Rare Complaint

Here’s a piece so rare that I almost can’t believe I just read it: an academic- an administrator, no less- demanding that the education mass media and the education community address biases in class both in journalistic and financial priorities. It’s a response to a spate of stories of how elite institutions are handling the budget crisis precipitated by the recension. Drew A. Bennett (chancellor of Missouri State University-West Plains) says things have to change.

First, Bennett says, the media need to “stop drawing attention to the alleged sacrifice of doing without cookies [at Harvard] and ask what’s wrong with a system where some institutions have that much money in the first place.” This is a fact of life in education that’s almost never discussed. Yet, as Bennett notes, while ” a million-dollar gift to an institution like Harvard or Princeton is a drop in the bucket, while the same gift to a two-year, rural college is a tsunami.” As always, the poor and working people take the hits most often.

What’s so interesting is that so few people either feel the outrage that Bennett so nicely dramatizes or so few feel free to openly discuss these class discrepancies in higher education. Yet he’s only scratched the surface of these inequities. Material privileges of this sort are hidden right out in the open and so naturalized that they almost never generate critical examination. It’s as if at some level we believe that the well-off, in education and elsewhere, are well off for good reason. Who are we to question what they have?

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and Smarthinking.com. I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol] writinginthewild.com

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