So .. the UK votes to leave the EU. Not all of the UK, but more than voted to stay.
Obviously the impact on education is immense. So much of it is built on open co-operation between European countries (and the UK is still in Europe – a referendum doesn’t actually have an impact on geography). Academics moving from institution to institution. Students too. A joined up awarding system (in theory though ECTS never really caught on in the UK anyway). EU grants have kept education research going and enabled it on a larger scale than would be possible within just one country (if a UK government was ever really interested in providing substantial funding for research anyway.
For me though, the impact of the decision on education is even more fundamental. If anyone has been looking at this site recently, you’ll know I’ve been putting together an application for Senior Fellowship of the HEA. Once civilisation collapses, those sorts of qualifications will stand me in good stead in the battle over the last scraps of food. One of the questions it’s led me to address is why I’m in education in the first place.
Well the reality is, it’s just a random set of circumstances that got me here; but I suppose there is a personal philosophy that’s kept me here.
It’s altruism, social commitment, a sort of utopian ideal in making the world a better place. Not for any sentimental reasons, but for totally pragmatic ones. In The Selfish Gene (not just recommended as reading, but ordered reading – if you’ve not read it stop everything else and read it now) Richard Dawkins shows how altruism is a pro-survival characteristic. If an organism carries the genes to help others of its species, then it’s more likely to survive (because others of its species will be helping it). Evolution has been playing the prisoner’s dilemma over and over for 3 billion years and come up with the winning formula.
So, educating others makes sense. The more tolerant, rational, open-to-change, flexible and compassionate humans are, the more likely we are to all survive. There are loads of challenges we face, over-population, climate change, marooned on the surface of a single planet, and unless everyone is on-board with fixing those problems, we’re all fucked.
You like to think you’re making some headway.
Then you find you’re living in a country where you’ve not been making a difference. Where more than half (only a little bit more than half, but that’s enough) are jingoistic, xenophobic, change-resistant and make decisions not on logic and reason, but on rhetoric and lies.
Which makes me think that, as a species, we’re broken beyond fixing. When so many want to go backwards to a time that only exists in their sordid little imaginations. Where economics, social equity, global stability arguments don’t work, but superficial catch-phrases and 1-bit ideas about “greatness” or “sovereignty” do, even after making those arguments for decade after decade, then what the hell can you do?
The only sane thing is to give up.
Because what can actually work on those sort of people? Education hasn’t. So what is the point of it? Maybe you focus on the (slightly less than) half of people who actually choose to think, but it’s difficult to tell immediately who they are. And the fear is they’ll always be in the minority, because that’s not how humans are constructed.
I couldn’t agree more Mark. Interesting to reflect on your rationale for being in education. Same here. Keep hold of it.