracy. And it seems to be the degree to which you want to call it socialism as a form of social democracy, or you want to call it socialism in ways that simply allow the most important structures, infrastructures, resources, of a society to be a government-controlled phenomena, that’s a mix that we have to figure out. But I think the bottom line is, you have to realize that in a democracy, the first question you have to raise is, “What does it mean to provide the conditions for people to have a sense of agency, and not merely to be able to survive?” So that their capacities can be developed in a way in which they have access to do other things simply than struggle to eat, simply to struggle in the midst of poverty, simply to struggle for meaningful work, simply to struggle to find a way to pay massive loans in order to get a decent education, simply not to struggle to have decent health care. These are central questions that are not just simply about power, they’re about the capacity to live. To live with dignity.

Will Brehm 14:10
And so, let’s shift to education here. In your last book, called ‘The Public in Peril’, you use the term … you said, you wanted to see “the political more pedagogical”. What did you mean by this?

Henry Giroux 14:23
What I mean by that is that one of the things that has disturbed me, and one of the things I’ve written about for many years, and I’m not the first, although I think probably I’ve developed it more repeatedly than most people, is that education is central to politics. I mean, you can’t talk about politics if you can’t talk about consciousness. If you can’t talk about changing the way people think, if you can’t talk about engaging them in a dialogue with a vocabulary in which they can invest themselves, identify with, and be able to recognize the conditions under which they find themselves so that they can either learn how to change those conditions, or to understand what those conditions mean in terms of their own sense of oppression. And I think that all too often, we equate domination with simply institutions, and we say that the only way you can talk about power is to talk about economic structures. But I’m sorry, as important as economics is and economic structures are, you also have to talk about what it means to create the conditions for people to be able to think, to be self-reflective, to be able to identify with certain kinds of narratives, to have information available in which they can become self-reflective individually and collectively. And I think the tool is what I would call pedagogy. The ability to intervene in people’s lives with vocabularies, and social relationships, and values, the moral and political scripts in which people can all of a sudden be moved by the power of persuasion and logic and reason and truth has to be central to any politics.

Will Brehm 15:59
And so, what’s the role of schools, like the institutions run by the government, the public schools, in this pedagogical effort to make politics more pedagogical?

Henry Giroux 16:10
I think that schools are probably one of the few places left we’re not controlled by corporations entirely. Where actually, this kind of teaching can take place, where people can have debates, where people can be exposed to positions that are historical, scientific, that offer up the possibility for engaging in modes, and creating modes of civic literacy and social responsibility. Schools, basically, at their best, should be democratic, public spheres. They should be actively involved in not only teaching young people about the great traditions, whatever they might be, that offer the best in human learning, and what it means to be civilized, from a whole range of traditions, but also what it means to take on a sense of social and political and ethical responsibility. So that one recognizes that one lives in a society with others. And that one has to struggle over democracy, struggle over justice, to learn that no society is ever just enough, and that that’s as central to learning as learning whatever it is that’s of value in terms of the kinds of human resources that are out there and available to be appropriated, engaged and discussed.

Will Brehm 17:26
Is it possible to accomplish some of those things inside, say, charter schools, in America?

Henry Giroux 17:33
Charter schools basically have a long tradition, particularly in the United States, of simply segregating students. And at the same time, sort of displacing with the possibility of unions, ruining unions, undermining unions, and operating off the assumption that schools are basically a private venture rather than a public good. So, I don’t have a lot of faith in charter schools. Is it possible that some charter schools, when they’re pumped up with enormous amounts of money on the part of hedge fund managers simply so they can become a model for destroying public schools can work? Yes, maybe. But all the research seems to suggest that, at best, they’re no better, if not worse, than public schools. I don’t believe that public schools should be privatized. I think that they’re a public good, they’re not a private right. And I think as soon as we start talking about schooling as a private right and we started talking about schools as for-profit institutions, we destroy their possibilities as democratic public spheres.

Will Brehm 18:38
I’m not so hopeful then Betsy DeVos would agree with you there.

Henry Giroux 18:41
Betsy DeVos is probably one of the most hated people in America, because people realize what she’s about. She’s a billionaire who hates public schools and has claimed that her mission in life is to bring God’s kingdom to students. She’s a religious fanatic. She’s an ideological fundamentalist and a religious fanatic. And now she’s the Secretary of Education of the United States. What does that say about education? What does that say about this administration? I mean, Donald Trump has made it clear: he loves the uneducated. He’s said that many times. He’s a guy who doesn’t read books. He basically eats McDonald’s hamburgers and watches Fox News. This is not exactly a guy that’s going to embrace any institution that offers the possibility of educating students or adults to think critically. He finds those institutions enormously dreadful and challenging. And actually, more than that, he’s used them as a pathology. That’s why he invented the notion of fake news. And that’s why he’s a serial liar and continues to believe that he can say anything because he believes that he doesn’t have to be held accountable. In a democracy, people are held accountable. But he’s not a guy who believes you should be held accountable. That’s the mark of any fascist dictator.

Will Brehm 19:55
So, what is to be done here? So, for people who agree with you, like myself, what can we do to protect public education as a democratic social contract or a democratic social good?

Henry Giroux 20:13
I think some questions have to be raised that all of a sudden bring to the forefront what education really is about and why it’s so vitally important. And I think that one of the questions has to be is “What role does education play in a democracy?” And the second question has to be, “How does democracy function, and continue to function, in ways that make certain demands upon education?” I think that what we have to recognize is that education is probably one of the most powerful educational forces in the world, certainly in terms of formal schooling, that offers the possibility for creating a formative culture that allows people to think critically and be informed. I mean, Dewey, Arendt, a whole range of philosophers, Castoriadis, have been telling us for years – and they’re right – you can’t have a democracy without informed citizens. And I think that when we realize how crucial higher education, public education is to the creating the formative culture that makes a democracy possible, then we’ll stop talking about it in terms of simply training workers. Education is not training; they’re different things. And we’ve lost sight of that in the United States. The script has been flipped. And all of a sudden education now is simply an adjunct of corporate life, of corporate demands, of corporate needs. And I think that in many ways, what we see in Parkland, and what we see among young people all over the country, whether we’re talking about, you know, a whole range of movement, of BlackLivesMatter movement, a whole range of movements, people are saying, “Hey, look. There’s a certain violence that’s going on in this country that in part is linked to education, both within and outside of the schools, that makes people vulnerable to systemic terror, to systemic violence, and it’s got to stop.” And it’s got to stop because we have to restructure and rethink the relationship between democracy and capitalism, and probably begin to say capitalism and democracy are not the same thing. The second thing is we’ve got to invert and fight some of the most pernicious and poisonous elements of neoliberalism. And the most poisonous in my mind, is the one that suggests that the only responsibility that matters is individual responsibility. That’s it. That you’re responsible for everything that goes on in the world, and you have no right to believe that there are social problems out there over which you individually have no control. And that you do not have to assume that burden. And by assuming that burden, you completely dismantle the link or the ability to translate private issues into larger social considerations. That’s depoliticizing. That means you become depoliticized. That means you become cynical. That means you blame yourself for all the problems in which you find yourself. And it means that basically, you’re out of the loop politically. That there’s nothing that can be done except to basically become part of the opioid crisis, collapse into cynicism, or just retreat into the worst kinds of despair.

Will Brehm 23:17
So, would it be correct to say that you think the sort of civic courage that is needed is to repoliticize a lot of the spaces that have been depoliticized?

Henry Giroux 23:29
Absolutely. Absolutely. I think that what we need to do is we need to talk about public spheres that engage and raise the possibility of civic literacy and civic courage and social responsibility to the point where we can reclaim the language of democracy. We can once again talk about compassion. We can once again talk about social relationships that are not simply based on exchange relations, commodified relations. We can talk about the notion of community and what it means. We can assume that dependency is not a pathology, that community is not something that you hate, and that shared responsibilities are a lot more important than shared fears.

Will Brehm 24:11
Are there any examples of such systems or even just schools where this happens, where this politicization happens?

Henry Giroux 24:22
There are schools all over the country in the United States that basically err on the side of these kinds of progressive ideas. And there are countries that are on the side of these progress. The social democratic countries, whether you’re talking about Finland, or Sweden, or Germany. I mean, some places where higher education is free. Public education is free. Even in Canada, not the most pronounced social democracy in the world. But look, I get sick, I don’t pay anything. I just walk into a hospital, I make appointments with doctors, I get free medical care. In the United States, half the debts that people have, bankruptcies, are due to health care expenses. So, I mean, there are there examples all over the world of countries that have basically put into place social provisions and social safety nets that allow people to live with a certain degree of dignity. And I think we need to learn from them. And I think we need to look very carefully at what that means, in terms of what it means to invest in the future of young people rather than disinvest in young people and operate off the assumption that making money is far more important than, for instance, the lives of young people. For instance, the gun manufacturers, many of the gun rights people, they truly believe that we live in a country where killing children is less important, actually, than basically making money off the selling of guns.

Will Brehm 25:54
Are you hopeful that America will get out of this nightmare, will return to a social democratic society where the public good of education exists?

Henry Giroux 26:06
Intellectually, I’m pessimistic. In terms of the future, I’m hopeful. I think that these are very dark times. All over the world, I think the rise of fascism is emerging once again. I think there are signs that people are mobilizing. I think that the contradictions are becoming so great that people all of a sudden who wouldn’t be political are becoming more political and getting actively involved. I think that young people represent a paradigm shift for the most part, from what we’ve seen in the past, in that they’re more tolerant, they’re more savvy technologically, they’re more politically astute. And I want to hope that young people all of a sudden will recognize that being written out of the future, and being written out of the script of democracy is enough of a challenge to be faced that they will not only create moments and demonstrations, but actually create movements that will be broad-based enough to be able to really challenge the power structures that are in place in many of these countries today, including the United States.

Will Brehm 27:09
Well, Henry Giroux, thank you so much for joining FreshEd, and thank you so much for all the writing you’ve done over the years. I’m a huge fan.

Henry Giroux 27:17
Well, I’m delighted to be on, and thank you so much for having me.

Will Brehm 1:38
Henry Giroux, bienvenue à FreshEd.

Henry Giroux 1:41
C’est bien, Will. Merveilleux d’être sur.

Will Brehm 1:43
Vous avez écrit un nouveau livre nommé American Nightmare : Faire face au défi du fascisme. Avant d’aborder ce livre et l’Amérique et ce qui se passe actuellement en Amérique en matière d’éducation publique, je voudrais vous demander ce qui vous est passé par la tête en novembre 2016 quand vous avez réalisé que Donald Trump avait gagné la présidence ?

Henry Giroux 2:08
Eh bien, je crois que ce qui m’a traversé l’esprit, c’est qu’il y a eu une longue série d’attaques contre la démocratie américaine et les États-Unis, surtout dans les années 1970, quand le contrat social était assiégé et qu’il semblait s’effondrer. Et un discours de diabolisation, de racisme, d’islamophobie et d’objectivation, de marchandisation et de privatisation semblait prendre le dessus sur le pays. Je croyais que Trump était le point final de tout cela ; il est en quelque sorte le monstre Frankenstein qu’on a laissé sortir de la pièce. Et j’ai cru que c’était une incroyable tragédie pour la démocratie. Et j’ai pensé que, contrairement à certains autres gauchistes, je pensais que les conséquences seraient dramatiques une fois qu’il aurait pris ses fonctions. Et je crois qu’à bien des égards, cela s’est avéré être vrai.

Will Brehm 2:57
De quelle façon a-t-il prouvé qu’il avait raison au cours de l’année dernière ?

Henry Giroux 3:00
Eh bien, je crois qu’il suffit de regarder les politiques qu’il a tenté de mettre en œuvre et le langage qu’il a employé pour définir son mode de gouvernance. Je veux dire, c’est un type qui a essentiellement embrassé les néo-nazis, l’ultra-nationalisme. C’est un menteur en série. Il a manifestement fait tout ce qu’il pouvait pour promouvoir une logique anti-immigration. Il a menacé d’expulser des États-Unis toute une série de jeunes – 800 000 jeunes – appelés “rêveurs”. Il a baissé les impôts pour les ultra-riches au point que cela aura un effet énorme sur les services publics et les biens publics. Il met en place une série de personnes qui sont soit inaptes, soit totalement antidémocratiques, pour diriger des institutions telles que l’EPA – l’Agence de protection de l’environnement – ou toute une série d’autres institutions, dans lesquelles elles sont diamétralement opposées à l’intérêt que ces institutions représentent. Parce que ce sont des institutions qui suggèrent que le gouvernement a la responsabilité de travailler essentiellement pour le peuple. Elles ne croient pas cela ; elles croient que le gouvernement ne doit servir que l’élite financière et les intérêts financiers et économiques, et que la liberté consiste essentiellement à déréglementer les affaires et à permettre à l’élite des entreprises de faire des folies. Ce n’est donc qu’une série, entre autres, de choses qu’il a faites. Mais je pense qu’il a mis en place une notion de gouvernance qui suggère que les États-Unis ne sont plus une démocratie ; que nous sommes sur la voie d’une sorte de néofascisme déguisé en drapeau américain, et c’est très effrayant.

Will Brehm 4:43
Et donc, c’est de ce fascisme dont vous parlez dans votre nouveau livre ?

Henry Giroux 4:47
C’est de ce fascisme que je parle, qu’il s’agisse de l’ultra-nationalisme qu’il prône. Qu’on parle du racisme, de la xénophobie. Qu’il s’agisse de la logique de la disposition, du nettoyage racial qui est derrière beaucoup de ses politiques. L’adhésion d’une élite d’entreprises qui substitue à l’État politique un État d’entreprises. Toutes ces choses ont des échos de cette glorification de la grandeur nationale. L’affirmation qu’il est le seul à pouvoir délivrer l’Amérique. Et nous avons déjà entendu ce langage. Et nous l’avons entendu dans les années 1930. Et nous l’avons entendue dans les années 40. Et nous l’avons entendue plus tard dans les années 1970 en Amérique latine. C’est une langue qui suggère que l’ennemi de la politique est la démocratie. Et je crois que Trump représente cette langue et qu’il est à nouveau à l’œuvre pour la promouvoir.

Will Brehm 5:39
Et voyez-vous ce que Trump incarne dans d’autres parties du monde ? Tout récemment, Xi Jinping a … il paraît qu’il va être au pouvoir indéfiniment en Chine. Et Duterte aux Philippines. Et je viens de lire un article sur un nouveau parti d’extrême-droite en Italie qui glorifie Mussolini. Alors, cette tendance fasciste, cette tendance ultralégislative et pronationnelle se retrouve-t-elle dans le monde entier ? Et si oui, quelle en est la cause ? Pourquoi voyons-nous cette résurgence des partis de droite, ultranationalistes, émerger dans le monde entier ?

Henry Giroux 6:21
Je crois qu’il y a plusieurs choses à l’œuvre. Je pense que, tout d’abord, ce que nous voyons est la naissance de ce que l’on appelle la démocratie illibérale, le terme inventé, bien sûr, en Hongrie. Et je pense qu’à bien des égards, Trump permet cela, parce qu’il s’est aligné, et qu’il a en fait célébré nombre de ces fascistes, de manière à suggérer que ce genre de politique au 21e siècle est tout à fait acceptable. Je pense donc qu’à certains égards, le pays le plus puissant du monde a, en quelque sorte, à bien des égards, tendu la main et commencé à légitimer un discours anti-immigration et islamophobe, un discours de type raciste lié aux questions de pureté raciale et de nettoyage racial, qui a ouvert la possibilité pour beaucoup de ces pays d’embrasser fondamentalement cette logique. Et je crois qu’il y a d’autres problèmes. Chaque pays a son propre problème, mais je crois que l’incapacité de ces pays à traiter des questions de compassion et de justice, ce sont des pays qui, à bien des égards, ont été régis par une logique néolibérale qui n’a vraiment aucun respect pour les notions de communauté. Aucun respect pour les notions de compassion. Aucun respect pour ce que cela signifie d’embrasser avec amour la possibilité de l’autre. C’est une logique qui élève l’intérêt personnel, le nationalisme, la violence et le spectacle de la consommation au plus haut niveau d’acceptation. Et je crois que ce qui en résulte, face à des types particuliers de crises qui servent de fil conducteur à tous ces pays, c’est une peur élémentaire de ce que nous pourrions appeler “l’autre”, “l’étranger”. Ajoutez à cela le fait que vous avez un capitalisme mondial à l’œuvre qui, à bien des égards, a enlevé le pouvoir à ces pays, de sorte que la seule chose qui leur reste est un appel à la souveraineté culturelle. C’est un appel au nationalisme culturel. Parce qu’au fond, vous avez maintenant une élite dirigeante qui est mondiale. Elle n’est pas enracinée dans les États-nations. Elle coule. La politique est fondée sur les États-nations, et le pouvoir est mondial. Il y a donc un énorme changement de paradigme dans la redéfinition de la politique elle-même. Et je crois que l’une des choses qui se passe quand vous voyez cela, c’est que les États, à mesure que l’État social s’effondre, que les biens sociaux et les dispositions sociales se tarissent, vous avez la montée de l’État qui punit. Parce que la seule chose qui reste aux États pour pouvoir vraiment faire cela, c’est essentiellement de pénaliser les problèmes sociaux et de faire ce qu’ils peuvent faire pour devenir des États répressifs. En général, ils peuvent exercer le pouvoir. De cette façon, ils peuvent survivre. Donc, je pense que tous ces fils sont vraiment communs à beaucoup de ces États, beaucoup de ces pays.

Will Brehm 9:09
Donc, vous appelez Trump le point final, d’une certaine façon, dans ce cauchemar qu’est le fascisme américain. Et bien sûr, il a ces racines dans le racisme et le néolibéralisme. Il serait sensé que les racines ici passent aussi par le parti démocrate, que ce n’est pas simplement une question républicaine dans le contexte américain. Êtes-vous d’accord avec cela ?

Henry Giroux 9:33
Oui, je suis d’accord. Je crois qu’il y a deux questions à comprendre ici. Je pense que les deux partis sont fondamentalement mariés à l’élite financière, comme nous le savons bien. Je veux dire que les deux parties sont financées par l’élite financière. D’un côté, vous avez un parti démocrate qui tient une sorte de discours libéral, mais qui ne remet jamais en cause de manière fondamentale l’inégalité massive, ou la financiarisation de l’économie, ou la domination des banquiers et des gestionnaires de fonds spéculatifs. Ils ne remettent pas cela en question ; ils sont au lit avec ces choses. D’un autre côté, vous avez un parti républicain qui est maintenant composé de personnes qui sont également mariées à l’élite financière. Mais c’est un parti qui a été repris par les extrémistes. Ils ne sont pas seulement mariés à l’élite financière, ils sont mariés à quelque chose de plus que cela. Ils sont mariés à un ultra-nationalisme, une sorte de notion selon laquelle le christianisme blanc est la religion officielle des États-Unis. Ils sont mariés à la notion de nettoyage racial. Ils ont en fait accéléré toutes les grandes tragédies et tous les crimes du passé de telle sorte qu’ils n’en sont plus recouverts. Ils leur ont donné une nouvelle visibilité. Donc, ils ne s’excusent pas de leur racisme. Ils ne s’excusent pas de leur islamophobie. Ils ne s’excusent pas d’avoir attaqué des jeunes. Ils ne s’excusent pas d’avoir fait des investissements à court terme plutôt qu’à long terme. Et ils ne s’excusent pas non plus d’avoir détruit l’État-providence et le contrat social. Mais ce que les deux parties partagent, c’est qu’elles croient vraiment que le capitalisme et la démocratie sont la même chose, et que le capitalisme et la démocratie sont fondamentalement quelque chose de dirigé par l’élite financière, par l’élite au pouvoir, le 1%. Aucun des deux partis n’a de problème avec cet argument. Il y a des factions au sein du Parti démocrate qui contesteront cela – Bernie Sanders et ainsi de suite – mais elles sont marginales et n’ont pas leur place au sein du Parti démocrate. La plus grosse erreur que Sanders n’ait jamais faite a été de ne pas créer un troisième parti.

Will Brehm 11:29
Alors, à votre avis, comment le capitalisme et la démocratie sont-ils séparés?

Henry Giroux 11:33
Ils sont distincts dans le sens où vous ne pouvez pas avoir de démocratie quand vous avez un système qui promeut des inégalités massives de richesse et de pouvoir ; cela ne marche tout simplement pas. Il me paraît qu’avoir ce degré d’inégalité, et le soutenir de toutes les manières, permettre que toutes les institutions dirigeantes d’un pays soient contrôlées par une poignée d’élites et de sociétés, est l’antithèse de la démocratie. La démocratie implique que les gens ont le pouvoir. Ils ont le pouvoir de façonner les conditions dans lesquelles ils vivent leur vie. Ils ont un certain pouvoir sur l’économie. Ils y ont accès, ils ont des dispositions sociales, ils ont des droits politiques, des droits personnels, des droits sociaux. Cela n’arrive pas sous le capitalisme. Le capitalisme est un système ruineux qui s’organise essentiellement autour de la production de profits au détriment des besoins humains. Ce n’est pas une formule pour la démocratie.

Will Brehm 12:25
Et donc, à quoi ressemblerait un contrat social à votre avis, dans ce cadre ?

Henry Giroux 12:29
Au minimum, un contrat social garantirait les droits politiques. Mais il garantirait les droits politiques et les droits personnels en même temps que les droits sociaux, c’est-à-dire que vous auriez des droits économiques, vous auriez un salaire social. Vous restreindriez massivement les degrés d’inégalité. Cela impliquerait que les gens auraient accès à l’enseignement supérieur, aux soins de santé. Toutes les choses qui deviennent centrales dans la façon dont nous vivons notre sens de l’action et la rendent possible feraient partie du contrat social et du bien public. Sans cela, il n’y a pas de démocratie. Et il me semble que c’est la mesure dans laquelle vous voulez l’appeler socialisme en tant que forme de social-démocratie, ou vous voulez l’appeler socialisme d’une manière qui permet simplement aux structures, infrastructures, ressources les plus importantes d’une société d’être un phénomène contrôlé par le gouvernement, c’est un mélange qu’il nous faut trouver. Mais je pense qu’en fin de compte, vous devez réaliser que dans une démocratie, la première question que vous devez vous poser est la suivante : “Qu’est-ce que cela signifie de fournir les conditions permettant aux gens d’avoir un sens de l’action, et pas seulement de pouvoir survivre ? Pour que leurs capacités puissent être développées de manière à ce qu’ils aient accès à d’autres choses que de lutter pour manger, de lutter au milieu de la pauvreté, de lutter pour un travail digne de ce nom, de lutter pour trouver un moyen de payer des emprunts massifs afin d’obtenir une éducation décente, de ne pas lutter pour avoir des soins de santé décents. Ce sont des questions centrales qui ne concernent pas seulement le pouvoir, mais aussi la capacité à vivre. De vivre dans la dignité.

Will Brehm 14:10
Et donc, passons à l’éducation ici. Dans votre dernier livre, intitulé “Le public en péril”, vous employez le terme … vous avez dit que vous vouliez voir “le politique plus pédagogique”. Que vouliez-vous dire par là?

Henry Giroux 14:23
Ce que je veux dire par là, c’est que l’une des choses qui me perturbe, et l’une des choses sur lesquelles j’ai écrit pendant de nombreuses années, et je ne suis pas le premier, bien que je pense l’avoir probablement élaborée plus souvent que la plupart des gens, c’est que l’éducation est au cœur de la politique. On ne peut pas parler de politique si on ne peut pas parler de conscience. Si vous ne pouvez pas parler de changer la façon dont les gens croient, si vous ne pouvez pas parler de les engager dans un dialogue avec un vocabulaire dans lequel ils peuvent s’investir, s’identifier et être capables de reconnaître les conditions dans lesquelles ils se trouvent, de sorte qu’ils puissent soit apprendre à modifier ces conditions, soit comprendre ce que ces conditions signifient en termes de leur propre sentiment d’oppression. Et je crois que trop souvent, nous assimilons la domination à de simples institutions, et nous disons que la seule façon de parler de pouvoir est de parler de structures économiques. Mais je suis navré, aussi importantes que soient l’économie et les structures économiques, vous devez aussi parler de ce que signifie créer les conditions pour que les gens puissent penser, réfléchir sur eux-mêmes, s’identifier à certains types de récits, disposer d’informations leur permettant de réfléchir sur eux-mêmes individuellement et collectivement. Et je pense que l’outil est ce que j’appellerais de la pédagogie. La capacité d’intervenir dans la vie des gens avec des vocabulaires, des relations sociales, des valeurs, des scénarios moraux et politiques dans lesquels les gens peuvent tout à coup être mus par le pouvoir de la persuasion et de la logique, de la raison et de la vérité, doit être au centre de toute politique.

Will Brehm 15:59
Et donc, quel est le rôle des écoles, comme les institutions gérées par le gouvernement, les écoles publiques, dans cet effort pédagogique pour rendre la politique plus pédagogique ?

Henry Giroux 16:10
Je crois que les écoles sont probablement l’un des rares endroits où nous ne sommes pas entièrement contrôlés par les entreprises. Où, en fait, ce genre d’enseignement peut avoir lieu, où les gens peuvent avoir des débats, où les gens peuvent être confrontés à des positions qui sont historiques, scientifiques, qui offrent la possibilité de s’engager dans des modes, et de créer des modes d’alphabétisation civique et de responsabilité sociale. Les écoles, au fond, dans le meilleur des cas, devraient être des sphères démocratiques et publiques. Elles devraient participer activement non seulement à l’enseignement aux jeunes des grandes traditions, quelles qu’elles soient, qui proposent le meilleur de l’apprentissage humain, et de ce que signifie être civilisé, à partir de toute une série de traditions, mais aussi de ce que signifie assumer un sens de la responsabilité sociale, politique et éthique. Pour que l’on reconnaisse que l’on vit dans une société avec d’autres. Et que l’on doit se battre pour la démocratie, se battre pour la justice, pour apprendre qu’aucune société n’est jamais juste assez, et que c’est aussi essentiel pour apprendre que d’apprendre tout ce qui a de la valeur en termes de types de ressources humaines qui sont disponibles et qui peuvent être appropriées, engagées et discutées.

Will Brehm 17:26
Est-il envisageable d’accomplir certaines de ces choses dans des écoles à charte, par exemple, en Amérique ?

Henry Giroux 17:33
Les Charter Schools ont une longue tradition, surtout aux États-Unis, de ségrégation des élèves. Et en même temps, elles se déplacent avec la possibilité de constituer des syndicats, de les ruiner, de les saper et de fonctionner en partant du principe que les écoles sont essentiellement une entreprise privée plutôt qu’un bien public. Je n’ai donc pas beaucoup de foi dans les écoles à charte. Est-il possible que certaines écoles à charte, quand elles sont gonflées par d’énormes sommes d’argent de la part des gestionnaires de fonds spéculatifs simplement pour qu’elles deviennent un modèle de destruction des écoles publiques, puissent marcher ? Oui, c’est possible. Mais toutes les recherches semblent indiquer que, au mieux, elles ne sont pas meilleures, sinon pires, que les écoles publiques. Je ne crois pas que les écoles publiques devraient être privatisées. Je pense qu’elles sont un bien public, elles ne sont pas un droit privé. Et je pense que dès que nous commençons à parler de l’école comme d’un droit privé et que nous commençons à parler des écoles comme d’institutions à but lucratif, nous détruisons leurs possibilités en tant que sphères publiques démocratiques.

Will Brehm 18:38
J’ai moins d’espoir que Betsy DeVos soit d’accord avec vous sur ce point.

Henry Giroux 18:41
Betsy DeVos est probablement l’une des personnes les plus haïes en Amérique, parce que les gens se rendent compte de ce qu’elle est. C’est une milliardaire qui déteste les écoles publiques et qui prétend que sa mission dans la vie est d’apporter le royaume de Dieu aux étudiants. C’est une fanatique religieuse. C’est une fondamentaliste idéologique et une fanatique religieuse. Et à présent, elle est la secrétaire à l’éducation des États-Unis. Qu’est-ce que cela signifie pour l’éducation ? Qu’est-ce que cela dit de cette administration ? Je veux dire que Donald Trump a été clair : il aime les personnes sans éducation. Il l’a dit à plusieurs reprises. C’est un type qui ne lit pas de livres. Il mange essentiellement des hamburgers McDonald’s et regarde Fox News. Ce n’est pas exactement un type qui va embrasser n’importe quelle institution qui offre la possibilité d’éduquer les étudiants ou les adultes à la réflexion critique. Il trouve ces institutions énormément horribles et difficiles. Et en fait, plus que cela, il les utilise comme une pathologie. C’est pourquoi il a inventé la notion de fausses nouvelles. Et c’est pourquoi il est un menteur en série et continue à croire qu’il peut dire n’importe quoi parce qu’il croit qu’il n’a pas à être tenu responsable. Dans une démocratie, les gens sont tenus responsables. Mais ce n’est pas un type qui croit qu’on doit être tenu responsable. C’est la marque de tout dictateur fasciste.

Will Brehm 19:55
Alors, qu’est-ce qu’il faut faire ici ? Alors, pour les gens qui sont d’accord avec vous, comme moi, que pouvons-nous faire pour préserver l’éducation publique comme un contrat social démocratique ou un bien social démocratique?

Henry Giroux 20:13
Je crois qu’il faut se poser certaines questions qui placent soudain au premier plan ce qu’est vraiment l’éducation et pourquoi elle est si essentielle. Et je crois que l’une de ces questions doit être : “Quel rôle l’éducation joue-t-elle dans une démocratie ? Et la deuxième question doit être : “Comment la démocratie fonctionne-t-elle, et continue-t-elle de fonctionner, d’une manière qui impose certaines exigences à l’éducation ? Je pense que nous devons reconnaître que l’éducation est probablement l’une des forces éducatives les plus influentes au monde, certainement en termes de scolarisation formelle, qui offre la possibilité de générer une culture formatrice qui permet aux gens de penser de manière critique et d’être informés. Je veux dire, Dewey, Arendt, toute une série de philosophes, Castoriadis, nous disent depuis des années – et ils ont raison – qu’on ne peut pas avoir de démocratie sans citoyens informés. Et je crois que quand nous réaliserons à quel point l’enseignement supérieur, l’éducation publique est cruciale pour la création de la culture formatrice qui rend une démocratie possible, alors nous cesserons d’en parler en termes de simple formation des travailleurs. L’éducation n’est pas une formation, ce sont des choses différentes. Et nous avons perdu cela de vue aux États-Unis. Le scénario a été inversé. Et tout d’un coup, l’éducation n’est plus qu’un complément de la vie des entreprises, de leurs exigences, de leurs besoins. Et je pense qu’à bien des égards, ce que nous voyons dans Parkland, et ce que nous voyons chez les jeunes de tout le pays, que nous parlions, vous savez, de toute une série de mouvements, du mouvement BlackLivesMatter, de toute une série de mouvements, les gens disent : “Hé, regardez. Il y a une certaine violence dans ce pays qui est en partie liée à l’éducation, tant à l’intérieur qu’à l’extérieur des écoles, qui rend les gens vulnérables à la terreur systémique, à la violence systémique, et il faut que cela cesse”. Et cela doit arrêter parce que nous devons restructurer et repenser la relation entre la démocratie et le capitalisme, et probablement commencer à dire que le capitalisme et la démocratie ne sont pas la même chose. La deuxième chose est que nous devons renverser et combattre certains des éléments les plus pernicieux et les plus toxiques du néolibéralisme. Et le plus toxique à mon avis, est celui qui suggère que la seule responsabilité qui compte est la responsabilité individuelle. C’est cela. Que vous êtes responsable de tout ce qui se passe dans le monde, et que vous n’avez pas le droit de croire qu’il existe des problèmes sociaux sur lesquels vous n’avez aucun contrôle individuel. Et que vous n’avez pas à supporter ce fardeau. Et qu’en assumant ce fardeau, vous démantelez complètement le lien ou la capacité de traduire des problèmes privés en considérations sociales plus larges. C’est dépolitiser. Cela signifie que vous devenez dépolitisé. Cela signifie que vous devenez cynique. Cela signifie que vous vous blâmez pour tous les problèmes dans lesquels vous vous trouvez. Et cela implique qu’au fond, vous êtes politiquement hors du coup. Qu’il n’y a rien à faire, si ce n’est participer à la crise des opiacés, sombrer dans le cynisme, ou simplement se replier sur les pires formes de désespoir.

Will Brehm 23:17
Donc, serait-il correct de dire que vous croyez que le type de courage civique requis est de repolitiser beaucoup d’espaces qui ont été dépolitisés ?

Henry Giroux 23:29
Absolument. Absolument. Je pense que ce que nous devons faire, c’est parler de sphères publiques qui engagent et soulèvent la possibilité d’une alphabétisation civique, d’un courage civique et d’une responsabilité sociale au point de pouvoir reconquérir le langage de la démocratie. Nous pouvons à nouveau parler de compassion. Nous pouvons à nouveau parler de relations sociales qui ne sont pas simplement basées sur des relations d’échange, des relations marchandes. Nous pouvons discuter de la notion de communauté et de ce qu’elle signifie. Nous pouvons supposer que la dépendance n’est pas une pathologie, que la communauté n’est pas quelque chose que l’on déteste et que les responsabilités partagées sont beaucoup plus essentielles que les craintes partagées.

Will Brehm 24:11
Y a-t-il des exemples de tels systèmes ou même seulement des écoles où cela se produit, où cette politisation se produit ?

