ON NOT TEACHING AS A REWARD: SOME SCATTERED THOUGHTS

I came across a UAB colleague a few days ago, who had a good piece of news to announce: he’s been awarded a prestigious Catalan grant (ICREA Acadèmia), which will allow him to focus more intensely on his research for the next 5 years. I’m really impressed, for I am sure he must have faced huge competition…

I knew vaguely about this grant because another illustrious colleague from UB received it a few years ago and a dear friend filled in her position during the long absence. My UAB colleague has also been allocated financial resources to free him from teaching, if he wishes so. And he does. When I asked him whether he’s concerned that after 5 years he might not enjoy returning to the classroom at all, he replied that he is indeed worried. Also that, perhaps, depending on the results, there might be other grants to apply for and thus delay his final return to teaching.

I sympathise with my colleague as the teaching he’s been assigned is not particularly attractive, consisting mainly of one of those first-year transversal subjects that nobody enjoys (whether teachers or students) but that has the unconditional support of our Dean’s team. I am wondering, rather, at this odd idea of rewarding excellence in research with no teaching at all.

This is paradoxical as this semester I’m not teaching, either, with the exception of a one-month seminar and my undergrad and post-grad tutorees. My university has finally applied the so-called ‘Wert decree’ which rewards senior lecturers who have passed three assessment exercises (= 18 years) with a 8 ECTS discount over the usual workload (24 – 8 = 16). I have already taught most of these credits and so I need not step into a classroom, just supervise my tutorees to complete the rest. After the hassle of combining teaching, research and my task as the BA degree Coordinator, I can only say that I’m very happy with what I feel to be a long-deserved break. Still, I wonder about (missing) teaching.

I have so far enjoyed two long breaks in 23 years as a teacher. One 20 years ago, when a grant took me to Scotland to work on my PhD dissertation and I found on my return that I had to teach all my 24 credits in the second semester. I had this way 15 months to myself which, ironically, resulted in my producing a far too long dissertation. Then, in 2008-9, I had an admin sabbatical, a year off granted to recover from the exertion of being Head of Department for 3 years. I used that time to read for a book still lying unwritten in my PC’s hard drive. I have high hopes that I will be able to write some chapters this time around before September looms in the horizon. I also have high hopes that in the next few years this pattern will repeat itself and I have less teaching and more time for research. And writing.

When I took the 2008-9 sabbatical, I also spent 15 months away from a classroom (31 May 2008 to 15 September 2009) and I recall my return as something quite dreadful. I have not managed yet to sleep soundly the night before a new course begins; I always feel jittery before facing a new class even if it is a class I’m teaching just for one day. Believe it or not, I’m shy. Students do not seem to grasp well that teaching takes plenty of courage, as you need to leave aside all your insecurities, and mine are many. I remember starting my first lecture after that long break by frankly telling my students that I was awfully nervous and please bear with me, as I felt like an absolute novice, butterflies in the stomach and all. They all smiled, and were lovely to me. Now fancy five years…

I am not, as you can see, too keen on long absences from teaching. Instead, I’m looking forward to not doing any admin work for at least 3 years. In these first 3 weeks of freedom, without the weight of the BA Coordination on my shoulders, I have felt relieved, even bodily… The flow of urgent emails has dropped dramatically, and I can use the spare time to concentrate on my teaching (an MA seminar) and on my research. If such a grant existed, I would pay to have someone do the boring, frustrating admin work which reduces us teachers to glorified clerks. If I went back to teaching 24 ECTS, then I would be happy to shed some courses but I know I would not be happy with no teaching at all.

