Dismantling the curriculum in higher
Richard Hall ¦ @hallymk1 ¦ firstname.lastname@example.org ¦ richard-hall.org
Open Lecture Series ¦ University of Greenwich ¦ 22 November 2017
That learning process comes easiest to those of us who also believe that our work is not merely
to share information but to share in the intellectual and spiritual growth of our students.
To teach in a manner that respects and cares for the souls of our students is essential if we are
to provide the necessary conditions where learning can most deeply and intimately begin.
bell hooks. 1994. Teaching to Transgress, p. 13.
An HE policy narrative with three pedagogic functions:
1.the fetishisation of human capital;
2.the proletarianisation of academic labour; and
3.frames the internalisation of performative responses.
A narrative that catayses academic and student ill-health or
quitting, and in particular of a rise in anxiety.
Cyclonic (Dyer-Witheford, 2015) processes:
•Money: student fees;
•Governance: OfS; REF, TEF, KEF.
Inside a policy framework:
•HM Treasury Productivity Plan (2015);
•Small Business, Enterprise and Employability
Act (DBIS 2015);
•HE and Research Act (DfE 2017);
•Consultation on OfS (DfE, 2017).
• no exaggeration to say that our country’s future depends more than ever
on the success of our HEIs
• we will not forget the underlying values of HE… joy and value of
knowledge pursued for its own sake; pursuit of the good, the true and
• uncompromising in our protection of students’ interests… insist on value
for money for the student [and] also for the taxpayer
• we will embrace both collaboration and competition.
Barber, M. (2017). Foreward, in Securing student success. Government consultation on behalf
of the Office for Students, pp. 8-9.
Effective competition compels providers to focus on students’ needs and
aspirations, drives up outcomes that students care about, puts downward
pressure on costs, leads to more efficient allocation of resources between
providers, and catalyses innovation.
The higher education sector in England is well suited to market
mechanisms driving continuous improvement
many of the primary benefits to the student… are spread out over their life
time. This exposes the market to distortions…
Students need to be protected as they make potentially life changing
decisions about higher education, but this cannot and will not be at the
expense of deep, trust-based higher education experiences.
Securing student success. Government consultation on behalf of the Office for Students, pp.
Competition is the completest expression of the battle of all against all
which rules in modern civil society…
Each is in the way of the other, and each seeks to crowd out all who are
in his way, and to put himself in their place.
But this competition of the workers among themselves is the worst side
of the present state of things in its effect upon the worker, the sharpest
weapon against the proletariat in the hands of the bourgeoisie.
Hence the effort of the workers to nullify this competition by associations
Engels, F. (1845). Condition of the Working Class in England. London: Penguin, p. 111
The curriculum stripped back to reveal alienation
market intelligence ¦ performance data ¦ governing academic life
value/surplus-value money ¦ labour-power ¦ private property
illness ¦ precarity ¦ labour rights
money ¦ wealth
Can we reimagine the
curriculum for a different
The curriculum stripped back to reveal alienation at the intersections of:
self/subject and other/object reflected in it;
gender and race reproduced through it;
adaptations to socio-environmental crises ignored in it;
the separation of (rather than flows between) internal and external;
disciplinary separations demanded by it.
The University is a central site of struggle over our social reproduction.
What is to be done?
The social use-value of the curriculum
the curriculum itself develops through the dynamic interaction of action and
reflection… constituted through an active process in which planning, acting and
evaluating are all reciprocally related and integrated into the process.
Grundy, S (1987). Curriculum: Product or Praxis?. London: Falmer Press, p. 115.
Vygotsky argues that teaching begins from the student’s experience in a particular
social context… arranged by the teacher so that the student teaches themselves:
‘Education should be structured so that it is not the student that is educated, but
that the student educates himself’ or, in other words, ‘...the real secret of education
lies in not teaching’
Neary, M. (2010). Student as producer: a pedagogy for the avant-garde? Learning Exchange,
1 (1), 5.
The use-value of the curriculum reveals
1.Technological and organisational forms of production, exchange and
2.Relations to nature and the environment.
3.Social relations between people.
4.Mental conceptions of the world, embracing knowledges and cultural
understandings and beliefs.
5.Labour processes and production of specific goods, geographies,
services or affects.
6.Institutional, legal and governmental arrangements.
7.The conduct of daily life that underpins social reproduction.
[To be engaged] invites us always to be in the present, to remember
that the classroom is never the same.
Traditional ways of thinking about the classroom stress the opposite
paradigm—that the classroom is always the same even when students
are different. To me, the engaged classroom is always changing.