Henry Giroux 24:22
Il y a des écoles dans tout le pays aux États-Unis qui se trompent fondamentalement du côté de ce genre d’idées progressistes. Et il y a des pays qui sont du côté de ces progrès. Les pays sociaux-démocrates, qu’il s’agisse de la Finlande, de la Suède ou de l’Allemagne. Je veux dire, certains endroits où l’enseignement supérieur est gratuit. L’enseignement public est gratuit. Même au Canada, ce n’est pas la social-démocratie la plus prononcée au monde. Mais écoutez, je tombe malade, je ne paie rien. J’entre à l’hôpital, je prends des rendez-vous avec des médecins, je reçois des soins médicaux gratuits. Aux États-Unis, la moitié des dettes des gens, les faillites, sont dues aux dépenses de santé. Il existe donc dans le monde entier des exemples de pays qui ont essentiellement mis en place des dispositions sociales et des filets de sûreté sociale qui permettent aux gens de vivre avec un certain degré de dignité. Et je pense que nous devons en tirer les leçons. Et je crois que nous devons examiner très attentivement ce que cela signifie, en termes de ce que cela signifie d’investir dans l’avenir des jeunes plutôt que de désinvestir dans les jeunes et de partir du principe que gagner de l’argent est bien plus essentiel que, par exemple, la vie des jeunes. Par exemple, les fabricants d’armes, de nombreux défenseurs des droits des armes, pensent vraiment que nous vivons dans un pays où tuer des enfants est moins essentiel, en fait, que de gagner de l’argent en vendant des armes.

Will Brehm 25:54
Avez-vous l’espoir que l’Amérique sortira de ce cauchemar, qu’elle reviendra à une société sociale-démocrate où le bien public de l’éducation existe?

Henry Giroux 26:06
Intellectuellement, je suis sceptique. En ce qui concerne l’avenir, je suis plein d’espoir. Je crois que nous vivons des temps très sombres. Partout dans le monde, je pense que la montée du fascisme émerge à nouveau. Je pense qu’il y a des signes que les gens se mobilisent. Je pense que les contradictions deviennent si grandes que des gens qui ne seraient pas politiques deviennent soudainement plus politiques et s’impliquent activement. Je pense que les jeunes représentent un changement de paradigme pour la plupart, par rapport à ce que nous avons vu dans le passé, en ce sens qu’ils sont plus tangibles, ils sont plus avertis sur le plan technologique, ils sont plus astucieux sur le plan politique. Et je veux souhaiter que les jeunes reconnaissent tout d’un coup que le fait d’être écrit du futur, et d’être écrit du scénario de la démocratie est un défi suffisant à relever pour qu’ils ne se contentent pas de créer des moments et des manifestations, mais qu’ils créent en fait des mouvements qui seront suffisamment larges pour pouvoir réellement contester les structures de pouvoir qui sont en place dans beaucoup de ces pays aujourd’hui, y inclus les États-Unis.

Will Brehm 27:09
Eh bien, Henry Giroux, merci beaucoup d’avoir rejoint FreshEd, et merci beaucoup pour tous les écrits que vous avez faits au fil des ans. Je suis un grand fan.

Henry Giroux 27:17
Je suis ravi d’être à l’antenne, et merci beaucoup de m’avoir.

Translation sponsored by NORRAG.

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To celebrate the 100th episode of FreshEd, I’ve saved an interview with a very special guest.

Back in October, I had the privilege of sitting down with Professor David Harvey during his visit to Tokyo. For those who don’t know him, David Harvey is considered “one of the most influential geographers of the later twentieth century.” He is one of the most cited academics in the humanities and social sciences and is perhaps the most prominent Marxist scholars in the past half century. He has taught a course on Marx’s Capital for nearly 40 years. It is freely available online, and I highly recommend it.

You can go online and find all sorts of interviews with David Harvey where he explains his work and understanding of Marx in depth.

For our conversation today, I thought it would be best to talk about higher education, a system David Harvey has experienced for over 50 years. Who better to give a Marxist critique of higher education than David Harvey himself?

David Harvey is a Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the City University of New York. His newest book is entitled Marx, Capital and the Madness of Economic Reason, which was published last month.

Citation: Harvey, David, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 100, podcast audio, December 18, 2017. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/davidharvey/

Will Brehm 4:44
David Harvey, welcome to Fresh Ed.

David Harvey 4:47
Thank you.

Will Brehm 4:49
So here we are sitting in Musashi University in Tokyo. It’s on the eve of the the Japan Society of Political Economy Conference, where you will be giving a keynote. You’ve been sitting in university settings like these for over 50 years now. How has your understanding of the value of higher education changed over time and in place?

David Harvey 5:14
Well, my evaluation of it has not changed that much; it’s remained pretty constant. The conditions of higher education have really been radically transformed. And so it’s been very difficult to keep my values alive in the face of what I would call corporatization and the neoliberalization of the university. And so the nature of the struggle to keep spaces open, where dissident views can be freely developed and expressed, that struggle is much harder now than it was say 20 or 30 years ago. But 40 or 50 years ago, it was hard as well. So it’s like there’s been a big cycle of: Once upon a time, it was very hard, and then it got easier because battles were won, and then we got complacent. And then the reaction set in and now it’s become harder.

Will Brehm 6:18
So what was it like in the beginning, in 1960s? I mean when you said it was it was hard back then, what made it hard? What was hard?

David Harvey 6:26
Well, it was very hierarchical. The professors were gods who you couldn’t challenge. There was a certain orthodoxy which was pretty uniform, I would say, in the world I was in, in terms of what kind of social theory was admissible and which was not. I never encountered much Marx thinking, for example, until I was 35 years old. And then I sort of I encountered it by accident, and got into it by accident. And there was a considerable struggle. As I published more and more things where I cited Marx as being interesting, where people immediately called me a Marxist, I didn’t call myself a Marxist, I got called a Marxist. And after about 10 years of being called a Marxist, I gave up and said, “Okay, I must be a Marxist then if you all say I’m a Marxist.” But all I was doing was reading Marx and saying, “Actually, some stuff in here is very interesting and very significant.” And, of course, it does have a political tinge to it that I found very attractive. And it helped at a very difficult moment in the sense that in the United States, where I just moved at the end of the 1960s, there were urban uprisings all over the place of marginalized populations. And the city I moved to, Baltimore, the year before I went there, a lot of it had burned down in a racial uprising.

And of course, the Vietnam War was going on, the anti-war movement, the Free Speech movement was beginning to make inroads into the university and the student movement was very strong, very powerful. And at the same time, there’s a lot of resistance to it. So there was a period of very active struggle from the late 1960s, through to say, the mid to late 1970s.

Will Brehm 8:27
And in the beginning, did you see the influence of say, you know, capital, in the university when you first started?

David Harvey 8:37
Well it was always obvious that universities were class bound. My education at Cambridge, for example, I immediately encountered class and Cambridge in a way I’d never done at home when the people from the public schools who are very rich were there, and they seem to be, you know, kind of having a good time and I was sweating away trying to be a good student. And in the end, you know, I was the one who sort of got the academic honors, but they didn’t care because they just went off and worked in daddy’s firm in London and were ultra rich within … And there I was eventually with a sort of an Assistant Professor kind of salary, which was peanuts at the time, struggling to survive. So class was always around in education, but I don’t think big money was controlling the university in the way it now does. My education, for example, was funded by the state all the way through from school to PhD. So I had a free education and clearly under those conditions, you feel able to explore whatever it is you want to explore.

Will Brehm 10:00
Were you political in any way, politically active, when you were in Cambridge?

David Harvey 10:05
I was, I would say, I came from a background where there was some sympathy with the Labour Party and socialism and I suppose the extent of my political beliefs were roughly Fabian socialist. But towards the end of the 60s, I was getting disillusioned with that over things like the Vietnam War. And the fact that British Labour Prime Ministers promised great things, but in the end succumb to the power of big money. And – as Harold Wilson put it – the gnomes of Zürich had to be satisfied.

So I started to think there was, maybe something wrong with where we are at politically at the same time as I found that a lot of the theoretical apparatus that I understood from economics and sociology and political science were not really adequate to understand the problems that I was studying on the ground. Particularly in the city of Baltimore, where, as I said, there was an urban uprising year the before I got there and I became involved in a lot of studies of “Why did this happen?”, “What were the problems in the housing market?” and I started to work on housing market kind of problems. And finding that economic theory didn’t help me at some point or other, I decided to go off and read Marx and see if there was anything in there. And of course, I found it was great for getting at practical issues.

Will Brehm 11:44
So Marx, as I’ve learned, actually, through some of your teachings that are online, defines capital as “value in motion”. And I wanted to ask: Does that concept apply to education? Maybe specifically higher education today, because you said big money has now kind of come to dominate the universities. So how do we think about capital in the universities? And how do we think about value being in motion in universities?

David Harvey 12:13
Yes, the mass of capital of course is in motion, and is speeding up all the time, But capital needs certain infrastructures. It needs physical infrastructures, which are long lasting – highways, roads, ports, things of that kind, which take long-term capital investment. By the same token, it also needs long term capital investment in education, because the qualities of the labor force become an increasingly significant problem for capital over time, far more so than in Marx’s time. You want a well-trained, educated labor force. And also you need it from the standpoint of the renewal of bourgeois society, that there be a great deal of innovation and research universities became centers of innovation. Of course one of the crazy things I think of now is that there’s a lot of cutting back funding of higher education, when actually tremendous investment in higher education in the 1960s created an environment which to this day, provides a good deal of background to why the United States still remain so strong in the global economy because you’re having a very educated entrepreneurial minded workforce, but you’re now cutting all of that, and the workforce is less and less likely to be innovative, because it’s increasingly indebted. So you’ve actually got a structure of education, which is undermining what capital really needs. But nevertheless, some capital has to flow through the universities in such a way as to create that labor force. And it is a long term project costs, because as a sort of thing, where the benefits and come out 10, maybe even 15, years later.

Will Brehm 14:14
And I guess one of the things that fascinates me now, in like, in the present moment in America and probably in other countries, as well, the amount of debt students are in to participate in the future labor market run. And I think of it sometimes in terms of this idea of the wants, needs and desires of capital, right, like this idea that there is such a desire to be educated, that people are going into thousands of dollars in debt, which is really limiting their future prospects. So what’s your opinion on this massive debt that students face these days?

David Harvey 14:51
Well I think the general problem of circulation capital is that the circulation of debt has become more and more the crux of what’s going on within the capitalist economy. And so, the indebtedness is taking many different forms, because of the indebtedness that people get into on the consumer side. And, of course, to the degree that education became seen as a commodity which had to be purchased. So people need an effective demand and if they didn’t have the money they had to borrow it. And so you now got the indebtedness of a student population. And this forecloses on the future. And in a way, it’s a form of social control in the same way about housing debt that it was said in the 1930s that debt encumbered homeowners don’t go on strike. So debt encumbered students don’t rock the boat. They want to keep their job site, they don’t want to be fired, because they’ve got all that debt they’ve got to pay off. So there’s a lot of evidence, it seems to me, that the graduating student population is far less likely to take risks than in the situation that I was in, for example, coming out with a PhD from Cambridge with no debt.

And then you can go do what you like, and you don’t have that hanging over you. But now people have this hanging over them. And so it’s both the social control mechanism, it’s also about keeping capital into the future, because debt is a claim on future labor, and it’s a claim on the future. So, in fact, we foreclosed on people’s futures by increasing levels of debt. And then that means that it’s hard to imagine a transformation of capitalism, because you’ve got so much debt. I got personally nervous because my pension fund is invested in debt. So if we abolish the debt, you abolish my pension funds. So my pension fund becomes crucially part of the problem. So I have this ambivalence; I see the stock market crashing and I think, “Yay, this is the end of capitalism.” And then I think, “Oh, my God, what’s happening to my pension fund?” But this is a sort of contradictory situation that all of us get in and it’s one of the things that actually gives a certain social and political stability to capitalism that when capital gets into trouble, and I said, “We’ve got to save the banks.” We say, “No, don’t do that.” And then somebody turns to us and says, “If you don’t save the banks, sorry, all your savings are gone.” So then you turn around and say, “Okay, go save the banks.”

Will Brehm 17:37
Yes, I mean, what’s interesting to me is that education, in some respects, people believe as being transformative, and maybe a location to really go against kind of systemic norms. So, you know, like capitalism, but at the same time, the system we have created, like you said, is basically foreclosing the future, and making people less able to take risks, and maybe challenge that system. And it makes me think about the scholar [Maurizio Lazzarato, who says, the debt in education, higher education, what we start realizing is that the value, the purpose, of higher education is to teach debt. Students learn debt through the system to prepare them to be good kind of capitalist workers in the future.

David Harvey 18:23
Right. But the other side of that is that actually students less and less learn how to be critical. So their critical faculties are being eroded and basically we get situations where students say, “Oh, don’t bother me with all of that, just tell me what I have to know to get my qualification. And I get it, and then I can go off and use that qualification. So it’s about the qualification rather than developing a particular mode of thinking, which is critical. And on the one hand, capital doesn’t like critical thinking, because at some point or other, as happened to the end of the 1960s, a lot of people started to be highly critical of capital. So capital doesn’t like that. On the other hand, if you don’t have critical thinking, there’s no innovation. And so capital sits around and says, “Why isn’t there more kind of innovative things going on?” And that’s because people don’t know how to think for themselves. And actually, there are now complaints emerging – I don’t know if you’ve encountered this – of the labor force coming out of universities that is unable to solve problems, because they don’t know how to think for themselves. They just want to find some solution into which they plug. So they want information, but they don’t have the critical capacity to be actually problem solvers. And there’s a lot of complaints now, among corporate capital of the inability of this younger generation to respond to the needs of the labor place.

Will Brehm 20:02
So I mean, given this environment in higher education – and you you work in higher education. I think you still teach as well?

David Harvey 20:09
I do teach some, yes.

Will Brehm 20:11
So , Marx was very interested in everyday practice, and in your everyday practice as a professor, but maybe more broadly, as a citizen: How do you navigate the system, these contradictions, as you say? On the one hand you’re cheering the fall in the stock market but on the other hand, you’re lamenting the collapse of your pension fund. How do you navigate these contradictions and continue to be politically active?

David Harvey 20:37
Well, for instance, I can start with that story and that contradiction in my own life. And then we’ll ask students, “Can you see similar contradictions?” And, for instance, all this indebtedness, and talk about the things that we’ve been talking about. And if you do that, then people get it straight away. And therefore start to maybe you think the system is a problem, and that we’ve got to do something about it, and then need to learn a lot more about how the system works. And that point you can get into things. The other thing I would want to do, however, is- I’ve always, of course, been interested in urbanization. And if you’re in a major city, and if you’re in a major university in a major city, it seems to me you’ve got a huge educational world out there that you just go out on the streets and start to get people involved to some degree about what’s going on in the streets. One of the great things about teaching at the City University of New York is that we tend to get students who are very streetwise and have been out maybe doing the social movements and so I don’t have to tell them go out and look at what’s going on on the street because they know far more about it than I do. And what they come to me to, is to say, “How do I understand all of this?” “What’s the framework in which I can understand all of this?” and that’s why I kind of try to then sort of say, “Well, okay, let’s study Marx and see how what you’re experiencing relates to this mode of thinking”, and try in that way to get to sort of a critical theoretical perspective.

Will Brehm 22:32
It’s incredible to think that Marx’s writing from 150 years ago is still relevant to help make sense of students’ lives today.

David Harvey 22:44
Right. Well actually, even more so. I mean, the point here is, if you said back in the 1850s, “Where was the capitalist mode of production dominant?” and it was only dominant in Britain, Western Europe and the eastern part of the United States and everywhere else there were merchants around and so on and right now of course, it dominates everywhere. So there’s a sense in which the theory which Marx constructed to deal with that world of capitalist industrial production has now become global. And it’s more relevant than I think it ever was before.

And so I want to emphasize that to people, because quite a lot of people like to write about Marx and say, “Well, you know, that that was about what was going on back then.” And I say, “Well, no, actually back then, there was all kinds of other things going on in the world apart from your capital accumulation.” Now, you can’t find hardly anywhere in the world where capital accumulation is not dominant.

Will Brehm 23:50
I know and it’s amazing to think how it is, it’s so pervasive, it’s so worldwide, it is seeping into parts of life, like the university that didn’t normally, or didn’t historically have those sort of logics to it. And then I guess I get a little pessimistic and kind of think, “Well, where do we even begin to resist? And how do we resist when it’s such a massive system that is so hard to be located outside of?”

David Harvey 24:21
But I think there’s a lot of resistance internally within it. I emphasize a lot Marx’s concept of alienation, which, you know, has not been really very strongly articulated, I think, within the Marxist tradition, in part because somebody like [Louis] Althusser said, that that’s an unscientific concept. Whereas I think it’s a very profoundly important concept. And if you said, “How many people are alienated by conditions of labor as they currently exist?” And the conditions of labor are not simply about the physical aspect of laboring and how much money you get. They’re also about the notion of having a meaningful job and a meaningful life and meaningful jobs are increasingly hard to come by.

I have a daughter who’s 27 and her generation looks at the labor market and says there’s not much there that’s meaningful so I’d rather go and be a bartender than actually take one of those meaningless jobs out there. So you find a sort of alienation from the job situation, because the meaning in work has disappeared. There’s a lot of alienation about daily urban life, in the levels of pollution, the messes that are in transport systems and traffic jams, and the hassles of actually dealing with daily life in the city. So there’s an alienation in the living space, then alienation from politics, because of the political decisions seem to be made somewhere in the stratosphere and you’re not really able to influence them except at a very local neighborhood level. And there’s a sense of alienation from nature and alienation from some sort of concept of human nature. And you look at a personality like Trump and say, “Is that the kind of person I would like to be?” and “Is that the kind of human being that that we want to encourage to populate the earth? Is that what the world’s going to be like?” And so I think there’s a lot of discontent within the system.

Discontented people of course can vote in all sorts of crazy ways and what we’re seeing in Europe and elsewhere is some pretty crazy political things going on. And I think here the left has a certain problem that we have not addressed all of those political feelings and not proposed some active kind of politics of finding better solutions. So that we’ve let the game disappear and I think that to some degree this has a lot to do with what actually I would call the conservativism of the left.

Marxists, for example, are incredibly conservative and you know I’ve lost count of the number of times in a discussion I’ve been driven back to having to discus s Lenin. Well, okay I admire Lenin and I think it was important to read about him, but I don’t think the issue is right now. Those which Lenin was faced with, and I don’t want to get endlessly lost in all those arguments about whether it was Lenin or Luxembourg, or, you know, “Who is Trotsky?” or whoever was right. I want to talk about now. I want to talk about the Marxist critique now, what it’s telling us and then talk and say to ourselves, “How do we actually then construct an alternative to this very wide sense of disillusionment that exists in society?”

Will Brehm 28:18
Do you think education broadly, or maybe higher education specifically, can be part of constructing that alternative based on your Marxist critique?

David Harvey 28:28
It can be, and it should be. The problem right now is that higher education is more and more dominated by private money and its become privatized; the funding has become privatized. And when it was state funded, there was always constraints, but not as fierce as they are now. And basically, big capital and corporations will fund/give massive amounts of money to universities to build research centers. But the research centers are about finding technical solutions; they very rarely have anything other than a nominal kind of concern about social issues. They’re not about – I mean, for instance, the environmental field, these institutes for looking at environmental questions. And it’s all about technologies. And it’s all about taxation arrangements, or something of that kind. It’s not about consulting with the people. It’s not about discussions of those kinds.

When we were doing research on those questions back in the 1960s, there was always a lot of public participation and public discussion. Now sort of technocratic imposed from the top solution to the environmental problem, which is being designed. And if you are interested in the environmental problem from a social perspective, you’re likely to be in the humanities somewhere or other and you can have a little symposium in the humanities about how, when you start to be very political about it, but the engineers and the technocrats well funded in these research institutes are not going to be terribly excited about listening to you.

Will Brehm 30:10
In a similar way, I’m amazed sometimes at how, in academics, the labor that professors do in terms of writing papers and doing work much longer than regular work week, and that there’s very few unions fighting for their rights. And more importantly, I think, is that, you know, there’s such a perverse or crazy system in a way where academics spend all of this labor writing articles that then get published in these for profit companies that then sell journals and articles out and very little money goes back to the professor who did the actual labor. And meanwhile, the CEO of Wiley, which is a big publishing company is making something like $4 million a year. I mean, it seems so skewed. And what’s interesting in my mind, is that some of these same professors who are in this environment, they use Marxist critiques in their work but then there’s almost like a disconnect with their own labor. And I don’t know how to make sense of that sometimes.

David Harvey 31:21
Well, I think that if you want to get published, then you’ve got to find a publisher and the publisher is a capitalistic institution. Now, the interesting thing about publishing is that publishers tend to publish anything that sells. So it’s possible, if you have a critical perspective to get published if it sells. And so there are obviously, some books which sell widely and have quite an impact. And historically, of course, Harrington’s The Other America back in the 60s suddenly exploded the whole question of poverty in the United States. A book like Piketty’s book for all of it, while I’ve been critical of it nevertheless opened up and very much supported what the Occupy movement was doing, and talking about the problems of the 1%. And Piketty documented a lot of that, so this is extremely useful. So yes, you have to use capitalist means to anti-capitalist ends. But that is, in fact, one of the contradictions that is central to our own social situation. There are of course alternatives to do it through social media and use of a sort of Copyleft situation of a certain kind, but then that becomes a bit problematic if somebody needs the money from whatever they publish. So yes, there’s the labor process but the good thing at least I would say about the labor process for academics is that nobody is your boss – that you do it for yourself. And Marx has a very interesting question: “Did Milton in writing Paradise Lost, did he create value?” And the answer is, “No, he just wrote wonderful phrases.”

He says Milton wrote Paradise Lost in the same way that the silkworm produces silk; he did it out of his own nature. It only became a commodity, when he sold the rights to it for five pounds to somebody. And then it became a commodity, but it’s not part of capital – it only became capital when the bookseller started to use it as kind of a way of circulating capital. And so I like to think of my labor as kind of being silkworm labor – that I do it out of my own nature, and not out of some sort of instruction from some publisher. So I do it because I want to do it, I want to communicate something, and I have something to say, and I want to lay it out there.

Will Brehm 34:37
And you can’t not do it.

David Harvey 34:38
Right, and a lot of that labor is free as now on the website, for example, people can do that and then there’s the written person, the companions to Marx’s Capital, which go with the lectures. Some people like the lecture format, and some people find it difficult, so they can go to the written format. So the written format is in the publishing world.

Will Brehm 35:07
Yes, and I guess we just hope that there’s more people in academia like you that are doing this out of their own nature, and not too worried about how it becomes a commodity.

David Harvey 35:20
Less and less. And this is one of the problem, I think. Less and less, and a whole generation of academics has been raised within this disciplinary apparatus, that you’ve got to produce so much of this, and so many articles of this sort within a certain period of time in order to maintain your position. So there’s less and less doing that because when you’re under those sorts of conditions, you can’t take 10 years to write a book.

I took 10 years to write Limits to Capital, and during that time, I didn’t publish that much and under contemporary conditions, I would have been under real stress about the fact that I wasn’t productive enough, and all the rest of it and they would be having me and saying, “You’ve got to produce more”. And there are a lot of things that happened as a result; the quality of academic publication has diminished very significantly as the quantity has increased. And the other thing is that instead of undertaking sort of real deep research, which takes you a long time, it’s far better to write a piece where you criticize somebody else. Say you just engage in critical kind of stuff and you can write an article like mad in six months. And so the turnover time of academia has become much shorter and long-term projects are much harder to undertake.

Will Brehm 36:54
It reminds me of the the recent scandal in The Third World Quarterly, the journal article that was published by – I think an American, I’m not 100% sure. But he basically set out the case for why we need to see colonialism as good, and he puts this whole article article together. No research, just this kind of diabolical sort of argument that really gets people upset. And, of course, it becomes instantly the highest read article in The Third World Quarterly, which has been around for 60 years. And then, of course, the editorial board kind of resigned in protest, but it just encapsulates this moment.

David Harvey 37:39
Yes. And, of course, it also gets a lot of citations and suddenly he goes to his Head of Department and says, “I’m way up there in citations. Give me more money.”

Will Brehm 37:52
That’s right, and his university didn’t come out and criticize him. You know, it’s about diversity of opinion. It’s something you can see how you can game the system that way academics. Instead of doing this deep thinking, like you’re talking about, with the 10 years to write a book. Do you think Marx would have been a good academic?

David Harvey 38:13
No he would have been terrible! He would never have gotten tenure anywhere. First off, nobody would know what discipline to put him in. I have a bit of that problem. I mean, I come from geography but a lot of people think I’m a sociologist or something else. But he doesn’t fit easily into any discipline. And then secondly, he didn’t complete much of his work. And I always used to have this little thing on my desk: He had a letter from his publisher, that said, “Dear Herr Professor Marx it’s come to our attention that we have not yet received your manuscript of Das Kapital. Would you please furnish it to us within six months, or we’ll have to commission somebody else to write this work?”

Will Brehm 39:05
Do you know if he met the deadline?

David Harvey 39:07
No, of course not.

Will Brehm 39:10
How long did it take him to write Capital? Number One.

David Harvey 39:15
I guess it was basically 15 years, I think.

Will Brehm 39:22
And there’s three volumes in his name for Capital, but the third one was co-written or was compiled.

David Harvey 39:29
Well both volumes two volumes and volumes three were compiled by Engles. And there has been a lot of discussion about how much Engles manufactured, and he certainly made it seem like these notes which Marx had were closer to publication that they actually were. So there’s a lot of critical discussion because the manuscripts are now freely available and people are reading the manuscripts very carefully, out of which Engles constructed the actual text that comes down to us, and they’re finding all kinds of things that Engles added or missed. So there’s an interesting scholarly exercise going on on that.

Will Brehm 40:14
Was there supposed to be more than three volumes?

David Harvey 40:16

Will Brehm 40:17
How many?

David Harvey 40:19
It depends how you count them. In the Grundrisse he gave several proposals – the three volumes he’s got of the Capital already, then one on the State, one on the World Market and World Trade, and another on Crises. So there were at least three others, and it’s possible to find other places where he mentioned other things he needs to look at. In fact, the question of wage labor, it is covered of course to some degree in Volume One of Capital, but Marx, never really wrote out a very sophisticated explanation and discussion of wage determination. And he had in mind to do that, but the evidence is that he had some preliminary thoughts about that, but those preliminary thoughts did end up in Volume One of Capital, but he did, I think, want to have a whole volume on wage labor in itself. But like I said, bits and pieces of that idea ended up in Volume One of capital, but not the whole thing.

Will Brehm 41:41
Unfinished work, I guess.

David Harvey 41:43
And one of the things I think we should be doing – those of us who are familiar with the text – is to try to find ways to complete what he was talking about, and actually to represent what he’s talking about in the three volumes of Capital, which is I tried to do in the last book.

Will Brehm 42:03
So it actually raises a good point: Who else in the next generation of Marxist thinkers – I mean, you have spent 50 years doing this. Who do you see today as kind of taking up the mantle in the next generation?

David Harvey 42:21
The answer to that is, “I’m not quite sure.” Because there’s a big gap between people of my generation or close to my generation, sort of 60s and above, and the younger generation in their late 20s, early 30s.

Will Brehm 42:39
So me.

David Harvey 42:40
Yes, there are a lot of people in that generation who are actually very interested in exploring Marx in much greater detail. In between, there’s hardly anybody. And the people who were there have largely abandoned what they were doing and become kind of neoliberalized and all the rest of it. So there are some people in the middle, obviously. So it’s not completely blank, but I have a great deal of faith in your generation, actually, because I think your generation is taking it much more seriously. I think it feels more of a compelling need that they need some sort of analysis of this kind. And I think what my generation is obliged to do, which is what I’ve been trying to do, I think over the last decade really, by way of what I call The Marx Project is to produce a reading of Marx which is more open and fluid and more related to daily life and it’s not too scholastic. So I’ve tried to produce these interpretations of Marx that are simple, but not simplistic. It’s very difficult to negotiate that distinction, but that’s been my aim. And one of the things that I think has been encouraging is what I see as a very positive reaction to that mission.

Will Brehm 44:13
So Marx was known for being very well read. And he was a beautiful writer and Capital – Volume One is just an absolutely beautiful read. And he really draws on such a wide range of other writers. And I just wonder: Are you reading anyone that’s a contemporary scholar, or maybe an artist, or a filmmaker that is capable of bringing in such a wide variety of thinking into the creation of some artwork or some scholarly work in a beautiful way like Marx did back 150 years ago?

David Harvey 44:57
I think there are people who are who have a broader perspective on Marx. I think of somebody like Terry Eagleton, who I think can bring in a lot of the cultural things and in his little book on why Marx was right, I think did a very nice job of taking up the spirit of Marx as an emancipatory thinker and pushing it home. So there are people, I think, who are capable of doing that, but somebody who knows Greek philosophy, or Hegel inside out, Milton, Shakespeare, you know – it just boggles the mind that somebody could sit there with all of that in his head and produce work which is fascinating, I think in terms of how how to interpret it.

Will Brehm 46:02
David Harvey thank you so much for joining Fresh Ed. It really wasn’t pleasure to talk; it was an honor to really speak today.

David Harvey 46:08
It was my pleasure to chat with you, and remember, it’s your generation that has to do it. So get busy now.

Will Brehm 46:15
I will get back to my 10 year book.

David Harvey 46:18

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Will Brehm 17:37
是的,我觉得有意思的是,从某方面而言,人们相信教育具有变革作用,可以对抗像资本主义这样的一些社会系统规范。但同时,正如您所言,我们所建立的这个社会体系恰恰在扼杀未来,使人们承担风险的能力降低。这让我想起毛里齐奥·拉扎拉托(Maurizio Lazzarato)关于高等教育中有关债务的观点,他说:“高等教育的意义和目的就是教导学生何谓债务。”学生通过在大学学到的债务知识,为将来在资本主义世界工作做好准备。

David Harvey 18:23

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David Harvey 24:21
我觉得在它内部就已经有很多抵抗了。我一直强调马克思的“异化理论”。这一概念在马克思主义研究中没有得到很好地阐释,甚至连路易·阿尔都塞(Louis Althusser)这样的马克思主义者都说异化理论是不科学的。但是我不这么想,相反,我认为异化是非常深刻且重要的概念。当我们问“有多少人被所处的劳动环境异化”时,这里的劳动环境不仅指物质层面和工作报酬,更多地还包含工作意义。现在做有意义的工作、过有意义的生活变得越来越难。我有个女儿,今年27岁,她这一代人进入劳动市场的时候,发现有意义的工作寥寥无几,所以她宁愿去当调酒师,也不想做那些毫无意义的工作。工作意义的消失是一种劳动异化的体现。
当然,不满的人们以各种疯狂的形式参加选举,正如我们所看到的欧洲和其他地区发生的那些不可思议的政治事件。我认为左翼政党有一个问题,那就是我们即没有解决那些政治情绪、也没能提出积极的政治策略以寻求更好的解决方案,我们只是不像原来那么搞。我称之为 “左翼的保守主义”。

Will Brehm 28:18

David Harvey 28:28

Will Brehm 30:10

David Harvey 31:21
如果你想要出版就必须依靠出版商,而出版商是一个资本主义机构,他们只愿意出版能卖钱的书。所以有趣的是,如果你的批判能卖钱,他们就会出版。当然,历史上有很多书既畅销又具有很大影响力。比如上世纪60年代哈灵顿(Michael Harrington)所著的《另一个美国》,瞬间引爆了对美国贫困问题的讨论。再比如皮凯蒂(Thomas Piketty)的《21世纪资本论》,尽管我不尽同意其中的观点,但我依然保持开放的态度。皮凯蒂在书中讨论了很多关于财富收入分配的问题,为 “占领华尔街”运动提供了支持,是本非常有启发的书。所以,有时候我们不得不借助资本主义的力量来实现反对资本主义的目的。实际上,这是我们社会的众多矛盾中最为核心的矛盾之一。当然也可以有其他方法,比如社交媒体,或者“公共版权”的形式,但一旦涉及到出版所需的资金时,问题就来了。因此,出版是有自己的一套劳动过程的。但我认为至少对学术界而言,在这一过程中没有人是你的老板,每个作者都是为自己而工作。马克思就问过一个有意思的问题:米尔顿在写《失乐园》的时候创造价值了吗?答案是:没有,他创造的只是精彩的文字。

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David Harvey 44:57
确实能看到有些人对马克思有更广阔的视角。比如特里·伊格尔顿(Terry Eagleton),我认为他给我们带来了很多文化方面的理论,并且在《马克思主义为什么是对的》一书中,他相当出色地继承了马克思作为解放思想家的精神并将其发扬广大。所以,我相信有些人有能力做到这一点。当然,熟悉希腊哲学、黑格尔、米尔顿、莎士比亚的人或许会说,竟有人可以坐在书桌前,将脑子里的想法创作出如此精彩的作品,是多么不可思议。就看你怎么解读了。

Will Brehm 46:02

David Harvey 46:08

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Translation by Jiang Dian
Want to help translate this show? Please contact info@freshedpodcast.com

Will Brehm  4:44
David Harvey, bem-vindo ao FreshEd.

David Harvey  4:47

Will Brehm  4:49
Estamos aqui na Universidade Musashi, em Tóquio na véspera da sua conferência na Sociedade de Economia Política do Japão. Estando num meio universitário como este há mais de 50 anos como vê as mudanças na valorização do ensino superior ao longo do tempo e nas diferentes partes do mundo?

David Harvey  5:14
Bem, a minha avaliação não mudou muito; permaneceu bastante constante. As condições do ensino superior foram, realmente, transformadas radicalmente. E, portanto, tem sido muito difícil manter os meus valores diante do que eu chamaria de corporação [corporatization] e neoliberalização da universidade. E assim, a natureza da luta para manter os espaços abertos, onde visões dissidentes podem ser livremente desenvolvidas e expressadas, essa luta é muito mais difícil agora do que se dizia ser há 20 ou 30 anos. Há 40 ou 50 anos, também, era difícil. É como se houvesse um grande ciclo de: era uma vez, foi muito difícil e depois tornou-se muito fácil porque as batalhas foram vencidas, então tornámo-nos complacentes. E então, a reação começou e agora tornou-se mais difícil.

Will Brehm  6:18
Como foi o começo, na década de 1960? Quero dizer, quando disse que era difícil naquela época, o que tornava difícil? O que foi difícil?

