8. A meditation on global further education, in haiku form

Jess Auerbach Jahajeeah

Note to Readers

Universities take for granted and are taken for granted. The forms and structures they use to present, contest, and create knowledge are rarely interrogated. Their specificity to the places in which they operate is often lost in the uniformity of ranking, global branding, and translatable structure. Political imperatives such as inequality, changing governments, and the growing awareness of a planet in peril do sometimes lead to structures-of-knowledge scrutiny. Most academics have little time for this, however, as they race in the hamster-wheels of neoliberal knowledge production and consumption.

Yet knowledge practices — its imbibing, its fermentation, its reproduction — have radically altered since the emergence of the internet as a tool of individual and collective thinking. The structures of learning, teaching and hierarchies that shape lives from kindergarten through to retirement are struggling to make sense of the sudden change.

In this piece I write in haiku form with the arguments elaborated in footnotes. I have never been to Japan, do not speak Japanese, and do not have the deep cultural knowledge that might enable me to engage the medium with the reverence that it deserves. I use it here with the greatest respect and a full acknowledgment of my limitations. Like millions of other children around the world, I learned it in school poetry.

As a school student, I saw intuitively the value of distilling arguments, and turned haikus into a study tool for my exams. These were my rafts on which my memory attached linkages, and in moments of high pressure I found I could use them as boats with the details unfolding in my mind from the poetry’s wake.

I have used this method since my teens, and they have carried me from high school through study and teaching engagements in learning spaces in South Africa, the UK, the USA, Angola, Brazil, Mauritius and beyond. I use them here with great gratitude for the connections between worlds they have enabled.

Heuristically, I think it is helpful to demonstrate how an arbitrary structure of argument with a very particular history quickly becomes so expected as to flow invisibly. The structure also makes visible the reality that statements are the proverbial tips of (rapidly melting) icebergs, and when excavated and explored open into knowledge histories.

Furthermore, it points to our increasing skill at reading on multiple levels at once, brought to the fore largely through engagements with hyperlinkages and digital texts and video — often all simultaneously. This chapter is limited in scope by the requirement of publication in the format of a page: if one were to assume readership online, the structure could be very different.

Teaching today — whether with tiny children or adults in one of the many folds of contemporary careers — is more complex than ever before. The expertise of the educator is constantly held up against the light of all information online, emotional and cognitive personal realities, as well as the vastly divergent norms that exist across intersectional knowledge traditions.

Some learning spaces incorporate new tools and offer students opportunities to weave their own knowledge tapestries, with the instructor as guide or facilitator. Others still treat the professor as a priest with the unique ability of translating the Latin in the bible to the illiterate masses thereby saving their souls. The origins of the contemporary global university structure lie in the Christian priesthood — knowledge, empire and capitalism all entangled.

Some students need a priest for their learning; others find guidance via different paths.

An average class of students anywhere in the world includes a mix of students needing both — sometimes the same person thrives with one or the other depending on the particularities of a moment.

One of the challenges facing today’s universities is that most of us working in further education (which we usually call “higher” education in the university sector as a matter of privilege and status) are also in jobs that depend on the status quo.

How do we think outside of that, with our students and an unpredictable future at the forefronts of our minds? How do we imagine the “good” of further education, or keep conscious the vocational pull that brings many into its orbit? This chapter is a meditation in flow and aims to open into a deeper discussion about what we know, what is internalised, and how we (those of us working in further education) evaluate our own realities.1

Part I: Entry

My rule for reading

is: distil the argument

into a haiku2

if i can’t, i missed

the real intervention is

the essential point3

the point of this piece:

curating information

is our task, our work4

“our” being those of us

whose livelihoods manifest

as knowledge makers5

whether full time with

benefits, or part of the

vast precarity6

of post-docs, contract

academics, of content

moderators, of7

all those who train the

tools: algorithms of mass

consent: discontent.8

Part II: Proposition


no longer hold the keys to

knowledge. Google has9

changed information

hierarchies: where we experts

now grow on platforms10

like money on trees

what of the livelihoods we

whose bread depends on11

knowing much more than

anyone else can think of

flows and boundaries12

here is one vision

for the changes we must make

for education13

to work, hold and lift

in universities that

open up futures:14

(too long didn’t read:

