Intrigued with University of Melbourne’s ‘New Metrics’ program. They have a bit of history with exploring new areas for assessment with the ATC21s program (whitepaper can be found here), however I am not sure what really came of that work.
Education is life-changing. The humanities and social sciences have the potential to transform and improve our societies. Putting this education out of reach for students who are already economically insecure is elitist and it is wrong. It will make us a smaller, meaner and stupider society.
It is no exaggeration to say that my university degree was life changing. From a narrow, ill-informed starting point my mind and my horizons grew. I learned about history, I learned about politics, I learned about power, gender and social movements. I came to question the role of the state and government policy and to understand that governments make progressive change only when it is demanded of them. I learned that power comes in many forms.
This open letter is written in response to the Australian government’s proposed reforms to the university sector, announced by Education Minister Dan Tehan on June 19, 2020. The so-called “job-ready graduates” package seeks to make courses in areas such as science, maths and teaching cheaper to encourage more students to get degrees in what the government sees to be job-growth areas. By contrast, fees for many humanities courses will more than double.
The late essayist and quicksilver intellectual Christopher Hitchens once argued that “above all, we are in need of a renewed Enlightenment … and this Enlightenment will not need to depend, like its predecessors, on the heroic breakthroughs of a few gifted and exceptionally courageous people. It is within the compass of the average person”.
For many, the universality of the humanities degree is the most democratic expression of this ambition.
It has been my pleasure to have taught thousands of such students for almost forty years, and my conviction that I have stumbled over the past fifteen upon a way of offering them something closer to what I once experienced and have learned that they too hunger for.
I am writing this piece in the hope that our experience might be of interest to other university teachers in the humanities, social sciences, mathematics and natural sciences and even be seen as a template for a form of undergraduate teaching that others might think worth a try.
The subject introduces students to the history of politics in “the West” from the outbreak of the First World War to the present day. Students attend a three hour seminar each week. They are expected to read either a book or an interlinked set of articles in preparation for the weekly seminar.
The topics and authors covered are, in turn, the breakdown of European society from the beginning of the First to the end of the Second World War (Eric Hobsbawm’s Age of Extremes) ; the fate of the Russian Revolution by the 1930s (Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon) ; the Holocaust (Primo Levi’s If This is a Man); Left and Right in the 1930s and 1940s (selected essays of George Orwell); the Cold War (essays from George Kennan); second wave feminism (Virginia Woolf, Betty Friedan, bell hooks); the recognition of racism (Sven Lindqvist’s “Exterminate all the Brutes”); the rise of neo-liberalism (Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom); the collapse of communism (Vaclav Havel’s “The Power of the Powerless”); post-Cold War (Francis Fukuyama and Samuel Huntington ); contemporary social democracy post-GFC ( Wilkinson and Pickett; Joseph Stiglitz; Tony Judt; Paul Krugman); environmentalism and climate change (Rachel Carson; Garrett Hardin; Al Gore).
Each week, in addition, the students watch and discuss a film loosely associated with the readings: for the First World War (All Quiet on the Western Front, Milestone, 1930); the British reaction to the rise of Nazism (The Lady Vanishes, Hitchcock, 1938); the Holocaust (Korczak, Wajda, 1990); the Cold War (Dr Strangelove, Kubrick, 1964); the recognition of racism (Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Kramer, 1967); second wave feminism (Mad Men, series one); neo-liberalism (The Fountainhead, King Vidor, 1949); the collapse of communism (The Lives of Others, von Donnersmarck, 2006); post Cold War-Iraq invasion (Turtles Can Fly, Ghobadi, 2004); the case for social democracy (Wall Street, Stone, 1988); climate change (An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore, 2006).
When students choose what universities to go to, two key trends can be seen in Howard Gardner’s latest research, revealed at the International Conference on Thinking. Some go for transactional purposes — to get a good degree and pack their CV full of things so that they can head into ‘real life’ in the best possible way. Others go for transformational reasons — they see university as a chance to evolve from being a high schooler into something new, to reinvent themselves.
Amanda Heffernan, Scott Bulfin and David Bright of Monash university discuss their experiences of completing research degrees while teaching, and offer advice for anyone considering pursuing a research degree while still working in a school.
— Aaron Davis 🏘️ (@mrkrndvs) May 11, 2014
Still not sure I’m any closer though.