David Harvey  6:26
Bem, era muito hierárquico. Os professores eram deuses que não se podiam desafiar. Havia uma certa ortodoxia bastante uniforme, eu diria, no mundo em que estava, em termos de teoria social que era ou não admissível. Eu nunca encontrei muito o pensamento de Marx, por exemplo, até os 35 anos de idade. De certo modo encontrei-o de forma acidental, entrei no seu pensamento por acidente. E houve uma luta considerável. Conforme ia publicando os meus trabalhos e citava Marx começou a acontecer um fenómeno interessante, as pessoas imediatamente chamavam-me marxista, mas eu não me chamava marxista, fui chamado de marxista. Depois de dez anos a ser chamado de marxista, desisti e disse: “Está bem, devo ser marxista, se todos dizem que sou marxista”. Mas tudo o que eu estava a fazer era ler Marx e dizer: “Na verdade, algumas coisas aqui são muito interessantes e muito significativas”. E, é claro, tem um tom político que eu achei muito atraente. Um outro fator foi ter-me ajudado num momento muito difícil, no sentido de que nos Estados Unidos, país para onde me tinha acabado de mudar no final da década de 1960, estava a passar por um período conturbado com muitas revoltas urbanas de populações marginalizadas. Outro aspeto foi o facto de, um ano antes de me ter mudado para Baltimore, grande parte da cidade ter sido queimada como resultado de tumultos raciais.

E, é claro, a Guerra do Vietname estava a ocorrer, o movimento antiguerra, o movimento da Liberdade de Expressão [Free Speech movement] estava a começar a fazer incursões na universidade e o movimento estudantil era muito forte, muito poderoso. Ao mesmo tempo, há muita resistência a tudo isto. Portanto, houve um período de luta muito ativa desde o final da década de 1960 até meados da década de 1970.

Will Brehm  8:27
E no início, quando começou a trabalhar na universidade, viu a influência, por assim dizer, do capital na universidade?

David Harvey  8:37
Bem, sempre foi óbvio que as universidades estavam vinculadas à classe. Na minha formação em Cambridge, por exemplo, encontrei imediatamente classe. Em Cambridge, as pessoas das escolas públicas muito ricas estavam lá, e elas pareciam estar bem, passando um bom momento e eu estava a suar para tentar ser um bom aluno. E no final, sabe, fui eu quem recebeu as honras académicas, mas eles não se importaram porque simplesmente saíram e foram trabalhar para a empresa dos pais em Londres e eram ultrafrios… E lá estava eu com uma espécie de salário de professor assistente, que era muito baixo na época, lutando para sobreviver. Portanto a classe estava sempre à volta da educação, mas não julgo que o dinheiro estivesse a controlar a universidade da maneira que influencia agora. A minha educação, por exemplo, foi financiada pelo Estado desde que iniciei a escola até ao doutoramento. Então, eu tive uma educação gratuita e, claramente, nessas condições, sentia-me capaz de explorar o que quer que fosse.

Will Brehm  10:00
Nessa altura era politicamente ativo de alguma forma, quando estava em Cambridge?

David Harvey  10:05
Eu diria que vim de um ambiente em que havia alguma simpatia pelo Partido Trabalhista e pelo socialismo e suponho que as minhas crenças políticas fossem, aproximadamente, Fabian socialist. Mas no final dos anos 60, estava a ficar desiludido com coisas como a Guerra do Vietname e pelo facto de os primeiros-ministros britânicos trabalhistas prometerem grandes coisas, mas no final sucumbem ao poder do grande dinheiro. E – como referiu Harold Wilson – os gnomos de Zurique necessitam de ser satisfeitos.

Então comecei a pensar que havia, talvez, algo de errado com a nossa posição política ao mesmo tempo que descobri que muito do aparato teórico da economia, da sociologia e da ciência política não eram realmente adequadas para entender os problemas que estava a estudar no terreno, em particular a cidade de Baltimore, onde, como eu disse, houve revolta urbana um ano antes de eu chegar. Assim, envolvi-me em estudos que se debruçaram sobre “Porque é que isto aconteceu?”, “Quais eram os problemas do mercado imobiliário?” e assim iniciei o meu trabalho no tipo de problemas do mercado imobiliário. Ao descobrir que a teoria económica não me ajudou num momento ou noutro, decidi ler Marx e ver se havia algo lá. E, claro, encontrei algo ótimo para abordar as questões práticas.

Will Brehm  11:44
Assim, Marx, como aprendi, na verdade, através de algumas das suas aulas disponíveis na internet, define capital como “valor em movimento”. Assim, queria perguntar-lhe se este conceito se aplica à educação? Talvez acerca do ensino superior, pelo que referiu anteriormente, sobre o dinheiro estar a influenciar as universidades, seja interessante perguntar como pensamos o capital nas universidades? E como pensamos sobre o valor estar em movimento nas universidades?

David Harvey  12:13
Sim, é claro que a massa do capital está em movimento e está a acelerar a todo o momento, mas o capital precisa de certas infraestruturas. Precisa de infraestruturas físicas, que são duradouras – autoestradas, estradas, portos, coisas desse tipo, que requerem investimento de capital a longo prazo. Da mesma forma, também é necessário investimento de capital a longo prazo na educação, para ter disponível força de trabalho com qualidade, pois é um problema cada vez mais significativo para o capital ao longo do tempo, muito mais do que na altura de Marx. É necessária uma força de trabalho bem formada e educada e também, do ponto de vista da renovação da sociedade burguesa, deve haver uma grande quantidade de inovação e universidades que façam investigação para se tornarem centros de inovação.
Uma das coisas loucas que penso agora é que há cortes no financiamento do ensino superior, quando na década de 60 este investimento criou um ambiente que, até hoje, fornece uma boa explicação para os Estados Unidos da América ainda permanecerem tão fortes na economia global. Este investimento possibilitou haver uma força de trabalho instruído com espírito empreendedor, estando agora todo este investimento a ser cortado levando à força de trabalho a ter menos hipóteses de ser inovadora, porque está cada vez mais endividada. Então realmente há uma estrutura de educação que está a minar o que o capital realmente precisa, estando, no entanto, algum capital a fluir através das universidades de forma a criar essa força de trabalho. Porém é um projeto com custos a longo prazo uma vez que os resultados só serão visíveis no prazo de 10 ou até 15 anos depois.

Will Brehm  14:14
Julgo que uma das coisas que agora me fascina no momento atual dos Estados Unidos, e provavelmente noutros países, é a quantidade de dívidas que os estudantes têm para poder participar na corrida ao mercado de trabalho. Penso nisto e na ideia de vontades, necessidades e desejos do capital, como uma ideia proporciona o desejo de ter educação, mas que implica que as pessoas fiquem endividadas em milhares de dólares, o que realmente limita as suas perspetivas futuras. Posto isto, qual é a sua opinião sobre estas dívidas enormes que os estudantes enfrentam atualmente?

David Harvey  14:51
Bem, julgo que o problema geral da circulação do capital é que esta circulação de dívida se tornou cada vez mais o cerne do que está a acontecer na economia capitalista. E assim, o endividamento está a assumir muitas formas diferentes, devido ao endividamento das pessoas enquanto consumidoras. E, é claro, na medida em que a educação passou a ser vista como uma mercadoria que precisava ser comprada. Portanto, as pessoas precisam de uma demanda efetiva e, se não tivessem o dinheiro, teriam de o pedir emprestado. Desta forma há um endividamento de uma população estudantil e isto limita o futuro e, de certa forma, é uma forma de controlo social da mesma forma que a dívida imobiliária teve na década de 1930, os proprietários sobrecarregados com dívidas não entram em greve. Portanto, estudantes sobrecarregados por dívidas não agitam o barco. Eles querem manter o posto de trabalho, não querem ser demitidos, porque têm uma dívida que necessita de ser paga. Portanto, parece-me que há muitas evidências que indicam que atual população com formação superior tem muito menos probabilidade de correr riscos do que eu quando estava, por exemplo, a sair da Universidade com um doutoramento de Cambridge sem dívidas.

Quando não se tem dívidas pode-se fazer o que se quiser, não tem isso a pairar sobre si. Mas agora as pessoas têm as dívidas a pairar sobre elas, portanto é o mecanismo de controlo social, mas também é sobre manter o capital no futuro, porque a dívida é uma reivindicação sobre trabalho futuro e é uma reivindicação sobre o futuro. Então, de facto, encerramos o futuro das pessoas aumentando os níveis de dívida. Isto significa que é difícil imaginar uma transformação do capitalismo, porque você tem muitas dívidas, fica nervoso porque o seu fundo de pensões é investido em dívidas. Portanto, se abolirmos a dívida, você abolirá o meu fundo de pensões tornando-o desta forma uma questão central do problema. Então, tenho essa ambivalência, vejo o mercado de ações a colapsar e penso: “Sim, é o fim do capitalismo”. E a seguir penso: “Oh, meu Deus, o que está acontecer ao meu fundo de pensões?” Esta é uma espécie de situação contraditória em que todos nós entramos e é uma das coisas que realmente dá uma certa estabilidade social e política ao capitalismo, quando o capital está com, e digo: “Temos que salvar os bancos “. Dizemos: “Não, não faça isso”. E então alguém se vira para nós e diz: “Se não salvar os bancos, desculpe, mas todas as suas economias desaparecem”. Então diz: “Está bem, vá salvar os bancos”.

Will Brehm  17:37
Sim, quero dizer, o que é interessante para mim é que a educação, em alguns aspetos, é avaliada elas pessoas como transformadora e capaz de realmente ir contra as normas sistémicas, como o capitalismo, mas, ao mesmo tempo, o sistema que criamos, como disse, basicamente está a limitar futuro e a tornar as pessoas menos capazes de assumir riscos e até mesmo desafiar este sistema. E isso faz-me pensar no investigador Maurizio Lazzarato, que diz, a dívida na educação, no ensino superior, faz-nos perceber que o valor, o objetivo do ensino superior, é ensinar dívida. Os alunos aprendem dívidas através do sistema para prepará-los, para serem bons trabalhadores capitalistas no futuro.

David Harvey  18:23
Certo. Mas o outro lado disso é que, na verdade, os alunos aprendem cada vez menos a ser críticos. Portanto, as suas faculdades fundamentais estão a ser corroídas e, basicamente, temos situações em que os alunos dizem: “Oh, não me incomode com isso, apenas me diga o que preciso saber para obter a minha qualificação. Consigo-a e posso sair e usar essa qualificação”. Portanto, trata-se da qualificação, em vez de desenvolver um modo de pensamento específico, que é crítico. Por um lado, o capital não gosta de pensamento crítico, porque em algum momento, como aconteceu no final da década de 1960, muitas pessoas começaram a criticar o capital. Portanto, o capital não gosta disso. Por outro lado, se não tem um pensamento crítico, não há inovação. Pode perguntar: “Por que é que não há mais inovação a ocorrer?” a resposta é porque as pessoas não sabem pensar por si mesmas. Na verdade, agora está a emergir um outro tipo de reclamação – não sei se já se deparou com ela – a força de trabalho que sai das universidades, que é incapaz de resolver problemas porque não sabem pensar por si mesmos. Só querem encontrar solução para a qual já sabem a resposta, querem que lhes digam qual é a solução, não têm a capacidade crítica para resolver problemas. Atualmente há muitas reclamações do capital corporativo sobre a incapacidade da geração mais jovem de responder às necessidades do local de trabalho.

Will Brehm  20:02
Quero dizer, dado esse ambiente no ensino superior – e você trabalha no ensino superior. Ainda ensina?

David Harvey  20:09
Por vezes ainda ensino, sim.

Will Brehm  20:11
Portanto, Marx estava muito interessado na prática quotidiana e na sua prática quotidiana como professor, mas talvez de forma mais ampla como cidadão: como navega no sistema, nessas contradições, como diz? Por um lado, está a torcer pela queda do mercado de ações, mas, por outro, teme o colapso do seu fundo de pensões. Como navegar nestas contradições e ser politicamente ativo?

David Harvey  20:37
Bem, por exemplo, posso começar com a contradição da minha própria vida. Perguntamos aos alunos: “Conseguem ver contradições semelhantes?” Por exemplo, podemos falar sobre todo este endividamento e sobre as coisas que temos estado a falar. Se fizermos isso as pessoas entendem imediatamente o que estamos a falar. Portanto, começam a pensar que o sistema é um problema, e que precisamos fazer algo a respeito e precisamos aprender muito mais sobre como o sistema funciona. E nesse ponto podemos conseguir entrar nas coisas. Outra coisa que gostaria de fazer – eu sempre me interessei por urbanização – é se está numa cidade grande, numa universidade importante numa cidade importante, parece-me que tem um mundo educacional enorme para simplesmente sai pelas ruas e começa a envolver-se com as pessoas e até certo ponto sobre o que está a acontecer nas ruas. Uma das grandes coisas sobre o ensino na Universidade da Cidade de Nova Iorque [City University of New York] é que tendemos a receber estudantes que se envolveram em manifestações, que fazem parte de movimentos sociais, para que eu não necessite dizer-lhes que saiam e vejam o que é uma manifestação porque eles sabem muito mais sobre isso do que eu. E o que eles procuram é: “Como percebo tudo isto?” “Qual é a estrutura que me permite perceber tudo isto?” e é por isso que eu tento dizer: “Bem, vamos estudar Marx e ver como as vossas experiências estão relacionadas com o seu pensamento “, e tentar desta forma obter uma espécie perspetiva crítica com base na teoria.

Will Brehm  22:32
É incrível pensar que a escrita de Marx com 150 anos ainda é relevante para ajudar a perceber a vida dos estudantes hoje.

David Harvey  22:44
Certo. Bem, na verdade, mais ainda. Quero dizer, o ponto aqui é, se na década de 1850 dissessemos: “Onde era dominante o modo de produção capitalista?”, ele era dominante apenas na Grã-Bretanha, na Europa Ocidental e na parte oriental dos Estados Unidos e em todo o lado havia comerciantes, e agora é comum em todo o lado. Portanto, há um sentido em que a teoria que Marx construiu para lidar com esse mundo da produção industrial capitalista agora se tornou global. E é mais relevante do que eu penso que já foi antes.

E, portanto, quero enfatizar isto às pessoas, porque muitas gostam de escrever sobre Marx e dizer: “Bem, você sabe, isso era o que estava a acontecer naquela época”. E eu digo: “Bem, não, na verdade, naquela época, havia todo o tipo de coisas acontecer no mundo, além da sua acumulação de capital”. Agora, você não consegue encontrar praticamente nenhum lugar do mundo onde a acumulação de capital não seja dominante.

Will Brehm  23:50
Eu sei e é incrível pensar como é tão difundido, é tão mundial, e se está a infiltrar em partes da vida, como a universidade que normalmente não fazia ou que historicamente não tinha esse tipo de lógica. Então julgo que fico um pouco pessimista e penso: “Bem, onde começamos a resistir? Como resistimos, quando é um sistema tão grande que é tão difícil estar fora dele?”

David Harvey  24:21
Mas creio que há muita resistência internamente. Enfatizo muito o conceito de alienação de Marx, que, como sabe, não foi realmente muito fortemente articulado, creio, dentro da tradição marxista, em parte porque alguém como [Louis] Althusser disse, que é um conceito não científico. Considerando que eu acho que é um conceito profundamente importante. Se disser: “Quantas pessoas são alienadas pelas condições de trabalho como elas existem atualmente?” E as condições do trabalho não são simplesmente sobre o aspeto físico do trabalho ou quanto dinheiro recebe. Também tratam da noção de ter um emprego significativo e uma vida significativa e empregos significativos são cada vez mais difíceis de encontrar.

Eu tenho uma filha que tem 27 anos e a geração dela olha para o mercado de trabalho e diz que não há muito trabalho que seja significativo, então eu prefiro ser barman do que realmente ter um desses empregos sem sentido. Então encontra uma espécie de alienação da situação laboral porque o significado desapareceu. Há muita alienação na vida urbana quotidiana, nos níveis de poluição, nas más condições dos sistemas de transporte, nos engarrafamentos e nas chatices associadas em lidar com a vida quotidiana na cidade. Portanto, há uma alienação, depois uma alienação da política, porque as decisões políticas parecem ter sido tomadas em algum lugar da estratosfera e não somos realmente capazes de a influenciar, exceto num bairro muito específico. E existe uma sensação de alienação da natureza e alienação de algum tipo de conceito da natureza humana. E olha para uma pessoa como Trump e diz: “Esse é o tipo de pessoa que eu gostaria de ser?” e “Este é o tipo de ser humano que queremos incentivar a povoar a Terra? É assim que o mundo será?” Penso que há muito descontentamento no sistema.

Pessoas descontentes, é claro, podem votar de todos os tipos e formas loucas, e vemos a acontecer coisas bem loucas na política. Julgo que a aqui a esquerda tem um certo problema: não abordamos todos esses sentimentos políticos e não propusemos algum tipo ativo de política para encontrar melhores soluções. Então deixamos o jogo desaparecer e penso que, até certo ponto, isto tem muito a ver com o que eu chamaria de conservadorismo de esquerda.

Os marxistas, por exemplo, são incrivelmente conservadores e você sabe que perdi a conta ao número de vezes em que numa discussão fui levado a voltar a discutir Lenin. Bem, tudo bem, admiro Lenin e penso que era importante ler sobre ele, mas não considero que o problema seja agora. Aqueles problemas com os quais Lenin se defrontou, e não me quero perder infinitamente em todos esses argumentos sobre se era Lenin ou Luxemburgo, ou, você sabe, “Quem é Trotsky?” ou quem estava certo. Eu quero falar agora. Quero falar sobre a crítica marxista agora, o que esta nos diz e depois falar e dizer a nós mesmos: “Como realmente construímos uma alternativa a esse amplo senso de desilusão que existe na sociedade?”

Will Brehm  28:18
Pensa que a educação em geral, ou talvez o ensino superior especificamente, pode fazer parte da construção dessa alternativa com base na sua crítica marxista?

David Harvey  28:28
Pode ser, e deveria ser. O problema agora é que o ensino superior é cada vez mais dominado pelo dinheiro privado, está a ser privatizado, o financiamento foi privatizado. Mesmo quando era financiado pelo Estado havia sempre restrições, mas não tão ferozes como agora. Basicamente, grandes capitais e corporações financiaram/ doaram quantias maciças às universidades para construir centros de investigação. Mas os centros de investigação procuram soluções técnicas, raramente encontram outra coisa senão um tipo nominal de preocupação com as questões sociais. Eles não são sobre – quero dizer, por exemplo, o campo ambiental, esses institutos para analisar questões ambientais. É tudo sobre tecnologias, acordos de tributação, ou algo desse tipo. Não se trata de consultar as pessoas, não se trata de discussões deste tipo.

Quando estávamos a investigar essas questões nos anos 60, havia sempre muita participação e discussão pública. Agora é imposta uma solução superior ao problema ambiental. Se estiver interessado no problema ambiental de uma perspetiva social, provavelmente, estará nas ciências humanas em algum lugar ou outro e poderá ter um pequeno simpósio nas ciências humanas sobre como, quando você começa a ser muito político, mas os engenheiros e tecnocratas bem financiados nesses institutos de investigação não ficarão muito animados em ouvi-lo.

Will Brehm  30:10
De maneira semelhante, às vezes surpreendo-me com o fato de haver poucos sindicatos que lutam pelos nossos direitos na academia, pois no nosso trabalho como professores e na redação de artigos trabalhamos muito mais do que a semana normal de trabalho. E o mais importante, creio, é que existe um sistema tão perverso ou maluco que os académicos têm todo esse trabalho a escrever artigos que depois são publicados nesses sites com fins lucrativos, que vendem periódicos e artigos e muito pouco dinheiro é devolvido ao professor que fez o trabalho real. Enquanto isso, o CEO da Wiley, que é uma grande editora, fatura algo em torno de 4 milhões de solares por ano. Quero dizer, parece tão distorcido. E na minha perspetiva o que é interessante é que alguns desses mesmos professores que estão nesse ambiente usam críticas marxistas nos seus trabalhos, havendo quase uma desconexão com esse mesmo trabalho. Nem sei como compreender isto.

David Harvey  31:21
Bem, penso que se queremos ser publicados precisamos de encontrar um editor e o editor é uma instituição capitalista. Agora, o interessante sobre a publicação é que os editores tendem a publicar qualquer coisa que vende. Portanto, é possível publicar se tiver uma perspetiva crítica, desde que venda. Obviamente, existem alguns livros que vendem amplamente e têm um grande impacto. E historicamente, é claro, The Other America, de Harrington, nos anos 60, de repente explodiu toda a questão da pobreza nos Estados Unidos. Um livro como o de Piketty, apesar de ter sido crítico, abriu e apoiou muito o que o movimento Occupy estava a fazer, falando sobre os problemas de 1%. O Piketty documentou muito disto, então é extremamente útil. Então, sim, precisa de usar meios capitalistas para fins anticapitalistas. Mas essa é, de facto, uma das contradições centrais da nossa própria situação social. É claro que existem alternativas para fazê-lo, através das redes sociais e do uso de uma espécie de Copyleft de um certo tipo, mas isso torna-se um pouco problemático se alguém precisar do dinheiro com o que quer que publique. Então, sim, existe o processo de trabalho, mas a coisa boa, pelo menos, que eu diria sobre o processo de trabalho para académicos é que ninguém é o seu chefe – faz isso por si mesmo. E Marx tem uma pergunta muito interessante: “Milton, ao escrever Paradise Lost, criou valor?” E a resposta é: “Não, ele escreveu frases maravilhosas”.

Ele diz que Milton escreveu Paradise Lost da mesma maneira que o bicho-da-seda produz seda; ele fez isso pela sua própria natureza. Isso só se tornou uma mercadoria, quando ele vendeu os direitos por cinco libras para alguém. E então tornou-se uma mercadoria, mas não faz parte do capital – só se tornou capital quando o livreiro começou a usá-lo como uma forma de circular o capital. E assim, gosto de pensar no meu trabalho como uma espécie de trabalho de bicho-da-seda – faço-o pela minha própria natureza, e não por algum tipo de instrução de algum editor. Então, eu faço isto porque quero, quero comunicar algo, poucos sindicatos a lutar por seus direitos, e tenho algo a dizer, e quero torná-lo público.

Will Brehm  34:37
E não pode deixar de o fazer.

David Harvey  34:38
Certo, e muito desse trabalho está disponível em acesso aberto, gratuito, no sítio da internet, por exemplo, mas depois há a pessoa escrita, os companheiros do Capital de Marx, que acompanham as palestras. Algumas pessoas gostam do formato da palestra e outras consideram-no difícil, preferindo o formato escrito. Portanto, o formato escrito está no mundo editorial.

Will Brehm  35:07
Sim, e penso que apenas esperamos que haja mais pessoas na academia como você que estejam a fazer isso pela sua própria natureza, e não muito preocupadas com a forma como isto se torna uma mercadoria.

David Harvey  35:20
Menos e menos. E esse é um dos problemas, julgo. Cada vez menos, toda uma geração de académicos foi criada dentro desse aparato disciplinar, que é necessário produzir muito disto, tantos artigos desse tipo dentro de um certo período de tempo para manter a sua posição. Portanto, há cada vez menos isto porque, quando está pressionado sob este tipo de condição, não pode demorar 10 anos para escrever um livro.

Levei 10 anos para escrever Limits to Capital e, durante esse período, não publiquei muito e, nas condições contemporâneas, estaria sob um stress real, devido ao facto de não ser produtivo o suficiente e todo o resto, estando sujeito a dizerem-me: “Necessita de produzir mais”. E há muitas coisas que aconteceram como resultado; a qualidade da publicação académica diminuiu muito significativamente à medida que a quantidade aumentou. Outra coisa é que, em vez de realizar uma investigação profunda e real, o que leva muito tempo, é muito melhor escrever um artigo em que critica outra pessoa. Digamos que, apenas, se envolve em coisas críticas e pode escrever um artigo em seis meses tornando o tempo de rotatividade da academia mais curto, tornando os projetos de longo prazo difíceis de concretizar.

Will Brehm  36:54
Isto lembra-me o recente escândalo no The Third World Quarterly, o artigo publicado por – penso que por um americano, não tenho 100% de certeza – mas que basicamente argumentou num artigo porque precisamos ver o colonialismo como bom. Nenhuma investigação, apenas esse tipo de argumento diabólico que, realmente, deixa as pessoas chateadas. E, é claro, torna-se instantaneamente o artigo de maior leitura no The Third World Quarterly, que existe há 60 anos. E então, é claro, o conselho editorial meio que renunciou em protesto, mas apenas se resume nisso.

David Harvey  37:39
Sim, e é claro, também recebe muitas citações e, de repente, ele dirige-se ao chefe de departamento e diz: “O meu trabalho está a ser muito citado, dê-me mais dinheiro”.

Will Brehm  37:52
Sim, é isso, e a universidade que ele está afeto não o criticou, foi tratado como um assunto que diz respeito à diversidade de opinião. É um exemplo de como se pode jogar com o sistema académico em detrimento de pensar profundamente, como estava a referir com os 10 anos que demorou a escrever um livro. Considera que Marx teria sido um bom académico?

David Harvey  38:13
Não, teria sido terrível! Ele nunca teria conseguido um cargo em nenhum lugar. Primeiro, ninguém saberia em que disciplina colocá-lo. Eu tenho um pouco esse problema. Quero dizer, venho da geografia, mas muitas pessoas pensam que sou sociólogo ou outra coisa. Mas ele não se encaixa facilmente em nenhuma disciplina. E, em segundo lugar, ele não concluiu muito do seu trabalho. Eu tinha sempre uma pequena coisa na minha secretária que dizia: ele tinha uma carta da sua editora que dizia: “Prezado professor Marx, ainda não recebemos o seu manuscrito Das Kapital. Pode, por favor, facultá-lo dentro de seis meses, ou teremos que contratar outra pessoa para escrever este trabalho? ”

Will Brehm  39:05
Sabe se ele cumpriu alguma meta?

David Harvey  39:07
Não, claro que não cumpriu.

Will Brehm  39:10
Quanto tempo demorou a escrever O Capital? O primeiro número.

David Harvey  39:15
Eu julgo que foram aproximadamente 15 anos.

Will Brehm  39:22
E há três volumes no nome dele de O Capital, mas o terceiro foi co-escrito ou compilado.

David Harvey  39:29
Bem, dois volumes, o número dois e três foram compilados por Engles. Tem havido muita discussão sobre o quanto Engles os fabricou, e até que ponto ele fez parecer que eram documentos perto de estarem prontos para publicação deixados por Marx. Atualmente há muita discussão crítica sobre este aspeto porque os manuscritos estão disponíveis gratuitamente e as pessoas estão a lê-los com muito cuidado, sendo possível ver o que Engles construiu e o texto real, e eles estão a encontrar todo tipo de coisas que Engles adicionou ou não. Portanto, há um exercício académico interessante em curso.

Will Brehm  40:14
Era suposto haver mais do que três volumes?

David Harvey  40:16

Will Brehm  40:17

David Harvey  40:19
Depende de como os conta. No Grundrisse, ele fez várias propostas – os três volumes que ele já tem de O Capital, depois um sobre o Estado, outro sobre o Mercado e Comércio Mundial e outro sobre as Crises. Portanto, havia pelo menos três outros, e é possível encontrar outros lugares onde ele mencionou outras coisas para as quais era necessário olhar. De facto, a questão do trabalho assalariado é abordado de certa forma no primeiro volume de O Capital, mas Marx nunca realmente escreveu uma explicação e discussão muito sofisticada sobre a determinação de salários. Ele tinha em mente fazer isso, mas ele tinha alguns pensamentos preliminares sobre isso, mas esses pensamentos preliminares acabaram no primeiro volume de O Capital. Julgo que ele queira ter um volume inteiro só sobre salário. Mas, como disse, partes dessa ideia acabaram por estar presentes no primeiro volume de O Capital, mas não tudo.

Will Brehm  41:41
Trabalho por acabar, presumo.

David Harvey  41:43
E uma das coisas que penso que deveríamos estar a fazer – aqueles que estão familiarizados com o texto – é tentar encontrar formas de concluir o que ele estava a falar nos três volumes de O Capital, o que eu tentei fazer no meu último livro.

Will Brehm  42:03
Então, na verdade, levanta um bom ponto: quem mais do que a próxima geração de pensadores marxistas – quero dizer, você passou 50 anos a fazê-lo. Quem vê hoje, da nova geração, a desempenhar esse papel?

David Harvey  42:21
A resposta para essa pergunta é: “Não tenho muita certeza”. Porque existe uma grande lacuna entre as pessoas da minha geração ou próximas da minha, com cerca de 60 anos ou mais, e a geração mais jovem entre os 20 e os 30 anos.

Will Brehm  42:39

David Harvey  42:40
Sim, existem muitas pessoas dessa geração que estão realmente muito interessadas em explorar Marx com muito mais detalhe. No meio, quase não há ninguém. E as pessoas que lá estavam abandonaram amplamente o que estavam a fazer e tornaram-se meio que neoliberalizadas, e tudo mais. Portanto, existem algumas pessoas no meio, obviamente. Portanto, não está completamente em branco, mas tenho muita fé na sua geração, na verdade, porque penso que sua geração está a levar isto muito mais a sério. Julgo que parece uma necessidade mais convincente que eles precisem de algum tipo de análise desse tipo. Considero que o que minha geração é obrigada a fazer, que é o que tenho tentado fazer, penso que na última década, na verdade, por meio do que chamo de Projeto Marx, é produzir uma leitura de Marx mais aberta e fluída, e mais relacionado com a vida quotidiana e não muito académica. Então, tentei produzir estas interpretações de Marx que são simples, mas não simplistas. É muito difícil negociar essa distinção, mas esse tem sido meu objetivo. Um dos aspetos que considero encorajadores é o facto de esta missão estar a ter uma reação bastante positiva.

Will Brehm  44:13
Portanto, Marx era conhecido por ser muito bem lido. E ele era um belo escritor O Capital – primeiro volume é absolutamente uma bela leitura, e ele realmente baseia-se numa variedade ampla de outros escritores. Eu pergunto-me: está a ler alguém académico contemporâneo, ou talvez um artista, ou um cineasta capaz de trazer uma variedade tão grande de pensamentos para a criação de algumas obras de arte ou algum trabalho académico de forma tão bela como Marx fez há 150 anos?

David Harvey  44:57
Eu considero que existem pessoas que têm uma perspetiva mais ampla sobre Marx. Penso em alguém como Terry Eagleton, pode trazer muitas questões culturais e, no seu livro sobre porque Marx estava certo, penso que fez um ótimo trabalho em retomar o espírito de Marx como pensador emancipatório. Penso que existem pessoas que são capazes de fazer isso, mas alguém que conhece a filosofia grega, ou Hegel de dentro para fora, Milton, Shakespeare, sabe – isto apenas confunde a mente de que alguém  se pode sentar com tudo isso na mente e produzir um trabalho fascinante, penso em como interpretá-lo.

Will Brehm  46:02
David Harvey, muito obrigado por se juntar ao FreshEd. Realmente não foi um prazer conversar; foi uma honra realmente falar consigo hoje.

David Harvey  46:08
O prazer foi meu em conversar consigo e lembre-se, é a sua geração que precisa fazer isto. Por isso, mãos à obra.

Will Brehm  46:15
Voltarei ao meu livro de 10 anos.

David Harvey  46:18

Translation by Rui da Silva

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Will Brehm 4:44
David Harvey, bienvenue à FreshEd.

David Harvey 4:47

Will Brehm 4:49
Nous voici donc assis à l’université de Musashi à Tokyo. C’est à la veille de la conférence de la Société japonaise d’économie politique, où vous allez prononcer un discours. Vous êtes assis dans un cadre universitaire comme celui-ci depuis plus de 50 ans maintenant. Comment votre compréhension de la valeur de l’enseignement supérieur a-t-elle évolué dans le temps et dans l’espace ?

David Harvey 5:14
Mon évaluation n’a pas beaucoup changé, elle est restée assez constante. Les conditions de l’enseignement supérieur ont vraiment été radicalement transformées. Et il a donc été très difficile de maintenir mes valeurs en vie face à ce que j’appellerais la corporatisation et la néolibéralisation de l’université. Et donc la nature de la lutte pour garder des espaces ouverts, où les opinions dissidentes peuvent être librement développées et exprimées, cette lutte est beaucoup plus difficile aujourd’hui qu’elle ne l’était il y a 20 ou 30 ans. Mais il y a 40 ou 50 ans, elle était également difficile. C’est donc comme s’il y avait eu un grand cycle de : Il était une fois très dur, et puis c’est devenu plus facile parce que les batailles étaient gagnées, et puis nous sommes devenus complaisants. Et puis la réaction s’est installée et maintenant c’est devenu plus dur.

Will Brehm 6:18
Alors, comment c’était au début, dans les années 1960 ? Quand vous avez dit que c’était difficile à l’époque, qu’est-ce qui l’a rendu difficile ? Qu’est-ce qui était difficile ?

David Harvey 6:26
Eh bien, c’était très hiérarchique. Les professeurs étaient des dieux que vous ne pouviez pas défier. Il y avait une certaine orthodoxie qui était assez uniforme, je dirais, dans le monde dans lequel je vivais, en termes de quel type de théorie sociale était admissible et laquelle ne l’était pas. Je n’ai jamais rencontré beaucoup de pensées de Marx, par exemple, jusqu’à l’âge de 35 ans. Et puis je l’ai rencontré par hasard, et je m’y suis mis par hasard. Et il y a eu une lutte considérable. Comme je publiais de plus en plus de choses où je citais Marx comme étant intéressant, où les gens me traitaient immédiatement de marxiste, je ne me suis pas appelé marxiste, on m’a appelé marxiste. Et après environ 10 ans de ce traitement, j’ai abandonné et j’ai dit : “Bon, je dois être marxiste alors si vous dites tous que je suis marxiste”. Mais tout ce que je faisais, c’était lire Marx et dire : “En fait, il y a des choses ici qui sont très intéressantes et très significatives.” Et, bien sûr, cela a une teinte politique que j’ai trouvée très attirante. Et cela m’a aidé à un moment très difficile dans le sens où aux États-Unis, où je viens de m’installer à la fin des années 60, il y a eu des soulèvements urbains partout où se trouvaient des populations marginalisées. Et la ville où j’ai déménagé, Baltimore, l’année précédant mon arrivée, avait été en grande partie incendiée lors d’un soulèvement racial.

