Wednesday 23 October 2013

Simon Jenkins, don't quit the day job

Richard Murphy tears into Simon Jenkins' article encouraging the further neoliberalisation of academic research.  Jenkins argues that:
If I were an academic I would stop pretending I was “investing in the nation’s future”. I would stop using such language. I would try to give students what they want for their money, usually a well-rounded education and a mild sense of obligation to society, and tuck my research into my spare time.
Murphy rightly points out that education can't be reduced to 'knowledge transfer'; it is also about teaching critical thinking skills.

But even if the purpose of education is ‘knowledge’ instead of critical thinking (which, I agree, is a mindset that could use a lesson in critical thought) then where the hell is this knowledge meant to come from? Is it magicked out of thin air? Maybe, as a columnist, Jenkins confuses knowledge with opinion. When he wants to write on a subject he’ll spend some time on Google, maybe with some books, and then, armed with that ‘knowledge,’ pontificate away.

But that isn’t knowledge. Knowledge isn’t something that can just be picked up from books (and especially not from the Internet!). Knowledge itself presupposes a whole critical process of production, critique and reproduction. It’s that entire infrastructure that is captured in the name ‘Research’ and that is the infrastructure that is under attack.

No more research, no more knowledge (of any quality, anyway).

All in all, Simon Jenkins needs to go back to school.