This might be because I am fortunate since I enjoy what I teach (don’t mind my ranting here, I really love teaching, I just wish it worked better!). I’m not going to give you, however, the rap that I value above all the contribution to society that my teaching generates. I mean, I do, and very much so, as I believe that my job consists above all of teaching young persons to think for themselves. I like teaching, to be frank and honest, also for very selfish, even vampirical or parasitical, reasons…

The truth of academic life, as I have been narrating here for almost four years and a half, is that as regards the exchange of ideas it is quite a barren landscape. We need to invest much time in sorting out bureaucratic matters and in navigating the time-consuming tasks associated with getting teaching organized. The result is that we do not really have spare time to socialize, shoot the breeze, as the American idiom goes, over coffee or tea (or a beer) and let talk flow. We are, as I explained a while ago, ‘talk-starved.’ This is why I personally need to teach: my students are my bouncing wall (do I mean ‘sounding board’? I’m not sure). I throw ideas at them, and when they bounce back they come in a better shape. Alone, at home, there is no bouncing wall. Yes, I have my blog, but it’s an odd bouncing wall, as the ideas (mostly) go through it.

I cannot really separate my teaching from my research, not quite because I teach courses based on what I do research on (I wish!) but because whatever I teach demands that I focus and explain myself–and this essential practice for my writing. With no students for 5 years I think I would whither like an unwatered plant…

So, to conclude, if I were the colleague with the grant I would use the money to get rid of the less rewarding courses and to pick and choose my way into what I really wanted to teach, even if it was down to one course in one semester. For, you know, without students to keep us on our toes, we just lose touch with reality and end up being pent up in our bizarre ivory towers. Also, I wonder, why the authorities think that an outstanding researcher should have no impact on five cohorts (em, the technical terms for classes) and vice versa, that five consecutive cohorts should be deprived of the best researchers in their Department. Odd, isn’t it?

Perhaps things would be better if, as they do in more civilized countries, the academic year lasted until 1 May and then we could all enjoy a few months every year for research. Keep on dreaming…

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TEACHING GENDER STUDIES IN THE 21ST CENTURY: A PREFACE TO GENDER AND FEMINISM: THE STUDENTS’ VIEW (2015)

[I’m recycling here the Preface to the volume I have just edited, Gender and Feminism: The Students’ View, available from https://ddd.uab.cat/record/129180. Please, publicise it in your Twitter and Facebook, thanks]

An awareness of gender differences begins very early in life as does little girls’ demand for equal treatment, even when the concept of ‘equal rights’ is only imperfectly known, if at all. The essays gathered here, written by undergrad students born in the early 1990s, further show that there is much to be learned and taught about gender issues today as seen by people under 30.

As I finished the edition of this volume, I came across a worrying piece of news in El País which further justifies the publication of these pages. In June 2014 the Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas (CIS) published the results of a survey, according to which one third of Spaniards tolerates couple-related psychological abuse: 92% reject physical violence, but not verbal ill-treatment, which they have serious difficulties to see as abuse. A second survey published this week declares that one third of the young persons, aged 15 to 29, regards as “inevitable or acceptable in some circumstances” (1) controlling their partners’ schedules, preventing them from seeing family or friends, not allowing them to work or study, and telling them what they can or cannot do. Among this age group, the tolerance of male chauvinist attitudes is on the increase, and not only among boys: 32% of the girls “tolerate” masculinist behaviours as opposed to 29% of all Spanish women, 34% of the boys in comparison to 28% among all Spanish men. It is, then, more urgent that ever to give voice to the members of these young generations who are completely opposed to any form of abuse, and who demand loudly that gender equality is finally reached.

The 32 essays in the hands of the reader were written in answer to two questions: “Why do we need Feminism today?” and “What worries me most about gender is…”. I gave my students (enrolled in my new elective subject ‘Gender Students (in English)’ 2014-15), no guidance whatsoever so as not to curtail their personal approach to my questions. I did ask them, though, to speak to the older persons in their family, and to other similarly aged acquaintances. As you can see, many followed my advice, composing thus not only a candid generational portrait but, quite often, a simultaneous view of three generations. I am sure they learned as much from talking to their elders as I have learned from reading their sincere, moving essays.

