Open Education and the Unenlightenment - Martin Weller at OER17
From Ewan McAndrew
Authors: Martin Weller
By contrast we are witnessing a cultural shift, which can be labelled ‘The Unenlightenment’. This sees a reversal of this basic principle: wilful avoidance of knowledge. During the EU referendum campaign experts were derided. Similarly the Trump campaign in the US has seen a lack of expertise as a desirable quality, and suspicion around the opinion of experts. This is not incidental, it is core to the appeal of such movements.
These two campaigns can be seen as symptomatic of a much longer trend of anti-intellectualism however, particularly in the West. It has its roots in globalisation, the failure of experts to predict the 2008 crash, cultural attitudes towards intelligence, social media, and the normalisation of conspiracy theories.
The question for this session is how does education, and particularly open education operate in this changed context? Education can be seen broadly as the acquisition of knowledge, the removal of ignorance. Ignorance can often result from many factors, such as a lack of opportunity. These are factors that can be addressed, and have been managed through strategies such as scholarships, the Open University, OER, etc. However, the current context is very different when people have opportunity, but deliberately do not want to gain knowledge because they view knowledge acquisition itself as part of a wider problem. When knowledge and expertise are viewed as part of the elite, the conspiracy, then this greater than simply opportunity and barriers to learning – it’s a form of anti-learning.
The session explores how open education should proceed in this culture. Simply creating good quality OERs about subjects such as climate change, racial history, evidence based approaches, feminism, evolution, etc is not sufficient.
Open education needs to ask difficult questions of itself, and this session aims to start that dialogue.