Rethinking the role of the academy: cognitive authority in the age of post-truth

Farrow, Robert (2019). Rethinking the role of the academy: cognitive authority in the age of post-truth. Teaching in Higher Education, 24(3) pp. 272–287.



The concept of ‘post-truth’ is here explored within the context of education and educational technology. Contemporary political discourse is often characterised by a polarisation of political belief and scepticism about scientific and expert authority has become commonplace. We explore tensions between democratic and technocratic impulses in describing changes that are taking place in the way that authority typically operates in higher education. We analyse changing notions of academic authority to understand some of the implications for the practice of teaching, learning and administration. We argue that technocratic, administrative authority increasingly supplants cognitive authority and subject expertise. One result of increased emphasis on performative/administrative authority is the nature of authority both within the academy and the wider public sphere is changed. We examine the implications for pedagogy, curriculum and academic practice, suggesting that performative approaches to criticality, openness, truth and transparency offer potential routes to new constellations of cognitive authority.

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