I believe that the main collective contribution we are making here is a vindication of the words ‘feminist’ and ‘Feminism’. In my own youth I was very much reluctant to identifying myself as a feminist for, as I understand now in hindsight, a young woman starting her career will naturally reject women’s disempowerment. Now, when I am only two years away from hitting 50, I see things very differently, not so much because I feel personally disempowered but because so many young girls not only reject feminism but are actively supporting patriarchy. It takes much commitment to sustain a sense of your own autonomy and to build your biography on the basis of your own total independence, which is, no doubt, why so many are slipping back into male dependence (romantic and/or economic). You’ll see here that young girls and myself face together the same problem: the meaning of Feminism is poorly understood–the aim is not replacing misogynistic patriarchy with an androphobic matriarchy, but fighting for equal rights for all. I have been calling this struggle ‘anti-patriarchal’ for years and this is what it should be: a common front where men and women join forces to face patriarchy and build a new genderless world.

I am not particularly happy to be teaching Gender Studies, as I am very sorry that they are still needed. I want to go the way of the abolitionists who needed not raise their voices after the end of formal slavery (racist abuse and exploitation, unfortunately, are still here). Teaching Gender Studies involves many problems: it is hard to get the recognition you may earn in less confrontational fields, (2) it often feels like painting yourself into a debased feminine corner and, finally, it too often appears to be an exercise in preaching to the converted (though you’ll see one essay here by someone who is by no means convinced by my discourse). Teaching Gender Studies is, however, also immensely rewarding since it has a very direct impact on young persons’ lives, as you will see, and on my own, as I need to rationalize an anti-patriarchal discourse which is often too emotional for words, too grounded on rage and fear. I am just sorry that I am not reaching more men. The proportion you will find here (7 men, 25 women) may seem low at about 25% for the men but it is actually higher than the 15% they occupy in the BA degree I teach, ‘English Studies’. Ideally, the proportion should have been closer to 50%, but, well, the Humanities are by no means a favourite choice for male undergrads.

I believe there is a similar proportion of non-heterosexuals writing in these pages, about 25%, including here both boys and girls. There is also a transgender man, whose discreet presence in my class has, nonetheless, provoked me into rethinking my whole approach to gender. The syllabus of my course, which can be seen here: http://ddd.uab.cat/record/121835, intended to cover gender in all its manifestations. One day, when I complained that the class was very quiet, a girl told me privately that the silence often manifested shock at the radically new ideas from Gender Studies researchers I exposed my students to. Yet, for me, the presence of my new student was a constant reminder that I am not (yet) radical enough. I may have chosen for my students to see femininity, masculinity, gay, queer, lesbian, bisexual, intersexual and transgender texts but this was not enough. The real challenge, in which I think I partly failed, was altering the order of this list and making my teaching far more queer than it is–even though I think it is very queer indeed, heteroqueer but firmly queer all the same.

I’ll finish by thanking my wonderful students from the bottom of my heart for the personal confidences they pour here. And for their boldness, as I am not sure I could have written what some of them offer here. I am very, very proud to have elicited all this valuable insight into gender and Feminism from them.

1. Vidales, Raquel. “Una de cada tres jóvenes considera aceptable que su pareja la controle.” El País, 27 January 2015, http://politica.elpais.com/politica/2015/01/27/actualidad/1422363044_535263.html
2. See: “Teaching gender studies as feminist activism : still struggling for recognition” (paper presented at the international Gender Spring Conference, Setting a New Agenda for Equality Policies, Centre Francesca Bonnemaison, Barcelona, Spain; 25-27 June 2014.) https://ddd.uab.cat/record/126586

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INCREASINGLY RARE BOOKS OF THE RECENT PAST: READING NAOMI MITCHISON’S MEMOIRS OF A SPACEWOMAN (1962)

Today I’m going simultaneously in two directions: I am demanding that Open Access policies be extended to the literary works of deceased authors, and I am praising a rare book (which has caused me to consider the matter of literary legacy). Let’s see if I can be minimally coherent.

