By RJ Snell, November 12, 2010 in Pedagogy and Teaching, Professional Development, What is Education?
Philippe Beneton's essay, "Soulless Institutions," in Equality by Default (ISI Books, 2004) states so well: "what is happening in universities illustrates a more general phenomenon: institutions are losing their soul. Appearances are maintained, but social roles are emptied of substance."
One evidence of this is the use of space in the academy. While certainly not a universal phenomenon, I note an increasing sense of "cubical culture" at universities I visit, even universities that have a deep allegiance to classical humanism. Faculty (sometimes adjuncts, but often junior faculty) crowded into offices, with a "solution" to shared space being the cubicle.
As part of the ongoing evacuation of academic culture from the academy, the corporate model makes perfect sense: efficient, inexpensive, simple.
Now, I understand the difficulties of a space shortage, but the academy is not best suited for an office park. Space matters, it communicates and structures the form of what we do, and form influences content, or at least the reception of content.
Am I an instrument of my students' advancement, a "teller" from whom they receive a withdrawal (information)? Or am I a teacher? A teacher who necessarily exists in a communal space of collegiality, collaboration, and personal encounter? And oughtn't those encounters articulate the ideals of citizenship, human dignity, human flourishing, and the glories of knowledge for its own sake?