Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The knives are out for Higher Education

Following recent "revelations", more stories concerning the rapidly-bottoming plight of higher education have been let loose. I like to imagine them as a flock of homing pigeons, all gradually returning home to roost. Do pigeons roost? Well, if they do, that's what I'm imagining them doing.

English no longer needed to get a degree. Cash is the new lingua franca.

Degree grades are "arbitrary". Or not arbitrary, just based on what numbers of each grade the Management want today.

Yup, this is the education system that's going to carry us into the 21st century, and a globalised world of specialised, innovative knowledge working.

Get out now.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Live coverage of 42-day-limit discussion

For those with enough time to keep up with such things, Channel 4 News are doing a great job of covering the 42-day-limit discussion on their Terror Blog Live. If you're more of a BBC-head, head over to their coverage here.

First result expected around 6pm.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

English Schools Still Buggered, Getting Buggerederer

Education targets are in the news again, with the drive towards targets being pushed ever more heavily under the guise of the "National Challenge" rhetoric. (Kind of like challenging a small boy to leap over an arbitrary fence after hiring a company to break his legs. Nobody cares about the goons, or whether the other side of the fence is actually all that good. JUMP THE GODDAMNED FENCE, FUNNY-LEG DWARF.)

In all BBC political articles there is always at least 1 paragraph that mocks the government for being cretins*. Here is this article's:
The plans relate to England, as education is a devolved matter. The concept of setting such targets does not exist in Scotland or in Wales, where there are also no school "league tables".
Note how the paragraph doesn't lead from or into anything related, and comes at a point where most people will have stopped reading, but not all.

Sneering journalists aside (although don't get me wrong, I point it out because I like it), while most people wax lyrical about moving to Oz or Spain or Guatemala, it's looking increasingly like Scotland is the place to be. They speak the language, kind of. They know what alcohol is supposed to be like. They haven't bulldozed down all their hills yet (England has no hills after Tesco got rid of them in the 14th Century). And they seem to have some kind of political sense. All I have to do is buy an umbrella and I'm set.

Failing that, there's a good chance that Cornwall will split off. Here's hoping I'm the right side of the border when they do so.

* True.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Dumb News

Couple of stupidity quickies...

Scandal! Academia is no longer shocking, just flawed

"News" is only really New to those that haven't been following an issue, or been involved in it. Similarly, "Scandal" or "Shock" can be defined as being revelationary only to those who would otherwise assume otherwise, and that are generally somewhat detached from the issue. (This, of course, is what most British newspapers rely on to sell their wares - the fact that most people reading have been "assured" about the state of the world, rather than actually knowing all that much about it.)

So things such as the news that students caught plagiarising are rarely kicked out really can only be said to be "shocking" if you follow the assurances laid out in the story: that "almost all universities [threaten] expulsion as a sanction."

There are two main reasons why you'd see this as "shocking". Firstly, you'd followed those assumptions because, well, you probably don't actually care. And if that's the case, then you probably don't care that things weren't like that at all.

Secondly, those are your assumptions because that's what you want to assume. if you've spent a lot of time and energy, for example, setting up a system of measurement and tracking to ensure the machinery outputs what you want it to output, then maybe going against those assumptions would damage not only your bank account, but also your reputation, and your credibility. Maybe those assumptions keep you looking good in the eyes of the first bunch of people - the people that don't really care what the system does, but do care that you're capable of doing what you say you'll do.

These are the people that the Reality needs to speak to, the people with their heads so far up their clouded arses that they can just fart to ignore the cries of all the people below them bringing them gifts of the Real World. (I dearly wanted to get round to blogging the twisted National Student Survey too, but failed utterly, like the NSS itself.)

And with that, I wanted to leave you with the words of one "Head of Department" that left a great comment on the BBC site. His or her words hit the academic nail on the head in a world where "academic" is fast meaning "for the cash", rather than "unnecessary".
"I regret to say that the attitude amongst staff is now tending towards 'Let them in, give them a degree (any degree), collect payslip, go home.' The solution is threefold - to increase funding for Universities, to pay students a grant (because at the moment they say 'we are customers, we are paying for our degrees'), and, to cut the number of students. Many of our students do not really want to be here and they are not really capable of learning that which we endeavour to teach them. For many students education has become an obligation rather than a right, or, more strictly speaking, a privilege."