Books have this way of deciding when you are ready for them. Suddenly, you notice that references to them in other books glow as if highlighted by a fluorescent felt pen, and then you know the time has come to read them. This has happened to me recently with Norbert Wiener’s essay The Human Use of Human Beings (1950, 1954) and with Naomi Mitchison’s novel Memoirs of a Spacewoman (1962). In the first case, a Google search and two mouse clicks led me to an online free .pdf. In the second, I got trapped by BookDepository, which now has 15 of my hard-earned euros (for a mere 176 pages of a poorly printed book).

Wiener, the father of cybernetics, died in 1964, and, so, his copyright extends to 2034, following US legislation (life + 70 years). Accordingly, Amazon.com offers The Human Use of Human Beings in 27 different formats, divided among first-hand print, second-hand print, and .mobi for Kindle. Someone, however, the self-styled ‘conspirators’ of www.asaunder.org, have released a .pdf which promptly found a way into my own Kindle (via www.calibre-ebook.com). I have already read Wiener’s fascinating warning against the subordination of human beings to machines, the very instruments his cybernetics revolutionized in the Second Industrial Revolution. I have learned this way that technophobia is rooted in the least expected minds; also that scientists like Wiener despaired about how the need to win World War II against Hitler had led to the (nuclear) horrors of the Cold War against the U.S.S.R. (not yet gone, think Ukraine).

Have I hurt Wiener’s heirs? In legal terms, I may have. Yet I feel that too restrictive legislation is hurting me and anyone else who wants to learn by withholding knowledge from public access. I respect the rights of the living authors, being one myself; yet, I totally support the implementation of Open Access policies, which are making research available in the shortest possible time lapse, particularly research paid with public funds. You may be thinking that I should draw a line, in any case, between the un-paid articles we produce, with costs covered by grants and our salaries, and books which, by definition, depend on a separate contract. Perhaps. The point I am making here, though, is that copyright should cease with the author’s death, whether the author is a researcher like Wiener or a literary author like Naomi Mitchison.

Mitchison died much more recently, in 1999, at the very ripe age of 101. I had stumbled upon her name often when reading about Scottish Literature and was more or less aware that she was an important figure. I am, however, just beginning to grasp her importance. Mitchison published more than 90 books, had 7 children, was a social and political activist in several fronts… read the Wikipedia entry and judge for yourself whether this was a woman or several, living a kind of multiple quantum life.

At least 2 of her novels, Solution Three (1975) and Memoirs of a Spacewoman (1962), which I have just finished reading, were science-fiction. Now, the edition of Memoirs here by my side is part of the Naomi Mitchison Library by publishers Kennedy & Boyd of Glasgow, who aim at “offering twenty-first century readers the opportunity to discover her”. I should think that 21st-century readers would rather the Scottish Government or some Scottish university uploaded all her works for the whole world to read, but, of course, (British) copyright legislation is preventing this from happening. It’s complicated, isn’t it? You have a prolific, first-rate author whose books are mostly out of print, and you do have the means to make them universally available (think Project Guttenberg) yet the choice made (by whom?) is the traditional one: reprint the books. Make readers pay.

SF readers are used to finding gems like Memoirs of a Spacewoman no matter how invisible they may be and, indeed, the Internet Speculative Database (isfdb) carries notice of the diverse utopian and SF novels in the Mitchison Library re-published by Kennedy and Boyd. The additional problem is that, unfortunately, the preface for Memoirs of a Spacewoman by Isobel Murray, the emeritus professor in charge of editing Mitchison’s volumes, is totally unsympathetic towards SF. Mitchison’s novel, she tells us, “begins not with space ships or amazing rays, but with a list of people.” She is at pains to deny that, look at the title, Memoirs of a Spacewoman is SF because, as the back cover blurb reads, the protagonist Mary “is also a very credible human.” I am used to finding very credible humans in SF novels and I wonder what kind of literary snobbishness is blinding Murray into thinking that SF is all about “amazing rays”. Her preface then, does nothing to help place this amazing novel where it deserves, actually distancing it from its true potential audience.

