Grover Norquist famously claimed that the object of right-wing politics was to shrink the government “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” It’s the profoundly undemocratic heart of American politics in the last 30 years, because it represents a profound misunderstanding of what government can and should do. It teaches that government never serves a greater public good.
This shrunken and half-dead notion of government also erodes the most basic of educational ideals: a technological society, rooted in scientific knowledge, can only survive, much less thrive, if it is made up of a scientifically and technologically literate citizenship. Otherwise, to paraphrase Clarke, we live in a world filled with devices and processes so poorly understood they may as well be magic.
In “The University Has no Clothes,” this ideal has disappeared completely, at least from the “fashionable venture capitalists.” Vocation is certainly an important part of college, particularly in a culture that seems so determined to make its own people as economically insecure as possible. A college degree, though, is also supposed to be a contribution to society, not simply a benefit for a person or family.