“There’s a war going on outside, no man is safe from…” Prodigy of Mobb Deep
There is so much being done at various fronts in terms of Higher Ed and I think this quote summarizes why it’s such an intense playing field for multiple entities. It’s also why movements to “transform the academy” have been met with so much backlash. Folks in the Humanities and any minority studies scholars can tell you how hard they fight on their campuses. We have to really think about how we move and what we do going forward. There is this push to frame certain academic and intellectual offerings and flights of fancy. Mainly because they enhance critical inquiry, critical analysis, and critical thinking overall. They foster a greater sense of understanding, nurture social and political awareness, and reinforce and affirm a sense of self.
Take a look at this article in The New Yorker on politics and the UNC system in North Carolin by Jedediah Purdy, “Ayn Rand comes to UNC”.
See, there is this rhetoric about focusing on skills and subjects that employers need. It falls in line with thoughts around having employable graduates. It increases attention to pre-professional majors. What it doesn’t do is fall in line with what is being discussed (see Daniel Pink and others) in the professional world about marketability. Marketability isn’t about what job related skills you learned or what subjects related to the work environment and industry you took. It’s about your ability to think in ways that grows profit margins and market share. It’s about your ability to navigate relationships. It’s about your ability to manage stress and to make necessary decisions. Much of that involves crafting a well rounded student in an interdisciplinary fashion. That involves the humanities beyond narrowing modes of traditional discourse. That is, if you want to graduate a student that isn’t intended to just be a cog in wheel that tends to underpay and overwork and doesn’t like organized labor.
We are not talking eternal truths and morality of capitalism here.
What’s funny is that the very people who are making these decisions will sit with a glass of wine and talk high culture. They will go on about the works of literature that have impacted them. They will credit music, the places they’ve visited, etc. They will speak the value of philosophy. They also endow programs at private institutions that offer classes that they don’t feel are right for public state supported campuses.
Do not believe that the trying to level the playing field of public and private is well intended. It is a filtration process that puts prospective into manageable pools of thought. Public is the control, private is the experimental. This is a white lab coat power struggle mixed with political gerrymandering and right wing ego.
Think about the C Bradley Thompson quote in the article, “If they really want to change the culture long-term in this country, it’s not going to happen through politics. If you think the political system is corrupt, what you’re really saying is the American people are corrupt. And if you’re saying the American people are corrupt, then what you have to do of course is change American culture. And the way you change culture is through ideas…. If we’re giving tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars to political campaigns and we’re giving one-tenth of one per cent to trying to change the intellectual culture of this nation, you are by definition going to lose.”
What is happening in North Carolina is a sign of what is at stake during this political climate. It includes a fight to shape the nature of intellectualism and learning today. Those of us dedicated to widening the scope of thought have to prepare for one wild ride. They ain’t too privy to our kind unless we are teaching where they want us to teach to who they want us to teach.
Now about that increased funding to community colleges….