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Professional Life and Work

Professional Knowledge, Professional Lives: studies in education and change

Educational Research as a Public Intellectual

Let me concentrate on three examples of overreach.  Firstly, there has been the sustained attack on the professions and on public life generally.  In some ways in this period there has been a sustained attempt to alter the public/private balance in one society.  The flux in the balance between public and private, between the state and civil society makes it a particularly difficult time to arbitrate over the place of public intellectual work in educational research and elsewhere.  In some ways the changing balance echoes the American experience summarised by JK Galbraith as a move towards "private wealth and public squalor".  Public life and institutions come under withering attack.

The arguments of Alan Wolf carry considerable weight with me.  Wolf has argued that what we are seeing globally is an attack on what he calls the 'median level'.  By the 'median level' he means the public institutions: schools, universities, public broadcasting, libraries, hospitals and so on.  In most countries, these institutions are coming under attack and this is evidenced by the fact that less and less is being spent on them.

John Gray has argued that a similar attack on median institutions as Wolf denotes is at work in Britain:

the Tory nationalisation of Britain's intermediary institutions - the universities, the NHS, even the prosecution service - has demolished the complex structure of checks and balances on which in the past we relied upon for alongside the struggle for public protection against the abuse of power by the government of the day (Gray, 1995, p. 11).
Secondly, alongside the general attack on public life and specifically on the professions there has been an erosion of local and community life.  Powerful groups have disinvested in local communities and the effects on social fabric and life are clearly visible.
Thirdly, in the newspapers, television and more generally, the quality of public knowledge has been in substantial decline over the past two decades.  As in the USA par excellence there has been a process of "dumming down" at work.  The recent furore over the paparazzi is merely a symptom of the tabloidisation of public knowledge - balanced commentary declines and sensational stories increase.
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Professional Knowledge, Professional Lives
  • Date of publication: 01/09/2003
  • Number of pages (as Word doc): 160
  • Publisher: Open University Press
  • Subject:
    Professional Life and Work
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  • Appears in:
    Professional Knowledge, Professional Lives: studies in education and change
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  • Price of book: £23.99
  • ISBN: 9780335204113
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