It’s always interesting when educators or administrators get up on their high horse and begin complaining that academia needs to “re-tool for the 21st century” (to cite the cliché). It’s interesting because if you succeed at a university and get tenure it is, in some sense, because you help the institution keep up the status quo. It’s an unavoidable contradiction, to use the Marxist term.
That’s on reason that I find most of the criticism about my industry unpersuasive: the system of exploitation created in the public sector of higher education is far more extensive and long-lived than what the for-profits have created. There’s not a non-profit problem here and a for profit problem there; there’s a labor and an education problem throughout. The non-profits are tossing rocks in glass houses.
There’s a decadence problem rotting away at the ruling caste everywhere, from boot heel to toe. The Reagan era has produced a remarkable shift in resources, as Juan Cole points out effectively, away from public education and towards prisons. Since the Great Depression, and especially since WWII, the consensus was that education was a palliative that would prevent the sort of unrest that could end capitalism.
It would also support the U.S. nationalist agenda in the Cold War, as well as provide the creative muscle needed to keep the economic machine running smoothly. In the last 30 years, though, this consensus has been replaced by a much nastier vision rooted in what Cole rightfully calls a gulag, The capitalist minority isn’t bound by nation anymore; long live nihilism, human capital is dead.