Et bien sûr, la guerre du Vietnam était en cours, le mouvement anti-guerre, le mouvement pour la liberté d’expression commençait à faire des incursions dans l’université et le mouvement étudiant était très fort, très puissant. Et en même temps, il y a beaucoup de résistance à cela. Il y a donc eu une période de lutte très active de la fin des années 1960 jusqu’au milieu et à la fin des années 1970.

Will Brehm 8:27
Et au début, avez-vous vu l’influence du capital, vous savez, dans l’université quand vous avez commencé ?

David Harvey 8:37
Eh bien, il a toujours été évident que les universités étaient liées à des classes sociales. Ma formation à Cambridge, par exemple, m’a tout de suite fait rencontrer la classe et Cambridge comme je ne l’avais jamais fait à la maison, quand les gens des écoles publiques qui sont très riches étaient là, et ils semblent, vous savez, s’amuser en quelque sorte et je transpirais à l’idée d’être un bon étudiant. Et à la fin, vous savez, c’est moi qui ai en quelque sorte obtenu les honneurs académiques, mais ils s’en fichaient parce qu’ils partaient travailler dans l’entreprise de papa à Londres et étaient ultra riches au sein … Et j’ai fini par toucher une sorte de salaire de professeur assistant, ce qui était une bagatelle à l’époque, et je luttais pour survivre. La formation était donc toujours présente dans l’enseignement, mais je ne pense pas que les gros capitaux contrôlaient l’université comme ils le font maintenant. Mon éducation, par exemple, a été financée par l’État tout au long de ma scolarité jusqu’à mon doctorat. J’ai donc bénéficié d’une éducation gratuite et il est clair que dans ces conditions, on se sent capable d’explorer tout ce qu’on veut explorer.

Will Brehm 10:00
Étiez-vous politiquement actif lorsque vous étiez à Cambridge ?

David Harvey 10:05
Je suis, je dirais, issu d’un milieu où il y avait une certaine sympathie pour le parti travailliste et le socialisme et je suppose que l’étendue de mes convictions politiques était en gros socialiste fabienne. Mais vers la fin des années 60, je commençais à être désillusionné par rapport à des choses comme la guerre du Vietnam. Et le fait que les Premiers ministres travaillistes britanniques promettaient de grandes choses, mais qu’ils finissaient par succomber au pouvoir du grand argent. Et – comme l’a dit Harold Wilson – les gnomes de Zurich devaient être satisfaits.

J’ai donc commencé à croire qu’il y avait, peut-être, quelque chose qui clochait avec notre situation politique, en même temps que j’ai découvert que beaucoup des appareils théoriques que je comprenais de l’économie, de la sociologie et des sciences politiques n’étaient pas vraiment adéquats pour comprendre les problèmes que j’étudiais sur le terrain. En particulier dans la ville de Baltimore, où, comme je l’ai dit, il y a eu un soulèvement urbain l’année précédant mon arrivée et j’ai participé à de nombreuses études sur les questions suivantes : “Pourquoi cela s’est-il produit”, “Quels étaient les problèmes du marché du logement” et j’ai commencé à travailler sur les problèmes du marché du logement. Et constatant que la théorie économique ne m’aidait pas à un moment ou à un autre, j’ai décidé d’aller lire Marx pour voir s’il y avait quelque chose là-dedans. Et bien sûr, j’ai trouvé que c’était très utile pour aborder des questions pratiques.

Will Brehm 11:44
Donc Marx, comme je l’ai appris, en fait, grâce à certains de vos enseignements qui sont en ligne, définit le capital comme “la valeur en mouvement”. Et je voulais vous demander : Est-ce que ce concept s’applique à l’éducation ? Peut-être spécifiquement à l’enseignement supérieur aujourd’hui, parce que vous avez dit que les gros capitaux en sont maintenant venus à dominer les universités. Alors, que pensez-vous du capital dans les universités ? Et comment pensons-nous à la valeur en mouvement dans les universités ?

David Harvey 12:13
Oui, la masse du capital est bien sûr en mouvement, et s’accélère sans cesse, mais le capital a besoin de certaines infrastructures. Mais le capital a besoin de certaines infrastructures. Il a besoin d’infrastructures physiques, qui sont durables – des autoroutes, des routes, des ports, des choses de ce genre, qui nécessitent des investissements de capitaux à long terme. De même, il a besoin d’investissements à long terme dans l’éducation, car les qualités de la main-d’œuvre deviennent un problème de plus en plus préoccupant pour le capital au fil du temps, bien plus qu’à l’époque de Marx. Vous voulez une main-d’œuvre bien formée et instruite. Et vous en avez aussi besoin du point de vue du renouvellement de la société bourgeoise, qu’il y ait beaucoup d’innovation et que les universités de recherche deviennent des centres d’innovation. Bien sûr, l’une des choses les plus folles auxquelles je pense aujourd’hui, c’est que l’on réduit considérablement le financement de l’enseignement supérieur, alors qu’en fait, les investissements considérables dans l’enseignement supérieur dans les années 1960 ont créé un environnement qui, aujourd’hui encore, explique en grande partie pourquoi les États-Unis restent si forts dans l’économie mondiale, parce que vous avez une main-d’œuvre très instruite, à l’esprit d’entreprise, mais vous réduisez maintenant tout cela, et la main-d’œuvre est de moins en moins susceptible d’être innovante, parce qu’elle est de plus en plus endettée. Vous avez donc en fait une structure d’éducation qui sape ce dont le capital a vraiment besoin. Mais néanmoins, une partie du capital doit passer par les universités de manière à créer cette main-d’œuvre. Et c’est un projet à long terme qui coûte, parce qu’en quelque sorte, où les bénéfices et sortent 10, peut-être même 15 ans plus tard.

Will Brehm 14:14
Et je pense que l’une des choses qui me fascine en ce moment, comme en Amérique et probablement dans d’autres pays, c’est le montant de la dette des étudiants pour participer au futur marché du travail. Et j’y pense parfois en termes de cette idée des désirs, des besoins et des souhaits du capital, comme cette idée qu’il y a un tel désir d’être éduqué, que les gens s’endettent de milliers de dollars, ce qui limite vraiment leurs perspectives d’avenir. Quelle est votre opinion sur cette dette massive à laquelle les étudiants sont confrontés de nos jours ?

David Harvey 14:51
Je pense que le problème général de la circulation du capital est que la circulation de la dette est devenue de plus en plus le point central de ce qui se passe dans l’économie capitaliste. Et donc, l’endettement prend de nombreuses formes différentes, à cause de l’endettement que les gens contractent du côté des consommateurs. Et, bien sûr, dans la mesure où l’éducation est devenue une marchandise qu’il fallait acheter. Les gens ont donc besoin d’une demande effective et s’ils n’ont pas l’argent, ils doivent l’emprunter. Et c’est ainsi que l’on a maintenant l’endettement d’une population étudiante. Et cela hypothèque l’avenir. Et d’une certaine manière, c’est une forme de contrôle social, de la même manière que l’on disait dans les années 1930 que les dettes des propriétaires de maisons ne se mettent pas en grève. Ainsi, les étudiants grevés de dettes ne font pas de vagues. Ils veulent garder leur emploi, ils ne veulent pas être licenciés, parce qu’ils ont toutes ces dettes à rembourser. Il y a donc beaucoup de preuves, me semble-t-il, que la population des étudiants diplômés est beaucoup moins susceptible de prendre des risques que dans la situation où je me trouvais, par exemple, en sortant de Cambridge avec un doctorat sans dette.

Et puis vous pouvez aller faire ce que vous voulez, et vous n’avez pas cela en tête. Mais maintenant, les gens ont cette menace sur eux. C’est donc à la fois un mécanisme de contrôle social et un moyen de conserver le capital pour l’avenir, car la dette est une créance sur le travail futur, et c’est une créance sur l’avenir. Donc, en fait, nous avons verrouillé l’avenir des gens en augmentant les niveaux d’endettement. Et cela signifie qu’il est difficile d’imaginer une transformation du capitalisme, parce qu’il y a tant de dettes. Je suis personnellement devenu nerveux parce que mon fonds de pension est investi dans la dette. Donc si nous abolissons la dette, vous abolissez mes fonds de pension. Mon fonds de pension devient donc une partie cruciale du problème. J’ai donc cette ambivalence ; je vois le marché boursier s’effondrer et je me dis “Yay, c’est la fin du capitalisme”. Et puis je me dis : “Oh, mon Dieu, qu’est-ce qui arrive à mon fonds de pension ?” Mais c’est une sorte de situation contradictoire dans laquelle nous nous trouvons tous et c’est une des choses qui donne en fait une certaine stabilité sociale et politique au capitalisme que lorsque le capital a des problèmes, et j’ai dit : “Nous devons sauver les banques”. Nous disons : “Non, ne faites pas ça.” Et puis quelqu’un se tourne vers nous et nous dit : “Si vous ne sauvez pas les banques, désolé, toutes vos économies ont disparu.” Alors vous vous retournez et dites : “Ok, allez sauver les banques.”

Will Brehm 17:37
Oui, je veux souligner que ce qui m’intéresse, c’est que l’éducation, à certains égards, est considérée par les gens comme un facteur de transformation, et peut-être un lieu où aller vraiment à l’encontre de certaines normes systémiques. Donc, vous savez, comme le capitalisme, mais en même temps, le système que nous avons créé, comme vous l’avez dit, est fondamentalement en train de verrouiller l’avenir, et de rendre les gens moins capables de prendre des risques, et peut-être de défier ce système. Et cela me fait penser à l’érudit [Maurizio Lazzarato, qui dit, la dette dans l’éducation, l’enseignement supérieur, ce que nous commençons à réaliser c’est que la valeur, le but, de l’enseignement supérieur est d’enseigner la dette. Les étudiants apprennent l’endettement par le biais du système pour les préparer à devenir de bons travailleurs capitalistes à l’avenir.

David Harvey 18:23
C’est vrai. Mais l’autre côté de la médaille est que les étudiants apprennent de moins en moins à être critiques. Leurs facultés critiques s’érodent et nous avons des situations où les étudiants disent : “Oh, ne m’ennuyez pas avec tout ça, dites-moi juste ce que je dois savoir pour obtenir ma certification”. Et je l’obtiens, et ensuite je peux partir et utiliser cette qualification. Il s’agit donc de la qualification plutôt que de développer un mode de pensée particulier, ce qui est essentiel. Et d’un côté, le capital n’aime pas la pensée critique, parce qu’à un moment ou à un autre, comme cela s’est produit à la fin des années 60, beaucoup de gens ont commencé à être très critiques à l’égard du capital. Le capital n’aime donc pas cela. D’un autre côté, si vous n’avez pas de pensée critique, il n’y a pas d’innovation. Et le capital s’assoit et dit : “Pourquoi n’y a-t-il pas plus de choses innovantes ? Et c’est parce que les gens ne savent pas comment penser par eux-mêmes. Et en fait, on se plaint maintenant – je ne sais pas si vous avez rencontré cela – de la main-d’œuvre qui sort des universités et qui est incapable de résoudre les problèmes, parce qu’elle ne sait pas penser par elle-même. Ils veulent juste trouver une solution à laquelle ils se branchent. Ils veulent donc des informations, mais ils n’ont pas la capacité critique d’être réellement des résolveurs de problèmes. Et il y a beaucoup de plaintes maintenant, parmi le capital des entreprises, sur l’incapacité de cette jeune génération à répondre aux besoins du monde du travail.

Will Brehm 20:02
Je veux donc dire, étant donné cet environnement dans l’enseignement supérieur – et vous, vous travaillez dans l’enseignement supérieur. Je pense que vous continuez à enseigner aussi ?

David Harvey 20:09
Oui, j’enseigne un peu.

Will Brehm 20:11
Donc, Marx était très intéressé par la pratique quotidienne, et par votre pratique quotidienne en tant que professeur, mais peut-être plus largement, en tant que citoyen : Comment naviguez-vous dans le système, ces contradictions, comme vous dites ? D’un côté, vous applaudissez la chute de la bourse, mais de l’autre, vous vous lamentez sur l’effondrement de votre fonds de pension. Comment faites-vous face à ces contradictions et comment continuez-vous à être politiquement actif ?

David Harvey 20:37
Eh bien, par exemple, je peux commencer par cette histoire et cette contradiction dans ma propre vie. Et puis nous demanderons aux élèves : “Pouvez-vous constater des contradictions similaires ?” Et, par exemple, toute cette dette, et parler des choses dont nous avons parlé. Et si vous faites cela, les gens comprennent tout de suite. Et donc, vous commencez peut-être à penser que le système est un problème, et que nous devons faire quelque chose pour y remédier, et ensuite que nous devons en apprendre beaucoup plus sur le fonctionnement du système. Et à ce moment-là, vous pouvez entrer dans les choses. L’autre chose que je voudrais faire, cependant, c’est – j’ai toujours, bien sûr, été intéressé par l’urbanisation. Et si vous êtes dans une grande ville, et si vous êtes dans une grande université dans une grande ville, il me semble que vous avez un monde éducatif énorme qui vous permet de sortir dans la rue et de commencer à impliquer les gens dans une certaine mesure sur ce qui se passe dans la rue. L’une des grandes qualités de l’enseignement à la City University of New York est que nous avons tendance à avoir des étudiants qui sont très proches de la rue et qui sont sortis pour participer à des mouvements sociaux, ce qui fait que je n’ai pas besoin de leur dire d’aller voir ce qui se passe dans la rue parce qu’ils en savent beaucoup plus que moi. Et ce qu’ils viennent me voir, c’est pour me dire : “Comment puis-je comprendre tout cela ? “C’est pourquoi j’essaie de leur dire : “Bon, d’accord, étudions Marx et voyons comment ce que vous vivez est lié à ce mode de pensée”, et j’essaie ainsi de parvenir à une sorte de perspective théorique critique.

Will Brehm 22:32
Il est incroyable de penser que les écrits de Marx d’il y a 150 ans sont toujours pertinents pour aider à donner un sens à la vie des étudiants aujourd’hui.

David Harvey 22:44
C’est vrai. En fait, c’est encore plus vrai. Je veux dire, le point ici est que si vous disiez dans les années 1850, “Où le mode de production capitaliste était-il dominant ?” et qu’il ne l’était qu’en Grande-Bretagne, en Europe occidentale et dans la partie orientale des États-Unis et partout ailleurs, il y avait des marchands et ainsi de suite et qu’aujourd’hui bien sûr, il domine partout. Il y a donc un sens dans lequel la théorie que Marx a construite pour traiter de ce monde de production industrielle capitaliste est maintenant devenue mondiale. Et elle est plus pertinente que je ne l’ai jamais été auparavant.

Je tiens donc à le souligner auprès des gens, parce que beaucoup de gens aiment écrire sur Marx et dire : “Eh bien, vous savez, c’était à propos de ce qui se passait à l’époque”. Et je réponds : “Eh bien, non, en fait à l’époque, il y avait toutes sortes d’autres choses qui se passaient dans le monde en dehors de l’accumulation de votre capital.” Aujourd’hui, il n’y a pratiquement aucun endroit dans le monde où l’accumulation de capital n’est pas dominante.

Will Brehm 23:50
Je sais, et c’est incroyable de penser à ce que c’est, c’est tellement omniprésent, c’est tellement mondial, ça s’infiltre dans des parties de la vie, comme l’université qui n’avait pas normalement, ou n’avait pas historiquement ce genre de logique. Et puis, je suppose que je deviens un peu pessimiste et que je me dis : “Eh bien, par où commencer pour résister ? Et comment résister quand il s’agit d’un système si massif et si difficile à situer à l’extérieur ?

David Harvey 24:21
Mais je pense qu’il existe beaucoup de réticences en son sein. J’insiste beaucoup sur le concept d’aliénation de Marx, qui, vous savez, n’a pas été très fortement articulé, je pense, dans la tradition marxiste, en partie parce que quelqu’un comme [Louis] Althusser a dit que c’était un concept non scientifique. Alors que je pense que c’est un concept très profondément important. Et si vous disiez : “Combien de personnes sont aliénées par les conditions de travail actuelles ?” Et les conditions de travail ne concernent pas seulement l’aspect physique du travail et la quantité d’argent que vous obtenez. Il s’agit également de la notion d’avoir un emploi valorisant et une vie valorisante, et les emplois valorisants sont de plus en plus difficiles à trouver.

J’ai une fille de 27 ans et sa génération regarde le marché du travail et dit qu’il n’y a pas grand-chose de valorisant, alors je préfère être barman plutôt que de prendre un de ces emplois sans intérêt. On se trouve donc dans une sorte d’aliénation par rapport à la situation de l’emploi, parce que le sens du travail a disparu. Il existe une grande aliénation par rapport à la vie urbaine quotidienne, aux niveaux de pollution, aux dégâts causés par les systèmes de transport et les embouteillages, et aux tracas liés à la vie quotidienne en ville. Il y a donc une aliénation de l’espace de vie, puis une aliénation de la politique, parce que les décisions politiques semblent être prises quelque part dans la stratosphère et que vous n’êtes pas vraiment en mesure de les influencer, sauf au niveau très local du quartier. Et il y a un sentiment d’aliénation de la nature et d’aliénation d’une sorte de concept de la nature humaine. Et vous regardez une personnalité comme Trump et vous vous dites : “Est-ce le genre de personne que j’aimerais être” et “Est-ce le genre d’être humain que nous voulons encourager à peupler la terre ? Est-ce que c’est ce que le monde va devenir ?” Et donc je pense qu’il y a beaucoup de mécontentement au sein du système.

Les gens mécontents peuvent bien sûr voter de toutes sortes de manières et ce que nous voyons en Europe et ailleurs, ce sont des choses politiques assez folles qui se passent. Et je pense qu’ici la gauche a un certain problème du fait que nous n’avons pas abordé tous ces sentiments politiques et que nous n’avons pas proposé une sorte de politique active pour trouver de meilleures solutions. Nous avons donc laissé le jeu disparaître et je pense que, dans une certaine mesure, cela a beaucoup à voir avec ce que j’appellerais en fait le conservatisme de la gauche.

Les marxistes, par exemple, sont incroyablement conservateurs et vous savez que j’ai perdu le compte du nombre de fois où, dans une discussion, j’ai été ramené à devoir discuter de Lénine. Bon, d’accord, j’admire Lénine et je pense qu’il était important de lire à son sujet, mais je ne pense pas que le sujet soit d’actualité. Je ne veux pas me perdre dans tous ces arguments sur la question de savoir si c’était Lénine ou le Luxembourg, ou, vous savez, “Qui est Trotsky ?” ou qui avait raison. Je veux en parler maintenant. Je veux parler de la critique marxiste maintenant, de ce qu’elle nous dit, puis parler et se dire : “Comment construire alors une alternative à ce très large sentiment de désillusion qui existe dans la société ?

Will Brehm 28:18
Pensez-vous que l’éducation au sens large, ou peut-être l’enseignement supérieur en particulier, peut contribuer à la construction de cette alternative basée sur votre critique marxiste ?

David Harvey 28:28
Il peut l’être, et il devrait l’être. Le problème actuel est que l’enseignement supérieur est de plus en plus dominé par l’argent privé et qu’il est devenu privatisé ; le financement est devenu privatisé. Et lorsqu’il était financé par l’État, il existait toujours des contraintes, mais pas aussi strictes qu’aujourd’hui. Et fondamentalement, les grands capitaux et les sociétés vont financer/donner des sommes massives aux universités pour construire des centres de recherche. Mais les centres de recherche ont pour but de trouver des solutions techniques ; ils ont très rarement autre chose qu’une préoccupation nominale pour les questions sociales. Ils ne s’intéressent pas – je veux dire, par exemple, au domaine de l’environnement, à ces instituts qui se penchent sur les questions environnementales. Et c’est une question de technologies. Et tout cela concerne les dispositions fiscales, ou quelque chose de ce genre. Il ne s’agit pas de consulter les gens. Il ne s’agit pas de discussions de ce genre.

Lorsque nous faisions des recherches sur ces questions dans les années 1960, il existait toujours une forte participation du public et des discussions publiques. Aujourd’hui, une sorte de solution technocratique est imposée d’en haut au problème environnemental, qui est en cours d’élaboration. Et si vous vous intéressez au problème environnemental d’un point de vue social, il est probable que vous soyez quelque part dans les sciences humaines et que vous puissiez organiser un petit symposium en sciences humaines sur la façon dont, lorsque vous commencez à être très politique à ce sujet, mais les ingénieurs et les technocrates bien financés dans ces instituts de recherche ne seront pas très enthousiastes à l’idée de vous écouter.

Will Brehm 30:10
De la même manière, je suis parfois étonné de voir comment, dans les universités, le travail des professeurs consiste à écrire des documents et à travailler beaucoup plus longtemps que la semaine de travail normale, et qu’il y a très peu de syndicats qui se battent pour leurs droits. Et ce qui est plus important, je pense, c’est que, vous savez, il y a un système tellement pervers ou fou dans la mesure où les universitaires dépensent tout ce travail pour écrire des articles qui sont ensuite publiés dans ces sociétés à but lucratif qui vendent ensuite des revues et des articles et très peu d’argent revient au professeur qui a fait le travail réel. Et pendant ce temps, le PDG de Wiley, qui est une grande société d’édition, gagne quelque chose comme 4 millions de dollars par an. Tout cela semble tellement faussé. Et ce qui est intéressant dans mon esprit, c’est que certains de ces mêmes professeurs qui sont dans cet environnement, ils utilisent des critiques marxistes dans leur travail, mais il y a presque comme une déconnexion avec leur propre travail. Et je ne sais pas comment donner un sens à cela parfois.

David Harvey 31:21
Je pense que si vous voulez être publié, vous devez trouver un éditeur et l’éditeur est une institution capitaliste. Ce qui est intéressant dans l’édition, c’est que les éditeurs ont tendance à publier tout ce qui se vend. Il est donc possible, si vous avez un point de vue critique, d’être publié si cela se vend. Il y a donc évidemment des livres qui se vendent bien et qui ont un impact important. Historiquement, bien sûr, The Other America de Harrington, dans les années 60, a soudainement fait exploser toute la question de la pauvreté aux États-Unis. Un livre comme celui de Piketty pour l’ensemble, bien que j’aie été critique à son égard, s’est néanmoins ouvert et a beaucoup soutenu ce que faisait le mouvement Occupy, et a parlé des problèmes du 1%. Et Piketty en a documenté beaucoup, donc c’est extrêmement utile. Donc oui, vous devez utiliser des moyens capitalistes à des fins anticapitalistes. Mais c’est, en fait, une des contradictions qui est au cœur de notre propre situation sociale. Il existe bien sûr des alternatives pour le faire par le biais des médias sociaux et de l’utilisation d’une sorte de Copyleft, mais cela devient un peu problématique si quelqu’un a besoin de l’argent de ce qu’il publie. Donc oui, il y a le processus de travail mais la bonne chose que je dirais au moins à propos du processus de travail pour les universitaires est que personne n’est votre patron – que vous le faites pour vous-même. Et Marx a une question très intéressante : “Est-ce que Milton, en écrivant Paradise Lost, a créé de la valeur ?” Et la réponse est : “Non, il a juste écrit des phrases merveilleuses.”

Il dit que Milton a écrit “Paradise Lost” de la même façon que le ver à soie produit de la soie ; il l’a fait de sa propre nature. Elle n’est devenue une marchandise que lorsqu’il en a vendu les droits pour cinq livres à quelqu’un. Puis il est devenu une marchandise, mais il ne fait pas partie du capital – il n’est devenu un capital que lorsque le libraire a commencé à l’utiliser comme une sorte de moyen de faire circuler le capital. C’est pourquoi j’aime à considérer mon travail comme une sorte de travail de ver à soie – que je le fais par nature, et non sur instruction d’un éditeur. Je le fais donc parce que je veux le faire, je veux communiquer quelque chose, j’ai quelque chose à dire et je veux le faire savoir.

Will Brehm 34:37
Et vous ne pouvez pas ne pas le faire.

David Harvey 34:38
C’est vrai, et une grande partie de ce travail est gratuit comme maintenant sur le site web, par exemple, les gens peuvent le faire et puis il y a la personne écrite, les compagnons de la capitale de Marx, qui vont avec les conférences. Certaines personnes aiment le format des conférences, et d’autres le trouvent difficile, alors elles peuvent passer au format écrit. Le format écrit est donc dans le monde de l’édition.

Will Brehm 35:07
Oui, et je suppose que nous espérons simplement qu’il y a plus de gens dans le monde universitaire comme vous qui font cela de leur propre nature, et qui ne s’inquiètent pas trop de la façon dont cela devient une marchandise.

David Harvey 35:20
De moins en moins. Et c’est l’un des problèmes, je pense. De moins en moins, et toute une génération d’universitaires a été élevée au sein de cet appareil disciplinaire, que vous devez produire tant de ceci, et tant d’articles de ce genre dans un certain laps de temps afin de maintenir votre position. Il y en a donc de moins en moins qui le font, parce que dans ce genre de conditions, on ne peut pas prendre dix ans pour écrire un livre.

J’ai mis dix ans à écrire Limits to Capital, et pendant cette période, je n’ai pas publié beaucoup et dans les conditions actuelles, j’aurais été vraiment stressé par le fait que je n’étais pas assez productif, et tout le reste et ils m’auraient eu et m’auraient dit : “Vous devez produire plus”. Et beaucoup de choses se sont produites en conséquence ; la qualité des publications universitaires a diminué de manière très significative alors que la quantité a augmenté. Et l’autre chose, c’est qu’au lieu d’entreprendre une sorte de recherche vraiment approfondie, qui vous prend beaucoup de temps, il est bien mieux d’écrire un article où vous critiquez quelqu’un d’autre. Supposons que vous vous engagiez dans une sorte de critique et que vous puissiez écrire un article comme un fou en six mois. Ainsi, le temps de renouvellement du personnel universitaire est devenu beaucoup plus court et les projets à long terme sont beaucoup plus difficiles à entreprendre.

Will Brehm 36:54
Cela me rappelle le récent scandale du Third World Quarterly, l’article publié par un Américain, je crois, dont je ne suis pas sûr à 100%. Mais il a essentiellement exposé les raisons pour lesquelles nous devons considérer le colonialisme comme une bonne chose, et il a rassemblé tout l’article. Pas de recherche, juste ce genre d’argument diabolique qui énerve vraiment les gens. Et, bien sûr, il devient instantanément l’article le plus lu dans The Third World Quarterly, qui existe depuis 60 ans. Et puis, bien sûr, le comité de rédaction a en quelque sorte démissionné en signe de protestation, mais cela résume bien ce moment.

David Harvey 37:39
Oui. Et, bien sûr, il reçoit aussi beaucoup de citations et soudain, il va voir son chef de service et lui dit : “Je suis en haut de l’échelle des citations. Donnez-moi plus d’argent”.

Will Brehm 37:52
C’est vrai, et son université n’est pas venue le critiquer. Vous savez, c’est une question de diversité d’opinions. C’est quelque chose que vous pouvez voir comment vous pouvez jouer le système de cette façon avec les universitaires. Au lieu de faire cette réflexion profonde, comme vous en parlez, avec les 10 ans pour écrire un livre. Pensez-vous que Marx aurait été un bon universitaire ?

David Harvey 38:13
Non, il aurait été terrible ! Il n’aurait jamais été titularisé nulle part. D’abord, personne ne saurait dans quelle discipline le mettre. J’ai un peu ce problème. Je veux dire, je viens de la géographie mais beaucoup de gens pensent que je suis sociologue ou autre chose. Mais il ne s’intègre pas facilement dans une discipline. Et puis, deuxièmement, il n’a pas terminé une grande partie de son travail. Et j’avais toujours cette petite chose sur mon bureau : Il avait une lettre de son éditeur, qui disait : “Cher Monsieur le Professeur Marx, nous avons appris que nous n’avons pas encore reçu votre manuscrit de Das Kapital. Pourriez-vous nous le fournir dans les six mois, ou nous devrons charger quelqu’un d’autre d’écrire cette œuvre ?

Will Brehm 39:05
Savez-vous s’il a respecté le délai ?

David Harvey 39:07
Non, bien sûr que non.

Will Brehm 39:10
Combien de temps lui a-t-il fallu pour écrire Capital ? Numéro un.

David Harvey 39:15
Je pense que c’était en gros 15 ans, je crois.

Will Brehm 39:22
Et il existe trois volumes à son nom pour Capital, mais le troisième a été co-écrit ou compilé.

David Harvey 39:29
Eh bien, les deux volumes deux et trois ont été compilés par Engles. Et il y a eu beaucoup de discussions sur la quantité fabriquée par Engles, et il a certainement fait croire que ces notes que Marx avait étaient plus proches de la publication qu’elles ne l’étaient en réalité. Il y a donc beaucoup de discussions critiques parce que les manuscrits sont maintenant disponibles gratuitement et les gens lisent les manuscrits très attentivement, à partir desquels Engles a élaboré le texte réel qui nous est parvenu, et ils trouvent toutes sortes de choses qu’Engles a ajoutées ou manquées. Il y a donc un exercice scientifique intéressant qui se déroule à ce sujet.

Will Brehm 40:14
Il devait y avoir plus de trois volumes ?

David Harvey 40:16

Will Brehm 40:17
Combien de personnes ?

David Harvey 40:19
Cela dépend de la façon dont vous les comptez. Dans le Grundrisse, il a fait plusieurs propositions – les trois volumes qu’il a déjà sur la capitale, puis un sur l’État, un sur le marché mondial et le commerce mondial, et un autre sur les crises. Il y en a donc eu au moins trois autres, et il est possible de trouver d’autres endroits où il a mentionné d’autres choses qu’il doit examiner. En fait, la question du travail salarié, elle est bien sûr couverte dans une certaine mesure dans le premier volume du Capital, mais Marx, n’a jamais vraiment écrit d’explication et de discussion très sophistiquée sur la détermination des salaires. Et il avait l’intention de le faire, mais il est évident qu’il avait quelques idées préliminaires à ce sujet, mais ces idées préliminaires ont fini dans le premier volume du Capital, mais il voulait, je pense, avoir tout un volume sur le travail salarié en soi. Mais comme je l’ai dit, des bribes de cette idée ont abouti dans le premier volume du Capital, mais pas l’ensemble.

Will Brehm 41:41
Un travail inachevé, je suppose.

David Harvey 41:43
Et l’une des choses que nous devrions faire – ceux d’entre nous qui sont familiers avec le texte – c’est d’essayer de trouver des moyens de compléter ce dont il parlait, et de représenter réellement ce dont il parle dans les trois volumes du Capital, ce que j’ai essayé de faire dans le dernier livre.

Will Brehm 42:03
Cela soulève donc en fait un bon point : Qui d’autre dans la prochaine génération de penseurs marxistes – je veux dire, vous avez passé 50 ans à faire cela. Qui, selon vous, prend aujourd’hui la relève de la génération suivante ?

David Harvey 42:21
La réponse à cette question est : “Je ne suis pas tout à fait sûr”. Parce qu’il y a un grand fossé entre les personnes de ma génération ou proches de ma génération, en quelque sorte sexagénaires et plus, et la jeune génération à la fin de la vingtaine, au début de la trentaine.

Will Brehm 42:39
Donc moi.

David Harvey 42:40
Oui, il y a beaucoup de personnes dans cette génération qui sont en fait très intéressées à explorer Marx de façon beaucoup plus détaillée. Entre les deux, il n’y a presque personne. Et les gens qui étaient là ont en grande partie abandonné ce qu’ils faisaient et sont devenus une sorte de néolibéralisation et tout le reste. Il y a donc quelques personnes au milieu, évidemment. Ce n’est donc pas complètement vide, mais j’ai beaucoup de foi en votre génération, en fait, parce que je pense que votre génération prend cela beaucoup plus au sérieux. Je pense qu’elle ressent davantage le besoin impérieux d’une analyse de ce genre. Et je pense que ce que ma génération est obligée de faire, et c’est ce que j’ai essayé de faire, je crois, au cours de la dernière décennie, par le biais de ce que j’appelle The Marx Project, c’est de produire une lecture de Marx qui soit plus ouverte et plus fluide, plus en rapport avec la vie quotidienne et qui ne soit pas trop scolastique. J’ai donc essayé de produire ces interprétations de Marx qui sont simples, mais pas simplistes. Il est très difficile de négocier cette distinction, mais c’était mon objectif. Et l’une des choses que je trouve encourageantes est ce que je considère comme une réaction très positive à cette mission.

Will Brehm 44:13
Marx était donc connu pour être très bien lu. Et c’était un très bel écrivain et Capital – Volume 1 est tout simplement une très belle lecture. Et il s’inspire vraiment d’un si grand nombre d’autres écrivains. Et je me pose des questions : Lisez-vous quelqu’un qui est un chercheur contemporain, ou peut-être un artiste, ou un cinéaste capable d’intégrer une si grande variété de pensées dans la création d’une œuvre d’art ou d’une œuvre savante d’une manière aussi belle que Marx l’a fait il y a 150 ans ?

David Harvey 44:57
Je pense qu’il y a des gens qui ont une perspective plus large sur Marx. Je pense à quelqu’un comme Terry Eagleton, qui peut apporter beaucoup de choses culturelles et qui, dans son petit livre sur les raisons pour lesquelles Marx avait raison, a fait un très bon travail en reprenant l’esprit de Marx en tant que penseur émancipateur et en le poussant à se réaliser. Il y a donc des gens, je pense, qui sont capables de faire cela, mais quelqu’un qui connaît la philosophie grecque, ou Hegel à fond, Milton, Shakespeare, vous savez – cela dépasse l’entendement que quelqu’un puisse s’asseoir là avec tout cela en tête et produire un travail qui est fascinant, je pense en termes de comment l’interpréter.

Will Brehm 46:02
David Harvey, je vous remercie beaucoup d’avoir rejoint FreshEd. Ce n’était pas vraiment un plaisir de parler, c’était un honneur de prendre vraiment la parole aujourd’hui.

