Monday, September 20, 2010

“Something for Nothing” Watch

Just as the mindless outburst of university students in California demanding unlimited subsidies of something they will be the only beneficiaries of, the swirl of non-intellectualism surrounding “the Bologna Process” is no different.

However one does need to distinguish between the Bologna documents, the praxis of the Bologna Process, and the political use of the label "Bologna" in the national context. The introduction of the two-tiered degree as planned in Austria results most significantly in a hierarchization of university education that cannot immediately be inferred from the Bologna Declaration. The planned BA courses basically follow the logic of higher education as provided by a technical college – job-oriented, mid-level, applied – in new, modulated form.
But the logic of the protests don’t differentiate. Past efforts in the UK to merge the Polytechnik and University systems were treated with similar bloviating, but oddly enough they fell along the same strange lines of those interested in constructing evenness, equality, yadda yadda, not wanting to be though of in the same area of interest with those pursuing practical interests, even if they required more rigeur, let alone those in trade schools.

Again, the Protests for an “Egalitarian” Model were Dominated by Elitism

And an “Identity” elitism, by way of the heritage and provenance of the subject of study at that.

On one hand, the evils of the “two tier system” which could preserve the higher reaches of areas of studie that are not in applied fields are protested against on grounds of inequality, but so is the “commercialization” that would enable it. So what exactly is a lit department to do? Protest against the preservation of its’ own field?

Of course! The goal is to object!

Because it happened in the benighted center of the universe, it needed to be called “a process” and named after yet another city, but what it amounts to is that governments are looking for a way to get out of the business of paying the full ride for university educations that amounts to a subsidy to the few.
At the time of writing, universities throughout Europe and the US are being occupied. In Austria, the protests that started at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna have spread throughout the country and students and teachers are expressing their solidarity with the international strike in higher education. Among the issues being criticized by the protest movement are restrictions on access, the under-funding of universities, the demotion of university education to mere schooling and the introduction of tuition fees. Also among the protesters' concerns are the European university reforms and the way they have been propagated and implemented at the national level over the last decade. The protests have made clear the contradictions between the national and the supranational goals of the university reforms.
What they are protesting is the fix, but who’s really keeping track or footnoting. The idea of invoking an anachronism like Die Uni Brennt! seems to have little to do with the students themselves, but rather a sentimentalism of a much older and more disinvolved group of people: those getting weepy about the good old days of trying to dismantle anything functional in civilization.

As to the students, all they really want is to come up with a reason to have access to resources confiscated for others, and pulled out all of the stops. The scare tactics included the non-sensical: literature will die, education will be commoditized (as if it was an ethereal gossamer of no defined shape or meaning now,) and that fewer students could study. This, rather nonsensicly, was identified with a specter of evil identified with “Americanization”, where somehow more people have the chance to study, and actually go further with it from even a modest entry point on that holy “academic” scale.

The feebleness of it all is hard to avoid:
It is still the case that all protesters are judged by the idealized benchmark of the '68ers, often solely in order to point out differences. Mouse click is thus compared to street fighting, "recreational strikes" to social critique, hedonism to political motivation – ultimately doing justice to none. Many of these misunderstandings can be explained by the way in which the respective movements were structured, internally and externally. The iconography of the '68ers was marked by spectacular one-off protests and provocative displays – from the performances of the Vienna activists, to the naked photographs of the Kommune 1, to the sit-in demonstrations. In the latest university protests, things have been turned inside out – partly consciously, in the name of transparency (setting up and maintaining the live web-stream from the Audimax) and partly as a side effect of the relatively widespread use among students of platforms such as Facebook, StudiVZ and Twitter. The result is that the material from which conclusions can be drawn about the occupiers is not only considerably broader, but also extends further into the trivia of participants' daily lives, beyond the "performance" of the protest. After all, it seems improbable that partying after the day's protest was first conceived of in the Audimax – it is just that in '68, only those who were actually there could share in the post-protest beer. Today's journalists, by contrast – even, or especially, those suspicious of "flashmob voodoo" – do not necessarily have to be at the actual site of an occupation. Thanks to "lifecasting" (the constant transmission of events through the course of the day) they have been able to follow the debates, look up pictures on Flickr and Twitter, and even get hold of participants to interview.
Which underlines not just the fakeness of it all, but the lack of sincerity that it’s “performed” with.