Cynicism and Realism

I can’t be surprised at what seems to be a note of bitter cynicism in “Graduate School in the Humanities: Just Don’t Go,” a recent piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Thomas H. Benton. I don’t think that the general public is quite aware of the destruction done by the last generation or two of university administrations, especially in the liberal arts. It’s the same sort of violence against the public good that’s been done by corporate leaders in the last two decades, but it’s even more hidden in plain sight, if such a thing is possible.

It’s such a hassle to use your health insurance that half of the time you don’t. If you’re sick in any serious fashion, and you don’t have health insurance, you either can’t get it or it’s too expensive. All of your bills have to be treated like competitive games designed to cheat you whenever possible, especially the bank and your credit cards. If you are not careful, a small mistake can cost you thousands. Houses are investments. We all have our own lists, of course, and maybe few would include graduate school in the liberal arts, but it’s become another market scam.

The only trouble I have with this sort of thing is the implicit notion (in Benton’s piece as much as in the comments) that there is no solution, or, at least, the suggestion that the only solutions are either traditional bourgeois consumer individualism (“vote with your feet” and “make a better choice”) or legislative reform. There are a lot of good reforms being proposed, especially around student loans, but none of them get at the heart of the problem. If everyone walks away, there just won’t be any liberal arts anymore. What we need is democratization of the university itself.

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 I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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