I’m biased, I’ll admit. Biased towards viewing everyone as having potential to learn, to change and to grow. In the era of testing, selection and targeting, I am unashamedly a universalist. It might be a romanticized delusion to the post-crash, austerity obsessed ‘realists’, but it’s what I believe in and without belief, hope and an ideal towards which to strive, we just become cogs in a brutal, amoral machine that chews us up and spits us out when we can offer it no more sustenance. Then turns to its next generation of victims, our children. Growing and bloating, despoiling all that lies around.
Sorry, that’s what happens when you step outside the Matrix for a few moments! 😉
This week I’ve been watching people commit to causes they believe in, picking up some of the enthusiasm, some of the passion that defines, for me, what it is to live. And all despite and not because of the systems they inhabit (particularly their employers). Gathering, from across the country, to a meeting on a Saturday to share concerns about what’s happening to education, to the students, and not just about their own working conditions. What planned changes mean for their communities, their regions and their ideals of education as a means to a better quality of life. Wanting to embrace new approaches but anxious about the exploitation of goodwill by a system that sees all of us ultimately as expendable.
And over the water, watching from a distance, people from all walks of life, also gather from across that other small country to a meeting in their (unrecognized) capital, to dream of a better world despite the ridicule of the establishment, the cries of ‘extremists’ and ‘fringe’ from the media and those politicians bloated on traditional voting patterns, fattened by their sense of entitlement (but secretly worried about the rug being pulled from beneath their feet by something as simple as a pencil mark on paper).
And in the working days, the awful job of sitting in judgment over applicants for only two short-term posts. Some selling themselves by presenting a glossy prospectus (metaphorically!), others unable to contain their passion for learning. Some nervous, unsure, trying to work out how best to approach the situation. And some of us on the other side of the table with only two tickets to hand out, wishing instead we could take on board everyone who wants to be a part of something new. To build a movement and not just another straitjacketed formal ‘project’ with operational plans, deliverables and KPIs.
At least for that we eschewed the quackery that has crept into other appointments and promotions elsewhere in higher education. Psychometric testing, interviews with management consultancy psychologists, profiling, identifying ‘high potential’ candidates; stop-watch and paper (or web-based) tests of ‘critical reasoning’ (Not to mention the new ‘big data’ trends). The professional classes’ equivalent of the ‘kick the crutches and see if they fall’ employability checks by hired thugs checking for ‘benefits fraud,’ whilst ignoring the larger tax scams of employers and other corporations.
And today, educators and researchers rising early on a Sunday, driving into work, opening the doors, turning on the lights and setting up meticulously constructed stands and stalls. Filled with experiments, decorated with posters, but more than anything, buzzing with enthusiasm and desperate to share it with children and parents: the Galway Science Festival.
So it has been a long but interesting week, but threaded through it all a realisation that if only we could both think differently and work collectively, then building a better, fairer, more equal society isn’t a pipe-dream, it’s an inevitability. Forget the ‘identification of high potential individuals’ and think of the high potential of collaborative, collective endeavour.