the answer is don’t look North

for validation)15

validation is

complex, and often


informed. Where there are

resource constraints people fight

much more over crumbs.17

Part III: Starting Point

I know so little

should be our starting point to

think with our students18


trace histories of ideas

who taught whom and why19

and where and with what

consequences. This is how

the world has been made.20

Part IV: Argument

I have argued for

a pedagogy of hyper

linkages designed21

to use lateral

reading and the insights of

passion, exploring22

across platforms and

citational politics

towards useful truths23

useful truths will more

and more become what defines

us — we must curate24

the stories with which

our students work, guide their dreams

reading, viewing, thoughts25

through miasmas of

possible material.

what is relevant?26

it is not to leave

thinking for the sake of thought

behind us. Thinking27

is critical, yes

but in a world on fire, floods

wash screens, pulp ink, sear28

into futures that

need new tools of learning. Now.

How do we respond?29

Part V: People

Here are three people

from three African countries

three learning systems30

we meet them now to

explore the “skills” they need to

survive in this time.31

one reviewer of

these poems asked about cliché

a valuable32

intervention. Yes

there’s risk: to tell stories

is to simplify33

and to perhaps hit

up against the limits of

the readers’ world view34

these are real students

whom I have taught and thought with.

each of our lives has35

elements of the

everyday, and of cliché:

this is of value36

please read further in

deep micro-realities

to make sense of them:37

of Angola, South

Africa and of Brazil

Much to learn from each.


Buhle’s twenty-three

he grew up poor in North-West

South Africa. He38

walked to school, took a

taxi down to study more

had never switched on39

a computer when

he got to my class to start

his degree. Sent half40

of his scholarship

money home every month to

feed the family41


left him hungry and angry


for manual labour

under-supported to risk

another degree43

he learned referencing

and academic writing

but you can’t eat words44

and he is at home

where he began, just older

with much wider dreams45

students like Buhle

need our universities

to open them doors46

but often inside

them, the teaching staff don’t know

which doors to think with47

our institutions

need permeable doors, light

instead of solid48

they must understand

their responsibility

to youngsters like him49

graduation sans

work spells a brutal future

mental health crisis50

South Africa can’t

add more trauma to our long

long list. We must do51

better. Work matters

regardless of the content:


is empty without

a pathway into the next

phase, stage, bright future.53


Marianna is

a fourth-year economics

student, Angolan54

she studies for free

at a university

built after the war.55

where she studies is

a collection of pre-fab

classrooms, concrete paths56

wi-fi only for

staff, a library with just

three hundred odd books57

Marianna’s placed

in a class of just thirty

that’s how many chairs58

fit into the room.

her university is

so competitive59

few chairs, they study

for free. An economy

that gapes with space for60

skilled, and connected

there are many options for

graduates with her61

social capital

knowing who you know matters

getting into the62

right political

party. The card you carry

opens up pathways63

Marianna has

a two-year-old daughter who

she hopes will one day64

study in English

outside Angola, wider

expanses for her.65

Their family is

one of growing means, they build

their business, work66

together across

three generations and she

is the golden child67

who will visit France

climb the Eiffel tower and

survey the city.68


Kushal’s shirt lies close

to his body from the heat;

he works in transport69

middle management

he likes the sound of it: soon:

Kushal: PhD70

two children study

in Australia so he

spends mostly on them71

but he’s got to climb

the ranks, and just one degree

from the national72


won’t cut it these days so he

enrolled from his life73

twenty years of long

experience written up

in academese74

in his class, others

of similar ambitions:

career progress and75

vanity, hopes for

money, recognition, praise

locally grown, and76

seeded, and nurtured

long distance education

on this African77

island. Kushal looks

up, sees digital knowledge

economy, knows78

the papers matter

after work, after food he

writes. One paragraph79

and another. One

citation towards his plan

of graduation80

Part VI: Questions

How do we serve them?

Buhle, Marianna, and

Kushal? They are our81

“African uni-

versity students!” they each

walk such unique paths82

the people teaching

them, are not in high profile

places, their branding83

is muted; impact

vast, and sometimes, limited

glorified high schools,84

though, are not what is

needed. The education

industry complex85

must beat to new tunes.