David Harvey 46:08
C’était un plaisir de discuter avec vous, et n’oubliez pas que c’est votre génération qui doit le faire. Alors, occupez-vous maintenant.

Will Brehm 46:15
Je vais retourner à mon livre de 10 ans.

David Harvey 46:18

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OverviewTranscriptترجمةFrançais TranscriptionBản dịch Tiếng ViệtResources

Finland is known to have an excellent education system. Its high scores on the Programme for International Student Assessment have convinced people around the world that Finland is a country worth copying. In 2011, Pasi Sahlberg detailed Finland’s educational reforms that helped achieve these world-class results in his book Finnish Lessons.

As Pasi traveled the world talking about his award-winning book to academics, policy makers, and educators, he was always asked if it is a good idea to copy the Finnish education system.

Today, Pasi Sahlberg – a regular on FreshEd — sits down with me to talk about his latest book, FinnishEd Leadership: Four Big, inexpensive ideas to transform education. FinnishEd Leadership is, in some sense, a sequel to his earlier book, Finnish Lessons. FinnishEd Leadership offers ideas to make a difference in other schools inspired by Finnish practice. In other words, he provides an answer to those people asking if their country should copy Finland’s education system.

Citation: Sahlberg, Pasi, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 97, podcast audio, November 27, 2017. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/sahlberg/

Will Brehm:  1:47
Pasi Sahlberg, welcome back to FreshEd.

Pasi Sahlberg:  1:49
Thank you very much, Will. It’s good to be with you.

Will Brehm:  1:51
So you travel all around the world to give keynote addresses at various conferences and workshops to different ministries of education all over the world. And in your newest book, you write that at one conference, you found yourself sitting next to George Pataki, who is the former governor of New York and you were eating lunch together. What did the two of you end up talking about?

Pasi Sahlberg:  2:16
Yeah, that’s true. And actually, this is one of the motivations to write a book, I was a speaker in a conference like him a few years ago. And obviously, because I’m not American, I didn’t know him that well, obviously, I heard a name and you know, the whole story study, I’m not the kind of a guy who does a lot of small talk. So I but you know, if you have a lunch with American, you have to kind of exercise a little small talk. So my kickoff for the small talk was to simply ask him that so “what do you think about American education right now, George?”, and I knew that he has an opinion, because he’s in top politics, and he was just about to run to be the next president of the United States through his party. And so, you know, I was kind of curious to hear what he says. And, but what he said, actually, his view of American education wasn’t surprising, but it was a very negative, very, kind of pessimistic view of that there’s no hope in, you know, doing any of those things that people often, you know, offering the United States like improving schools or teachers, you know, his view was much more about just that distract everything and destroy the, you know, the public system and, and bring all these alternative options, like, you know, private control of schools and teach for America and all those things. So it was kind of a shocking beginning for our conversation.

Will Brehm:  2:57
So the idea of like disruption, right? I mean, that’s a very common term we hear these days, we want to disrupt schools, like we want to disrupt the taxi economy with Uber.

Pasi Sahlberg:  3:53
Yeah, exactly, exactly. This and but, you know, the thing was, that I had spent enough time in the US, in different parts of America. And, you know, I hear this type of story in many places that people think that, you know, they kind of believe that public education is dead, that there’s nothing we can do that during the last hundred years, we have tried everything and nothing worked. So, you know, in a way, I understand those people who don’t really understand education, say that exactly like in taxi, transportation business, or something else that lets us do this whole thing away and build this whole new public private partnership idea that will be more dynamic and effective, and, you know, based on the, you know, if you if you cannot deliver, then you’re dead and an out of business and somebody else will come. But, you know, as soon as, you know a little bit more about history of education and how education systems elsewhere work, then, of course, you have a different view.

Will Brehm:  4:43
So, did George end up asking you about your opinions on, you know, American education for his own sort of, for his education, I guess?

Pasi Sahlberg:  4:52
Absolutely. And I, you know, afterwards I took it as a kind of a sign of small talk that I’m not sure that he was really interested in what I was about to say, but, you know, because my introduction to him was that I’m a Finnish citizen, a Finnish educator, and I was teaching at Harvard University that time and obviously, I was speaking in the same conference. So he kind of a felt that he wants to hear, of course, he had heard about Finnish education. So but, you know, this was a question I really didn’t want him to ask me after you know, hearing what he had to say about education, because my answer to his question was almost the opposite that I was, you know, my view was so it was like a black and white compared to what he was saying, and in front of his authority, just the two plates of lunch between us I was a little bit like, afraid that how he would react and actually my response to him was that as I write in my book, that you know, I would rather not talk about American education because there are so many things that I don’t understand and that’s a kind of a way how the conversation with him evolved. It was a very interesting conversation afterwards because he got back to me saying that so what you don’t understand because for him the whole solution and strategy of American so you know, fixing American schools was so clear that just you know, do away these old you know, fire all the teachers and close down the underperforming schools, and, you know, just let’s make this thing look more like a business. And so he didn’t understand quite why I didn’t understand some of these things in American education. But that’s where the real conversation then really started.

Will Brehm:  6:27
Did you actually tell him more how you see it differently? And if so, what were you actually describing to George that made him maybe rethink his own thinking of American education?

Pasi Sahlberg:  6:40
Yeah, well, you know, the main thing I wanted him to really stop and think more that was built into my response to him, when his question was at “what are those things that I don’t understand in American education”, and that the main thing I said to him that I still firmly believe is important was that I don’t, I really don’t understand why in the United States of America, those create ideas and innovations in education, really, throughout the last hundred years, starting from John Dewey, and many others, ever since, that have made other education systems great, like Finland, and Canada, and Hong Kong, and China, and Singapore, and you name it that, you know, if you hunt down those key ideas in Finland, for example, that have been critically important in improving how the education system works, they are, most of them are from the US and I said to him, that, you know, if I look at American education efforts to improve schools, I don’t really see any systematic proper use of those same ideas in the US that the US works much more with the ideas that many of these higher performing education systems deliberately tried to avoid, like this market-based thinking, and de-professionalization, standardization of system. So I gave him I think, three or so ideas examples after him asking concretely, what do I mean like, for example, cooperative learning that has been a critically important for the Finnish schools performance as the whole system performance, and Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences or peer coaching that I also mentioned in the book as one way how teachers can learn effectively to teach differently, and none of those things that they’re all known in America and in many parts of America, but they never been part of the kind of systematic effort of improving the system. Like, if you look at the No Child Left Behind, or Race to the Top, or any recent reforms, there’s no sign of these things. So this was my response to him saying, look, you know, George, I really don’t understand why you don’t do these things that the world has proven that works, that can be much more effective than any of those things that you were mentioning.

Will Brehm:  8:56
So, okay, let me get this straight. So George Pataki is basically asking you for your advice. And you basically respond by saying, what makes Finnish education so great, because it has that sort of international reputation and all of these other schools want to be like Finnish schools, and you are saying, look, George, a lot of the ideas that Finland uses actually derived from American scholars. And it’s strange that American schools don’t pick up these ideas that are actually born and raised in the American Academy. That’s what was happening.

Pasi Sahlberg:  9:32
Yeah, the only thing I would probably put a little bit differently in your summary is that I am not sure as I said whether he really was interested in my advice, I think goes I was probably much too junior and unknown person there to be anybody to give advice. But I think that George was in a kind of a very sensitive moment and mood in any ways, because he was obviously running into this very important race to be the next president of the United States. So I think it would be silly for him to say that, you know, I don’t really care what you’ve done there, because I have my own solution. But he was very intrigued about this fact. And I saw again, as I described in my book, that he was really disturbed by the fact by understanding that, hey, wait a minute. So the other countries like Finland that they have been using our research that we have our taxpayers have paid the research that the Finns then take seriously and put into the education reforms and make the system work, what’s going on here? You know, this is what I saw him thinking every now and then that is this really real or am I dreaming something?

Will Brehm:  10:37
But some of the ideas that he was sort of advocating as you were saying that sort of de-professionalization of teachers and the marketization of schools and schooling those also presumably have a research base, right?

Pasi Sahlberg:  10:51
And absolutely, and there’s no question about it, you know, if you don’t need to spend too much time with any American researcher or research conference, when you hear what Americans really know about those things. And that’s, of course, a kind of an interesting thing. And, you know, this research, in many cases, is much more closely read and heard by policymakers and educators outside of the United States. And this is one of those things that I really don’t understand. It’s actually built into this my kind of a confusion and inability to understand American education world is that why people are not really taking their own research seriously, how can it be that in the United States, day in and day out people, you know, come across great books and research reports, and others? And they said, No, this is not, this is not how it goes. But when, when you cross the border, just north of the US, go to Canada, and you see how differently policymakers, politicians, and everybody takes the global international research nowadays, and they consider their findings and, you know, look at the findings of the research compared to their own practice and policies. And if they find a kind of inconsistencies there, just like Finland that they are, they are willing and able to change the course but not in the US.

Will Brehm:  12:04
So why is America so unusual in that sense like, is it simply ideology?

Pasi Sahlberg:  12:09
Well, it may be, you know, if you know, Will, tell me, you probably know this better than I do. But this is a kind of a sustained confusion in my head that how can it be that the country that, you know, produce this, you know, my kind of a rough estimate is that probably about three quarters of the educational significant educational research and innovation work still comes from the US that why it is not taken more seriously. Why it’s so much ignored, why the canyon between those who know who do the research and, you know, so called experts in America and those who are more ideological politicians or other ways, pundits in this field. Why this canyon is so huge, why people cannot really sit down and said, Okay, let’s see what we know. So I but I really don’t know.

Will Brehm:  12:59
And so I mean, as you travel the world, giving these different lectures and running into people like George and maybe making small talk, but also maybe giving some advice and some tips, I would imagine a lot of people do ask you like, what should our school system do? And so how do you actually respond to that sort of very direct question that so sort of practical and in many ways, kind of erases context, right? Like they’re just looking for these very practical technical solutions, when we know, education is much more complex than that. So how do you actually like manage those sort of conversations as you see different education systems around the world?

Pasi Sahlberg:  13:37
Yeah, it’s a great question in the beginning. And by beginning I mean, really about 10 years ago when the Finland story really started to evolve around the world, I think myself and many of my colleagues and others were kind of, in a situation where they were answering in a kind of a typical way that there’re five, you know, there are five things that makes Finland great or five things that you know, Canadians do. And then, you know, I spoke about the public system and great teachers and purposeful leadership, you know, those common things and, you know, all of them are true.

But now, when people and you’re right, that, you know, people ask me all the time these questions that, you know, what should we do, based on what you have seen around the world, but my answers have turned into be much more kind of a, you know, emphasizing the complexity and difficulty of this whole question, and the nature of context, the places where you are looking at these things like China or Japan, Tokyo, and Finland, that they’re very different in many, many ways. And, you know, some of those things that work well in Finland or in other place may not necessarily work at all in some other places. So, I think my answer has really turned to be much more like, you know, looking at the general things like don’t rush the reform that this is one of those things that I have used a lot that to rush an education reform is to ruin it, this is really one of those things that is behind Finland’s success. And, of course, their leadership overall, the sustainable nature of leadership is one of those important things rather than trying to identify some other things.

But then, you know, thirdly, my kind of emerging thing I’m working on more and more now is that I also try to, if I, about to give any advice to anybody, I said, please try to understand that, you know, big part of those things that really make education system work, or children learning within the systems, are probably those things that we find outside of the school, that they are not about curriculum, or pedagogy or educational leader, any of those things, so like in Finland, for example, that they, they are things that are related to what the families do, the other social policies and healthcare, youth policies, and sports and arts and many other things, that library network, you know, all those things. And, you know, that the children are exposed to when are not in school are important, and this is something that we know very little about, I know that there are some other other scholars and others people who are also kind of stressing the importance of, you know, out of school factors, all those things that kids have, or don’t have, when they are not, not in school. But, you know, I’m putting briefly this, this question of yours is that, you know, I have kind of shifted away from giving a kind of a concrete answer of five or seven things that, you know, make education systems work, too much more complex things, but still trying to, you know, emphasize the fact that, you know, teachers and people who work in schools, they have to be professionals, they have to be, you know, properly trained the curriculum in the school, you know, must be designed in a way that teachers and students increasingly have a voice on that education policies have to have equal emphasis on equity, and, you know, excellence or quality of, you know, those types of things. But I’m not in a position anymore, where I could give, say, to any country that, you know, if you do what Finland has done, or Canadians, others that everything will be fine, that’s not going to work.

Will Brehm:  17:06
Yeah, it’s interesting to think about this notion of this school is kind of within this larger social ecology. Because, I mean, in many ways, it almost feels like often people in the field of education, narrow education down to school, and, you know, education happens in so many other parts, and is impacted by so many other parts outside of school, that we, you know, we need to broaden that definition away from that narrowness of school.

Pasi Sahlberg:  17:35
Absolutely, Will. And now, you know, what I see emerging that is also part of this book that we’re talking about here is the more important role of well-being and health of children, then that’s, of course, something that is, you know, schools can do something in order to improve well-being, and health and happiness of children. But, you know, in most education systems probably, the big part of that comes from homes and societies and communities and you know, other things. And that’s where we really begin to understand, you know, how important the surrounding world around the school is. It’s much more easier to kind of argue that, you know, what children learn in physics, or what they learn in mathematics probably mostly happens in school, that very few kids actually study mathematics by themselves. So, you know, if you’re measuring what the kids, how they advance or progress in mathematics, or physics, or history, or foreign languages, it’s easy to argue that, you know, this impact is pretty much by teachers and schools, and, you know, all those things, but, you know, health and well-being and happiness and engagement, you know, those things are much more complicated and complex, complex things. And that’s why I think we are just entering this phase when we are more and more often asking this question, but you know, how important the world around the school is, when we are educating our kids.

Will Brehm:  18:58
And it seems like implied in that answer, you just gave it that what we measure and how is really going to have to change away from just looking at how students are doing on content knowledge on certain subjects?

Pasi Sahlberg:  19:10
Absolutely. And that’s going to happen within the next five years, I guess.

Will Brehm:  19:13
So another idea I hear you talking about a lot and that you’ve written about in this new book is small data, can you just tell me what you mean by small data?

Pasi Sahlberg:  19:22
Yeah, small data, you know, it’s interesting, because I’ve been talking about that a lot during the last year. And I often hear when I ask people this question from people always, if I have a chance that, you know, my question goes like this, that, how would you explain what small data is to a nine year old. And then I asked people to raise their hands if they feel comfortable, you know, doing that in next 30 seconds. And normally, I don’t see any hands that people are kind of confused by this concept. And when I push them a little bit and say that, so what is in your mind when you think about small data? Some people say that maybe it’s just a little bit less of big data. And of course, that’s not the case. But, you know, it brings me to this. The answer of your question is that, you know, what I’ve seen with many of my colleagues working in the same field is that we are having more and more responses now, to educational challenges and issues through the solutions that says, one way or the other include using the big data, like, in some ways, you know, you can take a look at the OECD PISA system as a big data solution for education systems. But then there are many other things like learning analytics, and, you know, all these algorithms and smart machines, and, you know, assessment procedures that are done by, you know, based on machine, you know, group grading, and many other things. And at some point, we kind of, stopped with my colleagues and said, and so, how should the educators respond to all this, you know, this emergence of big data in the world, and in the classrooms, really, this is what you can see, now, if you go to any Edu Tech conference, you see all these fancy solutions that promise everything, you know, enhancing achievement, and, you know, closing the achievement gap, and reducing dropouts, and you name it. So, we came up with this idea that, you know, maybe better way than to say the big data is a bad idea and big data should stay away from schools, because we don’t like it, is to come up with the idea that would be kind of more like a complimentary to big data. Because I do think that there are some things that we can certainly do much better with big data, and, you know, these solutions that come with it. But if it goes too far, you know, if we are beginning to judge the destiny, the future of children, based on the big data and algorithm in the school, that is now the case, some cases that you, the machines can predict what the 10 year old will be in the future based on what they do in a school, that’s where we say, you know, this is not probably how education works, that, you know, our response to this is that, you know, small data is important, the small data is about, you know, all these tiny little clues that you can find in the situation, my classroom or school, for example, through observing, you know, when you sit down in a classroom, and you look around that, what’s going on here, and why the kids and these, why these people are doing these things, and why this classroom is organized this way, and you know, what’s going on here, that no machine, that machines are much worse to do that.

And that’s why you know, this small data is, it’s about observing, and collecting information and evidence through professional wisdom and experience of educators, when it comes to education. So the same thing, you know, small data is now emerging, also in health, health care, that there are research institutions, like in Sydney, Australia, they said, their first research institute on health that is based on small data, that is the same thing that the doctors, the medical experts are kind of looking for these tiny little clues in the way the patients live and, you know, what they do in order to understand what would be good for them to live healthier lives. And so the small data is, really is like a response to this emerging wave of big data that is coming, you know, knocking on the doors of the schools, and we believe that it’s a better response than simply, you know, raise your hands up and say, that don’t come here, this is a school and there’s no room for big data here, because Big Data is going to do that anyway, you know, if we don’t have a good narrative, if we are not able to, you know, say, why do we need a professional that, you know, the evidence, evidence and decisions based on professional wisdom and experience that only teachers and leaders educators can have. And then, of course, we will be also very quickly replaced by machines.

Will Brehm:  23:49
I mean, as a researcher, it’s just so straightforward to me, right? I’m a qualitative researcher, and this idea that you can get rich, sort of qualitative findings through, you know, in a sense, small sample sizes, right? We don’t need that many people, we don’t need big data, we don’t need big statistical quantitative methods to answer some very important questions that we have about social life, including school. And, and in many ways, you know, even through one individual, observing one individuals’ behaviors and social relations and interactions, we can actually theorize a lot of what’s going on, right? So for me, it’s kind of like a no brainer.

Pasi Sahlberg:  24:34
Yeah, it is. But, you know, I have done this experiment, again, in my talks and workshops, I have a little video clip, that is about two minutes, it’s a one solution that promises improved achievement and reduced dropout in the system. If you rely on this, it’s a kind of a smart machine algorithm that is looking at how children answer the kind of a multiple-choice questions. And the price of this one will probably be few hundreds of thousands dollars, or something like this. But you know, if the promise is this, and what they can show now, is that when this has been used in some of the states or districts, what has happened, that, you know, everything, all the curves go up, then, of course, the, you know, even if it’s a no brainer for you or me, then you will have somebody there who is held accountable, I’m talking about the authorities in the system, and he or she has promised to, you know, do all these miracle improvements in the system, and this person knows that, it’s probably very difficult to do that by, you know, just, you know, talk to people, teachers, and try a little bit harder. So it’s a very, very likely thing that this will happen, you know, globally worldwide, that the people will end up, you know, stepping into the solutions that promise you a lot, and, and probably will, you know, probably will, you know, see improvement in the results, but has nothing to do, or very little to do with the learning, actually, you know, how the kids, what type of children do we get out of the system, just like you said, that, you know, education is much, it’s much more about relationship, it’s much more about, you know, understanding who we are, and, you know, how we learn, or what we’re going to do. And again, that’s where the machines are much more worse than humans. And the big data is limited, you know, big data has a limited power in doing these things that we can do. And that’s, again, where the huge opportunity for small data is.

Will Brehm:  26:26
So I want to ask a little bit about this, I guess, this idea that Finland is sort of one of the countries that other countries should be looking towards, to fix their, you know, supposedly failing education systems, like, where did this myth of Finland come from? And do you actually think it’s true? Or is there truth in it? Or is, you know, is it just a myth?

Pasi Sahlberg:  26:49
No, I think that as I write in my book, there are some very dangerous myths about Finland that, you know, everybody should avoid. And that’s why I use it as a kind of a fourth big idea for any education system to to try to get better is to stay away from this myths that they often hear about Finland. Some of those very dangerous things are things like, there’s no homework in Finland, that people have seen in documentary films, and read in the newspapers around the world. You know, I’ve met education system leaders, personally asking me whether it would be a good idea in their own system to do what Finland has done, and, you know, make homework illegal, and that will be extremely harmful, crazy, crazy thing to do. Then, of course, the other thing, the very common myth about Finland is that the country’s doing away teaching subjects that in the future, there will be just kind of themes or topics, kind of projects that we do. And that’s again, as I described in the book is not true at all. So there’s a kind of a set of this misunderstanding, some myths of, you know, what Finland is doing is often simply because of the poor journalism that, you know, sometimes people write these stories without visiting the country, or really talking to anybody, sometimes, you know what, to put forward these crazy ideas to make the headlines.

But what I’ve learned through, you know, working on this book, and actually several of my books is that it’s very difficult to understand, really understand any education system, whether it’s a Japanese system or Finnish or American to the point that you would be able to really have a good conversation about, you know, why this system works in a way it does. And that’s why it’s a very easy to come up with this myth of, you know, this and that, saying that, you know, that, you know, that’s what the system is doing, but I think, you know, this is sad. I think that they are also some very useful and interesting things in Finland’s education system, as in many other, probably most education systems have something interesting that they do, that others are not really doing. But, of course, because everybody has been paying so much attention to Finland, you know, this, the work to identify these things here in Finland has been much more active than in the systems, for example, when nobody’s interested in, you know, asking these things. And, you know, that’s why, you know, that’s why I think that we have to be very careful in, you know, identifying those things that are can be helpful. And, and this book “FinnishED Leadership” is actually I wrote it, because there were people asking that, so if this is not true, what I read in the news or see in the films or documentaries, is there anything I can do if I’m inspired by what Finland has been doing. And obviously, it’s not possible that you could have a world performing system, education system by accident that they are, they’re always, you know, it’s the same with Japan, and Canada, and Finland and other countries have it, there’s always something there that the system has done to get there, it cannot be explained by just be being good by accident, it’s not possible.

Will Brehm:  29:54
So in your conversation with George Pataki at this conference a few years ago, this small talk that you’re having, and so maybe George didn’t necessarily learn anything from you, right? This was just small talk, but did you learn anything from George?

Pasi Sahlberg:  30:09
Well, I’m kind of an optimistic person, I always tried to learn everything from the occasions and you know, of course, you know, I spent a good part of my life also in, not in politics, but policy world and policy work is always very closely linked to politics. And I guess what I learned from George, again, is that, you know, how easy it is to, you know, hide behind your kind of a political power and political influence and political experience when it comes to education. But you can find this rhetoric very easily. And I kind of admire him when I listened to his keynote at the conference, how an experienced politician you know, even after this 45 minutes that we had, when he heard something that when almost 180 degrees against what he was thinking and believing, but he can still walk to the podium and, you know, speak about these things exactly, as he spoke to me that, you know, what is the problem in America, and, you know, it’s all about bad teachers, and, you know, we have to fire them and America deserves much better and, you know, all these things that you must have some skills to be able to do that I would be also probably much better in my own work, if I had some of these skills of you know, how to communicate and, you know, talk about these things. But of course, he didn’t say much about, you know, what I hadn’t heard before. So, that’s not, I didn’t leave the conversation by saying that, Oh, I didn’t know that I didn’t, you know, I didn’t think about that. It was all about more like a convincing that you know, how important for us all it is to find a kind of a good story, a good conversation and something that you know, can stop people for a while and make them think. You know, this is a mystery to me, whether George really whether he remembers this conversation, and if he remembers the conversation, whether he remembers it’s in the same way than I do. He probably tells the same story to his colleagues saying that, you know, this Finnish guy was exactly in the same wavelength with me. And, you know, he spoke about these things in the same way, I don’t know. But anyway, I think the conversation is, it’s good to have that and it’s great that we have a conversation. Without having this lunch with George, I probably would never have written this book as it is right now.

Will Brehm:  32:28
Well, Pasi Sahlberg, thanks so much for joining FreshEd and again it’s always a pleasure to talk.

Pasi Sahlberg:  32:33
Thank you, Will. Thank you so much.

ويل بريهم: باسي ساهلبرج اهلًا بك مرة تانية فيبرنامجنا فريش أيد

باسي ساهلبرج:شكرًا جزيلًا يا ويل. أنا مبسوط أني أكون معاك

ويل بريهم:حضرتكبتسافركل أنحاء العالم وتتكلم عن بعض المواضيع الرئيسية في مؤتمرات متنوعة، وفي العديد من ورش العمل التابعة لوزارات التعليم حول العالم. وكمان فيأحدث كتاب ليك قلت إنه فيأحد المؤتمرات وجدت نفسك جالس بجوار “جورج باتاكى” المحافظ السابق لنيويورك وكنتم بتتغدوا مع بعض. ياترى حديثكم انتهى على إيه؟

باسي ساهلبرج: نعم هذا صحيح، فيالحقيقة يعتبر هذا من الأمور المحفزة للكتابة. أنا وهو كنا متحدثين فيمؤتمر من كام سنة. وبصراحة، لأني غير أمريكي ما كنتش أعرفه كويس، وبصراحة، أنا سمعت الأسم لكني مش من النوع اللي يحب يدخل في دردشات صغيرة.ولكن كما تعلم إنك لما تحظى بتناول الغداء مع شخص أمريكي بيكون عليك نوعًا ما إنك تدخل فيمحادثة أودردشة صغيرة. كانت نقطة انطلاق الدردشة هي أن أسأله ببساطة “ما رأيك فيالتعليم الآن فيأمريكايا جورج؟” وعرفت أن له رأى فيهذا الموضوع باعتباره فيمركز سياسي عالي وكان على وشك أنه يكون رئيسًا للولايات المتحدة من خلال حزبه، فكان عندي فضول نوعا ما لمعرفة رأيه. لكن اللي قاله أورأيه فيالتعليم الأمريكي لم يكن مفاجئ لكنه كان سلبي، نوعا. كانت له نظرة تشاؤمية تعطي شعور بانعدام الأمل من عمل أي شيء من الأمور اللي تتعرض على الولايات المتحدة مثل تطوير المدارس والمعلمين. رأيه فيالواقع كان أكتر أنه “أنسى كل حاجة ودمر النظام العام، وهات الخيارات البديلة مثل خصخصة المدارس، ومنظمة التعليم لأجل أمريكا، وكل هذه الخيارات”. علشان كدا كان الأمر نوعًا ما بداية صادمة لحديثنا.

ويل بريهم: فالفكرة هي وقف هذه المدارس، صح؟  أقصد أن هذا أصبح أمر شائع جدًاهذه الأيام، أننا نريد وقف المدارس، تمامًا كما نريد نوقف اقتصاد التاكسي بـاستخدام أوبر.

باسي ساهلبرج:نعم بالضبط. أنا قضيت وقت كافي فيالولايات المتحدة فيأجزاء مختلفة من أمريكا، وسمعت هذا النوع من القصص في أماكن كثيرة أن الناس يعتقدوا أن التعليم العام انتهى، وأننا جربنا كل شيء خلال السنين اللي فاتت ومافيش حاجة نفعت. أنا نوعًا ما شايف إن الناس اللي مش فاهمة التعليم زي بالضبط موضوع التاكسي وبيزنس المواصلات أوأي حاجة تانية بيكون رأيهم فيها “خلونا نتخلص منها بالكامل ونعمل فكرة الشراكة الخاصة الجديدة، هذا سيكون حيوي أكتر وفعّال أكتر. فإذا كنت مش قادر تعمل المفروض، فأنت انتهيت وأصبحت خارج المنافسة وسيأتي أحد مكانك”. لكن في رأيي أن الناس دول بمجرد ما يكونوا على دراية أكثر بتاريخ التعليم وكيفية عمل الأنظمة التعليمية فيأماكن تانية، عندها أكيد سيغيروا رأيهم.

ويل بريهم: هل جورج أنهى الحديث بسؤالك عن أرائك عن التعليم الأمريكي؟

باسي ساهلبرج:بالتأكيد، أنا اعتبرت سؤاله كإشارة منه على أنه يحب يدردش في الموضوع. وأنا مكنتش متأكد أنه سيعجب باللي أنا كنت على وشك أقوله. هو سألني لأني قدمت نفسي له كمواطن فنلندي وكمعلم فنلندي وكنت اقوم بالتدريس فيجامعة هارفارد فيذلك الوقت وكمان كنت متكلم في نفس المؤتمر اللي هو هيتكلم فيه. هو شعر نوعًا ما بالرغبة فيأنه يسمعني، طبعًا هو أكيد سمع عن التعليم الفنلندي من قبل. لكن أنا ماكنتش حابب أنه يسألني عن هذا الموضوع وخصوصًا بعد اللي قاله عن التعليم لأن إجابتي ستكون غالبًاعكس ما قاله.  كانت وجهة نظري أشبه بالأبيض والأسود مقارنة باللي كان بيقوله. طبعًا شخص بهذه المكانة وبيني وبينه طبقين على مائدة الغدا، كنت قلقان شوية من رد فعله. لكن فيالواقع ردي عليه كان كالتالى “أنا أفضل أني لا أتكلم عن التعليم الأمريكيلأن فيه جوانب كتير لا أفهمها”. كانت هذه هي الطريقة اللي جاوبت عليه بيها واللي منها اتطور الحوار وأصبح حديث شيق جدًابعد ذلك لأنه سألني بعدها عن اللي مش فاهمه، لأن بالنسبة له كان يرى أن الحل والاستراتيجية لإصلاح التعليم الأمريكي هي ببساطة ووضوح أنك تطرد كل المعلمين وتغلق المدارس ضعيفة الأداء ونتعامل معها بطريقة البيزنس. وبالتالي هو لم يفهم أنا ليه غير فاهم بعض هذه الأمور في التعليم الأمريكي. لكن كانت هذه نقطة بداية حديثنا.

ويل بريهم: لكن هل قلت له كيف يرى الأمر بطريقة مختلفة؟ وإن كنت فعلًا قلت هذا، أيه اللي شرحته لجورج واللي يمكنيخليه يعيد تفكيره عن التعليم الأمريكي؟

باسي ساهلبرج: تمام، الحاجة الرئيسية اللى كنت حابب يقف عندها ويفكر فيها أكتر هي ردي عليه لما سألني “ما هي الأمور اللي أنت مش فاهمها في التعليم الأمريكي؟” وكانت النقطة الأساسية في ردي عليه هي أنى مازلت مقتنع بقوة إني مش فاهم ليه فيالولايات المتحدة الأمريكية بيبتكروا كثير من الأفكاروالابداعات فيالتعليم خلال المئات من السنين اللي فاتت بداية من “جون ديوى”، وناس كتير آخرين واللي خلوا أنظمة التعليم في دول تانية هايلة، زي فنلندا وكندا وهونج كونج والصين وسنغافورة.  لو دورت في الأساس على الأفكارالمفتاحية اللي ساهمتبقوةفي تطوير التعليم في فنلندا على سبيل المثال فإن معظم هذه الأفكارنابعة من الولايات المتحدة. وقلت له أننا لو نظرنا لجهود التعليم الأمريكيلتطوير المدارس مش هنلاقي أي استخدام منهجي مناسب لنفس هذه الأفكارفي الولايات المتحدة، بل على العكس، الولايات المتحدة تنفذ الأفكاراللى هذه الانظمة التعليمية المتطورة تتجنب استخدامها. مثل التفكير المعتمد على التسويق وعدم استخدام التعليم الاحترافي وتوحيد النظام. علشان كدا أنا أعطيته على ما اعتقد، 3 أفكار كأمثلة ملموسة وواقعية بعد ما سألني ماذا أقصد. التعليم التعاوني أصبح مهم جدًافيأداء المدارس الفنلندية وفي النظام التعليمي ككل. وكمان نظرية “هاورد جاردنير” للذكاءات المتعددة. أوالتدريب المقارن اللى ذكرته فيكتابي كطريقة واحدة من خلالها يقدر المعلمين انهم يتعلموا بطريقة أكثر فاعلية كيف يقوموا بالتدريس بطريقة مختلفة. كل هذه الأفكارمعروفه في أمريكا، لكنها مش مستخدمه خالص كجزء من المجهود المنهجي المبذول لتحسين النظام. مثلًا لو بصيت على قانون “عدم ترك أي طفل” “No Child Left Behind” أو”لنتسابق نحو القمة” “Race to the Top”أوأى اصلاحات تمت مؤخرًا، لن تجد أي مؤشرات على تطبيقها. كان ردى عليه “جورج، أنا فعلًا مش فاهم لماذا لا تقومون بتنفيذ هذه الأفكاراللي العالم أثبت أنها ناجحة وأكثر فاعلية من كل الأمور اللي ذكرتها.

ويل بريهم: كدة ممكن أفهم إن جورج طلب منك النصيحة. وكان ردك عليه عبارة عن شرحك عن الطرق اللى جعلت التعليم الفنلندي عظيم لأن له سمعة عالمية وكل المدارس الأخرى ترغب أن تكون مثل المدارس الفنلندية. وقلت له إن معظم الأفكاراللى بينفذوها فيفنلندا أخدوها أصلًا من علماء أمريكيين، وأن من الغريب أن المدارس الأمريكية لا تنفذ هذه الأفكاراللي ولدت ونشأت في أمريكا. هل هذا ما حدث؟

باسي ساهلبرج:نعم، بس الشيء الوحيد اللي حابب أوضحه بشكل مختلف عن الملخص اللي أنت قلته هو أنى غير متأكد من أنه كان فعلًا مهتم برأييأونصيحتي، يمكن لأني كنت صغير وغير معروف لدرجة إن حد يأخذ بنصيحتي. لكن على أي حال جورج كان وقتها في مرحلة حساسة جدًا، لأنه كان يسعى لأن يكون رئيس الولايات المتحدة فيذلك الوقت فكان سيكون شيء سخيف جدًالو رد على كلامي بأنه غير مهتم بما أقوم به في هذا المجال لأن عنده حلوله الخاصة. فهو كان حريص جدًالهذا السبب. لاحظت كمان زي ما كتبت فيكتابي إن جورج كان مشوش جدًامن فكرة إنهم في أمريكاانتظروا حتى استخدمت دولة أخرى مثل فنلندا نتائج تلك الأبحاثاللي توصلوا ليها وموّلوا البحث فيها من فلوس الضرائب علشان بعد كدا الفنلنديين ياخدوا هذهالأبحاثويضعوها فيبرنامج إصلاح التعليم عندهم وتنجح بشكل عظيم. أنا لاحظت أنه بيفكر في هذا الموضوع كل شوية، وكأنه كان يسأل نفسه “إيه اللي بيحصل؟ هل هذا حقيقي واللا أنا بحلم؟

ويل بريهم: لكن الأفكاراللى بيدعوا ليها جورج مثل تدريب المدرسين بصورة احترافية، وتسويق المدارس، والتدريس على أساس من البحث، صحيح؟

باسي ساهلبرج: بالتأكيد وبدون شك. لكن لو تناقشت مع أي باحث أمريكي أوحضرت مؤتمر أمريكي للبحث العلمي ستفاجأ لما تعرف أن الأمريكان نفسهم ميعرفوش الكثير عن هذه الأبحاث. وهذا أمر مثير للاهتمام في حد ذاته. هذه الأبحاثيقرأها ويسمعها بتركيز أكثر السياسيين والتربويين خارج الولايات المتحدة وهذا من الأمور اللي غير قادر على فهمها. فأنا مشوش وغير قادر على فهم عالم التعليم الأمريكي في كيف إن الأمريكان لا يأخذون الأبحاثالخاصة بيهم واللي عملوها بنفسهم على محمل الجد؟ كيف يحدث هذا في الولايات المتحدة أن الناس لما يقرأوا هذه الكتب والأبحاثالمهمة يقولوا أن هذا لا يحدث في الولايات المتحدة؟ فيالمقابل لو نظرنا على كندا على سبيل المثال سنجد إن رجال السياسة والتعليم فيها يتعاملوا مع الأبحاثالعالمية ونتائجها بطريقة مختلفة وأكثر جدية ويقارنوها بنتائج مجهوداتهم الذاتية وإذا وجدوا تعارض كما حصل فيفنلندا يقوموا بالتعديلات المناسبة على عكس أمريكا.

