Mon | Apr 22, 2019

Jeremy Chambers | Greed in education

Published:Monday | March 18, 2019 | 12:08 AM

Recently, we heard news of the US$11 million that University of California had to pay to publishing giant Elsevier in order to gain access to its repository of journals. In that same period, Elsevier the mammoth recorded a profit of US$1.7 billion!

Yes, you read right! US$1.7 billion, which happens to be more than the GDP of some developing states.

Of worthy note is that we also heard of the University of California’s refusal to continue doing business with said leviathan publishing house. Good for them, I say. It’s about time someone stands up to the pervasiveness of market politics in education.

When did we decide that there should be a monetary value attached to information? When did we mutually conclude that information should be owned, copyrighted, jailed and placed in ivory towers only to be accessed by those who have wealth and status or who are members of particular universities, academic ranking or such the like?

Free education from economy

I say it’s time to free education from the dicephalous demon of demand and supply, from the cold clutches of market economics, from the morass of capitalistic impurities and the scum of greed.

Information is nothing more than answers to questions posed. I dare to say that answers exist even before the questions are asked. Answers to unasked questions are floating all around us. All that researchers and so-called academics like me do is to mine for the answers.

We unearth answers through the questions we pose and the instruments we use.

Then if we are to agree that answers preclude questions, how do we come to own these answers, moreover to profit from them to the tune of billions of dollars and the exploitation of the poor?

It’s pathetic! Look at the cost of textbooks, study aids and syllabi. In the name of all the old scholars who taught and shared their knowledge freely – Socrates, Galileo and Confucius – I say, ‘Loosen the educational informational system and let her go!’

These old stalwarts of research and philosophy would turn in their graves if they knew how greedy academicians have become.

OPEN ACCESS

Open the floodgates of information heaven and let it rain!

Our redemption can only come through open-access publishing. Free up di ting, man. It is time that publishing houses charge researchers to share what they’ve mined, unearthed, ‘found’, instead of charging such exorbitant fees for access. After all, it was already there to begin with.

Yeah, yeah, research is costly, blah blah blah. But more people publish for the glory and recognition than they do for the money. Academics aren’t rich anyway. It is the nefarious publishing houses that profit.

Information and knowledge are the bedrock of economic and social growth and if these are held prisoners by a few, then we are not advancing the welfare of the whole human race. We are being greedy and immoral.

I trust that the institutions of higher education in Jamaica and the Caribbean will take a leaf out of the University of California’s book.

Show these demonic, greedy, money-grabbing, information- hoarding publishing houses and journals that all they do is to exacerbate the educational and economic divide through unfair market practices, greed and filthy lucre. Jamaican and Caribbean scholars, rise up and become open-access publishers.

Create a path where educational information is available to our brothers and sisters. Be on the right side of history.

Dr Jeremy Chambers, ADVAN College of Foreign Languages, Japan. Email feedback to jeremy.g.chambers@icloud.com and columns@gleanerjm.com.