Friday, September 27, 2013

The End of Universities

It appears that if the White House has its way Universities will simply no longer exist, having been completely replaced by trade schools. This has been a transition underway for quite some time and it looks like the end may soon be official. Slowly over time Universities have been quietly taken over by trade schools: schools of medicine, nursing, business, social work, law, journalism, schools that have gradually taken more and more funds away from the arts and humanities. The White House now wants Universities ranked according to how much their graduates earn. If this happens they will no longer be Universities.

There will eventually no longer be classes in art, English or other literature, history, sociology, anthropology, or even philosophy, as such subjects do not produce graduates who will earn much money. There will be no learning for its own sake, no emphasis on well-rounded citizens interested in anything other than earning money. Nor will there probably any research unless it is aimed at some obvious commercial end. This is already happening as more and more research in Universities is being funded by corporations who have their own interests at heart, not those of those who want to do basic research on other less commercial topics.

The search for knowledge for its own sake will be forgotten in the mad quest for profits. I am certain Universities did not begin with commercial applications as the major goal. They arose mainly during the great age of discovery when so little was known about most anything, including languages, aesthetics, ethics, morality, mathematics, sciences, etc., etc. People attended Universities to learn and to share their learning with others. While it is true that many things emerged from Universities that subsequently became commercially useful, that was not the sine qua non. Of course medicine and law were of interest, but they were not of interest simply for making money, students wanted to know about anatomy, physiology, embryology, and such because they wanted to learn about such things, not because they wanted to produce physicians and surgeons who could make money. And so it was with law, barely separate from philosophy and a legitimate study to learn about it and improve it, not to make lawyers able to earn more.

Liberal Arts institutions and degrees have slowly eroded, and the idea of a Liberal Arts education these days, if its exists at all, exists mostly for the children of the wealthy who can afford to send their children to small Liberal Arts colleges and do not have to worry about their futures.

This is all part of the anti-intellectual bias that has crept into the American ethos. Education has no value unless it can make one more money, and, indeed, intellectuals have no value, being regarded as “pointy-headed,” “nutty,” and eccentric. Teachers, too, are disvalued, “them as can’t do, teach,” and so on. And, of course, teachers are well toward the bottom of the pay scale. The number of people who read has apparently declined rather dramatically and I personally know people who proudly claim to have never read an entire book. “Book-larnin” is nowhere as near as valuable as “the school of hard knocks.” Television, too, has had a terrible influence on reading, and what began as a wonderful new tool for humans has degenerated into a true wasteland of drivel and nonsense. “Infotainment” is now the name of the game with our major television networks, actual news is pretty much a thing of the past (thank god for Aljazeera). Our schools are disgraceful dungeons of dreary disciplines, overcrowded, deteriorated, starved for funds, and pretty much useless from the standpoint of education. They do manage to keep some of the kids off the streets but the drop-out rate is exceedingly high. All this has not come about by accident or even neglect, the corporations and powers-that –be want us ignorant and fearful as we are easier to manage and control that way.

To value Universities on the basis of how much their graduates earn is absurd. You might as well throw away thousands of years of human knowledge unless it involves technology and profit. This is disgraceful and the fact that anyone in the White House even thought of it is even more disgraceful. We might as well change the inscription on our bills to “Ignorance is Bliss.”

 “War is peace. 
Freedom is slavery. 
Ignorance is strength.” 

No comments: