Thinking Solidarities in a Global World of Difference: The Role of Learning

An international symposium organized collaboratively between the Centre for Lifelong Learning and Cultural Difference and Social Solidarity (CDSS) took place on Thursday 7th March 2013. This symposium involved six presentations that all applied critical perspectives to the theme of education and learning for solidarity.

Professor Lawrence Wilde (University of Nottingham, UK) spoke on ‘Educating for Solidarity’. This paper considered the contributions of three social theorists to the debate about the role of education in fostering solidarity: Alaine Touraine’s ‘school for the subject’; Andre Gorz’s ‘education for autonomy’; and Roberto Unger’s idea of schools for ‘little prophets’.

Dr Scott Boyd (METU, Northern Cyprus) presented ‘Social Entrepreneurship of MOOCs: Quick, Effective Empowerment is Free if You Pay Our Price’. This paper argued that underneath the philanthropic patina of feel-good buzz words in company vision statements around MOOCs lies the antithesis of socially responsible educational practices: the entrenchment of higher education institutions (public and private) in a neoliberal market paradigm.

Burcu Senturk (University of York, UK) presented her paper, ‘Learning Through Collective Struggle’ in which she reported on her research in a typical slum area (Ege District) in Ankara, where there were rural migrants of different sects and places of origin. She explained the ways in which differences were overcome in a grassroots movement based upon mutual learning and solidarity.

In his paper, ‘Alienation, cathexis and the ‘crisis of interiorisation’:  What is ‘the university’ for?’, Dr Mark O’Brien (University of Liverpool, UK) explored the ‘crisis in higher education’ using the concept of ‘alienation’ and its relevance to the inner orientations of the individual. Linking analytical insights from the work of Istvan Mezsaros and the Austrian Freudo-Marxist Otto Fenichel, the paper related the inner life of the person to the outward social manifestations of educational crisis.

Dr Paul Reynolds (Edge Hill University, UK) spoke on ‘Moral Pedagogy and Professional Practice: Solidarity, Ethics and Politics in Practice’. This paper drew upon theoretical and empirical research to explore the closed relationship between moral pedagogy and professional practice and to argue for a fertile space for the encouragement of social, cultural and political solidarities in the practice and articulation of functional requisites and formal curricula.

Finally, Dr John McSweeney (Independent researcher, Ireland) presented his paper on ‘Parrhesia and Solidarity: Rethinking the Politics of Difference with the Final Foucault’. In it he explored Foucault’s use of the ancient Greek concept of parrhesia (speaking the truth to power and the telling of the truth about oneself). In particular, it proposed that parrhesia can be thought of as an act in solidarity with those who share one’s difference.