Posts

Showing posts from June, 2010

Reforming higher ed in Jordan: politicking away

Image
Policy-making is political theatre. No doubt about it. That which is not behind closed doors is posturing. But rather than condemn posturing, we should try to understand it. After all, it serves a purpose. It makes public the intent to create buy-in as well as detect common resistances. Conferences oriented towards policy-making are hardly about making decisions then and there. It's about feeling the pulse, NOT of the generic public per se, but about key stakeholders in the game. So with this higher education reform conference in Amman that I was part of, ministers, deans, professors, private education consultants, ed publishers and others congregated for a period of 3 days to discuss key problems and solutions for higher ed reform. About 500 delegates including from Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and others in the region took part in this process. It was an impressive turn out of card touting and name dropping. It was true to form, a networking event.

All this should not surprise. Jor…

The Amman adventure begins...

Image
It’s like a James Bond film really: indoor palm trees, high ceilings, limestone walls, sheiks in long white robes helping themselves to a luxurious breakfast buffet at the Le Royal hotel; the chatty cab driver who tells me that he has friends everywhere and a Maltese girlfriend waiting for him at home. Military men with guns (well, not flowers obviously), guarding precious property…hang on, the property is the American University! Nothing invites students so enticingly as the nozzle of the gun. The only deviation from this sexy storyline is that we are here for a higher education reform conference. From exciting thriller to drama (or documentary perhaps), the term “education” has a way of sobering this momentum. This is a collaboration between Columbia Middle East Research Center and the Jordanian government. Columbia University, much like several universities in the US, is eager to gain an academic foothold in the Middle East and capture a new consumer base of young doe-eyed student…

Google, the virtuous? Google, the warrior?

Image
At the Thousand Oaks conference panel on Social responsibility of Mass Media, there was an interesting discussion about government regulation. A renowned media scholar brought up the “Google exit from China” as an example of how State regulation can indeed have dire consequences for its own population. This professor regurgitated what most media agencies have been propounding on this issue - Google left China after supposed multiple clashes with the Chinese government regarding censorship of its search engine. The Chinese people lost out and ethics won apparently:

Drummond, the Senior VP, corporate development and chief legal officer of Google announced the following:

We had uncovered evidence to suggest that the Gmail accounts of dozens of human rights activists connected with China were being routinely accessed by third parties, most likely via phishing scams or malware placed on their computers. We also made clear that these attacks and the surveillance they uncovered—combined with a…

Not quite "up in the air!"

Image
Am on the road right now, but not quite Up-In-The-Air style. From Amsterdam to Thousand Oaks (near LA but as argued by some, “far” from LA as possible), I’m doing the conference circuit, the social life of many academics. After all, here’s a willing audience for your obscure Whitehead reference and hand-punctuated intellectualism. And if you thought Marxism is dead, you’ve evidently not attended enough academic conferences. Impossible ideals are preserved in the confines of academia, a natural fodder for multiple critiques of real world practice, leading to publications and sustenance of passion from the vantage point of the beloved armchair. Don’t get me wrong; I love armchairs. It’s comfortable, and allows for a respectable pause for reflection and pontification. Of course, I like it even better when we’ve earned the temporary rest through actual experience but then, if that were always the case, whom would we have left to mock?

So what was this conference about? Well, besides the u…