ويل بريهم:لكن ليه أمريكامش طبيعية في هذا الموضوع؟ هل هذه ببساطة أيدولوجية تفكير؟

باسي ساهلبرج: ربما، ولو أنت عارف السبب قولي يا ويل لأن ربما تكون معلوماتك عن ه1ا الأمر أفضل مني. هذا الشيء يسبب لي نوع من الحيرة المستمرة. كيف تكون دولة مثل أمريكاتنتج هذه الأبحاث، واللي بحسب تقديري تكون حوالي ثلاث أرباع الأبحاثالتعليمية المهمة والابتكارات الناجحة، كيف لا تأخذ هذه الأبحاثبأكثر جدية؟ ولماذا يتم تجاهلها بدرجة كبيرة؟، والمسافة أوالفاصل بين العارفين اللي أجروا هذه الأبحاثأومن نسميهم الخبراء فيأمريكاوبين السياسيين الأيديولوجيينأوالخبراء في هذا المجال لماذا هي بهذه الضخامة؟!! ليه لا يجتمعوا مع بعض ويراجعوا معلوماتهم والأمور اللي تحتاج لمعرفة؟

ويل بريهم: إذًا أثناء سفرك حول العالم وأنت بتقدم هذه المحاضرات المختلفة وتتقابل مع ناس كتير مثل جورج، وتدخل فينقاشات ويمكن كمان تعطي نصائح، أنا أتصور أن ناس كتير تسألك عن إيه اللي لازم يعملوه لتطوير نظامهم التعليمي. فكيف تجاوب على هذا النوع من الأسئلةالمباشرة جدًاوالعملية، واللي أحيانًا لا تراعي السياق التعليمي للبلد؟ فيكونوا عايزين ياخدوا حلول تقنية وعملية مباشرة فقط، إلا أن موضوع التعليم معقد أكثر بكثير من ذلك. فكيف تدير هذا النوع من النقاشات لما بتشوف أنظمة تعليم مختلفة على مستوى العالم؟

باسي ساهلبرج: هذا سؤال رائع جدًا. في البداية، وأقصد بالبداية من حوالي 10 سنوات لما القصة الفنلندية بدأت تتطور وتتعرف على مستوى العالم. كنت أنا وزملائي وغيرنا عندنا نفس الإجابة وهي أن هناك5 عوامل جعلت فنلندا أوكندا ناجحة بهذا الشكل وكنا نتكلم عن النظام العام، والمعلمين العظماء، والقيادة الهادفة، وهذه العوامل المعروفة، وكلها حقيقية.

لكن الآن لما الناس تسألني، وأنت عندك حق الناس فعلًا تسألني طول الوقت “ماذا نفعل؟” ويطلبوا مني الحل أوالنصيحة على أساس ما رأيت فيالبلاد المختلفة، لكن اجابتي اتجهت بصورة كبيرة للتأكيد على مدى صعوبة وتعقيد هذا السؤال بالكامل من حيث طبيعة السياق التعليمي للبلد. فبلاد مثل الصين أواليابان أوفنلندا، مختلفة جدًافي نواحي كثيرة. وبعض من العوامل اللي نجحت في فنلندا أوأماكن أخرى ليس المطلوب بالضرورة على الإطلاق أنها تنجح في أماكن غيرها. أعتقد إن اجابتي الآن تراعي أكثر السياق التعليمي، بدون التسرع في تقديم عامل معين للإصلاح على أساس أني استخدمته كثيرًا. فالتسرع يعني تدمير للتعليم. وهذا من أهم العوامل وراء نجاح فنلندا. وطبعًا فوق كل هذا يأتي نظام القيادة عندهم وطبيعته المستدامة، وهي أحد أهم عوامل النجاح بدلًا من محاولة تحديد بعض العوامل الأخرى.

ثالثًا: أحاول الآن وأنا أرد على هذه الأسئلةأوأقدم نصيحة لأحد هو إنى أقوله من فضلك حاول تفهم أن جزء كبير من العوامل اللي تجعل فعلًا نظام التعليم ناجح أوتجعل الأطفاليتعلموا بفاعلية في أنظمة التعليم هي على الأرجح عوامل نجدها خارج المدرسة، أولا تتعلق بالمنهج أوالتدريس أوالمعلم أوأي من هذه العوامل. في فنلندا على سبيل المثال كانت هناك عوامل مرتبطة باللي بتعمله الأسر، والسياسات الاجتماعية الأخرى، والرعاية الصحية، وسياسات الشباب، والرياضة والفنون وعوامل تانية كتير، مثل شبكة المكتبات، وكل هذه الأمور. وكما تعلم، أن الأطفاليتعرضوا لأشياء كثيرة خارج المدرسة وهي أمور مؤثرة. هذه الأمور معرفتنا عنها قليلةجدًا. أنا عارف أن هناك علماء آخرينأوأشخاص يؤكدوا على أهمية العوامل الموجودة خارج المدرسة. كل العوامل المتاحة أوغير المتاحة للأطفال لما يكونوا خارج المدرسة.حابب ألخص ردي على سؤالك بأني اجابتي على مثل هذا السؤال من الناس تغيرتنوعًا ما من مجرد تقديم إجابة محددة عن خمس أوسبع عوامل تساعد أنظمة التعليم انها تشتغل، الموضوع معقد عن هذا. لكني أحاول أؤكد على حقيقة أن المعلمين والأشخاص العاملين في المدرسة لازم يكونوا محترفين ومدربين جيدًا. ولازم المناهج الدراسية تكون مصممة بحيث يكون للمعلمين والطلاب دور فيها، وأن سياسات التعليم لازم تكون عادلة. طبعًا مع التركيز على جودة وتميز هذه العوامل.  لكني لا أضع نفسي في مكانة أووضع، أقول فيه لأي دولة إذا عملت ما عملته فنلندا أوالكنديين، فكل شيء سيكون ممتاز. طبعًا هذا غير صحيح ولن ينجح.

ويل بريهم: تمام. أمر شيق إننا نفكر في المدرسة في سياق مجتمعي أكبر. لأن هناك مواقف كتير غالبًاما يصل فيها الشعور إن الناس في مجال التعليم يحدوا التعليم داخل إطار المدرسة، ولكن أنت أكيد عارف إن التعليم ممكن يحصل في أماكن أخرى ويتأثر بجوانب كثيرة في المجتمع خارج المدرسة؛ احنا محتاجين نوسع تعريف التعليم بدلا من التعريف الضيق المحصور في المدرسة.

باسي ساهلبرج: بالتأكيد يا ويل. ما ذكرته الآن هو أمر مهم، وهو عبارة عن جزء في الكتاب اللي نحكي عنه هنا، وهو يتكلم عن الدور الهام للصحة والراحة البدنية للأطفال، وهذا بالتأكيد أمر ممكن المدرسة تعمل فيه أمور بهدف تحسين الراحة والصحة البدنية وسعادة الأطفال. لكن أنت تعلم أنه في معظم أنظمة التعليم غالبًايكون الجزء الاكبر من هذا النوع من الرعاية مصدره البيوت، والمجتمعات، وأشياء أخرى. وهنا نبدأ نفهم فعلا إن العالم المحيط بالمدرسة في غاية الأهمية. من السهل جدًاإنك تجادل بأن ما يتعلمه الأطفالفي الفيزياء أوفي الرياضات غالبًاما يحصل داخل المدرسة لأن عدد قليل جدًامن الأطفالممكن يذاكروا الرياضيات بمفردهم. وبالتالي لو بتقييم مستوى تقدم أوتحسن الأطفالفي الرياضيات مثلا أوالفيزياء أوالتاريخ أواللغات الأجنبية، من السهل إنك تثبت أن هذا التأثير مصدره بالأكثر من المدرسين والمدرسة وهذه الأمور. لكن الصحة والراحة البدنية والسعادة ومدى الاندماج فهي أمور أكثر تعقيدا. أنا أعتقد إننا داخلين هذه المرحلة قريبًا جدًالما نسأل مرارًا وتكرارًا أسئلة مثل”ما مدى أهمية العالم المحيط بالمدرسة؟ ومتى نبدأ نعلم أولادنا؟

ويل بريهم: اعتقد أن أجابتك الآن تعني ضمنيًا أننا لازم نغير طريقتنا في قياس الأمور من مجرد النظر لمستوى الأطفال في تحصيل محتوى مادة معينة؟

باسي ساهلبرج: بالتأكيد. وأظن أن هذا سيحدث في خلال الخمس سنين القادمة.

ويل بريهم: هناك فكرة أخرى سمعتك تتكلم عنها وكتبت عنها في كتابك الجديد وهي “البيانات الصغيرة”. ممكن تقول لي ما الذي تقصده بـ “البيانات الصغيرة”.

باسي ساهلبرج: تمام. البيانات الصغيرة شيء شيق، لأني تكلمت عنها كتير خلال السنة الماضية. وغالبًالما كانت تتاح لي الفرصة كنت أسأل الناس هذا السؤال “كيف يمكن شرح معنى البيانات الصغيرة لطفل عنده 9 سنين؟” بعد ذلك كنت أطلب منهم أنهم يرفعوا أيديهم في خلال الـ 30 ثانية القادمة لو شعروا انهم مرتاحين أنهم يجاوبوا. وعادة لا تكون هناك أي أيادي مرفوعة لأن الناس إلى حد ما يكونوا محتارين بخصوص مفهوم المصطلح. ولما أحاول أشجعهم بعض الشيء وأسألهم “ماذا يأتي على بالك لما تفكر في مصطلح البيانات الصغيرة؟” كان بعض الناس يقولوا إنه ممكن يكون مجرد كمية بيانات أقل من البيانات الكبيرة. وبالتأكيد ليس هذا هو معنى المصطلح أبدًا. يقودني هذا لإجابة سؤالك عن معنى البيانات الصغيرة. ما وجدته مع كتير من الزملاء اللي شغالين في نفس المجال هو إننا نجد استجابات كثيرة ومتزايدة للتحديات والقضايا التعليمية من خلال الحلول اللي تتضمن بشكل أوبآخر استخدام البيانات الكبيرة. على سبيل المثال نقدر نطلع على نظام البرنامج العالمي لتقييم الطلبة PISA    وهو برنامج قامت به منظمة التعاون الاقتصادي والتنمية OECDوهذا البرنامج يستخدم البيانات الكبيرة كحل لنظام التعليم. وكذلك هناك أنظمة أخرى كثيرة مثل نظام “تحليلات التعلم” وكل المعادلات والأجهزة الذكية واجراءات التقييم اللي بيتم تنفيذها بواسطة الآلة وتصنيف المجموعات وأشياء أخرى كثيرة. في مرحلة معينة أنا والزملاء توقفنا وقلنا “كيف سيتجاوب علماء التربية مع ظهور كل هذا الكم من البيانات الضخمة؟!” هذا ما نراه في الفصول. ولو حضرت أي مؤتمر لمنظمة Edu Techعن تكنولوجيا التعليم ممكن نشوف كل الحلول البراقة اللي توعد بكل شيء من تعزيز الإنجازات وسد الثغرات في الإنجاز وتقليل اعداد المتسربين وغيرها من الوعود كما تريد. ظهرت أمامنا هذه الفكرة وهي إنه بدل ما نقول إن البيانات الكبيرة فكرة سيئة ولازم يتم إبعادها عن المدارس لأننا لا نحبها، ابتكرنا فكرة غير متعارضة مع البيانات الكبيرة. لأني مصدق أن البيانات الكبيرة والحلول اللي بتقدمها ممكن تكون مفيدة في أمور كثيرة. لكن بشرط أن يتم استخدامها بطريقة مختلفة وأكثر عمقًا. لو بدأنا بتقييم مصير ومستقبل الأطفالبناء على البيانات الكبيرة والمعادلات في المدارس، وهذا هو الوضع الحالي، في بعض الحالات ممكن الآلة تتنبأ بما يمكن أن يكون عليه الطفل اللي عمره 10 سنين في المستقبل بناء على ما يقوم به في المدرسة. لكن التعليم غالبًالا يعمل بهذه الطريقة. كان رد فعلنا أننا نؤكد على أهمية البيانات الصغيرة اللي تهتم بأصغر الحلول اللي ممكن نلاقيها في الموقف، على سبيل المثال في الفصل أوالمدرسة، من خلال الملاحظة داخل الفصل والتركيز فيما يحدث فيه ولماذا يقوم الأطفالبهذه الأمور ولماذا هذا الفصل منظم بهذه الطريقة. هذه التفاصيل لا يمكن تتم من خلال الآلة.

البيانات الصغيرة تتعلق بالملاحظة وجمع المعلومات والأدلة من خلال تربويين عندهم حكمة مهنية وخبرة فيما يتعلق بالتعليم. نفس الشيء، البيانات الصغيرة بدأت تظهر الآن في مجال الصحة أوالرعاية الصحية، لدرجة أن فيه معاهد بحثية مماثلة لما هو موجود في سيدني، أستراليا، قالوا أن أول معهد بحثي لهم في مجال الصحة كان اتجاه البحث فيه مبني علي البيانات الصغيرة. وكذلك الأطباء وعلماء الطب يبحثوا علي أدلة أومفاتيح صغيرة في أسلوب حياة المرضى وما يجب القيام به في سبيل فهم الأمور اللي بتكون مفيدة لهم لكي يعيشوا حياة صحية أكتر. وبالتالي فالبيانات الصغيرة هي بمثابة استجابة أورد فعل لظهور موجة البيانات الكبيرة اللي بتطرق أبواب المدارس. ونحن نؤمن أن هذا أحسن رد فعل أواستجابة بدل ما ببساطة تعترض على دخول البيانات الكبيرة المدارس وتمنعها وتقول إنه ليس لها مكان عندنا. لأن البيانات الكبيرة ستقوم بهذا الدور على أي حال حتى لو لم نقم به. فلو لم نطبق مبدأ البيانات الكبيرة سيحدث هذا في حال من الاحوال؛ ولو لم يكن عندنا سيناريو جيد، ولو مش قادرين نحدد لماذا نحتاج علماء تربويين وقادة محترفين قادرين على الملاحظة وأخذ القرارات بناء على حكمة مهنية وخبرة، فبلا شك سيتم استبدالنا بسرعة بالآلات.

ويل بريهم: أنا كباحث الأمر واضح ومباشر بالنسبة لي. فأنا باحث نوعي، وهذه الفكرة بالنسبة لي مفهومة لأنها تتعامل مع نتائج نوعية من خلال أحجام صغيرة من عينة البيانات. نحن غير محتاجين ناس كثيرين ولا نحتاج البيانات الكبيرة ولا طرق احصائية كميّة ضخمة لكي نجيب على بعض الأسئلةالمهمة بخصوص الحياة الاجتماعية، بما فيها المدرسة. وفي نواحي كثيره، ممكن من خلال أن شخص يلاحظ تصرفات شخص آخر وعلاقاته وتداخلاته الاجتماعية، يمكن وضع نظريات لكثير من الأمور الحادثة حولنا، مش كده؟ بالنسبة لي هذا نوع من عدم التفكير.

باسي ساهلبرج: صحيح فعلا، لكن تعرف، أنا قمت بتجربة معينة، في محاضراتي وفي ورش العمل، سجلت مقطع فيديو صغير مدته حوالي دقيقتين عن حل من هذه الحلول اللي بتوعد بإنجازات متطورة وبتقليل نسب التسرب من النظام التعليمي. هذا الحل هو عبارة عن معادلة آلية ذكية تدرس كيف يجيب الأطفالعلى نوع أسئلة اختيار الإجابة الصحيحة من عدة إجابات. يبلغ ثمن جهاز مثل هذا حوالي مئات الآلاف من الدولارات أو ما يقرب من ذلك. لكن انت تعرف ما يحدث لما يتم استخدام مثل هذا الجهاز في بعض الولايات والمقاطعات؟ ترتفع جميع المؤشرات وهذا أمر بديهي لا يحتاج لذكاء. وبعد ذلك نجد هناك شخص مسؤول يوعد بأنه سيحقق كل هذه التحسينات المعجزية في نظام التعليم، رغم أن هذا الشخص نفسه بيكون عارف أنه من الصعب جدًاتحقيق هذه النتائج فقط بمجرد التكلم مع الناس والمدرسين والمحاولة بجدية أكتر. من المرجح جدًاجدًا– وهذا ما سيحدث على مستوى واسع عالميا- إن الناس سينتهي بها المطاف بأنها ستسعى نحو الحلول اللي بتوعدها بوعود كتير ومجهود أقل. وعلى الأرجح ممكن يروا تحسينات في النتائج، لكن هذه النتائج لن تحدث فرق في التعليم أوستحدث شيء لا يذكر. ما هي نوعية الأطفالالذين سنحصل عليهم كنتاج لنظام تعليم بهذا الشكل، فالتعليم، كما ذكرت، يتعلق أكتر بالعلاقات وكذلك بفهم من نحن وكيف نتعلم أوماذا ننوي أن نعمل. ومرة أخرى أقول أن هناك مواقف مماثلة تكون فيها الآلات اسوأ من البشر وتكون البيانات الكبيرة محدودة وقدرتها محدودة في عمل الأمور اللي احنا ممكن نعملها. وهنا نجد أن فرصة البيانات الصغيرة كبيرة جدًا.

ويل بريهم: حابب اسأل اكتر شوية عن هذه الفكرة، فنلندا هي واحدة من البلاد اللي مفروض باقي الدول تنظر لها كنموذج في هذا المجال عشان تصلح ما يمكن اعتباره فشل في أنظمتها التعليمية، فمن أين جاءت أسطورة فنلندا في إصلاح نظامها التعليمي؟ وهل تعتقد انها حقيقية فعلًا؟ أوهي مجرد اسطورة؟

باسي ساهلبرج: لا، أنا اظن أنه كما كتبت في كتابي أن هناك بعض الأساطير الخطيرة في موضوع فنلندا اللي يجب على الكل يتجنبها. وأنا أستخدمها كفكرة رابعة كبيرة لأي نظام تعليم، أنه لكي تستطيع التحسن فلابد أن تبتعد عن هذه الأساطير الليغالبًانسمعها عن فنلندا. بعض هذه الأساطير الخطيرة أنه مثلا لا توجد واجبات مدرسية في فنلندا وهذا ما سمعه الناس في الأفلام الوثائقية وقرأوه في الجرائد. أنا قابلت عدد من رواد ومسئولين عن أنظمة تعليم وكانوا يسألوني بشكل شخصي أن كانت فكرة جيدة انهم يعملوا مثل فنلندا ويجعلوا الواجبات المدرسية أمر غير رسمي أوغير مطلوب.  طبعًا سيكون هذا في غاية الخطورة والضرر وشيء مجنون وغير معقول تماما. شيء آخر من الأساطير الشائعة عن فنلندا وهو أن الدولة تتخلص من تدريس المواد الدراسية، لدرجة أنه في المستقبل سيكون التدريس عبارة عن مجرد إعطاء موضوعات أوعناوين للبحث، مثل المشروعات البحثية اللي نعملها. وهذا أيضًا كما وصفت في الكتاب غير حقيقي تمامًا. هناك شيء من سوء الفهم وهناك أساطير بخصوص ما تقوم به فنلندا، وهذا غالبًاوببساطة بسبب الصحافة الفقيرة اللي يكتب فيها ناس عن فنلندا من غير ما يزوروا البلد أوحتى يتكلموا مع متخصص فينشروا هذه الأفكارغير المعقولة بهدف انهم يعملوا مانشتات صحفية فقط.

لكني تعلمت من خلال شغلي في هذا الكتاب أوفعليًا من خلال شغلي على عدد متنوع من كتبي أنه من الصعب جدًا فهم أي نظام تعليم، سواء كان نظام ياباني أوفنلندي أوأمريكي، بدرجة تجعلك قادر فعلا إنك تجري حوار جيد عنه، يعني لماذا يوجد نظام شغال بالطريقة اللي شغال بيها. وهذا يجعل من السهل جدًاأن تخرج هذه الأساطير بخصوص هذا النظام أوذاك، فتتكلم كأنك تعرف ماذا يعمل هذا النظام، وأنا أرى أن هذا أمر محزن. لكن أنا أعتقد كمان أن هناك جوانب مفيدة وشيقة في نظام التعليم الفنلندي كما توجد جوانب مفيدة أيضًا في أنظمة أخرى كثيرة. فعلى الأرجح أن معظم أنظمة التعليم يكون عندها جانب شيق ومفيد يميزها غير موجود في باقي الأنظمة الأخرى. لكن طبعا لأن كله كان مركز جدًامع فنلندا فكان الجهد مركز على تحديد هذه المميزات اللي هنا في فنلندا مع ترك باقي الانظمة، يعني على سبيل المثال لا يوجد من يهتم أنه يسأل على هذه الجوانب في باقي الأنظمة. أنا أعتقد أننا لابد نهتم جدًا بتحديد الجوانب المفيدة في الأنظمة الأخرى لأنها قد تكون مفيدة أكتر. أنا كتبت كتاب ريادة التعليم الفنلندي “FinnishED Leadership”مخصوص لما لقيت ناس كتير تسألني “لو فعلًا ما نقرأه في الجرائدأوما نراه في الأفلام والوثائقيات غير حقيقي، هل هناك أي شيء ممكن القيام به لو أنا مهتم وشغوف باللي فنلندا تعمله؟”  طبعًا مستحيل يكون هناك نظام تعليمي أداؤه عالمي بالصدفة. ينطبق هذا على اليابان وكندا وفنلندا ودول أخرى. فأنظمة التعليم في هذه الدول لم تأتِ من فراغ لكن دائمًا هناك أسباب لما وصلوا له. فمن غير المنطقي أن تكون هذه الأنظمة نجحت بالصدفة.

ويل بريهم: في كلامك مع جورج بتاكي في هذا المؤتمر من كام سنة، كانت محادثة صغيرة وغير ضروري أنه يكون اتعلم شيء منك، لأنها كانت مجرد محادثة صغيرة. لكن هل أنت أتعلمت شيء من جورج؟

باسي ساهلبرج: أنا شخص طموح ودائما أحاول أن اتعلم كل شيء ممكن من الخبرات اللي بمر بيها. أنا كمان قضيت جزء مهم من حياتي، ليس في السياسة، لكن في مجال وضع السياسات. وغالبًاما يكون هذا المجال مرتبط بقوة بالسياسة. وأنا أعتقد أن ما تعلمته من جورج هو أنه سهل جدًا أنك تستخبى وراء قوتك السياسية وتأثيرك السياسي وخبرتك السياسية لما الأمر يتعلق بالتعليم. وهذا نوع من البلاغة اللي سهل أنك تكتشفها. أنا أعجبت به لما سمعته وهو يقول كلمته في المؤتمر، هذا الراجل عنده خبرة سياسية كبيرة، فبالرغم من ال 45 دقيقة اللي قضيناها وهو يسمع أمور مختلفة 180 درجة عن اللي هو عارفه ومصدق فيه إلا أنه كان قادر يطلع المنصة ويتكلم عن نفس الأمور بالضبط كما قالها لي “عارفين ما هي المشكلة اللي في أمريكا، كل المشكلة هي في المدرسين السيئين ونحن لازم نطردهم لان أمريكاتستحق أفضل بكثير”. كل هذه الأمور اللي قالها تتطلب مهارات خاصة عشان تعرف تعملها صح. فأنا تعلمت أن لو عندي مهارات مثل التواصل والخطابة، سأكون مؤثر أكتر في شغلي. لكن طبعًا هو لم يتكلم كتير في كلمته عن الأشياء اللي قالها لي وأنا لم أسمع عنها من قبل. طبعًا أنا ما ذكرتش أني ما سمعتش عن هذه الأمور، لأني كنت معجب بطريقة كلامه وكنت مقتنع أنه من المهم بالنسبة لأي حد أنه يجد سياق أوقصة أوأسلوب لحديثه يشد انتباه الناس ويجعلهم يفكروا في كلامه. عارف ما يمثل لغز بالنسبة لي، أني لا أعرف هل جورج فاكر هذه المحادثة اللي تمت بيننا، وهل لو فاكرها، هو فاكرها كما أفتكرها أنا؟ لا أعلم! لأنه غالبًاما يقول نفس هذه القصة لزملائه “عارفين هذا الرجل الفنلندي كان علي نفس الخط معي، وكان رأيه مثل رأيي في هذه الأمور.” لكن على أي حال، أنا اعتقد أن هذا الحوار كان مفيد جدًا، لأنه من غير الغداء مع جورج، من الأرجح أني ما كنتش أبدًا سأكتب هذا الكتاب.

ويل بريهم:أوك باسي ساهلبرج. شكرًا جدًالانضمامك في برنامج فريش أيد مرة أخرى. دايمًا أكون سعيد بالحديث معك.

باسي ساهلبرج: شكرا يا ويل شكرا جدًا.

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Will Brehm:  1:47
Pasi Sahlberg, bienvenue à FreshEd.

Pasi Sahlberg :  1:49
Merci beaucoup, Will. C’est bon d’être avec vous.

Will Brehm : 1:51
Vous voyagez à travers le monde pour donner des discours principaux lors de diverses conférences et ateliers à différents ministères de l’éducation dans le monde entier. Et dans votre dernier livre, vous écrivez que lors d’une conférence, vous vous êtes retrouvé assis à côté de George Pataki, qui est l’ancien gouverneur de New York, et vous avez déjeuné ensemble. De quoi avez-vous fini par parler tous les deux?

Pasi Sahlberg:  2:16
Oui, c’est vrai. Et en réalité, c’est l’une des motivations pour écrire un livre, j’étais conférencier dans une conférence comme lui il y a quelques années. Et bien sûr, comme je ne suis pas américain, je ne le connaissais pas très bien, évidemment, j’ai entendu un nom et vous savez, l’étude de l’histoire complète, je ne suis pas le genre de gars qui fait beaucoup de bavardages. Donc, vous savez, si vous déjeunez avec un Américain, vous devez faire un peu d’exercice de conversation. Mon coup d’envoi pour la discussion était de lui demander simplement “que pensez-vous de l’éducation américaine en ce moment, George ?”, et je savais qu’il avait une opinion, parce qu’il est en politique de haut niveau, et qu’il était sur le point de se présenter pour être le prochain président des États-Unis par le biais de son parti. Et donc, vous savez, j’étais un peu curieux d’entendre ce qu’il disait. Mais ce qu’il a dit n’était pas surprenant, mais c’était une opinion très négative, très négative, pessimiste, sur le fait qu’il n’y a aucun espoir de faire ces choses que les gens offrent souvent aux États-Unis, comme améliorer les écoles ou les enseignants, son opinion était beaucoup plus sur le fait de tout distraire et de détruire le système public et d’apporter toutes ces options alternatives, comme le contrôle privé des écoles et l’enseignement pour l’Amérique et toutes ces choses. C’était donc un début surprenant pour notre conversation.

Will Brehm:  2:57
Donc, l’idée d’une telle perturbation, c’est ça ? Je veux dire, c’est un terme très fréquent que nous entendons de nos jours, nous voulons déranger les écoles, comme nous voulons déranger l’économie des taxis avec Uber.

Pasi Sahlberg:  3:53
Oui, tout à fait, tout à fait. Et puis, vous savez, le fait est que j’ai passé assez de temps aux États-Unis, dans différentes régions du pays. Et, vous savez, j’entends ce genre d’histoire dans beaucoup d’endroits où les gens croient que, vous savez, ils croient en quelque sorte que l’éducation publique est morte, qu’il n’y a rien que nous puissions faire pour cela au cours des cent dernières années, nous avons tout essayé et rien n’a fonctionné. Donc, vous savez, d’une certaine manière, je comprends ces gens qui ne comprennent pas vraiment l’éducation, qui disent exactement comme dans les taxis, les entreprises de transport, ou autre chose qui nous permet de faire disparaître tout cela et de construire cette toute nouvelle idée de partenariat public-privé qui sera plus dynamique et plus efficace, et, vous savez, basée sur le, vous savez, si vous ne pouvez pas livrer, alors vous êtes mort et une entreprise en difficulté et quelqu’un d’autre viendra. Mais, vous savez, dès que vous en savez un peu plus sur l’histoire de l’éducation et sur la façon dont les systèmes éducatifs fonctionnent ailleurs, alors, bien sûr, vous avez une vision différente.

Will Brehm:  4:43
Donc, George a-t-il fini par vous demander votre avis sur, vous savez, l’éducation américaine pour son propre genre de, pour son éducation, je suppose?

Pasi Sahlberg:  4:52
Tout à fait. Et je, vous savez, après, j’ai pris cela comme une sorte de signe de bavardage que je ne suis pas sûr qu’il était vraiment concerné par ce que j’allais dire, mais, vous savez, parce que je lui ai dit que je suis un citoyen finlandais, un éducateur finlandais, et j’enseignais à l’université de Harvard à ce moment-là et évidemment, je parlais dans la même conférence. Il a donc eu l’impression qu’il voulait entendre, bien sûr, qu’il avait entendu parler de l’éducation finlandaise. Mais, vous savez, c’était une question que je ne voulais pas qu’il me pose après avoir entendu ce qu’il avait à dire sur l’éducation, parce que ma réponse à sa question était presque à l’opposé, vous savez, mon point de vue était tel que c’était comme un noir et blanc par rapport à ce qu’il disait, et devant son autorité, juste les deux assiettes de déjeuner entre nous, j’étais un peu comme, effrayée de la façon dont il allait réagir et en fait ma réponse à lui était que comme j’écris dans mon livre, que vous savez, je préférerais ne pas parler de l’éducation américaine parce qu’il y a tellement de choses que je ne comprends pas et c’est une sorte de façon dont la conversation avec lui a évolué. C’était une conversation très intéressante par la suite, parce qu’il m’a répondu que ce que vous ne comprenez pas, c’est que pour lui, la solution et la stratégie des Américains, vous savez, pour réparer les écoles américaines, était si claire que vous savez, vous pouvez vous défaire de ces vieux vous savez, virer tous les enseignants et fermer les écoles les moins performantes, et, vous savez, faisons en sorte que cette chose ressemble plus à une entreprise. Et donc il ne comprenait pas tout à fait pourquoi je ne comprenais pas certaines de ces choses dans l’éducation américaine. Mais c’est là que la vraie conversation a vraiment débuté.

Will Brehm:  6:27
Lui avez-vous vraiment dit en quoi vous voyez les choses différemment ? Et si oui, qu’avez-vous décrit à George pour qu’il repense peut-être à sa propre conception de l’éducation américaine?

Pasi Sahlberg:  6:40
Oui, eh bien, vous savez, la chose principale que je voulais qu’il s’arrête vraiment et réfléchisse davantage qui a été intégrée dans ma réponse à sa question “quelles sont ces choses que je ne comprends pas dans l’éducation américaine”, et que la chose principale que je lui ai dite et que je crois toujours fermement importante est que je ne comprends pas, Je ne comprends vraiment pas pourquoi, aux États-Unis d’Amérique, ce sont eux qui créent les idées et les innovations en matière d’éducation, vraiment, tout au long des cent dernières années, à commencer par John Dewey, et bien d’autres, depuis, qui ont fait la grandeur d’autres systèmes éducatifs, comme la Finlande, et le Canada, et Hong Kong, et la Chine, et Singapour, et vous le nommez ainsi, vous savez, si vous traquez ces idées clés en Finlande, par exemple, qui ont été d’une importance capitale pour améliorer le fonctionnement du système éducatif, elles sont, pour la plupart, américaines et je lui ai dit, que, vous savez, si je regarde les efforts américains en matière d’éducation pour apporter des améliorations aux écoles, je ne vois pas vraiment d’utilisation systématique correcte de ces mêmes idées aux États-Unis ; que les États-Unis travaillent beaucoup plus avec les idées que beaucoup de ces systèmes d’enseignement supérieur performants ont délibérément essayé d’éviter, comme cette pensée basée sur le marché, et la dé-professionnalisation, la standardisation du système. Je lui ai donc donné, je pense, trois ou quatre exemples d’idées après qu’il ait demandé concrètement ce que je voulais dire, comme par exemple l’apprentissage coopératif qui a été d’une importance capitale pour les performances des écoles finlandaises comme pour celles de l’ensemble du système, et la théorie d’Howard Gardner sur les intelligences multiples ou le coaching par les pairs que j’ai également mentionné dans le livre comme un moyen pour les enseignants d’apprendre efficacement à enseigner différemment, et rien de tout cela n’est connu en Amérique et dans de nombreuses régions d’Amérique, mais cela n’a jamais fait partie du type d’effort systématique d’amélioration du système. Par exemple, si vous regardez le livre ” Aucun enfant laissé pour compte ” ou ” La course vers le sommet “, ou toute autre réforme récente, il n’y a aucun signe de ces choses. Voici donc ma réponse à sa question : “Écoutez, George, je ne comprends vraiment pas pourquoi vous ne faites pas ces choses dont le monde a prouvé l’efficacité, qui peuvent être beaucoup plus efficaces que toutes ces choses que vous mentionniez.

