Thursday, December 27, 2018

Ruminations 83(1)(On Education and Knowledge): Looking Back on 2018 in Epigrams and Aphorisms

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2018)

The year 2018 is ending with the great rifts opened in 2016, and exposed in 2017, now acquiring a greater urgency and show and revealing the power of its consequences. Global divisions have become more acute, even as these reflect in turn the even more acute rifts within both great and small global actors--states, societies, religions, civil society, and enterprises.

2018 is rich with rift events.  This was the year of America First and the Belt and Road Initiative.  It was the year of great rifts among allies--especially the great family of post World War II Anglo-European allies--and of growing compatibility among rivals. This was the year of the exposure corruption--in  which  Latin American corruption brought down the government of Perú and the President of Brazil. Corruption swirled around the highest levels of the United States and of China. It was the year of great social transformation spurred by revelations--of sexual improprieties, and of policing and race in the United States. It was a year in which the U.S. President continued to serve as lightening rod  and the international order was upended. But it was also a year in which Brexit appeared to invite failure. But all of this seemed like a build up to resolutions that lie beyond 2018.  In the end, 2018 might be understood as a year of stage setting  

With no objective in particular, this post and a number that follow provides my summary of the slice of 2018 to which I paid attention through epigrams and aphorisms.  It follows an end of year  tradition I started in 2016 (for those see here) and 2017 (for these see here).  

This is Part 1. Share your own!

Ruminations 83: 2018 in Epigrams and Aphorisms
Part I (On education and knowledge).
Part 2 (On Systems).
Part 3 (On the Things that Divide and Join Us).
Part 4 (Markets and Politics)
Part 5 (On the Games Peoples Play)


1. The ultimate sign of decadence is marked by the way the current generation seeks to protect its children from the genius of their predecessors; to that end the relationship of society to the human body provides a constant measure; though the human body remains a constant, the way it is perceived is constantly changing--and that change is usually cloaked in the language of the protection of our children from ourselves
["L’insegnante di una scuola elementare di Hyrum (nello Utah, Stati Uniti), Mateo Rueda, è stato licenziato a seguito delle proteste di alcuni genitori di una classe di studenti di 10-11 anni, ai quali l’insegnante ha mostrato dipinti di nudo di François Boucher, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres e Amedeo Modigliani." (The teacher of a primary school in Hyrum (Utah, United States), Mateo Rueda, was fired following protests by some parents of a class of 10-11 year-old students, to whom the teacher showed paintings of nude by François Boucher, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and Amedeo Modigliani).  Stati Uniti, insegnante mostra in classe nudi di Modigliani, Boucher e Ingres: licenziato; also here].

2. Beware of servants bearing responsibility; it is almost always true that those who offer to make things easier for someone else will take not just the burden of a responsibility but its authority as well; the Carolingian major domus eventually deposed the king they served; in contemporary times that has been the great story of the governance of the university where the servant has indeed become the master. 
["Expect that the role of faculty will continue to be reduced as the chasm between faculty and administrative cultures continues to grow.  In the long term the trajectory points to the reduction of faculty in their effective service role and the transformation of shared governance. The trend also suggests the growth of an authority in the university to impose cultural orthodoxies on thought and behavior expressed in class, in research and in private life. More importantly it shifts the role of faculty from governance to compliance."  Higher Education Trends for 2018: Reflections on " Saddle Up: 7 Trends Coming in 2018" Plus Six of My Own].

3. The last thing to be abandoned is the idea of a thing; long after the reality has changed, people cling to its forms some to mask the change, and others to make the change more palatable.   
["A recent case worth noting is University of Southern California v. National Labor Relations Board, No. 17-1149 (D.C. Cir. 2017).  The case represents a challenge by the university to a decision of the National Labor Relations Board that determined that USC's contract faculty were not managerial employees. . . . Yet the case, and the arguments, would have been incomprehensible when the original legal rule was pronounced in 1980.  And the reason has little to do with the understanding of shared governance (and its "mis-understanding;" though that is what all sides hope to keep centered in the judicial proceedings). Rather, and something both sides might downplay, is not that shared governance has changed but that the character of faculty have changed--and that change ought to produce legal consequences (but it also produces substantial challenges to faculty solidarity)."Shared Governance and the Managerial Character of Faculty in the Evolving University: Dueling Amicus Briefs From University of Southern California v. National Labor Relations Board, No. 17-1149 (D.C. Cir. 2017)].

