Last year was a rough one for academia – inauspicious, to say the least. The Covid-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on students, universities lurching between open and closed, leaving students strained and uncertain about their futures, and stuck in Zoom classrooms. Meanwhile, mental health struggles soared. Students paid full tuition price for this cut-rate experience. On the research side, there have been at least 72 retracted papers on Covid-19 and a total of 32,000 retractions. And, of course, universities themselves kept alive their long, esteemed tradition of operating like cartels – with a handful of them facing a lawsuit for alleged violations of antitrust law related to the amount of financial aid they paid out.
All of that is bad. But wait – there’s more! In this episode of Darts and Letters, we take two of the most frustrating aspects of the higher education world: endless culture wars around free speech and identity, and the continued corporatization of the curriculum.
- First (@7:00), what is an anti-woke, free-thinking academy and who does it serve? Derek Roberston is a writer and contributing editor at Politico. Last November, he wrote about the new ‘free thinking’ University of Austin. He takes us through the tensions, contradictions, controversies, and ideological commitments underpinning the “fiercely independent” new school and its quest for free inquiry–and maybe Elon Musk’s money.
- Then (@29:57), purpose-built micro-credentials are en vogue right now in higher-education, leading many to ask: What? And why? Canada is on board, with Ontario investing tens of millions into microcredits alongside several other provinces. Gavin Moodie is an adjunct professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. He breaks down microcredits and explains them as an outsourcing of job training built for the hodge podge, ephemeral gig economy – or “gig qualifications for the gig economy.”
——————-FURTHER READING AND LISTENING——————
- Read Derek Robertson’s piece on the new University of Austin in Politico. You can read some of his past work here and check out his website for more. Also, check out the University of Austin’s statement regarding Steven Pinker and Robert Zimmer stepping down as members of the school’s advisory board.
- Check out Gavin Moodie’s work on microcredits, co-written with Leesa Mary Wheelahan, “Gig qualifications for the gig economy: micro-credentials and the ‘hungry mile’.” Plus, check out more of his research here and here. See also his popular writing for Times Higher Education.
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This is a production of Cited Media. This episode received support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. It was part of a wider series of episodes about neoliberal educational policies. The lead researcher is Franklynn Bartol at the University of Toronto and our academic advisor is Dr. Marc Spooner at the University of Regina.
Darts and Letters is produced in Toronto, which is on the traditional land of Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat Peoples.