Buhle, Marianna and

Kushal all think with86

the internet, their

minds plug in to collective

insight, exploring87

truths: both fake and real

surely universities

are the place to learn88

the difference? If not

universities then who?

who teaches the new89

literacies and

capabilities of new

knowledge work? New forms90

must be mastered by

students, but also by staff.

Today’s status quo91

serves the interests

of empire unabated.

how do we now change?92

Part VII: Propositions for Good

reading, writing, and

arithmetic remain the

bedrock of human93


in an era of climate

catastrophe, we94

must add: empathy

resilience, ethics and

compassion. Students95

must leave with the doors

open: education will

be there whenever96

it’s needed. They must

return to fill in new gaps

to resource themselves.97

make a video

edit Wikipedia

influence anyone98

everything that we

can find online we do not

need to teach. Instead99

the time we used to

give to content can go to

that which separates100

knowledge producers

from knowledge consumers and

enables insight.101

our students need to

have advanced digital skills

whatever field, they must102

parse data for its

quality, integrity.

they must be taught how103

power plays into

a fractured internet that

is shaped by firewalls104

they must make content

that changes collective views.

using emerging105

tools now no longer

a negotiable skill.

these tools come to life106

with baggage: loaded

intellectual property

and algorithms107

they may make their own.

feel ready to shape new and

expansive stories108

digital skills need

knowledge histories grounded

in storytelling109

in mental health. There

is no sense guiding a new

cohort if we110

fail them at finish

line of working within their

own minds: strengths and pain111


boundaries will slowly melt

in the face of the112

crises must confront

we can’t afford the ego

of existing shapes113

nibble this structure

open the blocks into air

fill the gaps with the114

work we know we must

do. Buhle has rage and he

will not wait too long115

Marianna has

choices — so many paths lead

to gentler futures116

Kushal needs a piece

of paper, and paper’s made

from trees. As long as117

there are trees, Kushal

will be just fine. So, do we

wait for the boards to118

review our curry-

culums? Our stews of knowledge

in empirical119

pots? Or do we look

to the sky at the edge of

our horizons and120

recognise that we

must take our students so much

further than we can121

ourselves, in this time

even see? As we move to

uncertain futures.122

“the pedagogy

of care” is way too easy

universe branding123

training scholars and

admin who care: we should talk


Education for

Good life. Good future. Good plans

it is captured in125

these stories of three

young Africans. each one of

them quietly in126

pursuit of a good

future. We must remember

that the good does not127

rest in the tables

of university ranks

or the shininess128

of lecture theatres.

rather the good nestles in

amongst between us129

in unseeable

spaces, (if the lens used is

Harvard <--> Nullius.)130

across Africa

across much of the planet

learning’s happening131

it is not dressed in

the robes of elite courses

the classrooms often132

have mildew and rust

on the walls, but nonetheless

serve their students well.133

What is the image

of the good that is pursued?

we do not need a134

thousand Stanfords here

we need spaces of learning

linked to everyday135

realities, that

hold up mirrors to leaders

give students new tools.136

It is not to build

New, but rather to strengthen and

bolster those who are137

already doing

this work, already meeting

challenges that are138

visible at ground

level; entwined with hope, aspir-

ation, and tiny139

steps. For good, include

them. university change

with small places, small140

campuses outside

ranking agencies’ purview

engage with what is141

actually goes

on, actually making

change, actually142


It requires learning new tools

language, context, form143

requires suspending

internalised visions of

what education144

should be. Requires forms

of listening, of seeing

through double sided145

glass, then opening

wide the doorways crossing in

between in entries146

we find solutions

waiting in plain sight if we

use sense, not tables147

expand the frame of

vision and clear listening;

reference markers148

that are closer to

home; futures that are much more

realistic. And to149

assume the good is

not already here in the

labour of thousands.150

Recognise them all.

Value the work of edu-

cation. Leave space be-151

Yond the algorithm.

Syllables to go far with152

Openings to grow.153


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1 Here I thank the editors of this collection for providing this space. I also thank Robin DeRosa, Sandhya Gunness and Rubina Rampersad for their thought-provoking engagement as peer-reviewers. With their support the chapter has been strengthened considerably.

