Market Dreams

The market, to paraphrase James Joyce, is a nightmare from which we have yet to awaken. In California– harbinger of things to come, as they say– yet another legislator is arguing that the market is the solution to what ails the Higher Education system.

SB520, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Steinberg, proposes to “solve” the problem of over-enrolled gateway courses at California’s public universities and community colleges by requiring them to grant “full academic credit” for “comparable” courses completed on new for-profit online platforms (such as Coursera and Udacity) and existing for-profit schools (such as Kaplan and Straighterline).

Online ED is not a Magic Cure for What Ails California’s Colleges” Robert Meister

Amazingly, the law sets no limits on price and apparently establishes no accreditation system for these courses. This is the same two-pronged approach that has worked so well in the public schools: first, deprive the public schools of money and use the resulting problems as evidence that the public schools are not working; two, create a wide open unregulated market that can sell for private profit what was once a public right.

Butts and Jobs

On a national radio program Tuesday morning, [North Carolina Governor, Patrick] McCrory, who goes by Pat, said he would push legislation to base funding for the state’s public colleges and universities on post-graduate employment rather than enrollment.

“I’m looking at legislation right now – in fact, I just instructed my staff yesterday to go ahead and develop legislation – which would change the basic formula in how education money is given out to our universities and our community colleges,” McCrory told radio host Bill Bennett, who was education secretary under President Reagan. “It’s not based on butts in seats but on how many of those butts can get jobs.”

The Republican governor also called into question the value of publicly supporting liberal arts majors after the host made a joke about gender studies courses at UNC-Chapel Hill. “If you want to take gender studies that’s fine, go to a private school and take it,” McCrory told the radio host. “But I don’t want to subsidize that if that’s not going to get someone a job.”

Another Liberal Arts Critic,” Kevin Kiley

The right-wing political agenda for U.S. higher education makes a certain amount of sense. It’s rooted in facilitating profits– usually for the largest corporations– and in a kind of irrational market religion that is almost laughably self-serving. That is, it serves the selves that have the money, and dam the rest of us if we cannot keep up. It’s a game with rigged rules.

In other ways, the right-wing’s agenda is a little mysterious, if not cryptic. Even if we accept the (overly simple) notion that the right always champions individualism (and the left collectivism), it seems strange that the right endorses standardized testing. What could be less individualized? Of course, the mystery is largely solved when you consider that standardized tests can be so easily mass-marketed and sold at great profit rates.

Individual instruction, of course, is a different matter, rooted less in modern production and more in older craft models. (Don’t even think about the unions that arose out of the crafts.) Even more mysterious, in some ways, is the right’s homophobia and sexism. It’s easy to understand McCrory’s dislike if not hatred of universities: he thinks academia is a communist stronghold, and more importantly, far too interdependent of the discipline of the market.

There are profits, in other words, trapped in those public schools. Why does he see gender studies as the epitome of useless humanities research areas? Nothing could be sillier, in his view, than trying to understand gender; except, maybe, trying to teach students your understanding of gender (read: women and queers). Somehow, underneath the macho market talk of “buts that can find jobs” is a very basic kind of sexual insecurity and anxiety.

Let us be dissatisfied

So, I conclude by saying again today that we have a task and let us go out with a “divine dissatisfaction.” Let us be dissatisfied until America will no longer have a high blood pressure of creeds and an anemia of deeds. Let us be dissatisfied until the tragic walls that separate the outer city of wealth and comfort and the inner city of poverty and despair shall be crushed by the battering rams of the forces of justice. [,et us be dissatisfied until those that live on the outskirts of hope are brought into the metropolis of daily security. Let us be dissatisfied until slums are cast into the junk heaps of history, and every family is living in a decent sanitary home… Let us be dissatisfied. Let us be dissatisfied until every state capitol houses a governor who will do justly, who will love mercy and who will walk humbly with his God. Let us be dissatisfied until from every city hall, justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. Let us be dissatisfied until that day when the lion and the lamb shall lie down together. and every man will sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid. Let us be dissatisfied.

Where do we go from here?” Dr. Martin Luther King, Speech, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, 16 August 1967

ACTA Doesn’t Get the Joke

With the retraction of the invitation that the College Republicans offered to Ann Coulter, Fordham University savaged a core principle of American higher education the free exchange of ideas.

Fordham’s president, Joseph McShane almost did the right thing as campus pressure to withdraw the invitation to Coulter mounted. He wrote to the College Republicans that his intervention to forbid the lecture “would be to do greater violence to the academy, and to the Jesuit tradition of fearless and robust engagement.”

That was in the fifth and penultimate paragraph of his official statement. In the second paragraph of his message, however, he slapped the College Republicans, and slapped them hard: “To say that I am disappointed with the judgment and maturity of the College Republicans, however, would be a tremendous understatement.” What was President McShane’s real message? Encouraging vigorous dialogue or submissive conformity?

Fordham Fails the Coulter Test” American Council of Trustees and Alummi’s Must Reads

The College Republicans have unwittingly provided Fordham with a test of its character: do we abandon our ideals in the face of repugnant speech and seek to stifle Ms. Coulter’s (and the student organizers’) opinions, or do we use her appearance as an opportunity to prove that our ideas are better and our faith in the academy—and one another—stronger? We have chosen the latter course, confident in our community, and in the power of decency and reason to overcome hatred and prejudice.

Joseph M. McShane, S.J., President, Fordham

You just have to wonder if these guy are really paying attention. After all, you could spend ten minutes or so on Anne Coulter’s website and figure out that she has no more intellectual or academic legitimacy than your average rock. She’s a right-wing entertainer at best, a charlatan who makes her living by saying things that she calculates will either cause outrage or will feed into the deeply divisive fears of the American public. She isn’t that good at it and remains a relatively obscure figure outside her rightist-circles.

If she were honest about what she does she might gain legitimacy– there are lots of comedians who could be described in a similar way– but Coulter’s act, like Fox News, is profoundly deceptive. She pretends to offer political insight not comedy; there’s little or no irony in what she does. I don’t think she belongs on campus any more than Father Coughlin did, in the 1930’s, when Fascism was the right’s favored rhetoric. The university ought to stick to its guns; the young Republicans, with a little effort, can find a legitimate conservative.