Monday, February 14, 2011

A Valentine's Day massacre

Of adult education that is. Glasgow University's Department of Adult and Continuing Education is the next to be lined up against the wall. The rifles are cocked, but instead of meekly smoking a last fag and accepting their fate they have torn off the blindfold and are fighting back - through Facebook. Well, it worked in Egypt.

Once again a round of cuts have left adult education vulnerable and deemed to be disposable. And once again adult educators struggle to find the words to justify what we do in a sector awash with managerial jargon and macho posturing. The staff from Glasgow got it right when they commented,
It's also about control. They want to control what is being taught and Dace is far too free, far too 'lawless'.
The problem the authorities have with us adult educators is not that we are outlaws who roam the hills ready to ambush the unsuspecting and rob them of their treasured possessions. Instead, we do something different, something that is poorly understood and that is often beyond the comprehension of the powerful. Adult education is not just valued by its students, it is loved. Tutors have to be stupidly dedicated and ridiculously flexible to make it happen. Organisers have to be creative and entrepreneurial. I suppose that makes management think that we are rather letting the side down.

Flippancy aside, the depressing thing about the strange death of liberal adult education is that it is taking place within an intellectual vacuum. There is little debate about what a university is for beyond the latest slogans. Adult education always stood for a different vision of the university as an open and inclusive institution. And I suppose that this is not a case we have made that well, often struggling to find utilitarian justifications rather than parading our idealism. It may be time to make a stand on principle. Who knows whether it will be our Tahrir Square moment or another re-enactment of the Somme, though I can't help thinking that all our efforts will be met with condescension and indifference and it will be a new generation that will one day have to rediscover what should never have been cast aside in the first place.

Thanks to Shuggy

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