We need to acknowledge “that there is more than one form of practical knowledge.” (Bohman 2015)
With education systems as they are, universities become unavoidable. And changing a system can take a generation. The alternatives that exist do not carry the same weight as a university education. Dewey (Re Bohman) discussed the political sphere when addressing the same notion. Changes to how existing systems function and evolve are determined by the public interactions. The notion of boys clubs, private school favouritism, and with recruiters choosing employees by seeking particular universities, the education itself becomes less important than the symbol. This is the inherently covert manipulation of people, with recruiters ensuring they followed protocols to cover themselves, and universities as the only option being bolstered by the process.
Fung (Re Bohman) when speaking of transnational business, offers the idea of mini-publics as a way forward. These mini-publics act as small operations that have power to make decisions relating to their particular niche expertise and area. While engaging all the stakeholders in the process, these groups remain small enough to try new ideas. The issue is with the effectiveness of feedback from all parties and showing bias to others, as well as the inevitability of narrowing ideas as happens with all comities. But redistribution of power and experimentation have the possibility of making changes.
John Thackara from Doors of Perception confronts the issue by highlighting alternatives to universities that engage with design, the environment, and society. Such programs offer education, but usually without the credential of an undergraduate degree or something as recognised by the community at large. These organisations can integrate training from practical education to spiritual development. Unlike technical colleges, these are spaces for experimentation and development that are not tied to accreditation and can therefore better engage new possibilities. Emphasis on outcomes over technology relates back to numerous arguments I have already put forward, but even more poignant is the emphasis on places the importance of people over the systems. Acknowledging gestalt isalso aligned with the overall picture I am presenting but beyond the scope of this work.
The consideration of mini-publics and alternatives must be critically evaluated if they are to be viable options though. Open systems engaged with by the public are often more poorly managed than other systems. Infringing copyright with 3d printing, low success rates of online and open education, and open source content often does not have the same qualification or accuracy of peer-reviewed or more strictly edited content. The bridge between business or government and stakeholders though opens up the capacity for public scrutiny which is crucial in many situations.
The largest draw back for many though is that while they may have gained insight and knowledge, the credentials and public perception is still not equal to what universities and larger institutions offer as recognised bodies.
The solution may be then to work from within institutions and systems to challenge them. Even under public scrutiny or democratic ideals, the decisions made about most organisations come from within. The futility of protesting and external interventions are secondary, and rarely effective by contrast
The issue is great enough that the only way to successfully innovate may come from the private business sector rather than from governments and education institutions, but if possible these systems can be improved. Such experimental and progressive education platforms as Eindhoven Design Academy, Harvard’s i-Lab innovation school, and Kaospilot have the ability to inform change but less impact on taking action that influences the public, and are subject to the same risks facing any institution.