I was sad but not surprised to learn of the resignation of Professor Ian Parker from MMU in an ongoing climate of witch hunts against political activists within educational institutions.
When I did my degree in the late 90s/early 00s Ian Parker’s ideas had a huge influence on me in terms of how my thinking about Psychology developed. He was a real force for change in Psychology, encouraging the reader to critically unpack the relationship between cultural hegemony and scientific “truth”. He was part of a wave of critical theorists within Psychology who pointed to the inevitable confounding variable of power in the traditional laboratories of knowledge production, developing practice for the use of discourse analysis and critical self-awareness within the field.
Last Autumn Ian Parker was suspended from his post at MMU, with the university alleging gross professional misconduct. The allegations appear to surround e-mails sent by Ian Parker to colleagues in which he questioned the actions of management in terms of workload and appointment procedures. He was a departmental union rep for UCU. Following a disciplinary hearing he was allowed to return to work in December, but he is now apparently at the point where his position is unworkable, and has resigned, stating:
“The University was making me sick. It was time to get out. My professional work as an academic has been undermined to the point where there is now nothing left to return to in the psychology department. Not only have my conditions of work changed, but the research base I helped to build in the last 27 years at MMU has very rapidly been dismantled.”
What this represents is an indicator of the absolute crisis being brought about in the education system by the conflict between the corporate model being politically imposed under the guise of sustainability, and the universal necessity of freedom of thought and expression for education to be functional.
In Primary and Secondary schools, academisation is being aggressively pursued, and this will lead to a huge weakening of the checks and balances against internal poor management decision making. With unions castrated by the inevitable changes in conditions and management “freed” from the structure of national governance, there will be little in place to protect students from the inevitably market-led downgrading of provision. The word “freedom” is used a lot in privatisation, but what it refers to is freedom for the powerful few from multiple accountability. In FE the consequences of long term incorporation mean the power of senior management is ever on the rise against increasingly weakened unions, with teaching staff now seemingly sackable at will in relation to student outcomes, with no robust protection for students from drops in standards of provision as a result of the increasingly lean climate of cuts. Our Universities are seeking out injunctions against student displays of protest, and it is the norm for the future of academic departments to rest on market value in terms of research production.
The encroachment of corporate culture within the education system is happening at every level, with disastrous consequences. It may be mainly Marxists who are specifically being targeted at the moment, but the writing is on the wall for the principles of liberalism and free thought in education if it is allowed to continue. We need a mass movement of students and educators across all levels beyond the scale of anything seen previously if this attack is to be effectively resisted.