NSOTA Diploma in Environmental Humanities
The New School’s course is pitched at roughly the same level as the University of Cambridge undergraduate degree known as the Tripos, for which several of our lecturers have taught, in some cases over several decades. While radically different in its nature and scope, our course is every bit as rigorous, adventurous and pleasurable, and its standards are scrutinised yearly by independent external examiners.
The New School has chosen to pursue a parallel path in rejecting not only the degree-classing system, which has resulted in the devaluation accompanying grade inflation over recent years, but also the entire degree-awarding bureaucracy. Our collective experience suggests that intellectual integrity within the mainstream higher educational system has been sacrificed to a monetised culture of accreditationism, which has become the primary means of maintaining the legitimacy and functioning of the neo-liberal university.
The formal recognition of ability and expertise, which could be experientially as much as academically accrued, is not synonymous with accreditation, which is all too often an administrative exercise in adapting behaviour, in order to satisfy fixed targets. Moreover, a conventional degree no longer guarantees a secure job, reasonable job and home ownership, but merely a vast life-long debt and the promise of precarity. (For what it is worth, we note that Google is no longer only recruiting graduates and the Law Society has withdrawn its insistence that a degree is a condition of eligibility for a legal qualification.)
The New School offers a necessary alternative. We are concerned with the recovery of cultural confidence through nurturing imaginative and resilient citizens of all ages, regardless of background and circumstance, who will feel able to make intelligent decisions in complex situations at speed.
If our students fulfil their work requirements by the end of each one-year rolling programme, they will be issued with the NSOTA Diploma in Environmental Humanities recording a simple pass. Rather than the standardised degree certificate carrying the imprimatur of an impersonal institution, the NSOTA Diploma will itself be an object of elegance, having been co-created as a student-project under the guidance of professional printmaker, Georgie Fay. Students will also take forward their portfolio of critical and creative work as a testament to their development during their time with us.
This is consistent with our learning emphasis on process rather outcome; on the excitement to be felt in testing ideas; and on the principle of following desire over duty. We have no doubt that the calibre of education received by our graduates will be recognised by prospective employers, potential collaborators and postgraduate admissions tutors alike.
One of the unspoken discomforts surrounding the way a discourse of race and gender, and sexual practice has disrupted the academy is precisely that mind/body split. Once we start talking in the classroom about the body and about how we live in our bodies, we’re automatically challenging the way power has orchestrated itself in that particular institutionalized space. The person who is most powerful has the privilege of denying their body . . . [P]art of why everyone in the culture, and students in general, have a tendency to see professors as people who don’t work is totally tied to that sense of the immobile body.
bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom (1994)