I was bowled over by Mitchison’s tale of Mary, the spacewoman who acknowledges with total candour that she loves being an inter-planetary explorer as much as she loves making babies. In Mary’s post-gender society, men and women are equally engaged in space exploration (at one point she becomes part of an all-woman expedition); the relativistic passage of time allows Mary, besides, to enter a variety of romantic relationships with complete freedom on both sides. Her babies become then the centre of her life for a year (until they are ‘stabilised’) and she moves on. Her job consists of establishing communication with alien species within a strict protocol of non-interference (I’m sure Iain Banks knew the Memoirs well…). In Mary’s civilization respect for the environment is fundamental, and communication with Terran animal species habitual. There are only a couple of academic pieces on this novel and one deals indeed, with this aspect. Oh, yes, and there is an Indian female scientist, and other non-white space explorers.

Mitchison penned this in 1962, only three years after Heinlein’s classic militaristic SF novel Starship Troopers and, what is far more relevant possibly, before Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique (1963) started second-wave feminism. Indeed, years before Ursula K. Le Guin opened up the way for feminism to enter SF in the late 1960s. I always say that what I love about SF is the possibility of imagining a post-gender civilization in which women can choose to live as they please but until now I thought we were moving towards that kind of novel. Now I know we already had it in Memoirs of a Spacewoman, 53 years ago!!, but somehow missed it.

As we’ll miss it again, for who, in the age of the internet, will notice a book by a dead Scotswoman, published by a small Glasgow printing press? I don’t think either the printers nor he heirs will make all that money, after all… How many readers lost for this and for many other rare books!

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‘ATTENDING’ AN ONLINE CONFERENCE: A SATISFYING NEW EXPERIENCE

My belief in the need to generate low-cost academic activity and improve networking is not always easy to implement. Possibly already 3 years ago I came up with the idea of organizing a virtual conference (on SF) but I got totally stuck because a) I had never participated in one and b) the two mathematicians I contacted could find no accurate formula to calculate the number of questions/messages a participant should have to write (really, I’m serious about this). So I let that be.

Funnily, everyone with whom I commented my idea for the conference always assumed that a virtual conference requires some kind of actual interaction in real time using video. This may be the case in the more sophisticated version, perhaps, though I have no idea how people all over the world can agree to sit before their computer screen at a certain time to listen to someone speak online–what a strange thought!

I had in mind something much simpler, based on uploading papers, reading them and then opening up online forum discussion. I got to the point of setting up a blog for the conference, having a logo designed… and no further. Then I came across a call for papers sent for a juicy event: “Narrativas en clave de género: Cine y literatura, II Congreso Internacional Online del Instituto Universitario de Estudios Feministas y de Género Purificación Escribano, Universitat Jaume I”. This is it, I told myself: I need to join in and learn. To my infinite amusement and pleasure when I first contacted the organizers, one of them turned out to be my dear friend Dora Sales. Lucky me, now I have someone to guide me, too.

The conference, which finished yesterday, has run for 12 days. The principle is very simple: open a Moodle classroom, upload the papers a few days in advance, open a forum for each paper, let people interact (we have been using guest access to this virtual room). The delegates (25) get a certificate for submitting their papers but are also expected, of course, to interact with the public. In its turn, the public is expected to address questions to 50% of the delegates (=12) in order to obtain their own certificate of attendance.

