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The Return of Ideology? Rethinking the Open Society #oer17

Slides for a presentation given at the OER17 conference in London, 5th April 2017. Abstract at

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The Return of Ideology? Rethinking the Open Society #oer17

  1. 1. The Return of Ideology? Rethinking the Open Society #oer17 5th April 2017 Dr. Robert Farrow Institute of Educational Technology Learning and Teaching Innovation The Open University, UK
  2. 2. Overview The role of ideology in open education (if there is one (or more)) Popper’s account of the Open Society The evolving discourse around open education Where are we now? Concluding remarks
  3. 3. The role of ideology in OER
  4. 4. ‘Colonizers’ & ‘Edupunks &c.’: Two Cultures in OER? ‘Colonizers’ are primarily interested in replacing elements of existing educational systems with open equivalents. Open textbooks in the USA are perhaps the prime example. ‘Edupunks &c.’ are a looser grouping and harder to define (but may include edupunks, critical pedagogues, open activists, etc.). For them, OER is about challenging existing practices and forms of knowledge transmission. Is this an ideological difference? Does open education need an ideology?
  5. 5. • Contextualist, not essentialist • Defines itself against a status quo that restricts some activity: open removes a barrier to doing “X” • Fundamentally oriented towards freedom • But what kind of freedom?
  6. 6. Distinction made by Fromm (1941) and Berlin (1958): Negative Liberty: the absence of (external) restrictions on activity; freedom from interference Positive Liberty: the capacity to act on the basis of one’s free will; implies rational agency, autonomy, active choice See also: • Knox, J. (2013). Five Critiques of the Open Education Movement. Teaching in Higher Education 18 (8). • Farrow, R. (2016). Constellations of Openness. In Deimann, M. & Peters, M. A. (eds.) (2016). The Philosophy of Open Learning: Peer Learning and the Intellectual Commons. Peter Lang Publishing.
  7. 7. What kind of society are we trying to bring about? An open society?
  8. 8. Karl Popper (1902-1994) Provides first comprehensive attempt to derive a political philosophy from concept of openness Primarily known as a philosopher of science and defender of critical rationalism Understands scientific knowledge in terms of falsifiability Flirted with Marxism in his youth, later rejecting it The Open Society and Its Enemies [1945] was written in exile during WWII (Hacohen, 1996)
  9. 9. Popper, K. (1966). The Open Society and Its Enemies. Vol. 1 The Spell of Plato. pp.202-3
  10. 10. Popper’s Open Society Closed societies have close tribal and religious links; open societies are relatively fragmented, but rational in a different way. Modern closed societies are authoritarian, totalitarian and ideological. Open societies emphasize falsifiability and falsification of knowledge; democracy; freedom of thought; and the free exchange of ideas and rationality (Steyn & de Klerk, 2009) Five core values (freedom, tolerance, respect, rationalism, and equalitarianism) and three crucial practices (democracy, state interventionism, and piecemeal social engineering) (Lam, 2012)
  11. 11. Critical of totalitarianism, Marxism, Fascism, authoritarianism, historicism; influential for 20th century liberal democracy and post-war consensus "Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them." Niels Bohr (1885-1962): “The best weapon of a dictatorship is secrecy, but the best weapon of a democracy should be the weapon of openness.” Since the latter half of the 20th century, “openness” has developed within stable frameworks of liberal/social democracy, and is now often tacitly assumed in many areas of society (such as open government, a free press, freedom of speech, etc. and later open access, open government, open education).
  12. 12. 50(ish) years of Open Education Discourse
  13. 13. History of open education By the 1960s the open education movement had begun to coalesce around the idea of disestablishing cultural, economic and institutional barriers to formal education. The Open University in the UK was founded in 1969 to widen access to higher education by disregarding the need for prior academic qualification, and using the communication technologies of the time to ‘open up’ campus education though a “teaching system to suit an individual working in a lighthouse off the coast of Scotland” (Daniel et al., 2008).
  14. 14. hCC-BYttps:// conference-presentation CC-BY Viv Rolfe
  15. 15. Weller, M. (2016). Different Aspects of the Emerging OER Discipline. Revista Educação e Cultura Contemporânea 13 (31). uc/article/view/2321/1171
  16. 16. hCC-BYttps:// conference-presentation CC-BY Viv Rolfe
  17. 17. technê τέχνη dia/commons/8/8b/Eos_Memnon_Lo uvre_G115.jpg θεωρία theoria
  18. 18. Where are we now?
  19. 19. Congressional Record, V. 144, Pt. 14, September 9, 1998 to September 21, 1998
  20. 20. "What he's talking about is taking emasculated men in their forties, fifties and sixties who are not living the life they hoped for in their teens and twenties and saying, 'you know what? there are people to blame for this. And we're going to build a wall and we're going make America great again. "At the core of that is the struggle between being an open society and a closed society. And so if you want to know where the trillions of dollars of wealth creation that are going to come with the commercialisation of genomics, and the creation of big data companies, and the AI machine learning companies and all of the industries of the future my overarching line here is it's going to be the most open societies. "Open societies means that upward economic and social mobility is not constrained to elites, it means that religious and cultural norms are not set by central authorities and it means that it is wildly rights respecting, in terms of the rights of women, religious minorities, racial minorities and ethic minorities. "The industries of the future will be overwhelmingly concentrated in the most open societies.” Alec Ross, Clinton aide The Telegraph, 30 May 2016
  21. 21. Slaughter (2016) proposes that the web is the new geopolitical theatre, and that the USA “should adopt a grand strategy of building and maintaining an open international order based on three pillars: open societies, open governments, and an open international system.”
  22. 22. Critical thinking is at the foundation of information literacy, but those selling it are not necessarily in a position to actually supply it. “Content” is not simply access to the world’s information banks, but a standardized experience that makes any candidate more easily assessed against any other The promise of social justice and upward mobility through education has largely gone unkept… Its cerebral pleasure pales in comparison with fascism’s more direct, emotive appeals.
  23. 23.
  24. 24. Pirate Party: Principles Defend the freedom of expression, communication, education; respect the privacy of citizens and civil rights in general Defend the free flow of ideas, knowledge and culture Support politically the reform of copyright and patent laws Have a commitment to work collaboratively, and participate with maximum transparency Do not accept or espouse discrimination of race, origin, beliefs and gender Do not support actions that involve violence Use free-source software, free hardware, DIY and open protocols whenever possible
  25. 25. Pirate Party: Principles Politically defend a open, participative and collaborative construction of any public policy Direct democracy Open access Open data Economy for the Common Good and promote solidarity with other pirates Share whenever possible
  26. 26. Concluding Remarks
  27. 27. Concluding Thoughts Openness is a robust political ideal which continues to be relevant today, but remains undertheorised for our contemporary context Reflecting on Popper’s conception of an open society suggests we are pretty far from anything approaching the utopian vision of a critical, humane and scientific society despite 50 years of liberal democracy; the vision of open society advocated by Pirate Party International is consistent with Popper It is mistaken to see openness as a linear historical progression: Peters & Deimann (2013:12) observe that “historical forms of openness caution us against assuming that particular configurations will prevail, or that social aspects should be assumed as desired by default”. Similarly, Popper’s critique of historical ‘progression’ (and current events) indicates that progress is fragile and contingent.
  28. 28. Thanks for listening Thispresentationcontainssomeimagesassumedtobeinthepublicdomain