2 We all have rules for reading that we acquire in our basic education. Before beginning a new task of understanding, it is valuable to interrogate our earliest memories of reading. Where did we learn? How did we learn? How did symbols on a page or screen transform into meaning? How are characters linked to and in our imagination? If our first written language is the Chinese script, we might think in pictures, for example (Mcbride-Chang et al., 2000). But for those of us bereft of such a powerful imaginative guide, how do we make pictures in our minds from the Roman script, for example? How do such pictures become meaning?

3 What is the takeaway from anything we read? As we increasingly also think in and with pictures (on social media, TV, film, and meme), how do we distil meaning and build that into our knowledge of the world? Writing is only one system, and context matters: the same information on Twitter (or X?) as in an academic essay will often be internalised in radically different ways (Olagbaju & Popoola, 2020).

4 I suggest in this chapter that universities are increasingly spaces of knowledge distillation, curation, and guidance. The unique skill of academic practitioners is to be able to make sense of vast fields of information and to place these within relevant societal contexts that students can then navigate without becoming overwhelmed.

5 The imagined audience of this specific text are those who work in the formal academy in any way. Here I do not just include academic faculty, but the individuals who administer and guide students through complex systems, as well as those who bolster critical skills such as writing, digital capability, computer literacy, social awareness, and/or political inclusion (Breakstone et al., 2021).

6 (Brankovitch, 2021).

8 (Altenried, 2020).

14 There’s a lot of good that we can maintain across these spaces, but I also think some changes would take us a very long way. I draw on many thinkers and writers in this space, and appreciate the mentorship of, amongst others, Jonathan Jansen (Jansen, 2002; Jansen et al., 2020), Saleem Badat (Badat & Sayed, 2014; Badat, 2020), Laura Czerniewicz (Czerniewicz et al., 2019, 2020; Gourlay et al., 2021), Pamela Maseko (Kaschula & Maseko, 2014; Maseko, 2017) and others.

15 “TLDR” meaning ‘too long didn’t read’ flies often across the screens of undergraduates, much to the exasperation of many of those who teach them (Lahiri, 2017). Yet as I have argued elsewhere in an article on the pedagogy of hyperlinkages (Auerbach, 2022a), students now read differently, not necessarily less. Here I also nod to popular culture, and the 2021 film Don’t Look Up! (McKay, 2021).

16 Let me add here that “looking North” can be a tremendous source of inspiration and insight for many scholars and that is not a bad thing — the challenge is that the sightline (and cite line) rarely goes in both directions. This is what Steve Biko’s Black consciousness aimed to address, but even his significant insights are rarely engaged outside narrow — in this case South African — circles (Biko, 2002).

17 As a result, scholars in poor countries feel they are inferior, and scholars in rich countries generally believe they are “the top of the field” without either being able to perceive and reflect on the system holistically and looking consciously in all directions.

18 The internet gives us an illusion of knowing a lot, but it is helpful to undertake exercises that highlight knowledge limits. Who can navigate across their city? Who can divide 1498 by three in their heads? How have our memories changed and how do we excavate the contours of what we know, what is available to know, and what it is that Google and ChatGPT cannot answer?

19 Understanding the technologies of hashtags, for example, is a helpful tool of contemporary knowledge management (Nyabola, 2018), but one we cannot take for granted in our students (Lembani et al., 2020). What more power might student research have when it is explicitly political, grounded in contemporary debates and documenting fleeting realities?

20 Understanding the flows of knowledge through what we might consider the kinship charts of academia is a helpful first step (Overing et al., 2015; Peletz, 1995). Who taught whom (and is married to whom) matters because ideas principally flow and are carried through people (Levine, 2013; Philips, 2019). As Bruno Latour reminds us, “science” is not devoid of politics (Latour, 2004), and the creation of canons has been the amplifying of certain intellectual ancestors, and the silencing of others (Nyamnjoh, 2005, 2016, 2020). The silenced ancestors increasingly grow tired of being ignored, and wish to speak (Estes, 2019).

24 It is impossible to keep up with all information. Every day, terabytes are added to the internet in English alone (https://ourworldindata.org/internet). No human mind can keep up, so we rely on other human minds, and on algorithms. But it is us who program the algorithms, and what they see depends on how we train them (O’Neil, 2016).