4. Like religion before them, governments now attempt to create not just model societies, but model workers, model families, and relationships; the greater the embrace of personal freedom and choice, the more precise the control of what may be chosen
["As private enterprise takes an increasingly prominent role in the creation and management of ostensibly public urban space, as neo-authoritarianism spreads unchecked, and as pervasive technology weaves itself ever more intimately into all the sites and relations of contemporary life, all of the material conditions are right for Chinese-style social credit to spread on other ground. Consider what Sidewalk Labs’ neighborhood-scale intervention in Toronto implies—or the start-up Citymapper’s experiments with privatized mass transit in London, or even Tinder’s control over access to the pool of potential romantic partners in cities around the world—and it’s easy to imagine a network of commercial partners commanding all the choke points of urban life. The freedoms that were once figured as a matter of “the right to the city” would become contingent on algorithmically determined certification of good conduct." Adam Greenfield, "China's Dystopian Tech Could Be Contagious: The PRC’s “social credit” scheme might have consequences for life in cities everywhere." The Atlantic].

5.  Great states influence the interpretation of historical trajectories; when they act on these interpretations, politics becomes history paid forward.    
[What follows are the Remarks by President Trump and President Berset of the Swiss Confederation Before Bilateral Meeting, posted to the White House Website.  They suggest a development of the new American position on trade that appears to affirm that the American Administration has come to believe that the U.S. has entered into a new historical stage and is developing U.S. principles and engagement for this "New Era" of global engagement." America First" Explained at the Davos World Economic Forum: Text of President Trump's Address And White House Background Briefing].

6. Democracy like Logos is incarnated, not by its theology,  but by the power of theologians to impose meaning acquires  form through a theology that at once describes and distances the Logos , like God, develops its connection to humans through the  is defined not by power but by the ability to impose meaning among a community of believers.  

7.  It is always interesting to see how the marketplace of ideas is being managed by its guardians. It is even more interesting to see exposed its disciplinary character where orthodoxies clash for dominance within their idea factories
["The academy has overtaken the Church and other norm producing institutions as the priesthood for those basic principles (not the premises underlying them to be sure--those are rarely debated) for the orderly management of the institutions of state, of society and of good order and proper thinking." Disciplining Orthodoxy in the Neo Liberal Academy: What Amy Wax and George Ciccariello-Maher Can Teach Us About the State of the Market-Place of Ideas in the Academy].

8. It appears to be something of a global trend now, or at least a movement with sufficient repetitions to merit some notice, that governments are becoming more selective in the scope and character of the information they make available and yet increasingly eager to produce transparency in non governmental enterprises and other institutions
[e.g., "On the one hand, what is emerging is a greater reluctance on the part of the state to reveal itself to others.  States are increasingly seeking information about itself from the bottom up--but also increasingly unwilling to disclose that information--even when it might have substantial implications got economic activity. On the other hand, states--and the largest enterprises--have become increasingly data driven--they thrive on the ability to harvest and utilize disclosures by others. The move toward this data driven operation, and its converse, the increasing reliance on compliance as governance, seems to be at the center of the movement that will transform transparency regimes.  And also to change its character. " Strategic Disclosure in an Age of Transparency: Cuba as Model for Emerging State-Based Trade and Production Orders].

9. Internationalizing education poses significant threats to the management of political knowledge
["The controversy arises from the use of the avenues of globalized education as an avenue for the extraterritorial projection of the education vision/mission of a state outbound into other states. Thus education globalization can serve to develop its own values consonant with the developing of norms, mores and outlooks at the international public and private spheres, it can be used to displace, challenge or develop national and traditional ways of understanding and explaining the world on which national societies are ordered, and it serves as a means to project national values outward.  Each has manifested itself simultaneously in the operation of university education systems globally." The Globalization of University Education and Interference in the Domestic Social and Political Orders of States: Considering Chinese and Australian Approaches ].

