I wrote this quite a while back (March 2017!), but didn’t publish it then. My next focus is going to be on a similar topic, so this is worth posting now:
Could conventional theories of knowledge be completely misleading? I am beginning to feel like this is probably the case…
UK universities have become obsessed with the idea of critical thinking, particularly within subjects which offer very little else in the way of employability to students, and I would argue that the definition normally propounded is so wooly as to be nearly useless. The examples cited as good critical thinking are real enough, and often very clever and insightful, but they are also diverse enough as to be hard to assign to a single category of thinking.
I then started thinking about Coventry University’s push to have more staff with doctorates, and questioned the true value of this. I have a PhD (or Dr.sc. really!) but feel quite strongly that other than some practical lab skills (which I barely use), improved communication skills, and the positives that come from an experience that was so tough that the feeling during much of it is that you can only come out stronger, I struggle to see the unique value of a PhD. In fact I often equate PhDs with that third point, but yet realise that many of the best researchers love what they are doing so much that this cannot be the case by definition.
This has led me to question whether the whole scheme of academia isn’t just a mix of a giant ponzi scheme of privilege that is currently ballooning towards a burstable bubble, and an excuse for some clever people to do their hobby, with marginal value to others, as a job!
Perhaps I’m a bit cynical. Well, yes I am a bit cynical, but I truly think that primary knowledge and secondary curiosity are invaluable. For me, they are a significant part of what gives life meaning, and I despair slightly at our online world where primary experience has almost no place, but secondary curiosity is settled so easy as to almost devalue information…
So, I failed miserably in my bid to become an elected representative on the Finham Parish Council, coming last, but with a respectable 400 votes (thank you to those who did vote for me). A friendly man with views that I found slightly objectionable, but aren’t uncommon, chatted to me afterwards whilst I was filling up a skip outside my house the week after the vote. Firstly, he recognised me from the pamphlet I put out (famous of a sort!), and wondered how much skips costs in this day-and-age, but that is beside the point.
This friendly father, doing up his childs house, pointed out that it was obviously “because of the university”. I was unsure what the university had to do with me coming last in the vote (I had a sneaking suspicision it was to with age primarily, as there seemed to be a strong correlation between age and votes, not even dented by proportion of lifesomeone had lived in the area), but he enlightened me that it was because “everyone hates how the university is taking over the city”. This quote may not be 100% accurate, but he was indeed sweeping in his statements, and although it is clearly not true that everyone hates the growth of the university in Coventry, a brief glance at the letters page of the Coventry Telegraph will show you (before the referendum took hold at least!) that there are plenty of people who do get annoyed at the way the university is transforming the city centre. Some think it is for the best, but many are worried by the continual increase in student numbers, as am I in fact.
I also though that I’d messed up by missing Finham off my address, but I am happy to concede that mentioning I am a university lecturer may have been a mistake in the election to the Finham Parish Council.
Anyway, I should have some exposure locally now, and have learnt how the process works which may help in the future…
I had started a couple of posts of living in Coventry, one focussing on the things I like about Coventry, including the greenness, decent weather and friendliness of people (in general), and another focussing on an aspect of one of my biggest gripes about Coventry – transport. The particular issue is shared spaces which I have experienced a lot in the city centre at Coventry University, and which I think are just plain dangerous without further reduction in car, bus or taxi numbers. I also think there are just too many cars on the road, and that public transport should be massively improved, and walkways and cycleways extended enormously.
And now I’m making tentative steeps towards having some say in public policy by standing for parish council election in Finham. These are very tentative steps, but I am happy to be making them, although with 13 candidates for 10 places there is a very real chance that I may not get elected!
In Finham, I am particularly interested in developing a children’s play area, and tring to improve the connections to the city centre. I regularly cycle to work over the A45 island linking St Martin’s Road and Leamington Road, and whilst it feels OK, it is certainly a high risk crossing on a bicycle! The roundabout above the ring road is perhaps even scarier, but there is a subway alternative which is not available for the A45.
So, in case anyone is doing research into candidates, I am a very enthusiastic young father who is keen to get involved in trying to improve facilities and services for the local community in and around Finham!