There were 125 participants, 25 delegates and 100 persons in the (very active) audience. Here are the numbers: the most popular paper generated 75 comments, 41 from the audience, 33 in answer by the author. My own paper, among the least popular ones (um, perhaps Shakespeare is not as popular as X-Men or Hunger Games, who knows?) got 10 questions. This is much, much more than you get in any presential conference, where you’re lucky if you get 2 or 3 comments (plenary speakers may get 10/12 at the most). I am very, very pleased. The questions and comments were in all the forums I participated in better articulated, more sophisticated and complete than the questions I hear in conventional conferences. I assume that writing involves a greater deal of thinking than just speaking out. Also, the absence of time limits helps participants ask any questions they want, in contrast with the few minutes you get in a presential conference (5 usually, 15 if you’re very lucky).

Other advantages? You don’t miss any paper you may be interested in, unlike what happens when two exciting panels overlap in presential conferences. You can read ALL the papers if you wish, ask everyone questions. Since I was new to this, I opted for having a combined experience as delegate and audience, which means I also read 12 papers and sent questions to the authors. Yes, I gave myself a lot of work, pestered everyone else, but it was very, very enjoyable. Reading a paper takes less time than listening to the same paper, so it’s quite feasible to read all those you choose in a few hours and then use the rest of the time for online interaction. I have used time every day to check on the progress of debates for, obviously, an online conference demands discipline from participants. I can only see advantages… Also, in this way, papers are ready for publication before the conference starts.

I know what you’re thinking: I’d rather travel, see new places and meet people. Sure. Virtual or online conferences are not supposed to replace presential interaction, only to complement it.

Think, though, of the disadvantages attached to the traditional academic meetings: a) high expenses, as I mentioned, impossible to meet particularly by young, untenured academics, or even by tenured teachers if the conference takes place half the world away from your home; b) the need to interrupt your routine to attend a conference (you may have to make up for missed lectures, over-crowding your schedule; your family situation may prevent you from leaving even if only for a few days…); c) the torture that conferences are for shy people who dread not only speaking in public but also socializing over coffee breaks or dinner time…; d) the enormous stress for the organizers forced to balance impossible budgets with no grants to help them…

So, with my thanks to Dora Sales and Dori Valero for the experience, I’ll certainly go ahead and see if I can turn my own online conference into a reality. I’ll keep you posted…

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3+2 DOES NOT EQUAL 5: ON THE NEW DEGREE REFORM

The Spanish Government has finally approved the ‘Real Decreto’ by which universities may choose to offer BAs of 3 or 4 years, accompanied by MAs of 2 or 1 year, respectively. Just yesterday, the CRUE (the organization gathering together the principals or ‘rectores’ of all Spanish universities), agreed to delay the revision of the degree to the 2017-18 academic year. Students are furious at the Government while they claim this new reform is for the sake of finally bringing Spanish degrees into the European system.

I myself have a ‘Licenciatura’ corresponding to the 1977 Ministry-approved syllabus. ‘Licenciaturas’, if you recall, consisted of 2 cycles: a first cycle, lasting for 3 years, in which students took a list of compulsory subjects; and a second cycle, lasting for 2 years, in which you specialised taking a considerable number of elective courses in your area. You might obtain a title at the end of the first cycle, called ‘diplomatura’, and there were actually independent ‘diplomatura’ degrees. Yes, we already had a 3+2 system, with the whole 5 years costing the same fee. Funnily, we were told that the ‘Licenciatura’ was extravagantly long in relation to other European countries which already had a 3+2 system. Then the fashion started for the very rich to pursue MA degrees abroad…

The ‘Licenciatura’ was reformulated for the new 1992 Ministry-approved syllabus, and reduced down to 4 years, still with no MA degrees. If you wanted to pursue further studies then the next step was a doctoral programme. The one I started back in 1991-2, consisted of 2 years tuition on the basis of elective subjects, followed by 1 year to write the ‘tesina’ or small dissertation, followed by 3 years for the ‘tesis’ or main dissertation. When I started teaching in this programme, we all referred to the first two years plus ‘tesina’ as the ‘master’s equivalent’, though I’m not sure you could obtain a title. Yes, anyone my age had to spend 8 years in university before writing the first line of a doctoral dissertation, now it’s down to 5.