28 The climate catastrophe increasingly shapes every single person’s lived reality (IPCC, 2022).

29 Writing in early 2023, as the world faces a global food crisis arguably created by outdated international institutions incapable of inclusive problem-solving, it is obvious that the longer we wait, the more people die. The four horsemen of the apocalypse already exist in many homes, but their fate has not yet been sealed (Roy, 2020).

32 (Canagarajah, 2011).

33 “Our concern with history… is a concern with preformed images already imprinted on our brains, images at which we keep staring while the truth lies elsewhere, away from it all, somewhere as yet undiscovered.”(Sebald, 2014, p. v), Austerlitz in Zia Haider Rahman (2014) In the Light of What We Know.

34 (Jain, 2019).

36 Grimm & Grimm (1800/2011) Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales

42 He had wanted to study engineering, but his marks were not high enough to gain admission, so he landed up in the humanities. He liked some of the content, but he also couldn’t see the point of a lot of it because it seemed so removed from his lived experience. Much of the time he was hungry — in part because he could only afford to live far away from the main university campus, walked far into the city each day, and could not afford to eat-to-fullness at the student cafeterias (see for example, Mabharwana, 2022).

43 His expectations changed dramatically as his exposure widened, but he graduated with huge gaps in terms of how to take his literary knowledge and turn that into a career. He understood the value of postgraduate training and had attained the marks for it, but the level of support he needed, particularly for the fourth year of study which in South Africa is called Honours, was not forthcoming, from either the university or the state.

47 Academics cannot afford to be so removed from the world as to not articulate the substantive ways they create good (Young, 2020). At the same time, it is worth focusing on the great power that those working in contemporary structures of learning still have over their students’ thinking. Those who act with compassion and integrity in thousands of everyday moments can shape futures in powerful ways, and this is work that should be valued and treasured by society even though it is often slow to bear fruit. It may take an undergraduate ten years to understand information presented to them in university.

48 Permeable in the sense of being linked to the localised economies in which they are located so that students can gain work experience along the way and apply their insights as they learn them.

52 Learning for learning’s sake is valuable and I believe that option should be maintained. But learning on an empty belly is impossible. In non-professional fields, I believe much more attention needs to be given to where our students land in their first years after graduation. How do we link “learning” to ‘living”, particularly in resource-scarce environments where the margins of survival are very thin? Learning that is decontextualised is as empty as search-data on a glowing screen (DeSouza & Leite, 2008).

56 The Universidade Katyavala Bwila (UKB) in Benguela hosted me for the duration of my initial fieldwork. For years they have been promised permanent facilities but continue to operate out of prefabricated classrooms that limit the institution’s reach and expansion. Classroom capacity is approximately 30 students, which has a radical impact on feasible enrolments.

58 See Footnote 58.

61 In such an environment, however, qualified individuals are quickly snapped up by potential employers, with the proviso that, sometimes, political party membership is a prerequisite of employment, regardless of technical fit.

63 Many Angolans I worked with described the importance of putting one’s political party membership specifically to the ruling MPLA party on the top of any pile of documents one handed to the authorities, to even be considered. It is worth noting, however, that there have already been significant changes in popular and political expression in Angola (Pearce et al., 2018) The national elections of 2022 saw a significant erosion in the MPLA’s voter support. Though they won the elections, they did so by a hair’s breadth and are unlikely to govern unquestioned going forward.

64 Today’s young Angolans live in a context where for those with education, housing, and transportation, it is not unreasonable to have very different life expectations to those of their parents. That said, everyday life continues to carry a heavy mental load (Emma, 2018), and most young Angolans exposed to the many comforts of the contemporary global consumer economy have very different aspirations for the material circumstances of their own children.

66 Marianna’s father studied in Cuba as a child and remained there for 17 years — long enough to obtain a university degree. In addition to his work as a governmental administrator, he opened a successful transportation business which Marianna helped to manage.

67 As the first in her family to be the child of one who is university-educated, Marianna has benefitted from incredible social mobility within the family that she herself can continue. She dreams of visiting Paris, but unlike her parent’s generation, this dream was entirely feasible and was part of her personal savings plan.

70 Aspirations and motivations are complex, but we should not disallow our student’s vanity as well! It can be a highly motivating resource to draw upon!