Will Brehm:  8:56
Donc, d’accord, laissez-moi comprendre. Donc, George Pataki vous demande en gros votre avis. Et vous répondez fondamentalement en disant, ce qui rend l’éducation finlandaise si formidable, parce qu’elle a ce genre de réputation internationale et toutes ces autres écoles veulent être comme les écoles finlandaises, et vous dites, regardez, George, beaucoup des idées que la Finlande emploie proviennent en fait d’universitaires américains. Et il est étrange que les écoles américaines ne reprennent pas ces idées qui sont en fait nées et ont été élevées dans l’Académie américaine. C’est ce qui se passait.

Pasi Sahlberg:  9:32
Oui, la seule chose que je dirais probablement un peu différemment dans votre résumé est que je ne suis pas certain, comme je l’ai dit, qu’il soit vraiment concerné par mes conseils, je pense que j’étais probablement beaucoup trop jeune et inconnu pour qu’il y ait quelqu’un pour donner des conseils. Mais je pense que George était dans une sorte de moment et d’humeur très sensible à tous égards, parce qu’il se lançait manifestement dans cette course très importante pour devenir le prochain président des États-Unis. Je pense donc qu’il serait idiot de sa part de dire que, vous savez, je ne me soucie pas vraiment de ce que vous avez fait là-bas, parce que j’ai ma propre solution. Mais il était très intrigué par ce fait. Et j’ai vu à nouveau, comme je l’ai décrit dans mon livre, qu’il était vraiment dérangé par ce fait en comprenant que, hé, attendez une minute. Donc, les autres pays comme la Finlande, qui se servent de nos recherches, que nous avons fait payer par nos contribuables, et que les Finlandais prennent ensuite au sérieux et mettent dans les réformes de l’éducation et font marcher le système, que se passe-t-il ici ? Vous savez, c’est ce que je l’ai vu penser de temps en temps, c’est vraiment réel ou est-ce que je rêve de quelque chose?

Will Brehm:  10:37
Mais certaines des idées qu’il préconisait, comme vous l’avez dit, cette sorte de dé-professionnalisation des enseignants et la commercialisation des écoles et de la scolarisation, ont sans doute aussi une base de recherche, n’est-ce pas?

Pasi Sahlberg:  10:51
Et absolument, et cela ne fait aucun doute, si vous n’avez pas besoin de passer trop de temps avec un chercheur américain ou une conférence de recherche, quand vous apprenez ce que les Américains savent vraiment sur ces choses. Et c’est, bien sûr, une sorte de chose intéressante. Et, vous savez, ces recherches, dans de nombreux cas, sont lues et entendues de beaucoup plus près par les décideurs politiques et les éducateurs en dehors des États-Unis. Et c’est une de ces choses que je ne comprends vraiment pas. C’est en fait ce qui explique ma confusion et mon incapacité à comprendre le monde de l’éducation américain : comment se fait-il qu’aux États-Unis, jour après jour, les gens tombent sur de grands livres et des rapports de recherche, entre autres ? Et ils ont dit : “Non, ce n’est pas comme ça, ce n’est pas comme ça que ça se passe. Mais quand, quand vous traversez la frontière, juste au nord des États-Unis, que vous allez au Canada, vous voyez à quel point les décideurs politiques, les politiciens et tout le monde prennent différemment les recherches internationales de nos jours, et qu’ils considèrent leurs conclusions et, vous savez, comparent les résultats des recherches à leurs propres pratiques et politiques. Et s’ils y trouvent une sorte d’incohérence, comme c’est le cas en Finlande, ils sont prêts et capables de modifier le cours des choses, mais pas aux États-Unis.

Will Brehm:  12:04
Alors pourquoi l’Amérique est-elle si inhabituelle dans ce sens, comme, est-ce simplement de l’idéologie?

Pasi Sahlberg:  12:09
Eh bien, c’est peut-être, vous savez, si vous savez, Will, dites-moi, vous le savez sans doute mieux que moi. Mais c’est une sorte de confusion entretenue dans ma tête que de savoir comment il se fait que le pays qui, vous savez, produit ce, vous savez, mon genre d’estimation approximative est que probablement environ trois quarts des travaux de recherche et d’innovation éducatifs importants proviennent encore des États-Unis ; c’est pourquoi ils ne sont pas pris plus au sérieux. C’est la raison pour laquelle il est si souvent négligé, c’est la raison pour laquelle il y a un fossé entre ceux qui savent qui font la recherche et, vous savez, les soi-disant experts américains et ceux qui sont des politiciens plus idéologiques ou d’autres façons, des experts dans ce domaine. Pourquoi ce canyon est si énorme, pourquoi les gens ne peuvent pas vraiment s’asseoir et dire : “Ok, voyons ce que nous savons. Donc, je ne sais pas vraiment.

Will Brehm:  12:59
Et donc, quand on voyage à travers le monde, qu’on présente ces différentes conférences, qu’on rencontre des gens comme George et qu’on fait peut-être la conversation, mais aussi qu’on donne des conseils et des astuces, j’imagine que beaucoup de gens vous demandent ce que devrait faire notre système scolaire. Et comment répondez-vous à ce genre de question très directe qui est si pratique et qui, à bien des égards, efface le contexte, n’est-ce pas ? Comme s’ils cherchaient simplement ces solutions techniques très pratiques, quand on sait que l’éducation est beaucoup plus compliquée que cela. Alors, comment aimez-vous gérer ce genre de conversations quand vous voyez les différents systèmes d’éducation dans le monde?

Pasi Sahlberg:  13:37
Oui, c’est une bonne question au début. Et par “début”, je veux dire qu’il y a environ dix ans, quand l’histoire de la Finlande a vraiment commencé à évoluer dans le monde entier, je pense que moi-même et beaucoup de mes collègues et d’autres étions en quelque sorte, dans une situation où ils répondaient d’une manière assez typique qu’il y a cinq, vous savez, il y a cinq choses qui rendent la Finlande géniale ou cinq choses que vous savez, les Canadiens font. Et puis, vous savez, j’ai parlé du système public, des grands professeurs et du leadership déterminé, vous savez, ces choses communes et, vous savez, toutes sont vraies.

Mais à présent, quand les gens et vous avez raison, que, vous savez, les gens me posent tout le temps ces questions, vous savez, que devrions-nous faire, sur la base de ce que vous avez vu dans le monde entier, mais mes réponses se sont transformées en une sorte de, vous savez, soulignant la complexité et la difficulté de toute cette question, et la nature du contexte, les endroits où vous regardez ces choses comme la Chine ou le Japon, Tokyo, et la Finlande, qu’ils sont très différents à bien des égards. Et, vous savez, certaines de ces choses qui marchent bien en Finlande ou ailleurs ne marchent pas nécessairement du tout dans d’autres endroits. Donc, je pense que ma réponse s’est avérée être beaucoup plus comme, vous savez, en regardant les choses générales comme ne pas précipiter la réforme, c’est une de ces choses que j’ai beaucoup employé que de précipiter une réforme de l’éducation est de la ruiner, c’est vraiment une de ces choses qui est derrière le succès de la Finlande. Et, bien sûr, leur leadership en général, la nature durable du leadership est l’une de ces choses importantes plutôt que d’essayer d’identifier d’autres choses.

Mais, vous savez, troisièmement, le genre de chose sur laquelle je travaille de plus en plus maintenant est que j’essaie aussi, si je suis sur le point de conseiller quelqu’un, j’ai dit, essayez de comprendre que, vous savez, une grande partie de ces choses qui font vraiment fonctionner le système éducatif, ou des enfants qui apprennent dans les systèmes, sont probablement ces choses que nous trouvons en dehors de l’école, qu’ils ne concernent pas les programmes, la pédagogie ou les responsables de l’éducation, rien de tout cela, alors comme en Finlande, par exemple, ils sont liés à ce que font les familles, aux autres politiques sociales et aux soins de santé, aux politiques de la jeunesse, aux sports et aux arts et à bien d’autres choses, au réseau de bibliothèques, vous savez, tout cela. Je sais qu’il y a d’autres chercheurs et d’autres personnes qui insistent sur l’importance des facteurs extra-scolaires, toutes ces choses que les enfants ont ou n’ont pas quand ils ne sont pas à l’école. Mais, vous savez, je pose rapidement cette question, votre question est que, vous savez, je me suis en quelque sorte éloigné de donner une sorte de réponse concrète à cinq ou sept choses qui, vous savez, font que les systèmes d’éducation fonctionnent, des choses beaucoup plus complexes, mais j’essaie toujours de, vous savez, mettre l’accent sur le fait que, vous savez, les enseignants et les personnes qui travaillent dans les écoles, ils doivent être des professionnels, ils doivent être, vous savez, correctement formés ; le programme scolaire, vous savez, doit être conçu de manière à ce que les enseignants et les élèves aient de plus en plus voix au chapitre ; les politiques éducatives doivent mettre l’accent sur l’équité, et, vous savez, sur l’excellence ou la qualité de, vous savez, ce genre de choses. Mais je ne suis plus en mesure de donner, disons, à un pays qui, vous savez, si vous faites ce que la Finlande a fait, ou les Canadiens, d’autres que tout ira bien, cela ne marchera pas.

Will Brehm:  17:06
Oui, il est passionnant de penser que cette notion d’école s’inscrit en quelque sorte dans cette écologie sociale plus large. Parce que, je veux dire, à bien des égards, on a presque l’impression que souvent les gens dans le domaine de l’éducation, réduisent l’éducation à l’école, et, vous savez, l’éducation se fait dans tellement d’autres parties, et est influencée par tellement d’autres parties en dehors de l’école, que nous, vous savez, nous devons élargir cette définition pour nous écarter de cette étroitesse de l’école.

Pasi Sahlberg:  17:35
Certainement, Will. Et maintenant, vous savez, ce que je vois se dessiner qui fait également partie de ce livre dont nous parlons ici, c’est le rôle plus important du bien-être et de la santé des enfants, alors c’est, bien sûr, quelque chose qui est, vous savez, les écoles peuvent faire quelque chose pour améliorer le bien-être, la santé et le bonheur des enfants. Mais, vous savez, dans la plupart des systèmes d’éducation, la majeure partie de ces progrès provient probablement des foyers, des sociétés et des communautés, et vous savez, d’autres choses. Et c’est là que nous commençons vraiment à comprendre, vous savez, l’importance du monde qui entoure l’école. Il est beaucoup plus facile d’affirmer que ce que les enfants apprennent en physique ou en mathématiques se passe probablement surtout à l’école, que très peu d’enfants étudient les mathématiques par eux-mêmes. Donc, si vous mesurez les progrès des enfants en mathématiques, en physique, en histoire ou en langues étrangères, il est facile de dire que cet effet est surtout le fait des enseignants et des écoles, et de toutes ces choses, mais la santé, le bien-être, le bonheur et l’engagement sont des choses beaucoup plus compliquées et complexes. Et c’est pourquoi je pense que nous entrons dans cette phase où nous nous posons de plus en plus souvent cette question, mais vous savez, l’importance du monde qui entoure l’école, lorsque nous éduquons nos enfants.

Will Brehm:  18:58
Et il paraît implicite dans cette réponse que vous venez de donner que ce que nous mesurons et comment nous le faisons doit vraiment changer, et non plus seulement regarder les résultats des élèves en matière de connaissances sur certains sujets?

Pasi Sahlberg:  19:10
Absolument. Et cela va se produire dans les cinq prochaines années, je suppose.

Will Brehm:  19:13
Une autre idée dont je vous entends beaucoup parler et que vous avez évoquée dans ce nouveau livre est celle des petites données, pouvez-vous me dire ce que vous entendez par petites données?

Pasi Sahlberg:  19:22
Oui, de petites données, vous savez, c’est intéressant, parce que j’en ai beaucoup parlé au cours de l’année dernière. Et j’entends souvent des gens me poser cette question, toujours, si j’ai une chance que, vous savez, ma question se présente comme ceci, cela, comment expliqueriez-vous ce que sont les petites données à un enfant de neuf ans. Et puis j’ai demandé aux gens de lever la main s’ils se sentent à l’aise, vous savez, de le faire dans les 30 secondes qui suivent. Et normalement, je ne vois pas de mains que les gens soient un peu confus par ce concept. Et quand je les pousse un peu et que je dis cela, alors qu’est-ce qui vous vient à l’esprit quand vous réfléchissez aux petites données ? Certaines personnes disent que c’est peut-être un peu moins de grosses données. Et bien sûr, ce n’est pas le cas. Mais, vous savez, cela m’amène à ceci. La réponse à votre question est que, vous savez, ce que j’ai vu avec beaucoup de mes collègues oeuvrant dans le même domaine, c’est que nous avons de plus en plus de réponses maintenant, aux défis et aux problèmes de l’éducation par le biais de solutions qui disent que, d’une manière ou d’une autre, il faut utiliser les grandes données, comme, d’une certaine manière, vous savez, vous pouvez regarder le système PISA de l’OCDE comme une grande solution de données pour les systèmes éducatifs. Mais il y a beaucoup d’autres choses comme l’analyse de l’apprentissage, et, vous savez, tous ces algorithmes et ces machines intelligentes, et, vous savez, les procédures d’évaluation qui sont faites par, vous savez, basées sur la machine, vous savez, la notation de groupe, et beaucoup d’autres choses. Et à un moment donné, nous nous sommes arrêtés avec mes collègues et nous nous sommes demandé comment les éducateurs devaient réagir face à l’émergence de données essentielles dans le monde, et dans les salles de classe, c’est vraiment ce que vous pouvez voir, maintenant, si vous allez à une conférence Edu Tech, vous voyez toutes ces solutions fantaisistes qui promettent tout, vous savez, l’amélioration des résultats, et, vous savez, la réduction des écarts de résultats, et la réduction des abandons, et vous le dites. Nous avons donc eu l’idée que, vous savez, peut-être que la meilleure façon de dire que les grandes données sont une mauvaise idée et que les grandes données devraient rester à l’écart des écoles, parce que nous n’aimons pas ça, est de proposer une idée qui serait plutôt un complément aux grandes données. Parce que je pense qu’il y a des choses que nous pouvons certainement faire beaucoup mieux avec les grosses données, et, vous savez, ces solutions qui vont avec. Mais si cela va trop loin, vous savez, si nous commençons à juger du destin, de l’avenir des enfants, sur la base des grandes données et de l’algorithme de l’école, c’est le cas maintenant, dans certains cas, vous, les machines peuvent prédire ce que sera l’enfant de 10 ans dans le futur sur la base de ce qu’il fait dans une école, c’est là que nous disons, vous savez, ce n’est probablement pas comme ça que l’éducation fonctionne, que, vous savez, notre réponse à cela est que, vous savez, les petites données sont essentielles, les petites données concernent, vous savez, tous ces petits indices que vous pouvez trouver dans la situation, ma classe ou mon école, par exemple, en observant, vous savez, quand vous êtes assis dans une classe, et que vous regardez autour de vous, ce qui se passe ici, et pourquoi les enfants et ces personnes, pourquoi ces personnes font ces choses, et pourquoi cette classe est organisée de cette façon, et vous savez, ce qui se passe ici, qu’aucune machine, que les machines sont bien pires pour faire cela.

Et c’est pourquoi vous savez, ces petites données sont, il s’agit d’observer, et de recueillir des informations et des preuves grâce à la sagesse professionnelle et à l’expérience des éducateurs, quand il s’agit d’éducation. C’est la même chose, vous savez, les petites données émergent désormais, également dans le domaine de la santé, des soins de santé, qu’il existe des instituts de recherche, comme à Sydney, en Australie, ils ont dit, leur premier institut de recherche sur la santé qui est basé sur les petites données, c’est la même chose que les médecins, les experts médicaux recherchent en quelque sorte ces minuscules petits indices dans la façon dont les patients vivent et, vous savez, ce qu’ils font afin de comprendre ce qui serait bon pour eux de vivre plus sainement. Et donc, les petites données sont, vraiment, comme une réponse à cette vague émergente de grandes données qui vient, vous savez, frapper à la porte des écoles, et nous pensons que c’est une meilleure réponse que de simplement, vous savez, lever les mains en l’air et dire, qui ne viennent pas ici, c’est une école et il n’y a pas de place pour les grandes données ici, parce que Big Data va le faire de toute façon, vous savez, si nous n’avons pas une bonne narration, si nous ne sommes pas en mesure de, vous savez, dire, pourquoi avons-nous besoin d’un professionnel qui, vous savez, les preuves, les preuves et les décisions basées sur la sagesse et l’expérience professionnelles que seuls les enseignants et les dirigeants éducateurs peuvent avoir. Et puis, bien sûr, nous serons aussi très vite remplacés par des machines.

Will Brehm:  23:49
Je veux dire, en tant que chercheur, c’est tellement simple pour moi, n’est-ce pas ? Je suis un chercheur qualitatif, et cette idée qu’on peut s’enrichir, des sortes de résultats qualitatifs grâce, vous savez, dans un sens, à des échantillons de petite taille, n’est-ce pas ? Nous n’avons pas besoin de beaucoup de personnes, nous n’avons pas besoin de grandes données, nous n’avons pas besoin de grandes méthodes statistiques quantitatives pour répondre à certaines questions très essentielles que nous nous posons sur la vie sociale, y compris l’école. Et, à bien des égards, vous savez, même en observant les comportements, les relations et les interactions sociales d’un individu, nous pouvons en fait théoriser une grande partie de ce qui se passe, n’est-ce pas ? Donc pour moi, c’est un peu comme une évidence.

Pasi Sahlberg:  24:34
Oui, c’est vrai. Mais, vous savez, j’ai fait cette expérience, encore une fois, dans mes conférences et mes ateliers, j’ai un petit clip vidéo, d’environ deux minutes, c’est une solution unique qui promet d’améliorer les résultats et de réduire les abandons dans le système. Si vous vous fiez à cela, c’est une sorte d’algorithme de machine intelligente qui examine comment les enfants répondent à des questions à choix multiples. Et le prix de celui-ci sera probablement de quelques centaines de milliers de dollars, ou quelque chose comme ça. Mais vous savez, si la promesse est la suivante, et ce qu’ils peuvent montrer maintenant, c’est que quand cela a été utilisé dans certains des États ou districts, ce qui s’est passé, vous savez, tout, toutes les courbes augmentent, alors, bien sûr, le, vous savez, même si c’est une évidence pour vous ou moi, alors vous aurez quelqu’un là-bas qui sera tenu responsable, Je parle des autorités du système, et il ou elle a promis de, vous savez, faire toutes ces améliorations miraculeuses dans le système, et cette personne sait que, c’est probablement très difficile de faire cela en, vous savez, juste, vous savez, parler aux gens, aux enseignants, et essayer un peu plus fort. Il est donc très, très probable que cela se produise, vous savez, à l’échelle mondiale, que les gens finiront par, vous savez, s’engager dans les solutions qui vous promettent beaucoup, et, et probablement, vous savez, probablement, vous savez, par voir une amélioration des résultats, mais cela n’a rien à voir, ou très peu en rapport avec l’apprentissage, en fait, vous savez, comment les enfants, quel type d’enfants nous sortons du système, tout comme vous l’avez dit, que, vous savez, l’éducation est beaucoup, beaucoup plus une question de relation, beaucoup plus une question de, vous savez, comprendre qui nous sommes, et, vous savez, comment nous apprenons, ou ce que nous allons faire. Et encore une fois, c’est là que les machines sont bien pires que les humains. Et les grandes données sont limitées, vous savez, les grandes données ont un pouvoir limité pour faire ces choses que nous pouvons faire. Et c’est là que se trouve l’énorme opportunité pour les petites données.

Will Brehm:  26:26
Je voudrais donc poser quelques questions sur cette idée, je pense, que la Finlande est en quelque sorte l’un des pays vers lesquels les autres pays devraient se tourner, pour réparer leurs, vous savez, systèmes d’éducation soi-disant défaillants, comme, d’où vient ce mythe de la Finlande ? Et pensez-vous vraiment que c’est vrai ? Ou est-ce qu’il y a du vrai là-dedans ? Ou est-ce que, vous savez, c’est juste un mythe?

Pasi Sahlberg:  26:49
Non, je pense que comme je l’écris dans mon livre, il y a des mythes très dangereux sur la Finlande que, vous savez, tout le monde devrait éviter. Et c’est pourquoi je l’utilise comme une sorte de quatrième grande idée pour tout système éducatif : essayer de s’améliorer, c’est se tenir à l’écart de ces mythes dont on entend souvent parler sur la Finlande. Certaines de ces choses très dangereuses sont des choses comme, il n’y a pas de devoirs en Finlande, que les gens ont vu dans des films documentaires, et lu dans les journaux du monde entier. Vous savez, j’ai rencontré des dirigeants du système éducatif, me demandant personnellement si ce serait une bonne idée dans leur propre système de faire ce que la Finlande a fait, et, vous savez, de rendre les devoirs illégaux, et ce sera une chose extrêmement nuisible, folle, folle à faire. Et puis, bien sûr, l’autre chose, le mythe très répandu sur la Finlande est que le pays renonce à enseigner des matières qui, à l’avenir, ne seront plus que des thèmes ou des sujets, des sortes de projets que nous faisons. Et c’est encore une fois, comme je l’ai décrit dans le livre, que ce n’est pas vrai du tout. Il y a donc une sorte de malentendu, des mythes, vous savez, sur ce que fait la Finlande, c’est souvent simplement à cause du mauvais journalisme. Parfois, les gens écrivent ces histoires sans visiter le pays, ou sans parler à qui que ce soit, parfois, vous savez, pour avancer ces idées folles qui font les gros titres.

Mais ce que j’ai appris en travaillant sur ce livre, et en fait sur plusieurs de mes livres, c’est qu’il est très difficile de comprendre, de vraiment comprendre un système éducatif, qu’il soit japonais, finlandais ou américain, au point que vous pourriez vraiment avoir une bonne discussion sur, vous savez, pourquoi ce système fonctionne comme il le fait. Et c’est pourquoi il est très facile d’inventer ce mythe de, vous savez, ceci et cela, en disant que, vous savez, c’est ce que fait le système, mais je pense, vous savez, que c’est triste. Je pense qu’il y a aussi des choses très utiles et intéressantes dans le système éducatif finlandais, comme dans beaucoup d’autres, probablement la plupart des systèmes éducatifs ont quelque chose d’intéressant qu’ils font, que d’autres ne font pas vraiment. Mais, bien sûr, parce que tout le monde a prêté beaucoup d’attention à la Finlande, vous savez, ce, le travail pour identifier ces choses ici en Finlande a été beaucoup plus actif que dans les systèmes, par exemple, quand personne n’est intéressé à, vous savez, demander ces choses. Et c’est pourquoi je pense que nous devons être très prudents dans l’identification de ces choses qui peuvent être utiles. Et, et ce livre ” Le leadership terminé ” est en fait ce que j’ai écrit, parce qu’il y avait des gens qui se demandaient, donc si ce n’est pas vrai, ce que j’ai lu dans les nouvelles ou vu dans les films ou les documentaires, y a-t-il quelque chose que je puisse faire si je suis inspiré par ce que la Finlande a fait. Et évidemment, il n’est pas possible d’avoir un système mondial performant, un système d’éducation par accident, ils sont toujours, vous savez, c’est la même chose avec le Japon, et le Canada, et la Finlande et d’autres pays l’ont, il y a toujours quelque chose que le système a fait pour y arriver, cela ne peut pas s’expliquer par le simple fait d’être bon par accident, ce n’est pas possible.

Will Brehm:  29:54
Donc, dans votre conversation avec George Pataki au cours de cette conférence il y a quelques années, cette petite conversation que vous avez, et donc peut-être que George n’a rien appris de vous, n’est-ce pas ? C’était juste une petite conversation, mais avez-vous appris quelque chose de George?

Pasi Sahlberg:  30:09
Je suis une personne plutôt optimiste, j’ai toujours essayé de tout apprendre des occasions et vous savez, bien sûr, vous savez, j’ai aussi passé une bonne partie de ma vie, non pas en politique, mais dans le monde politique et le travail politique est toujours très étroitement lié à la politique. Et je suppose que ce que j’ai appris de George, encore une fois, c’est qu’il est facile de se cacher derrière son type de pouvoir politique, d’influence politique et d’expérience politique quand il s’agit d’éducation. Mais vous pouvez trouver cette rhétorique très facilement. Et je l’admire un peu quand j’ai écouté son discours d’ouverture à la conférence, comment un politicien expérimenté, vous savez, même après les 45 minutes que nous avons eues, quand il a entendu quelque chose qui, à presque 180 degrés contre ce qu’il pensait et croyait, mais il peut encore marcher jusqu’au podium et, vous savez, parler de ces choses-là exactement, comme il me l’a dit, vous savez, quel est le problème en Amérique, et, vous savez, c’est à propos des mauvais professeurs, et, vous savez, nous devons les licencier et l’Amérique mérite beaucoup mieux et, vous savez, toutes ces choses que vous devez avoir certaines compétences pour être capable de faire que je serais aussi probablement beaucoup mieux dans mon propre travail, si j’avais certaines de ces compétences de vous savez, comment communiquer et, vous savez, parler de ces choses. Mais bien sûr, il n’a pas dit grand chose sur ce que je n’avais pas entendu auparavant. Donc, ce n’est pas, je n’ai pas quitté la conversation en disant que, Oh, je ne savais pas que je n’avais pas, vous savez, je n’y ai pas songé. Il s’agissait plutôt de convaincre les gens qu’il est important pour nous tous de trouver une bonne histoire, une bonne conversation et quelque chose qui, vous le savez, peut arrêter les gens pendant un certain temps et les faire réfléchir. Vous savez, c’est un mystère pour moi, de savoir si George se souvient vraiment de cette conversation, et s’il se souvient de la conversation, s’il s’en souvient, c’est de la même manière que moi. Il raconte probablement la même histoire à ses collègues en disant que, vous savez, ce Finlandais était exactement sur la même longueur d’onde que moi. Et, vous savez, il a parlé de ces choses de la même manière, je ne sais pas. Mais quoi qu’il en soit, je pense que la conversation est, c’est bien d’avoir ça et c’est génial que nous ayons une conversation. Sans ce déjeuner avec George, je n’aurais probablement jamais écrit ce livre tel qu’il est maintenant.

Will Brehm:  32:28
Eh bien, Pasi Sahlberg, merci beaucoup d’avoir rejoint FreshEd et c’est toujours un plaisir de parler.

Pasi Sahlberg:  32:33
Merci, Will. Merci beaucoup.

Translation sponsored by NORRAG.

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Will Brehm: 1:47
Pasi Sahlberg, xin chào mừng ông đã quay lại với FreshEd.

Pasi Sahlberg:  1:49
Cám ơn anh rất nhiều, Will. Rất vui vì được gặp anh.

Will Brehm:  1:51
Ông đã đi khắp nơi, trình bày những bài phát biểu quan trọng tại nhiều hội nghị và hội thảo cho nhiều Bộ giáo dục ở các quốc gia trên thế giới. Và trong cuốn sách mới nhất của ông, ông viết rằng tại một trong những buổi hội nghị này, ông nhận ra rằng mình đang ngồi cạnh George Pataki, cựu thống đốc bang New York và cả hai đã ăn trưa cùng nhau. Hai người đã trò chuyện những gì trong buổi hôm đó thưa ông?

Pasi Sahlberg:  2:16
Đúng là như vậy. Và động lực để tôi viết nên một quyển sách cũng xuất phát từ lần gặp gỡ này. Trong buổi hội nghị một vài năm về trước, tôi là một diễn giả và ông ấy cũng vậy. Vì tôi không phải là người Mỹ nên tôi cũng không biết quá rõ về ông ấy, nhưng đương nhiên là, tôi cũng đã từng nghe đến tên của ông ấy rồi. Tôi không phải dạng người hay nói chuyện phiếm.  Tuy nhiên, anh biết đấy, nếu anh đang ăn trưa với một người Mỹ, nói chuyện phiếm một chút cũng là điều nên làm. Và tôi đã bắt đầu cuộc nói chuyện bằng cách đơn giản là hỏi ông ấy rằng “Ông nghĩ thế nào về nền giáo dục hiện tại của nước Mỹ, George?” Tôi biết là ông ấy có quan điểm của riêng mình, vì ông ấy là một trong những nhà chính trị hàng đầu và khi ấy ông ấy đang chuẩn bị tranh cử cho chức tổng thổng Mỹ cùng với đảng của mình. Do đó, phải nói là tôi khá tò mò về những suy nghĩ của ông ấy. Những điều ông ấy đã nói, quan điểm của ông ấy về nền giáo dục Mỹ dù không quá bất ngờ, nhưng thật sự là rất tiêu cực. Phải nói đó là một góc nhìn đầy bi quan như thể là không có chút hy vọng nào cho những điều mà mọi người đang kêu gọi thực hiện tại nước Mỹ, như việc cải thiện trường học và giáo viên. Quan điểm của ông ấy thiên về việc hãy quên đi mọi thứ và hãy phá hủy hết hệ thống công lập đi và lựa chọn những giải pháp thay thế khác, ví dụ như tư nhân hóa trường học hay Teach for America và những giải pháp kiểu như vậy. Đó thật sự là một khởi đầu gây sốc cho cuộc trò chuyện của chúng tôi.

Will Brehm:  2:57
Ồ vậy là ý tưởng về việc phá bỏ đi, phải không? Theo tôi thì đây là một khái niệm phổ biến trong thời gian gần đây. Chúng ta muốn phá bỏ trường học giống như cách chúng ta muốn phá bỏ ngành taxi và thay thế bằng Uber.

Pasi Sahlberg:  3:53
Chính xác, chính xác đấy. Anh biết không, tôi dành khá nhiều thời gian ở Mỹ, ở nhiều vùng trên đất nước này và tôi đã nghe kiểu câu chuyện như vậy rất nhiều. Mọi người dường như tin là hệ thống giáo dục công đã chết rồi và chúng ta đã không làm được điều gì có ích trong cả trăm năm qua. Chúng ta đã cố gắng bằng tất cả mọi cách nhưng không có tác dụng gì. Ở một chừng mực nào đó, tôi có thể hiểu vì sao mọi người lại nghĩ như vậy. Những người không hiểu nhiều lắm về giáo dục đúng là đang nói về giáo dục như cách họ nói về ngành vận tải hay taxi, rằng hãy để chúng tôi bỏ hết những thứ này đi và thực hiện ý tưởng mới về một nền giáo dục hợp tác công-tư, một giải pháp sẽ hiệu quả hơn nhiều. Và họ nói như vậy vì họ tin rằng nếu anh không thể mang lại những dịch vụ tốt thì anh nên biến mất đi, ngừng kinh doanh và sẽ có người khác đến thay thế. Nhưng anh biết đấy, khi mà anh hiểu nhiều hơn một chút về lịch sử giáo dục và cách thức hoạt động của các hệ thống giáo dục ở những nơi khác, dĩ nhiên là anh sẽ có một cái nhìn khác đi.

Will Brehm:  4:43
Vậy thì George có hỏi ý kiến của ông về nền giáo dục của Mỹ không, tôi đoán là về kiểu nền giáo dục mà ông ấy muốn?

Pasi Sahlberg:  4:52
Đương nhiên rồi. Nhưng sau này thì tôi cho đó là một dạng nói chuyện phiếm thôi và tôi không chắc là ông ấy có thực sự quan tâm đến những gì mà tôi đã nói không. Nhưng vì tôi đã giới thiệu với ông ấy rằng tôi là một người Phần Lan, một nhà giáo dục Phần Lan và lúc đó thì tôi đang dạy ở trường Đại học Harvard, và dĩ nhiên là tôi có bài phát biểu trong cùng một hội nghị với ông ấy, nên tôi cho là ông ấy cũng cảm thấy muốn lắng nghe, và đương nhiên là ông ấy cũng đã biết đến nền giáo dục của Phần Lan. Nhưng thật sự thì sau khi tôi nghe được những quan điểm của ông ấy về giáo dục, tôi cũng không mong là ông ấy sẽ hỏi tôi câu hỏi này đâu. Vì câu trả lời của tôi cho câu hỏi của ông ấy dường như là trái ngược hoàn toàn, quan điểm của tôi khác biệt như ngày với đêm so với những gì ông ấy vừa nói. Trước quyền lực của ông ấy và hai đĩa thức ăn trưa giữa chúng tôi, chà, tôi thực sự là hơi e ngại về việc ông ấy sẽ phản ứng như thế nào.
Như tôi đã viết trong quyển sách của mình, tôi đã trả lời ông ấy rằng có lẽ tôi không nên nói điều gì về nền giáo dục Mỹ vì có quá nhiều điều mà tôi chưa hiểu được. Và từ đây thì cuộc trò chuyện của chúng tôi bắt đầu tiến triển thêm. Sau cùng thì đó thật sự là một cuộc trò chuyện thú vị vì ông ấy hỏi lại tôi rằng tôi không hiểu điều gì. Với ông ấy thì giải pháp để thay đổi hệ thống trường học ở Mỹ đã quá rõ ràng rồi. Hãy bỏ những thứ cũ kĩ này đi, sa thải hết giáo viên và đóng cửa những trường học kém chất lượng, hãy biến trường học trở thành giống như các doanh nghiệp! Do vậy nên ông ấy không hiểu nổi vì sao tôi lại không hiểu được những điều này về nền giáo dục của Mỹ. Và từ đó thì cuộc trò chuyện của chúng tôi mới thực sự bắt đầu.

Will Brehm:  6:27
Vậy thì ông có nói rõ với ông ấy về cách suy nghĩ khác biệt của ông không? Và nếu có thì ông đã nói những gì với George để làm ông ấy, có thể thôi, phải suy nghĩ lại về quan điểm của mình về nền giáo dục Mỹ?