Yet this notion of engagement threatens the institutionalized practices
of domination. When the classroom is truly engaged, it’s dynamic. It’s
fluid. It’s always changing.
bell hooks. 1994. Teaching to Transgress, p. 158.
The curriculum is white because it reflects the underlying logic of colonialism, which
believes the colonised do not own anything – not even their own experiences.
The role of the colonised in knowledge production mirrored their role in economic
production, where their resources were to provide raw materials that could then be
consumed in the west…
Implicit in the white curriculum is irrefutable evidence of white superiority as a matter
of truth and objectivity, while crafting a world-view that judges anything that it could
define as “non-white” or “other” as inferior.
‘Why is My Curriculum White?’ collective, 2015
1. de-valuing diverse contributions
2. mainstreaming a narrower perspective on the world
3. characterizing academic thought as not ‘for’ thinkers from
4. limiting classroom discussions
5. fostering the myth of white epistemological superiority
6. cultivating false connections between representation and
7. silencing/alienating students that value concepts and ideas
not espoused by a white curriculum
Boyd, Z. 2014. Reflections on a #WhiteCurriculum. http://bit.ly/1MZkmAI
The wall is what we come up against: the sedimentation of history into a
barrier that is solid and tangible in the present, a barrier to change as well
as to the mobility of some, a barrier that remains invisible to those who can
flow into the spaces created by institutions.
Ahmed, S. (2012). On Being Included: Racism and Diversity In Institutional Life. Durham, NC: Duke
University Press, p. 175.
What we can no longer ignore, however, is the fact that the
curriculum, taken as a whole, risks perpetuating institutional racism.
[content; location of books; voice/silencing; attitudes; everyday
micro-aggressions; racial battle fatigue; emotional labour]
Olufemi , L. (2017). Decolonising the English Faculty: An Open Letter
the lure of whiteness becomes laid bare when starting from the point of
exploitation and the protection of privilege
empty gestures, proclamations and institutional policies… end up
serving only as (self-) legitimizing tools of deep and intersectional
To have to validate and assert one’s self constantly is exhausting. This
includes having to demonstrate belonging
the impact of TEF on minority academics is important, especially in
terms of the stress on metrics and their relationship to trust/authority,
and what legitimates curriculum
the real intellectual wealth of the individual depends entirely on
the wealth of his real connections. Only this will liberate the
separate individuals… Bring them into practical connection with
the production (including intellectual production) of the whole
world and make it possible for them to acquire the capacity to
enjoy this all-sided production of the whole earth
Marx, K. (1998). The German Ideology. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, p. 59
individuals cannot gain mastery over their own social
interconnections before they have created them… ([through] their
conscious knowing and willing).
This bond is the product. It is a historic product. It belongs to a
historic phase of their development.
The alien and independent character in which it presently exists vis-
à-vis individuals proves only that the latter are still engaged in the
creation of the conditions of their social life, and that they have not
yet begun, on the basis of these conditions, to live it.
Marx, K. (1973). Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy.
London: Penguin Books, pp. 161-62.
As intellectual workers we refuse the fetishised concept of the
knowledge society and engage in teaching, learning and research
only in so far as we can re-appropriate the knowledge that has
been stolen from the workers that have produced this way of
knowing (i.e. Abundance).
In the society of abundance the university as an institutional form is
dissolved, and becomes a social form or knowledge at the level of
society (i.e. The General Intellect).
It is only on this basis that we can knowingly address the global
emergencies with which we are all confronted [i.e. through
collective work/in the social factory].
The University of Utopia. n.d. Anti-Curriculum: A course of action. http://bit.ly/1qgEq8C
to trigger and coordinate a global participatory process and
immediate national application for the change of productive matrix
towards a society of open and common knowledge in Ecuador
The conceptual, philosophical and economic process and the
historical and socio-cognitive context framework, the
organizational principles governing the process, collaborative and
communicative digital tools and advance planning of the whole
FLOK Society. 2014. General Framework Document to implement the Ecuadorian National
Plan for Good Living (2009). http://bit.ly/1pYHW7w
Is another world possible?
•Extend democracy into/through the curriculum.
•Uncover alienated-labour: private property; the division of
labour; and commodity exchange.
•Eliminate the social division of labour between owners and non-
•Less harmful relations of production.
•Natural science fused with philosophy – inter-disciplinarity.
•Global educational commons and critical pedagogy.
Points of solidarity across the social factory:
•the embodied toll that neoliberal restructuring and austerity takes
on mental and physical health;
•the control of life-activity through debt, precarious employment
and performance management;
•the reduction of life to entrepreneurship and employability;
•the assault on social justice, and labour and human rights;
•issues of crisis concerning poverty, climate change, on-going
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