The Hedgehog and Lord Browne: the “to come” of the Humanities
In Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities, Martha Nussbaum speaks of the current global education crisis, in which the humanities, “seen by policy-makers as useless frills, at a time when nations must cut away all useless things in order to stay competitive in the global market, … are rapidly losing their place”. This paper investigates the future of education proposed by the Browne Report, a future in which the humanities are unabashedly sidelined as low-priority frills. Claiming to present a “sustainable future for education”, the Browne Report has constrained its future, effectively arguing that the only way to sustain education is to turn it into training. Knowledge and education in the Browne Report become subordinated to a purpose: education for profit, knowledge for simple problem solving. Its gift to the future is not a protected education system, but a training ground abandoned to the dictates of the market. Its sustainability is a mode of intolerant tolerance, a ringfencing that does not protect but abandons, a kettling.
Critically engaging with the concepts of choice, sustainability and the future as they are presented and performed in the Browne Report, this paper calls for a recognition of importance of the humanities as that which is open to a different type of future, what Derrida calls the “to come”. It calls for an acknowledgement of that which defies quantification, impact and accountability. It calls for an appreciation of engagements with the performative, the non-thetic and the beyond-within. It calls for some respect for the hedgehog.
Maebh Long is a tutor at the Department of English Studies, Durham University. Her work positions Jacques Derrida within a lineage of thinkers who exploit structural irony, a non-propositional force of language, as a cognitive resource. Long was Chief Editor of the Institute of Advanced Studies' journal Kaleidoscope, co-convenor of the Inventions of the Text staff/student seminar, and co-convenor the English department's theory reading group. Her published work includes chapters entitled “Stepping Away: Radical Digressivity and At Swim-Two-Birds” in Textual Wanderings: The Theory and Practice of Narrative Digressions (Oxford: Legenda, forthcoming) and “A Step Askew: Ironic Parabasis in Blanchot” in Blanchot Romantique (Bern: Peter Lang, 2010).