This Week in Decadence

I’ve been thinking about the meaning of decadence (after reading about Harold Bloom) a lot this week, and I know my own internal filters are probably to blame, but another piece, “Questions Abound as the College-Rankings Race Goes Global,” has gotten me thinking about a kind of institutionalized cynicism that seems to be typical of contemporary academia…. On the one hand, you have the atomized, self-serving careerism of so many “star” professors like Bloom, and on the other you have the institutional hucksterism represented as much by the profound corruptions of college athletics as by, in this case, so-called college rankings.

Hazelkorn juxtaposes the intellectual poverty of these rankings (“Rankings are essentially one-dimensional…) with their pervasive influence: “… college presidents believe rankings play a significant role in establishing and securing institutional position and reputation… colleges use rankings to help identify potential partners, assess membership of international networks and organizations, and for measuring themselves.” If we put this into historical context– increasing tuition, labor exploitation, and narcissistic professorial stars– we can begin to see why so many suspect some sort of precipitous decline in U.S. higher education.

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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