After Keele, Who’s Next?

by Ingrid Robeyns on March 18, 2011

So after an attempt to close down Philosophy at Middlesex and cut Philosophy at King’s College London, now the Philosophy Department in Keele is threatened with closure, together with Keele’s Centre for Professional Ethics. You can read all about it here. I really can’t help but wonder: “Who’s next?” We earlier reported here on plans to cut funding for the humanities and the social sciences at the EU-research spending level.

I think the tendencies are clear. If you are teaching/doing research in a field/discipline that can not easily show (quantitatively, please!) to policy makers & bureaucrats that you will make a significant positive contribute to economic growth, your very existence is at stake. Never mind that you’re opening up minds, teaching logic or the arts, passing on history to the next generations. Either someone on the market should be willing to pay for what you’re doing, or else you are at mercy of the benevolence of your government. The University as a public good? That’s an old fashioned idea from premodern times, obviously.

If you think I’m exaggerating, read the EU agenda on the modernization of the Universities, published by EU bureaucrats in 2006. I think what we’re witnessing now, is that this agenda has touched the lowests levels of execution, and that the financial crisis is seen as a great opportunity to push it through. A tiny bit of this ‘modernization agenda’, like the stress on international mobility of students and teachers, could be explained by the goals of creating multi-national understanding and hence contributing to peace. But the rest of that agenda regards the university primarily (perhaps solely?) as an instrument for the economy. We had better become more worried, and we had better started to create a counter-discourse to this narrow economistic paradigm then. What I see around me, and what I see developing that hasn’t been fully worked out yet, worries me a lot.

Budget Cuts and Standardized Tests.

by Harry on March 18, 2011

Problems in Missouri, explained here (thanks Emily).

This is a gem:

“There’s nothing to keep our schools from continuing to teach to those standards and assess those standards,” Hoge said. “The fact that they’re not on the state assessment doesn’t preclude your teaching that. We hope that our teaching will always be at the highest level possible.”

and then:

In the Webster Groves School District, some teachers will be glad to spend less time on MAP testing this year because that will mean more instructional time in the classroom, district spokeswoman Cathy Vespereny said. But, Vespereny added, the teachers are not pleased that the writing prompts are being bounced from the tests, because such exercises allow students to exhibit higher-level thinking. “The feeling is that the writing portion is particularly valuable,” she said.

So the districts understand that incentives have effects, and the state, which has been designing the incentives for all these years, doesn’t.

It was to be published today, and take effect tomorrow. The Secretary of State held off publishing the law till the last minute, and somebody sued him in time (unlike the Governor, and the various legislators, he does not have immunity). An odd case, really, someone doing everything they possibly can to get sued. LaFollette seems to have been SofS forever: today is the finest moment in his career. Thanks, Doug. Story here.

The people disarmed

by Chris Bertram on March 18, 2011

Since I’m not a political party and don’t have a vote at the United Nations, my opinions on the Libyan conflict and no-fly zone happily matter to no-one (except perhaps some enraged bloggers). I certainly won’t be demonstrating against the no-fly zone and, as soon as it gets implemented (as opposed to voted on) I hope it works. But I’d rather not be here. The problem is, as I see it, that the involvement of France, the UK, and the “international community”, and the framing of the issue in terms of civilian protection, fundamentally changes the nature of what’s going on. A series of popular demonstrations, met with armed force, was rapidly transformed into an armed popular uprising, with the possibility of the Libyan people taking control for themselves. And armed popular uprisings, aimed at overthrowing the state do not admit of the neat categorizations of persons presupposed by just war theory, humanitarian intervention, and so forth. The people armed is just that: the people armed. I don’t know if the uprising could have succeeded. The news was contradictory — with frequent reports by Gaddafi that he’d taken cities proving to be false — but, on the whole, it was not encouraging. I’d certainly rather have a no-fly zone (if it works, which is a big if) than the uprising defeated and mass killings by the Gaddafi family in revenge. But a successful popular uprising is no longer a possibility either. Most of the Libyan people have now been cast into the role of passive victims rather than active agents of their own liberation. Some Libyans may rally to the Gaddafi regime out of a sense of wounded national pride at outside interference. And even if Gaddafi falls (which I hope he will) the successor regime will lack the legitimacy it might have had, and will no doubt be resented and undermined by nationalist Gaddafi loyalists biding their time and representing it as the creature of the West. So not good, though I confess to lacking the information to know whether it could have been better.

All necessary measures

by John Quiggin on March 18, 2011

The surprisingly successful counterattack by the Gaddafi forces in Libya has produced an even more surprising response. Whereas a day or so ago it seemed unlikely that the US, let alone the UNSC, would support a no-fly zone, the UNSC has now passed (10-0 with China among the abstentions) a resolution authorizing “all necessary measures” to protect Libyan civilians from Gaddafi’s forces. At least according to the NYTimes, that includes airstrikes directed at ground forces.

The only question now is who will supply the necessary force, and this is primarily a diplomatic issue – the military requirements are well within the capacity of France, the US, the UK, the Arab League and probably quite a few others. But whoever supplies the planes, it seems clear that Gaddafi’s regime is doomed. It is striking that, having been regarded as a member in good standing of the international community only a couple of months ago, he is now unable to secure a single vote in the UNSC.

The vote has big implications for the UN and also for the remaining Middle Eastern dictatorships/monarchies, most notably Bahrein and “Saudi” Arabia

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