Resisting the Economization of Education
“Intellectuals are in a position to expose the lies of governments, to analyze actions according to their causes and motives and often hidden intentions. In the Western world, at least, they have the power that comes from political liberty, from access to information and freedom of expression. For a privileged minority, Western democracy provides the leisure, the facilities, and the training to seek the truth lying hidden behind the veil of distortion and misrepresentation, ideology and class interest, through which the events of current history are presented to us.” (Noam Chomsky, 1967)
As Chomsky points out, it is our duty as students and intellectuals to unmask any discourses, practices or institutions that reproduce systematic marginalization of people. I understand his appeal for “truth” as the process through which we must question the indoctrination of ideology in the form of socially constructed norms and hierarchies, while bearing in mind that the ruling class determines what information is presented to us, and how it is framed.
Even though the university, as an educational institution, should aim to produce critical research which will lead to the progressive development of society, this is, from my perspective as someone with experience of multiple education systems, exactly what is missing in the majority of lectures, seminars, and tutorials. After the introduction of the Bologna reforms – better known as the Bachelor/Master system– which economized teaching, there is a spectrum of little to no critical content available in the courses. The doctrine of this new system is to collect the required credit points and leave university with a degree – as soon as possible. Students should no longer stroll around campus for nine or ten semesters but rather receive their academic certificate after six semesters and thus be able to take on their roles as obedient employees with the same alacrity as their British and American counterparts.
In the midst of exams, tests, and essay submissions, there is little time and energy left to actually question this mountain of responsibilities (which is exactly the position the neoliberal Bologna reforms want us to be in). This system discourages students from engaging in critical thinking. If they did, they might dismantle it, right? Therefore, more workload and restrictive deadlines are imposed to reduce the probability of critical resistance. The object becomes navigating the impersonal bureaucracy as best you can.
However, this cannot be the end. It is crucial, and indeed our responsibility, to understand the mechanisms of oppression and hierarchy in order to fight them. If the majority of the official seminars do not provide critical content, we have to look for other possibilities to inform ourselves. Therefore, the AStA (General Students’ Committee at Universität Hamburg) offers “Gesellschaftskritische Tutorien” (socio-critical tutorials) every semester. These courses range from criticism of capitalism to feminist theories or historical events, taught by students for other students. While most courses are taught in German, there are some available in English as well. Most importantly, they are free of charge and free of competition.
More information concerning “Gesellschaftskritische Tutorien”:
Merve was listening to the sounds of the sea while writing this piece.
More texts by the great thinker and activist Noam Chomsky: