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Brown, J. S. and Duguid, P. (2000). The social life of information. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

The first five chapters (of eight) are [available online].

CategoryAcademia CategoryBook


Notes

Certification
Thus, while often denigrated as a petty concern, the university has always been a certification agency, and certification is not just important to a university, but definitive (Brown and Duguid, 2000). The reasons for this are important to understand socially, since where else would you find people voluntarily paying others to put them through suffering for extended periods of time? It's easy to see that learning without a degree is only marginally better than buying a degree without the learning. While it's often said that after all that work you need something to show for it, the reward is not just personal. The degree has market value by giving others, particularly potential employers, some confidence in what the student has learnt. Otherwise, they would have to enter into rather costly and invasive examinations of each candidate to verify that they were competent. And the more people have to pay attention to what was learnt, the less control the student has to learn things of his or her own choosing. The degree creates a SafePlace?, a level of insulation from criticism. While a student is at the school, the student can learn whatever he or she wants to learn provided the critical market-valued skills are learnt as well. Contemporary for-profit business schools do not benefit from this, as the granularity of certification is at the course level. Employers will get the measure a certification in systems analysis against a certification in medieval art history, thus making the art history course less attractive for a would-be systems analyst.

Enculturation
Further, the act of passage signified by a degree creates an social environment that can maintain its integrity through time (Brown and Duguid, 2000). Students are indoctrinated in the art of indoctrination, or at least doctoral students are. The university as a culture bent on its own preservation has been critical to its longevity. Further, the creation of the student union as a pillar of the university system has helped preserve and protect the meaning of education for each generation. The isolation and divide and conquer approach of contemporary experimental pedagogy cannot compete against the need for belonging, as well as the need to be encultured with values and a perspective on the world.


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