71 Students such as Kushal are often referred to in academic literature as “non-traditional”. As researchers, of course, we must question whose tradition is the invisible norm in this case, and why. If the wealthiest parts of Europe and North America were not positioned as centres of the universe, it’s clear that Kushal is much closer to the norm in higher learning than a nineteen-year-old with no financial dependents could ever be.

72 Increasingly in the so-called “knowledge economy”, an undergraduate degree has become the starting requirement, and further progression requires at least a master’s degree.

74 Translating knowledge into academese is a complex process that relies on a willingness not to master content but to master conventions of communication.

76 What is the point of a university degree? In an environment so full of options, all institutions can strengthen their offerings by interrogating exactly why students choose them.

81 Much ink has been spilled on the purpose of universities in the world, and of course that purpose is multiple and multidimensional. I write in this way simply to keep front and centre of mind the very real lives that are at the core of educational work, however it is parsed politically and sociologically.

82 The diversity of higher education worldwide is perhaps part of what makes it such a difficult sector to manage or on which to comment meaningfully. Emerging institutions such as Minerva, the London Interdisciplinary School, and the African Leadership College challenge the model of brick-and-mortar institutions, building on centuries of similar push-back from distance learning institutions such as UNISA or inclusive access education via community colleges in the United States or the Open universities worldwide.

83 Yet despite this diversity, conversation about the university sector continues to be led by a handful of wealthy brands in the US, UK and slowly an emerging number in China (Sharma, 2022).

85 The Education industrial complex builds on work that comes from war: how do we build factories of ammunition, production lines of human workers? Rufalow (2020) has demonstrated that technology itself can be co-opted in schools to prepare students to be knowledge workers, knowledge receivers, or knowledge makers depending on the structure of thinking (Williams, 1977) that is instilled in the school and by the teachers. He writes about one small school district in California. What are the implications for the world?

89 In an already highly differentiated global schooling system, can we expect this work to happen at school? That seems unrealistic. There is, however, a real opportunity for the global higher education sector to take on this challenge collectively.

90 Learning to read, watch and listen with discernment whilst parsing multiple forms of online information is today’s knowledge work. Depending on the story-telling skill, genre and personal preference, individuals now have multiple ways to communicate their insights and understandings, and even gaining a working comprehension of what knowledge already exists often requires the use of algorithmic or human-network based tools.

93 I remember being told by a senior experimental-university manager that these were “20th century skills”. I understood what he meant but vehemently disagree. How we read and write and count has changed, but the skills remain even more critical. To make sense of 21st century data, we all need sophisticated analytic skills based on numeracy and literacy that go beyond what is presented on the page and into the “black box” (O’Neil, 2016) of argument creation.

94 As worldwide weather systems change and predictability breaks down, effective communication that bridges partisan and political divides is critical. How do we communicate such that the people who need to believe us, believe us? How do we teach this to the students we are entrusted to educate in a meaningful way? Most countries now have a sense of what lies on the horizon: how do we use knowledge systems to adequately prepare?

97 In a rapidly changing world, all of us need to constantly upskill ourselves with new technologies and forms of communication (Doxdator, 2017). A revolving door policy at universities would make this much easier. The system, including the concept of degrees, needs reformulation and reconceptualisation.

100 Time is a precious resource — perhaps the most valuable in our distracted, diffuse economy.

101 In my opinion, this is the critical distinction that differentiates groups in the 21st century. This is the transformation that universities can facilitate for their constituents.

102 I am saying the same thing in multiple ways, so the point is clear here: knowledge work matters.

104 (Hillman, 2021; Starosielski, 2015).

106 This is an active process. Pasi Välaiho refers to this as the use of “biopolitical screens” — drawing on Michel Foucault, he points out how screens make life as well as reflect it (Välaiho, 2014).

107 In Weapons of Math Destruction, O’Neil (2016) explores how algorithms uphold unequal systems that privilege elite interests in schooling, healthcare, incarceration, and a host of other areas.

108 I often hear colleagues decry the aspiration of young people to become “influencers”. I think that this desire to shape narrative is a powerful force that universities can tap into as a motivation and as a project of global political reform.

109 Knowledge-histories are part of the literacy needed to parse contemporary information. Where do ideas come from? How do we trace them? Who are the guiding intellectual ancestors?

