In May 1968 the old order was upturned by marginalised contract lecturers. Today, the proliferation of online courses offers slow-track academics a similar opportunity to seize the scholarly high ground, argues Paula Humfrey
In the history of the 1960s, mai ’68 is now seen as a pancultural turning point. France’s événements de mai started with a small, contained protest against the administration of the university of Paris-X Nanterre, sparked by a significant increase in student numbers that necessitated hiring lecturers on contract. By the time the strikes and rioting reached the Sorbonne, campus protests had opened rifts beneath the established social and institutional order of French academic life.
Lately, comparisons of May 1968 to 21st-century life have been much in evidence, occasioned in part by the recent 40th anniversary of the unrest. It’s not just the date correspondence, though. It’s the connection between a spirit of academic rebellion then and an emergent sense of scholarly rebellion now.
Perhaps it is not incidental that we are approaching a revolutionary moment in online education – a field populated by contract lecturers – that smacks of the conditions Pierre Bourdieu outlined in his sociological analysis of the university crisis of May 1968 in France. The present position of online lecturers in the academy resonates with Bourdieu’s depiction of the lowly faculty hired on contract who revolted in solidarity with the students during les événements.
Read full story… goes onto to discuss some specifics of online teaching.