This book is an exploration of the idea that interludes – or disruptions to our usual rhythms, rituals, and routines – offer individuals and institutions alike an incomparable opportunity to examine the governing assumptions that undergird academic work and to experiment with alternative modes and models of intellectual life. Using the COVID-19 pandemic as the prime example of an externally imposed interlude on a mass scale, the book argues that the compulsion of most colleges and universities to “return to business as usual” reveals that the “business” of the academic enterprise is only tangentially about learning, ideas, or the life of the mind. It is mostly about keeping the institutional machinery running at all costs, typically at the behest of state and market forces. Meanwhile, interludes of any size or duration, from massively disruptive global pandemics to brief elective personal retreats, offer occasions for interrogating our entrenched policies and practices and are simultaneously spaces for the pursuit of learning and idea play both within and beyond institutions.
David J. Siegel is professor in the Department of Educational Leadership at East Carolina University.
Part I. Our Modern Condition
Chapter 1. What the Pandemic Has Unmasked
Chapter 2. Command Performances
Part II. Alternative Modes and Models
Chapter 3. Finding Refuge and Regeneration in Temporary Autonomous Zones
Chapter 4. Seeking Asylum in Freedom University
Chapter 5. MOOC-topia: A Place for Poetry
Chapter 6. Antiuniversity Now
Part III. Prefigurative Change
Chapter 7. Privatization
Chapter 8. “Thinking Little” (Practice, Not Policy)
Conclusion: In Search of Academic Freedom
About the Author
Against the insistent pressure for the marketability and “impact”, David Siegel emphasizes the value of play in higher education. The time and space for play is the one irreplaceable thing that higher education provides, and Siegel traces the uses of play from Schiller’s aesthetic education to current alternatives, such as Freedom University, Anti-University, and Heterodox University. The book answers, beyond the many critiques of contemporary higher education, how might we restitute its better possibilities?
Despite talk of creativity and innovation, universities often seem to be increasingly concerned with the reproduction of the same, delivered efficiently by highly managed knowledge workers. In this splendid and well written book, David Siegel celebrates another form of knowledge production, in which dissent and play show us a refusal of the demand to be fast and useful. Read it slowly!
Brimming with insights, David J. Siegel’s vision for the future of higher education is an enticing contrast to the current corporatized university. This book is a welcome addition to the growing scholarship in critical university studies, and will be required reading in any course on the philosophy of higher education.