Monday, November 25, 2019

Striking is Colluding with the Commodification of Higher Education.

a factory worker goes on strike, and the goods are no longer manufactered, the factory owner no longer gets the income and profit from the labour of the worker and the payment by the consumer, while the worker no longer gets the pay. It is a fair exchange, and the negotiation brings back symmetry to the power structure, that before striking basically entailed indentured labour (little to distinguish it from serfdom or slavery).

So when people go on strike in education, they withdraw their labour from teaching, research and administration. However two major pieces of the picture are completely different from the picture painted above.
1. there's no factory owner taking a profit - or (if you like) the whole world is taking a "profit" from having better educated people, but the metric (monetising that gain) is a massive error of judgement - we have no idea what any given education is worth compared to (say) a widget.
2. there's no consumer - oh, ok, there's the whole world - oops - so we don't have a balance between frustrated factory owner not making a profit, frustrated consumer not able to buy a product, and we don't have a product -

3. unless you say an education for a student is a product, then the student is a consumer. so then, if we are withholding our labour from students, they should withhold their pay from us. In the last strike in the UK, som students threatened this - however, this closes the equation down to the price they pay is the cost of the teaching&learning, and the value they get is what the workers delivered. i.e. we have a bunch of plug-compatible units called degrees, workers, students etc.....

The reaction from the admin of some universities makes it clear that already (actually for quite a while) the strikers are considered in this way (you don't deliver a lecture one day, you lose a day's pay - not even the coutersy of considering the way teachers in schools have to make allowances for background work, class planning, preparation of materials etc etc - let alone the fact that much work isn't teaching, it is research, which doesn't pigeonhole conveniently whatsoever.

But by taking strike action, the union colludes in pushing this model of higher education further towards a commodity.

I don't dispute the dispute is valid, but there were other forms of action (withholding marks, just for one effective example, or refusing to process admissions, which would directly hurt the uni admin) , which better followed the direction of power without distorting things towards a market in education. If it was a market, then we'd be competing on  pay and fees would cover pay, so if the universities UK really want that, they should come clean and say so. Half of them would go broke in that scenario, so they should think very very hard.

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