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Author Response: Provocative Education: From Buddhism for Busy People® to Dismal Land ®When we engage with Žižekian thought, we might conceptualise contemporary education as part of wider machinery to perpetuate and deepen the grasp capitalism has in a globalising world (also see Furedi, 2006, 2010). We might see how ideas, knowledge, and ‘everything else’ (c.f. Hawking, 2001, 2007) can and is packaged up into forms that are easily consumed by audiences buying the educational objects. Such processes of commodification actively render objects to the audience for sale, and appear across all spheres of human activity; this is why we must remember that according to some philosophical stances, the signified has a slippery relationship with the signifier (c.f. Lacau and Mouffee, 1985). Three examples help animate this phenomenon and some of the different consequences of it. The first example illustrates how commodification can apply to areas of life that we might think of as difficult to capture spiritually or experientially: now, for time-poor people who want to quickly reap the existential benefits of Buddhism, there is a wide range of easily accessible texts at affordable prices to choose from. Titles include “Buddhism for Busy People”, “Buddhism Plain and Simple”, “The Little Book of Buddhism”, “Buddhism Made Simple”, “Buddhism: for Beginners!”, “Buddhism for Dummies”, “Sit Like A Buddha”, “Hurry Up and Meditate”, “Enlightenment to Go”, and “The Dalai Lama's Cat”. In and through such texts, commodified versions of Buddhism appear, much the same way as Buddha-like statues appear in NASA photos of Mars (Feltman, 2015).
Provocative Education: From Buddhism for Busy People® to Dismal Land®In 2015, the OECD reported global investments in expanding and enhancing work-based education to better meet the needs of employers (indeed, the US Department for Labor has just announced its highest ever investment in apprenticeships). Within this ongoing trend towards conceptualising education through an economic lens, what do our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours tell us about how we (unconsciously) conceptualise contemporary education? This presentation experiments with a form of Žižekian ideology critique as a research methodology to examine (and intentionally provoke) how we relate to and engage with education as a student and customer, or teacher and service provider. Two examples of how education is commodified are examined: the "Buddhism for Busy People®" book, and the "Dismal Land®" theme park. Consistent with the research methodology, the presentation seeks to provoke sparks of insight and ideas rather than dictate learning outcomes.
Why Educational Reform is Like 'looking for the Donkey whilst sitting on its back': provocations from a Zizekian analysisWhy is it education is supposedly failing to meet the demands of our society? Why is it there are record levels of stress for teachers? Why is it there is a record level of complaints from our university students? How is it now possible to compare a higher education course with a vacuum cleaner, toaster or television? Through the analytical apparatus of contemporary philosopher and politico-cultural theorist Slavoj Žižek (who introduces a cocktail of Lacan, Hegel and Marx), this seminar offers an alternative perspective on these modern challenges and tensions in education.