Conclusions from “The Knowledge Industry”

© The Author(s) 2015
Betty A. Reardon and Dale T. SnauwaertBetty A. Reardon: A Pioneer in Education for Peace and Human RightsSpringerBriefs on Pioneers in Science and Practice2610.1007/978-3-319-08967-6_6

6. Conclusions from “The Knowledge Industry”

Retrospective Reflection on “The Knowledge Industry” (1978)

Betty A. Reardon 

International Institute on Peace Education, New York, NY, USA



Betty A. Reardon

This essay, though quite widely circulated among the international network of peace educators that in the 1970s had been brought into collaboration in the Peace Education Commission of the International Peace Research Association, was never formally published. And while it is now available in its entirety in the Canaday Special Collections at the University of Toledo Library, it is known by only a few in the field. An extract is included here because the piece further illuminated the critique of formal education that informed “Education for Survival.” As noted in the introductory Retrospective Reflection to that selection, it foreshadowed much of the normative and conceptual bases and pedagogical preferences of later work.

This piece was written five years later than “Education for Survival” and six years before “Comprehensive Peace Education.” Taken together, the three provide a forecast of the principled foundations of the developmental work that followed thirteen years (1963–1976) of ‘introducing’ world order studies through the Schools Program of the Institute for World Order. One of the reasons for moving on from that post was my failure to convince the men on the staff of the inadequacies of formal education as then constituted to achieve the purposes of world order education. I had come to hold a firm belief in the need for a radical change in the organization and delivery of education, especially in teacher preparation. Without significant change in educational practice, education could not serve as an instrument for the changes necessary for the ‘transformation’ of the international system, the primary goal that then informed the work of the Institute.

The analysis offered in “The Knowledge Industry” was undertaken in response to a request from a UN agency concerned with development policy, asking for an outline of how universities might serve the process of advancing the economies of poor countries. In the 1970s that process still meant pretty much increasing the GDP of the former European colonies (that came to be called “The Global South”) mainly through the application of the assumptions that had propelled the development of the industrial North. Little was considered in the realms of human development and fulfillment that I had taken to be the traditional concerns of higher education. What I came to see as I reflected on the processes and actors within universities determining what knowledge was pursued for what purposes, by what methods and shared with what audiences was a system that was antithetical to preparation for the participatory, inclusive, democratic forms of economic and social development, preserving of cultural integrity that I believed to be essential to achieving a truly equitable global economy. What Freire saw in formal public education I perceived to be structurally embedded in universities, a system in service to the prevailing power elites. I set about to specifically describe the components and functions of this ‘knowledge’ system, so that it might be reformed to meet the needs of human as well as economic development. (It was decades later that the UN embraced the concept of human development.)

Needless to say, the paper was not greeted with enthusiasm by the requesting development agency. But it did prove useful to some of my colleagues struggling within universities to devise and practice forms of education suited to prepare learners for the social and political tasks being undertaken toward global change. While, we fully recognized and wrestled with the institutional constraints which faced us, we continued to work within our respective institutions, trying often with only little success, even when peace related programs became institutionalized, to affect some of the essential changes. The idea that there is need to work both within and outside existing institutions for authentically transformative change, has been since the 70s integral to the strategies for change that framed my work, both in proposals and, when possible, in practice. The selection from the essay reproduced below deals with such strategic proposals and illustrates my contention that if we educators diagnose problems, we have a responsibility to envision and design prescriptive educational responses to those problems.

It was from this sense of responsibility that I worked within a methodology that encouraged the design and consideration of institutional alternatives to replace the violent oppressive systems and structures that perpetuated war, poverty, social and political injustice and the destruction of the environment; and to follow the exercises in institutional design with planning and assessing potential strategies to achieve them. Such methods are the basis of much of the curricula developed during these years archived in the Canaday Center for Special Collections at the University of Toledo Library.

Within the years from 1980 to 1985, my reflections on what appeared to be the unchanging nature of the fundamental hierarchical authoritarianism of the global order would take me deeper into consideration and speculation on patriarchy as the underlying, continuing core of this power order.

Betty A. Reardon

March 28, 2014

6.1 Introduction

This essay is a “speculative sketch” of current systems and processes for the acquisition of and access to stores of human knowledge.1 It attempts to identify the component parts of the processes and systems; to analyze them in terms of the degree to which popular participation in decision making effects their outcomes, and to assess their impact on ideologies of development. The purpose of the analysis is to initiate reflection and discussion on ways in which the components might be integrated into a strategy of change, a strategy intended to achieve s global social order based upon the value of justice, designed for the achievement of peace and the pursuit of human fulfillment, in short the antithesis of the present world order.

I wish to emphasize the speculative nature of the essay. While I will attempt to outline a responsible and honest analysis, the paper is not meant to be ‘scholarly’. Scholarship, as I will attempt to demonstrate, like most components of the systems and processes of contemporary education is characterized by the same authoritarian elitism which is the core of the established social order. It is a significant example of the anti-participatory institutions, and practices that must be overcome to achieve a truly just social order. Further, scholarship as it is currently practiced values precedent above inventiveness, and tends to stifle speculation, the most fruitful mental process through which human beings might seek creative solutions to contemporary global problems, primary among which are social oppression and economic deprivation, the hallmarks of authoritarianism and injustice…