10. Globalization has produced both a convergence of knowledge and the weaponization of education, the later both as an internal tool of social control and, projected abroad, as a tool for disrupting the social and economic orders of target societies.   
["It is clear that global society is already in the midst of great disruption--the technological aspects are merely the tip of icebergs under which the great disruption in the shape and use of knowledgeable are already proving their value in the high stakes games of states, of societies and of other communities.  The recent interactions between German civil society organizations and China suggest some of its current contours." Irressistible Disruption and the Weaponization of Knowledge Production, Analysis, and Education--A View From National Battle Lines Between Germany and China].

11.  Bloated institutions that are more machine than human centered institutions, it is not clear exactly what it is that emerging university factories are meant to produce other than stability, good order, and the manufacture of a product that can be consumed as it is produced
["The model of administration that the political, economic, and intellectual classes have fashioned of the university over this past generation has resulted in the monstrosities that one sees emerging across the nation. . . . That combination of cult of personality around "leaders" and an institutional framework grounded in compliance as a bureaucratic organism has proven to be quite useful in managing the smaller irritations of institutional life--at great expense and against the increasingly fungible bottom layers of the academic employment pool.  It has not, however, proven particularly useful when deployed against itself--when it is tested against its greatest challenge--to monitor, report and contain reprehensible behavior at the highest levels."  Compliance and the Cult of Personality in University Administration: Administrators and the "Army of Survivors" of Athletic Sex Scandals].

12. Nothing is ever a thing in itself; if one thinks institutionally, one will never see process; if one thinks process, one will never see networks; and if one thinks networks, one will be blind to institutions and process; in this way knowledge production that is blind to itself will be incapable of seeing the objects of its study
["Regulating the  Multinational Enterprise as Entity, as a Network of Links and as a Process of Production," may be accessed HERE. ].  

13.  Awards are always borrowed; they say more about the present sensibilities of the people who award than of the past merits of those awarded, and thus past merit is always understood to be contingent on current worth--to those in the business of "giving" awards
["The award, according to the museum, is given annually “to an internationally prominent individual whose actions have advanced the Museum’s vision of a world where people confront hatred, prevent genocide and promote human dignity. . . .  But Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, the museum said, has failed to live up to that vision.”" U.S. Holocaust Museum Revokes Award to Aung San Suu Kyi].

14. History can be recounted through stories; stories can be based on history; both are expressions of politics, that is of the civil affairs of a community, and as such are elaborations of imagination reduced to credo.  
["interviews with committee members set out its aims: to use evidence such as archaeological finds and DNA to prove that today’s Hindus are directly descended from the land’s first inhabitants many thousands of years ago, and make the case that ancient Hindu scriptures are fact not myth. . . . In doing so, they are challenging a more multicultural narrative that has dominated since the time of British rule, that modern-day India is a tapestry born of migrations, invasions and conversions." Special Report: By rewriting history, Hindu nationalists aim to assert their dominance over India].

15. If the ultimate mechanics of knowledge production is to make natural persons irrelevant, then we will finally understand the extent to which knowledge is judgment.
In December, Italian graffiti artist Laura Ghianda was forced to remove an image of the naked paleolithic woman, who dates back to somewhere between 25,000 and 28,000 BC. . . . Ghianda had appealed the censorship four times since December by the time Facebook finally apologized, saying it was a mistake due to its algorithms. . . . It is not the first time Facebook has penalized users for sharing images of famous artwork. Late last year, the company took down the iconic image of Marisol who was pictured nude on the cover of the magazine Interviu in 1976.Paintings by Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani and Gustave Coubet‘s 19th-century work ‘The Origin of the World‘ were both removed for showing female genitalia and breasts." Too hot to handle: Facebook mistakes Willendorf Virgin for porn]

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