Pasi Sahlberg:  6:40
Vâng, tôi đã trả lời thêm khi ông ấy hỏi “Anh không hiểu điều gì về nền giáo dục của Mỹ?” và đã mong ông ấy dừng lại một chút và suy nghĩ lại. Tôi đã nói với ông ấy một điều mà cho đến giờ tôi vẫn thấy rất quan trọng, rằng tôi thực sự không thể hiểu được vì sao ở Mỹ, một quốc gia đã sản sinh ra những ý tưởng, những giải pháp sáng tạo về giáo dục trong cả trăm năm này, từ John Dewey cho đến nhiều người khác nữa. Những ý tưởng của họ đã làm cho nhiều nền giáo dục trở nên rất tuyệt vời, như Phần Lan, Canada, Hong Kong, Trung Quốc và Singapore hay các quốc gia khác. Nếu bạn truy xét lại những ý tưởng quan trọng của nền giáo dục Phần Lan, những điều đã thực sự giúp cải thiện hệ thống giáo dục, thì hầu hết những ý tưởng đó đều đến từ nước Mỹ. Tôi đã nói với ông ấy rằng nếu nhìn vào những cố gắng của nền giáo dục Mỹ để cải thiện trường học, tôi không thật sự thấy bất kì một cố gắng có hệ thống đúng nghĩa nào để áp dụng các ý tưởng này. Mà ngược lại thì Mỹ lại đang sử dụng những ý tưởng mà rất nhiều nền giáo dục đạt được thành tựu tốt đang cố gắng tránh xa, như là ý tưởng xây dựng nền giáo dục theo kiểu thị trường hay thực hiện phi chuyên nghiệp hóa (de-professionalization) và tiêu chuẩn hóa (standardization) hệ thống giáo dục.

Tôi đưa ra vài ba ví dụ vì ông ấy muốn tôi giải thích thêm về quan điểm của mình. Ví dụ như việc học tập hợp tác (cooperative learning) đã trở thành một yếu tố đặc biệt quan trọng, mang tính đại diện như thế nào cho sự vận hành của các trường học ở Phần Lan. Cũng như lý thuyết về đa trí thông minh (theory of multiple intelligences) của Howard Gardner hay phương pháp khai vấn đồng cấp (peer coaching) mà tôi cũng đã nhắc đến trong quyển sách của mình như là một cách thức mà giáo viên có thể học tập một cách hiệu quả để thay đổi cách giảng dạy. Những ý tưởng này được biết đến rộng khắp ở nước Mỹ nhưng không có ý tưởng nào được đưa vào các nỗ lực có tính hệ thống để cải thiện nền giáo dục. Nếu bạn nhìn vào đạo luật “Không Một Trẻ Em Nào Bị Bỏ Lại Phía Sau” (No Child Left Behind) hay “Chạy Đua Đến Đỉnh Cao” (Race to the Top) hay bất kì những cải cách nào trong thời gian gần đây, không có một dấu vết nào của những ý tưởng này cả. Nên tôi đã trả lời ông ấy rằng, George à, tôi thật sự không hiểu vì sao các ông lại không làm những điều mà cả thế giới đã chứng minh là hiệu quả, những điều mà có thể sẽ mang lại hiệu quả hơn rất nhiều so với những gì mà ông đã nói.

Will Brehm:  8:56
Vâng, hãy để tôi làm rõ lại một chút nhé. George Pataki về cơ bản là đã hỏi xin lời khuyên của ông. Và về cơ bản là ông đã nói với ông ấy rằng, những điều làm cho nền giáo dục Phần Lan trở nên tuyệt vời như vậy, đạt được danh tiếng trên toàn cầu như vậy và mọi trường học đều muốn được như các trường học ở Phần Lan, ông đã nói rằng, này George, tất cả những ý tưởng mà Phần Lan đã sử dụng thật ra đều xuất phát từ những học giả người Mỹ. Và điều thật kì lạ là các trường học ở Mỹ lại không áp dụng những ý tưởng được sinh ra và phát triển ngay trong nền khoa học Mỹ. Đó là những gì đã diễn ra.

Pasi Sahlberg:  9:32
Vâng, điều duy nhất mà tôi muốn điều chỉnh một chút trong tóm tắt của anh là thực sự tôi không chắc là ông ấy có quan tâm đến lời khuyên của tôi hay không. Tôi nghĩ là tôi còn quá non nớt và chẳng là ai ở đó cả để mà có thể đưa ra lời khuyên. Tôi nghĩ là có lẽ lúc ấy George đang ở trong một giai đoạn và trạng thái nhạy cảm vì rõ ràng là ông ấy đang tranh cử cho chức tổng thống Mỹ. Nên có lẽ sẽ khá là khờ khạo nếu ông ấy nói với tôi rằng này, tôi không quan tâm đến ý kiến của anh đâu vì tôi đã có những giải pháp của mình rồi.  Nhưng thật tình thì ông ấy cũng có vẻ tò mò, và như tôi đã mô tả trong quyển sách của mình, rằng ông ấy cũng thấy rất phiền lòng bởi sự thật là: Khoan, chờ một chút, vậy là các quốc gia như Phần Lan đang dùng những nghiên cứu được chi trả bằng tiền thuế của chúng tôi. Họ đã coi trọng những nghiên cứu đó và đưa chúng vào các cải cách giáo dục và làm cho hệ thống của họ trở nên hiệu quả. Mọi chuyện đang diễn ra như vậy sao? Tôi nghĩ ông ấy đã cố gắng nghĩ xem những điều đó có phải là thật không hay chỉ là do tôi đang tưởng tượng ra mà thôi.

Will Brehm:  10:37
Những những ý tưởng mà ông ấy ủng hộ, như ông đã mô tả, như là việc phi chuyên nghiệp hóa giáo viên hay thị trường hóa hệ thống trường học, những ý tưởng ấy có lẽ cũng đã được nghiên cứu chứ phải không?

Pasi Sahlberg:  10:51
Đương nhiên rồi, không cần phải nghi ngờ về điều đó. Anh không cần mất quá nhiều thời gian với bất kì một nhà nghiên cứu người Mỹ nào hay tại bất kì một hội nghị khoa học nào để biết rằng người Mỹ hiểu rõ về những điều này đâu. Và đó thật sự là một điều thú vị. Nhưng trong nhiều trường hợp, các nghiên cứu này được các nhà hoạch định chính sách và nhà giáo dục bên ngoài nước Mỹ nghiền nghẫm và lắng nghe một cách kĩ càng hơn. Và đây chính là một điều mà tôi thực sự không thể hiểu được. Tôi thực sự thấy hoang mang và không thể hiểu nổi vì sao nền giáo dục Mỹ lại không xem trọng những kết quả nghiên cứu của họ. Làm thế nào mà mỗi ngày ở Mỹ, mọi người đều có thể đọc được những quyển sách và những kết quả nghiên cứu rất tuyệt vời mà lại có thể quyết định rằng: Không, đây không phải là cách mà chúng ta sẽ làm đâu. Nhưng khi anh ra khỏi biên giới của nước Mỹ một chút, đi về phía Bắc đến Canada, anh sẽ thấy là những nhà hoạch định chính sách, các chính trị gia, mọi người có cái nhìn rất khác về các nghiên cứu mang tính quốc tế. Họ thực sự cân nhắc các kết quả này và so sánh chúng với thực tiễn và chính sách của họ. Nếu họ nhận ra có điều gì đó chưa phù hợp, cũng giống như Phần Lan vậy, họ sẽ rất sẵn sàng để thay đổi. Nhưng ở Mỹ thì không phải như vậy.

Will Brehm:  12:04
Vì sao mà nước Mỹ lại kì lạ như vậy, có phải đơn giản là vấn đề về mặt quan điểm không?

Pasi Sahlberg:  12:09
Có thể là như vậy. Anh nói thử xem, Will, tôi nghĩ là anh biết rõ về điều này hơn tôi đó. Thật sự thì đây là một điều làm tôi luôn thấy bối rối. Làm thế nào mà một quốc gia như vậy, tôi đoán là có khoảng ba phần tư những công trình nghiên cứu khoa học và sáng tạo quan trọng về giáo dục đến từ nước Mỹ, mà lại có thể không xem trọng những điều đó? Vì sao chúng lại bị bỏ lơ như vậy, vì sao khoảng cách giữa những người làm nghiên cứu, những người được gọi là chuyên gia ở Mỹ với những nhà chính trị gia, những người có quyền lực, khoảng cách ấy, sao lại lớn đến như thế? Vì sao mọi người không thể cùng nhau ngồi lại và thảo luận xem chúng ta đã biết những gì? Tôi thật sự không biết vì sao lại như vậy.

Will Brehm:  12:59
Vậy thì thưa ông, trong khi ông đi đến khắp nơi trên thế giới, trình bày những bài giảng, gặp gỡ những người như George và có khi là nói chuyện phiếm, nhưng cũng có khi là đưa ra những lời khuyên và chia sẻ các bí quyết, tôi hình dung là sẽ có rất nhiều người muốn hỏi ông rằng, ví dụ như, hệ thống trường học của chúng tôi nên làm những gì? Và trong những trường hợp đó thì ông trả lời những câu hỏi rất trực tiếp, thậm chí khá thực dụng và nhiều khi bỏ qua các yếu tố bối cảnh như vậy thế nào?  Tôi nghĩ là họ thường chỉ đang tìm kiếm những giải pháp thực tế mang yếu tố kĩ thuật thôi, nhưng như chúng ta đều biết thì giáo dục phức tạp hơn như vậy rất nhiều. Vậy thì ông xử trí thế nào với những giao tiếp kiểu như vậy khi tiếp xúc với nhiều người từ các nền giáo dục khác nhau trên khắp thế giới?

Pasi Sahlberg:  13:37
Vâng, quả thật đó là một câu hỏi lớn trong giai đoạn đầu. Và khi nói về giai đoạn đầu, ý tôi là khoảng 10 năm về trước khi câu chuyện về Phần Lan bắt đầu xuất hiện và lan rộng đi khắp thế giới. Tôi nghĩ là bản thân tôi và nhiều đồng nghiệp của tôi đều ở trong một kiểu tình huống chung là trả lời những câu hỏi như vậy bằng cách nói rằng, ví dụ như có năm điều làm cho Phần Lan trở nên tuyệt vời như vậy, hay năm điều mà Canada đang thực hiện. Và khi đó thì tôi thường nói về hệ thống giáo dục công, về các giáo viên tuyệt vời, về việc lãnh đạo có mục tiêu (purposeful leadership), những điều chung nhất như vậy, và anh biết đấy, tất cả những điều đó đều là sự thật.

Nhưng giờ đây, anh nói đúng đấy, khi mà mọi người cứ liên tục hỏi tôi những câu hỏi như vậy, như là “Chúng tôi nên làm gì đây, dựa trên những gì anh đã quan sát ở khắp nơi trên thế giới?”, thì các câu trả lời của tôi đang dần chuyển sang nhấn mạnh vào bản chất phức tạp và khó khăn của câu hỏi này, về bản chất của bối cảnh, của từng nơi chốn mà bạn quan sát. Ví dụ như Trung Quốc, Nhật Bản, Tokyo và Phần Lan, tất cả những nơi này đều khác nhau theo rất nhiều cách. Và anh biết đấy, một số điều có thể có hiệu quả ở Phần Lan nhưng không nhất thiết sẽ có hiệu quả gì cả ở những nơi khác. Do vậy, tôi nghĩ là câu trả lời của tôi đang dần tập trung vào nhũng điều chung nhất như đừng vội vàng trong việc thực hiện cải cách. Đây là một trong những điều mà tôi hay nhắc đến. Vội vàng trong cải cách chính là đang phá hủy cải cách. Và đây cũng chính là một trong những điều làm nên sự thành công của Phần Lan. Và đương nhiên là vấn đề lãnh đạo nữa. Lãnh đạo một cách bền vững là một trong những điều quan trọng. Nên tập trung vào điều này hơn là cố gắng đi tìm kiếm những thứ khác.

Và điều thứ ba, một ý tưởng mà tôi đang ấp ủ và đang cố gắng phát triển tiếp, một điều mà tôi luôn cố gắng khuyên tất cả mọi người là, xin hãy hiểu rằng một phần rất lớn của việc làm thế nào để một hệ thống giáo dục có hiệu quả, để giúp trẻ em học tập lại có lẽ là những thứ nằm bên ngoài trường học. Những thứ ấy không phải là vấn đề chương trình, phương pháp sư phạm hay người lãnh đạo giáo dục, mà là những điều liên quan đến gia đình, đến các chính sách xã hội, chăm sóc sức khỏe, chính sách cho thanh thiếu niên, thể thao, giáo dục và nhiều điều khác nữa, như hệ thống thư viện, những thứ tương tự như vậy đấy. Những điều mà trẻ em tiếp xúc ở ngoài nhà trường rất quan trọng, và đây lại là điều mà chúng ta không có nhiều hiểu biết. Hiện nay có nhiều học giả và nhiều người khác đang cố gắng nhấn mạnh đến tầm quan trọng của những yếu tố bên ngoài trường học, những điều mà trẻ em có hay không có được khi chúng không ở trường học.

Nhưng nói ngắn gọn lại thì về câu hỏi của anh, tôi đang có xu hướng ngừng đưa ra những câu trả lời cụ thể về năm hay bảy thứ mang lại hiệu quả cho hệ thống giáo dục mà tập trung vào những điều phức tạp hơn, cố gắng nhấn mạnh sự thật rằng giáo viên và những người làm việc trong trường học, họ cần phải là những người chuyên nghiệp, được đào tạo một cách bài bản. Và chương trình học ở trường thì cần phải được thiết kế theo những cách thức nào đó giúp giáo viên và học sinh có tiếng nói hơn. Và các chính sách giáo dục thì cần phải có sự cân bằng hơn giữa hai vấn đề công bằng và chất lượng. Tôi cho là tôi không còn có thể cho bất kì một quốc gia nào lời khuyên rằng, nếu bạn làm những gì mà Phần Lan hay Canada đang làm, mọi thứ sẽ trở nên tốt đẹp. Một lời khuyên như vậy sẽ không mang lại hiệu quả.

Will Brehm:  17:06
Vâng, tôi nghĩ là ý tưởng về việc trường học là một phần của một hệ sinh thái xã hội rộng lớn hơn rất thú vị. Tôi nghĩ rằng nhiều người trong lĩnh vực giáo dục thường thu hẹp các vấn đề giáo dục chỉ trong khuôn viên của trường học, nhưng thật ra thì giáo dục diễn ra ở rất nhiều những nơi khác, chịu ảnh hưởng của rất nhiều điều khác bên ngoài trường học. Do đó, chúng ta thật sự cần phải mở rộng định nghĩa của giáo dục ra khỏi biên giới của nhà trường.

Pasi Sahlberg:  17:35
Chính xác là như vậy, Will. Điều mà tôi thấy đang dần rõ ràng hơn và cũng là một phần trong quyển sách của tôi, chính là tầm quan trọng đang ngày càng gia tăng của vấn đề hạnh phúc và sức khỏe của trẻ em. Đương nhiên thì đây là những điều mà trường học cũng có thể góp phần để cải thiện, giúp cho trẻ em hạnh phúc, khỏe mạnh hơn. Nhưng anh biết đây, ở hầu hết các nền giáo dục, có lẽ phần lớn những điều này phụ thuộc vào gia đình, xã hội, và cộng động. Và đó là khi chúng ta bắt đầu nhận ra tầm quan trọng của thế giới bên ngoài nhà trường. Sẽ dễ dàng hơn rất nhiều nếu cho rằng những gì mà trẻ em đang học về vật lý hay toán học diễn ra chủ yếu trong nhà trường vì rất ít trẻ em thật sự tự học được toán. Do đó, nếu chúng ta đo lường mức độ phát triển của trẻ em về môn toán hay vật lý, hay lịch sử hay ngoại ngữ, sẽ rất dễ để kết luận rằng những ảnh hưởng được tạo ra bởi giáo viên và trường học. Nhưng về sức khỏe và hạnh phúc, sự năng động, tích cực của trẻ em, những điều như vậy lại phức tạp hơn nhiều. Và đó là lý do mà tôi cho rằng chúng ta chỉ vừa mới bắt đầu, chỉ mới đâu thôi đặt ra câu hỏi tầm quan trọng của thế giới xung quanh trường học trong quá trình giáo dục trẻ em.

Will Brehm:  18:58
Và dường như là từ trong câu trả lời vừa rồi của ông, có phải cũng có thể hiểu rằng chúng ta nên dần ngừng đánh giá về những điều đang diễn ra chỉ bằng cách nhìn vào sự tiến bộ của học sinh thông qua việc nắm được kiến thức của các môn học?

Pasi Sahlberg:  19:10
Chính xác là vậy. Và tôi đoán rằng điều đó sẽ diễn ra trong vòng 5 năm tới.

Will Brehm:  19:13
Một ý tưởng khác mà tôi nghe ông nhắc đến nhiều lần và cũng đã được viết trong quyển sách mới của ông là ý tưởng về dữ liệu nhỏ (small data). Ông có thể nào giúp tôi giải thích về ý nghĩa của dữ liệu nhỏ không thưa ông?

Pasi Sahlberg:  19:22
Vâng, dữ liệu nhỏ. Rất thú vị. Tôi đã nói chuyện về điều này rất nhiều trong suốt một năm vừa qua. Trong những buổi nói chuyện đó, nếu có cơ hội, tôi thường hỏi mọi người rằng, làm thế nào để có thể giải thích về dữ liệu nhỏ với một đứa trẻ chín tuổi. Và tôi yêu cầu mọi người giơ tay lên nếu họ cảm thấy có thể giải thích được về khái niệm đó trong vòng 30 giây. Và thường thì tôi không thấy cánh tay nào giơ lên. Mọi người dường như cảm thấy khá mơ hồ về khái niệm này. Và khi tôi cố gắng đốc thúc họ một chút bằng cách hỏi rằng, vậy thì điều gì xuất hiện trong đầu bạn khi nghĩ về dữ liệu nhỏ? Một vài người nói rằng có lẽ chắc là nó nhỏ hơn dữ liệu lớn (big data) một chút. Và đương nhiên thì không phải là như vậy rồi. Nhưng những câu trả lời như vậy làm tôi nhận ra một điều.

Tôi và nhiều đồng nghiệp làm việc trong lĩnh vực này nhận thấy rằng các giải pháp để giải quyết các vấn đề về giáo dục hiện nay, bằng cách này hay cách khác, đều bao gồm việc sử dụng đến dữ liệu lớn. Anh có thể thử nhìn vào hệ thống PISA của OECD. Đấy chính là một giải pháp sử dụng dữ liệu lớn cho các hệ thống giáo dục. Và có những giải pháp khác nữa, như việc phân tích dữ liệu học tập (learning analytics), những thuật toán và các máy móc thông minh, các quy trình đánh giá được thực hiện bởi máy tính, việc đánh giá theo nhóm và những thứ tương tự như vậy. Đến một thời điểm nhất định, chúng tôi và các đồng nghiệp của mình cảm thấy cần phải dừng lại và đặt ra câu hỏi rằng “Những nhà giáo dục nên làm như thế nào, nên phản ứng ra sao trước sự trỗi dậy của dữ liệu lớn trên khắp thế giới, trong các lớp học?”

Hiện nay nếu bạn đi đến bất kì hội nghị về Công nghệ giáo dục nào, bạn cũng có thể thấy rất nhiều những giải pháp hấp dẫn, hứa hẹn giúp giải quyết được mọi vấn đề, như cải thiện thành tích, giảm chênh lệch về thành tích, giảm tỉ lệ bỏ học và nhiều thứ khác nữa. Và vì vậy, chúng tôi nhận thấy có lẽ không nên nói rằng dữ liệu lớn là một ý tưởng tồi tệ và dữ liệu lớn nên tránh xa khỏi các trường học, vì chúng tôi không thích ý tưởng này. Thay vào đó, chúng tôi nghĩ rằng nên có một giải pháp để bổ trợ cho việc sử dụng dữ liệu lớn thì tốt hơn. Tôi cho rằng đúng là việc sử dụng dữ liệu lớn sẽ giúp giải quyết tốt hơn một số vấn đề nhất định. Nhưng nếu mọi thứ đi quá xa, ví dụ như chúng ta bắt đầu phán xét số phận, tương lai của những đứa trẻ dựa trên dữ liệu lớn và các thuật toán. Như việc đang xảy ra hiện nay, máy móc có thể dự đoán một đứa trẻ 10 tuổi sẽ trở thành như thế nào trong tương lai dựa vào kết quả học tập ở trường của em ấy. Đó chính là những lúc mà chúng tôi muốn nói rằng, giáo dục không hoạt động theo cách như vậy. Và do đó, dữ liệu nhỏ rất quan trọng. Dữ liệu nhỏ bao gồm tất cả những dấu hiệu nhỏ xíu mà chúng ta có thể tìm ấy ở từng bối cảnh, từng lớp học, trường học. Ví dụ như thông qua việc quan sát, việc ngồi trong một lớp học, quan sát xung quanh và tìm hiểu xem chuyện gì đang diễn ra, vì sao những đứa trẻ lại đang làm những điều này, vì sao lớp học lại được tổ chức theo cách này. Anh biết đấy, máy móc không thể thực hiện tốt được những việc như vậy.

Đối với lĩnh vực giáo dục, dữ liệu nhỏ chính là việc quan sát, thu thập thông tin và các bằng chứng thông qua trí tuệ và kinh nghiệm chuyên môn của các nhà giáo dục. Dữ liệu nhỏ cũng đang bắt đầu xuất hiện trong lĩnh vực chăm sóc sức khỏe. Có những trung tâm nghiên cứu như ở Sydney, Úc được cho là những trung tâm nghiên cứu và sức khỏe đầu tiên dựa trên dữ liệu nhỏ. Dữ liệu nhỏ được sử dụng giống như cách mà các bác sĩ, các chuyên gia về y tế tìm kiếm những dấu hiệu nhỏ trong cuộc sống của bệnh nhân, trong những việc mà họ làm hằng ngày để hiểu được xem điều gì sẽ giúp họ có một cuộc sống khỏe mạnh hơn.

Dữ liệu nhỏ giống như một cách thức phản hồi lại làn sóng dữ liệu lớn đang xuất hiện và sẽ đến gõ cửa mỗi trường học trong thời gian sắp tới. Và tôi nghĩ cách phản hồi như vậy sẽ tốt hơn là giơ tay ngăn lại và nói rằng “Này đừng đến đây, đây là một trường học và không có chỗ cho dữ liệu lớn đâu!” Vì thật ra thì dẫu sao đi nữa thì dữ liệu lớn cũng sẽ đến và thực hiện công việc của nó mà thôi. Nhưng nếu chúng ta không có một câu chuyện đủ tốt, nếu chúng ta không thể thuyết phục mọi người rằng vì sao lại cần đến nghề nghiệp này, rằng có những thông tin, những quyết định chỉ có thể được thu thập và thực hiện bởi trí tuệ và kinh nghiệm chuyên môn của giáo viên và các nhà lãnh đạo giáo dục mà thôi. Nếu chúng ta không làm được điều đó, chúng ta sẽ sớm bị thay thế bởi máy móc.

Will Brehm:  23:49
Là một nhà nghiên cứu, tôi nghĩ là điều này cũng khá dễ hiểu. Tôi là một nhà nghiên cứu định tính, và đó là việc đưa ra những kết luận định tính có chiều sâu thông qua các mẫu nghiên cứu có kích thước nhỏ. Chúng ta không cần quá nhiều người, chúng ta không cần dữ liệu lớn, không cần những phương pháp định lượng thống kê để trả lời một số câu hỏi quan trọng về đời sống xã hội, bao gồm cả về trường học. Đôi khi chỉ cần thông qua một người thôi, việc quan sát hành vi, mối quan hệ xã hội và các tương tác của một người thôi cũng giúp chúng ta đưa ra được nhiều lý thuyết về những gì đang diễn ra rồi? Tôi nghĩ điều này đâu có gì là quá khó hiểu đâu, phải không?

Pasi Sahlberg:  24:34
Vâng có lẽ là như vậy. Nhưng tôi đã thực hiện một thử nghiệm trong các buổi hội thảo và nói chuyện của tôi. Tôi đã chiếu một video clip trong khoảng hai phút, về mội giải pháp hứa hẹn giúp cải thiện thành tích và giảm thiểu tỷ lệ bỏ học trong hệ thống. Đó là một thuật toán thông minh quan sát cách thức mà trẻ em trả lời các câu hỏi trắc nghiệm. Và chi phí thì tầm khoảng một vài trăm nghìn đô. Và họ đã cho thấy là khi giải pháp này được thực hiện ở một số bang và một số quận, mọi thứ, mọi đường cong đều đi lên. Do đó dĩ nhiên là với tôi hay anh thì điều này không có gì là khó hiểu. Tuy nhiên, sẽ có ai đó ngoài kia chịu trách nhiệm, ý tôi là những người có thẩm quyền trong hệ thống. Họ đã hứa hẹn sẽ tạo ra được những tiến bộ thần kì cho nền giáo dục và họ biết rằng sẽ rất khó để có thể làm được điều này chỉ bằng việc nói chuyện với mọi người, với giáo viên và cổ vũ mọi người hãy cố gắng thêm một chút. Do đó tôi nghĩ rằng rất có thể là trên phạm vi thế giới, mọi người cuối cùng rồi cũng sẽ muốn dùng đến những giải pháp này, những giải pháp hứa hẹn rất nhiều, rất nhiều thứ và cho thấy những cải thiện về kết quả, nhưng lại hầu như không liên quan gì đến việc học, việc trẻ em sẽ trở nên như thế nào khi rời khỏi trường học. Giống như anh đã nói đấy, giáo dục liên quan rất nhiều đến các mối quan hệ, cần có sự hiểu biết xem chúng ta là ai, chúng ta học tập như thế nào, chúng ta sẽ làm gì. Và một lần nữa thì trong những việc này, máy móc không thể nào bằng con người được. Dữ liệu lớn có hạn chế của nó, hạn chế trong việc làm những điều mà chúng ta thì có thể làm được. Và điều này mang lại một cơ hội rất lớn cho việc sử dụng dữ liệu nhỏ.

Will Brehm:  26:26
Tôi muốn hỏi một chút về điều này. Nhiều người cho rằng Phần Lan là một trong những quốc gia mà các quốc gia khác nên học theo để cải thiện nền giáo dục đang gặp thất bại của họ. Niềm tin này đến từ đâu và ông có nghĩ rằng nó là sự thật không? Hay có một phần nào đó là sự thật? Hay đó chỉ là một niềm tin sai lệch?

Pasi Sahlberg:  26:49
Như tôi đã viết trong quyển sách của mình, có nhiều niềm tin sai lệch về Phần Lan rất nguy hiểm mà mọi người nên tránh. Đó là lý do vì sao mà tôi đã đề xuất rằng một trong bốn điều mà bất kể nền giáo dục nào cũng nên thực hiện để trở nên tốt hơn chính là cố gắng tránh đi những niềm tin hoang đường mà mọi người thường hay nghe về Phần Lan. Có những thứ thật sự rất nguy hiểm như việc cho rằng ở Phần Lan không có bài tập về nhà. Mọi người thường thấy điều này trong các phim tài liệu và đọc được trên báo ở mọi khắp nơi trên thế giới. Nhiều nhà lãnh đạo giáo dục đã gặp và hỏi riêng tôi rằng hệ thống giáo dục của họ có nên làm những gì mà Phần Lan đã làm và cấm bài tập về nhà không. Nhưng làm như vậy thật ra là rất có hại, rất điên rồ. Và đương nhiên là có một chuyện hoang đường khác nữa cũng rất phổ biến về Phần Lan khi cho rằng trong tương lai chúng tôi sẽ không dạy học theo môn học nữa. Sẽ chỉ còn có các chủ đề và các dự án mà thôi. Và điều này thì, như tôi đã mô tả trong quyển sách là hoàn toàn không đúng sự thật. Nhiều chuyện hiểu lầm như vậy đã xảy ra đơn giản vì sự yếu kém của báo chí. Anh biết đấy, đôi khi họ viết những câu chuyện này trong khi chưa hề đặt chân đến Phần Lan, chưa hề nói chuyện với bất kì ai, và đôi khi họ đưa ra những ý tưởng điên rồ chỉ để giật tít mà thôi.

Nhưng điều mà tôi nhận ra khi viết quyển sách này và một số quyển sách trước đó là thật ra rất khó để có thể thực sự hiểu được bất kì một nền giáo dục nào, dù đó là nền giáo dục Nhật, hay Phần Lan, hay Mỹ, đủ để có thể lý giải một cách thực sự đúng đắn về cách thức mà nền giáo dục ấy vận hành. Và đó là lý do mà rất dễ dẫn đến việc có những niềm tin sai lệch về một nền giáo dục nào đó. Thật sự thì rất đáng tiếc. Tôi nghĩ rằng có những điều rất hữu ích và thú vị về nền giáo dục Phần Lan, cũng như nhiều nền giáo dục khác. Hầu hết mọi nền giáo dục đều có những điều thú vị mà họ đang thực hiện trong khi những nước khác không làm. Nhưng dĩ nhiên là vì mọi người đã dành quá nhiều sự chú ý cho Phần Lan nên có rất nhiều nghiên cứu để tìm ra những điều như vậy ở Phần Lan so với những nền giáo dục khác, những nơi mà không ai để tâm đến việc tìm hiểu. Chính vì vậy, tôi nghĩ là chúng ta phải nên rất cẩn trọng trong việc tìm ra những điều mà chúng ta cho là hữu ích. Và lý do mà tôi viết quyền “FinnishED Leadership” chính là vì có nhiều người đã hỏi tôi rằng nếu những điều mà họ xem trên tin tức hoặc phim ảnh và phim tài liệu không đúng, thì có điều gì mà họ có thể làm nếu họ muốn học hỏi từ Phần Lan? Và dĩ nhiên là không thể nào có chuyện một nền giáo dục đạt được thành tựu ở tầm thế giới như vậy lại chỉ thành công một cách ngẫu nhiên. Điều này đúng với Nhật Bản, Canada hay Phần Lan và các quốc gia khác nữa, sẽ luôn có một điều gì đó giúp giải thích lý do vì sao các quốc gia này làm được điều đó. Không thể nào thành công chỉ nhờ sự ngẫu nhiên được.

Will Brehm:  29:54
Vậy thì trong cuộc trò chuyện của ông với George Pataki tại buổi hội nghị một vài năm về trước đó, có lẽ là George không thực sự học được điều gì từ ông. Nhưng dù là nói chuyện phiếm thôi, ông có cảm thấy học được điều gì từ George không?

Pasi Sahlberg:  30:09
Tôi nghĩ tôi là một người lạc quan. Tôi luôn cố gắng học được nhiều thứ trong mọi trường hợp. Và anh biết đấy, tôi đã dành khá nhiều thời gian trong cuộc đời, không hẳn là trong lĩnh vực chính trị, nhưng trong lĩnh vực chính sách. Và chính sách thì quan hệ rất mật thiết với chính trị. Nên tôi đoán là điều mà tôi đã học được từ George chính là việc làm thế nào có thể dễ dàng bàn luận về giáo dục mà ẩn sau đó là quyền lực chính trị, là tầm ảnh hưởng và kinh nghiệm chính trị. Việc hùng biện như vậy trông có vẻ rất đơn giản. Và phải nói là tôi cảm thấy khá ngưỡng mộ khi nghe bài phát biểu của ông ấy tại hội nghị. Ông ấy quả thật là một nhà chính trị dày dạn kinh nghiệm. Ngay cả sau cuộc nói chuyện dài 45 phút của chúng tôi, sau khi ông ấy đã lắng nghe những ý kiến khác 180 độ so với suy nghĩ và niềm tin của ông ấy, ông ấy vẫn có thể bước lên bục và nói lại một cách hoàn toàn chính xác những gì ông ấy đã nói với tôi, về vấn đề mà nước Mỹ đang gặp phải, về việc tất cả là do những giáo viên tồi tệ, rằng chúng ta nên sa thải họ, rằng nước Mỹ xứng đáng với những điều tốt hơn. Tôi nghĩ để làm được như vậy thì ắt hẳn ông ấy phải có được những kỹ năng nhất định và nếu mà tôi có được những kỹ năng như vậy, để giao tiếp và trình bày thì chắc là công việc của tôi đã tốt hơn rất nhiều.

Ông ấy đã không nói thêm điều gì mà tôi chưa từng nghe. Nhưng dĩ nhiên tôi không dừng cuộc nói chuyện và nói với ông ấy điều đó. Chủ yếu là tôi nghĩ rằng việc thuyết phục, việc tìm ra được một câu chuyện hay, một cuộc trò chuyện thực sự làm người khác phải dừng lai một chút và suy nghĩ thật sự quan trọng.
Đến bây giờ việc George có còn nhớ về cuộc trò chuyện này hay không vẫn là một ẩn số đối với tôi. Và ngay cả khi ông ấy có nhớ đến nó, cũng không biết được rằng ông ấy có nhớ về nó giống như cách mà tôi nhớ hay không. Có khi là khi ông ấy đã kể cho đồng nghiệp của mình về cuộc trò chuyện này, rằng có một anh chàng người Phần Lan kia hoàn toàn đồng tình với ông ấy. Không biết ông ấy có kể về mọi thứ giống với tôi không? Tôi cũng không rõ. Nhưng dẫu sau thì có một cuộc trò chuyện như vậy cũng rất tuyệt vời. Nếu không có buổi ăn trưa hôm ấy với George, có lẽ là tôi đã không thể viết nên quyển sách của tôi như bây giờ.

Will Brehm:  32:28
Cám ơn ông Pasi Sahlberg vì đã tham dự FreshEd. Và một lần nữa, luôn luôn là một vinh dự khi được trò chuyện với ông.

Pasi Sahlberg:  32:33
Cám ơn Will. Cám ơn anh rất nhiều.

Translated by Linh Hong Ho

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