Part Two: “Good for Wall Street – Bad for Students” and Teachers

Higher education stands as a monolith in a dynamic, rapidly evolving society in which access to information has been democratized through technological innovation while much of academia clings to traditional conventions of closed sources of information. The way people work and play have changed, but the way students are expected to learn, for the most part, has not.

2011 Annual Academic Report, “Why Higher Education Must Change”

The ACTA ‘s blog presents a concise version of  the corporate sector’s agenda in public higher education.  In fact, they represent corporate power as influential trustees and alumni. They are usually coy about their 1% bona fides, but their last “Must Reads” post points to what it calls the “Phoenix challenge” to higher education embodied in that company’s “2011 Annual Academic Report.”  The report begins with a neat summary of the ideological and historical overlap between neo-liberalism and academia.

Corporate america is hardly the bastion of democracy, either in the workplace or in its political advocacy, or an exemplar of administrative transparency and open information.  The public sector can be at least as good at reducing costs, if not better, through administrative efficiency.  Still, the report illustrates how the academic desire to promote education outside of its traditional social boundaries, faced with an entrenched bureaucratic culture, turned to technology and a market ideology for a rationale.

It’s a conveniently self-justifying rhetoric for greed.  It also suggests that the roots of the for-profit sector lie deep in the failures and frustrations of (public) U.S. academic culture.  If the last three decades has taught us anything, however, it’s that the unregulated market has only reproduced and exacerbated the very problems it was said to solve.  The for-profits are making education more accessible but also duplicating its high expenses,  student debt, opaque administration and antiquated labor practices.

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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