111 Academics lead by example. What if we ourselves modelled mental health practices with the same pragmatism that we share insights into article and data generation?

113 The egos in academia are astonishing. Petty chiefs of micro-kingdoms unwilling to acknowledge that the emperor so often has no clothes. “Let them eat cake” she says while she strides up the corridor and slams the door. Many academics are married to and only socialise within academic circles, so often don’t even know how unusual much of our collegial behaviour is! The system reinforces itself partly because there are so few spaces of exit and re-entry.

114 (Nyamnjoh, 2016).

116 With so many options, contemporary higher education is not a given first choice. Academia relies, in its current funding model, on classroom numbers — but what if these decline?

117 Pragmatism is part of the inertia that limits systemic reform.

119 What are the ingredients of education? Who does it nourish? Should everyone be eating the same food? What of those whose stew is made of bones?

120 I think that we must go further.

121 Going further is the work of the good.

122 4IR is the term most often used to capture this, but it usually assumes acceptance of the exigencies of existing technologies of control.

124 This is where the proverbial rubber hits the road. Payment, job security, promotion, and other benefits are almost never linked to the key performance indicator: “how have you demonstrated a pedagogy of care in your teaching or work with students?” Until this changes, the “good” is individual choice in a system that is interested in citation scores.

125 For the brief period in human history that comprises the past 500 years, education in western industrial societies has been seen as an investment to be made in children and young people that pays dividends later. However, this is atypical of humanity-wide experiences of learning through deeper histories, where “life-long” learning has been experienced and valued in the way that those educated in the “west” now seem increasingly invested in.

126 Just as tools of technology now zoom effortlessly between eye-level and the macro-picture, those in further education must constantly grapple with the multiple scales of teaching and planning that may shift in salience depending on the micro-subject at hand.

127 The everyday actions of everyday people are ultimately what shapes lived experience (Stanton, 2015).

128 This is not the place for a critique of university world rankings, but it is worth noting that as with so many systems that shape how quality is evaluated, the structure was developed to be used with western tools to make sense of western realities (Jöns & Hoyler, 2013).

129 (Tempest, 2016)

130 The mental models most of us are trained to accept make anything that does not at least try to look like Harvard seem all but invisible.

131 Given the complexity of most learning spaces, it is not unsurprising that even governments rarely have full records of all learning institutions that operate on their territories — particularly, when extra-curricular and religious education are also factored in. What learning looks like, feels like, and sounds like, varies dramatically from place to place.

134 Success or failure depends largely on personal internalised reference points. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder (and perhaps in particular the eye of influencers) (Nuttall, 2006; Taussig, 2012).

135 I have such gratitude for Stanford and all it gave me personally, but I found myself continually bewildered by the disconnect between institutional grappling with privilege and claims of excellence. In one public meeting with the president, I remember standing up and asking why, if Stanford was as committed as it said it was to educational inclusion and equity, it didn’t give some of its budget to Berkeley. Unsurprisingly, the president didn’t know how to respond to my sentiments, but the point could be made beyond the national as well.

141 If our evaluation of prestige rests on internalised assumptions of what is and is not excellent, we are unlikely to learn from examples that fall outside of that internalisation. But what if we are wrong?

145 Here I reiterate the value of a deep engagement with literature outside of academic publishing. Novels often reveal far more than scholarship in terms of how things were, how they are, and how they might become (Ghosh, 2008).

146 (Ghosh, 2020).

148 Many of us in higher education are deeply ignorant about academic institutions in neighbouring countries and regions, whilst simultaneously being very conscious of “how things are done” at Oxford or Yale.

149 This is not to suggest that we settle for “less”, but rather to reframe the discussion so that we ourselves are not always found wanting.

150 The deep commitment and powerful work of so many people cannot be in vain.

151 As a lot of wise people have observed, hitting the same rock again and again with the same stick is unlikely to yield new results, until the stick breaks. We should be careful not to try to address 21st century crises in the same way.

152 I’ve been moved by the reactions to this piece so far. It seems many of us are short of breath, perhaps other forms of expression might support us differently.

153 In as many directions as there are thinkers, teachers, practitioners in further education: forests of fresh imagination and care that are needed to revive the failing planet.

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