Lived experience and academic knowledge are not the same thing; in fact, you could comfortably posit them as diametrically opposed. This is not to say that lived experience does not belong in the academy, but simply to make a distinction between the two forms of knowledge. I do not see them as competing, and in the best of worlds, I think they are mutually supportive, but they are not the same thing. This may seem obvious to some, but there has been a rising trend for some time now to uncritically incorporate lived experience into the academy in ways I think are problematic. I do not want to create a hierarchy here and in fact, I think it is the tacit or unconscious acceptance of a hierarchy which has created the problem in the first place. So, when I make the distinctions I am making, think of them as domains separated
This academic year, I have been working with three Black women on their university applications to try to give them the help no one gave me. One woman has not yet applied as she is a mature student juggling kids and a busy life; it will take time working through things with her. Of the other two, one got into all but one of her chosen undergraduate courses, and the other just recently received an offer from Cambridge to do her masters. We are both elated. She and I met yesterday (so far all our coaching / feedback sessions have been via FaceTime) and the first question she asked me was: why am I not a Professor? That is a simple enough question but the answer is complicated, and it reminded me of this half-written blog on class in the academy. So, time to finish.
Working in ‘professional services’ in a British university means that you will be persistently undermined by clueless academics who assume that they know more than you about everything simply because of their job title. Academics assume that anyone who is not an academic is inherently ignorant, and, even if you have a PhD, you will be repeatedly told that you have no expertise in your area by people who literally have no expertise in your area.