Sunday, November 26, 2017

Washington Post: "Elitists, Crybabies, And Junky Degrees"

Seems to me that the title's a pretty fair summary of some of the most pressing problems with universities. It doesn't describe the average; but it also doesn't describe merely a few exceptional cases, either. There are forces in the academy that are generating elitists, crybabies and junk degrees. These forces are more powerful in some universities and some disciplines, and more effective on some professors and students. Only far toward one end do you get Berkeley and Oberlin...and, on the very fringe, Evergreen. But those forces are operant in much of academia. I'd be a bit surprised if they're entirely absent anywhere.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a disclaimer I think the academy has huge, huge problems. But this is a dangerous game. The idea that college is or ought to primarily be job training is pernicious, and if a "junk degree" is anything that isn't vocational training we're in big trouble. Your issue is subtle; the humanities are worthwhile, but are being done a grave injustice as often currently practiced. That said, many folks that fit the type described in the article just think the humanities are worthless altogether, and I'm afraid that the baby is going to get tossed with the bathwater. Of course, an education in the humanities does produce innumerable job skills, but once we play that game the other side has already won. Inquiry for inquiry's sake often has nothing to do with jobs, nor should it. Given that, even degree from a philosophy program that serves the ideal you seem to prefer, for example, will still be a junk degree to these folks. If we continue down this road the university will continue to crystallize into a bastion for the propagation of debt slavery, and in my more cynical moods it's not entirely obvious that that's an accident. Vocational training is great for recreating the world as it exists already, but does very little to stir the imagination such that we might strive for something better.

10:10 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

No, Anon, I'm 100% with you on the value of education in itself--I actually deleted a bunch of stuff from the post that I've said a million times before because I thought it was a bit nutty to say it yet again. But I agree: I think we need to resist both the right-wing attempt to turn universities into glorified to-tech schools and the left-wing attempt to make them loci for social revolution.

10:28 AM  

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