The 4-year ‘Licenciatura’ was remodelled again in 2000 before the European Union decided to implement the Bologna agreements for convergence into the European space of education. In 2006, then, the ‘Licenciatura’ was transformed into the current 4-year BA degree, the doctoral programme lost its courses and the new MAs were implemented. I was there in the front line and I very clearly recall the chaos as we were given very lax instructions about what kind of MAs we should devise and how many to offer. At one point, my Department thought of offering 3, this was reduced to 2 and after trying to stay afloat independently, we finally merged 2 years ago our 2 MAs into 1. In 9 years, then, the MA I teach in has been reformed 3 times–not a good sign.

I am glad, then, that CRUE has decided to take some time to organize the new reform as, to begin with, we still haven’t tested the performance of the 2007-8 degrees. It seemed as if we would be running the tests at the same time that we did the paperwork for the new option. My own personal view is that English Studies should keep its current 4+1 scheme, as students need time to learn the language apart from the contents. We cannot put anyone at C1 level at the end of only 3 years, much more so if the first year, as rumoured, is entirely transversal (= not in English). I also believe that students would chose 4+1 English Studies degrees rather than a 3+2 version for the same reason and also, here’s the crux of the problem, because whereas in the old 5-year Licenciatura fees were the same for all years, this is NOT the case in the new 3+2 system.

Here are the maths: 60 ECTS (=one year) of the BA in English Studies cost 1657.12 euros, hence, the complete degree costs 9536 euros. The MA’s fees are 2907’52. Students can complete a 4+1 education investing a total 9536 euros. With the 3+2 formula, using the current fees, the BA would be down to 4971.36, but the MA would amount to 5815.04, and the total cost would be 10786.4, that is to say, 1250 euros above the current 4+1 system. This might not seem a lot to English students paying up to 9,000 pounds a year for BA degrees (and leaving university heavily indebted) but it is very high considering the post-crisis catastrophic situation of most working-class families (in Scotland, a referent for the, ehem, future Catalan state, local students pay no BA fees).

The Government claims quite cynically that families will save 150 million euros with the new system, as young persons will be able to enter the job market in a shorter time and at a lower cost. Then, they can save money and decide whether to take an MA. What job market, I wonder? The only jobs available are badly-paid subsistence-level jobs that make being a ‘mileurista’ seem a dream. Anyone but the Government can see that these extra 1250 euros (far more in other specialities) will tip the scales against the economy of most working-class students. They will fail then to compete in the top rank of the tiny job market with middle-class persons in possession of an MA degree (the upper classes really compete with nobody).

In short: while the simple transformation of the old Licenciatura into a formal 3+2 system maintaining the same fees would have been quite smooth, the Government has chosen the worst possible moment to implement the new system. 2006, when the chance was missed, would also have been preferable, as the crisis had not started yet and the current resistance to the MA programmes’ inflated fees had not materialized.

Supposing the fees problem were solved, we still need to tackle the pedagogical problem. In my 23 years as a teacher I have seen university degrees progressively lose much of their conceptual density (their ability to train people seriously). This is partly due to the lowered standards of secondary education and partly to the increasingly widespread idea that having a degree matters more than accruing real knowledge in a field. From what I hear, there is more concern about the matter that oh, poor Erasmus students have so many problems because of our 4+1 system than about what exactly we teach students. I heard a top-ranking person at UAB speak of MAs as a key tool to internationalize our university and of BAs as general courses in which the process of accumulating knowledge, which so dramatically varies from the first to the third year, was totally ignored.

So: yes, why not? Let’s have 3+2 but let’s retrieve the best we lost with the 5-year Licenciatura and, please, prioritize equal-opportunity, non-classist education over the needs of foreign international students. I see the despair of the working-class students seeing the Government callously pushing them out of a serious university education and I can only sympathise, as I was one of them, and I have never ever forgotten what it was like.

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