Keeping it Real

“Language is very important, and we need to be very careful about the language we use,” said Kevin Hovland, a senior director with the Association of American Colleges and Universities. “How do we reframe the conversation about technology not so much as a threat but as an opportunity, at the same time recognizing that there are real threat elements, and that those concerns are legitimate vis-à-vis the changes of higher education and faculty roles in that?”

Reframing the Conversation,” Carl Straumsheim

This is the sort of thing that drives me batty. The Republicans have become a reactionary, hateful party, so they decide that they need to “speak differently.” They don’t need to become less hateful and reactionary, they just need to find a way to talk about hateful, reactionary ideas in a way that appeals to more people. They are not really clueless racists, they just sound like it. See Ran Paul’s recent speech at Howard University.

This plain speaking thing always has limits. It’s fine to talk about unmaking the university and resistance to technology and the like but it is not proper to summarize our recent history as the dismantling of a profession by an administrative culture more interested in mimicking what they feel are ‘best-practices’ in business (never mind that these practices crashed the world economy). That, it seems, cannot be unmade.

Cathy Trower of Harvard, the writer notes, wants “to end the divisiveness between faculty on and off the tenure track.” I suspect that there is so much talk about technological change because it lends itself to a kind of naturalization. Technology changes the way the weather changes; there’s no person or group to blame. Mentioning he real historical agents–administrators and their administrative policies–that’s being divisive.

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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