Through the academic looking-glass…

August 16, 2012

The world does not lack for books describing the leftward tilt of higher education. If one has spent time on a university campus, and if one has conservative tendencies at all, that the place is listing to port will be obvious. For those who mistrust intuition the statistics are unequivocal. The effects of this not only an campus culture but on the quality of a university education have been much discussed (and, by conservatives, lamented).

Imagine my surprise, therefore, to stumble upon an essay (“How the American University was Killed, in Five Easy Steps”) in which responsibility for the decline of higher education is placed squarely on the shoulders of conservatives!

It’s a win-win for those right wingers – they’ve crippled those in the country who would push back against them, and have so carefully and cleverly hijacked the educational institutions that they can now be turned into part of the neoliberal/neocon machinery, further benefitting the right-wing agenda.

It’s a topsy-turvy world!

Granted, the essay doesn’t say much about what goes on in the classroom. Its concerns are mostly about wages for professors and lecturers, tuition costs, and the power of administrators. Overlooking the fact that the author flirts throughout with lunacy (“Unlike those communist countries, which sometimes executed their intellectuals, here we are being killed off by lack of healthcare, by stress-related illness like heart-attacks or strokes.”) I can agree that these structural and economic problems are genuine. I know people wending their ways up the academic ladders who are paid a pittance and have next to no job security (just as I know young academics of conservative bent who keep their mouths shut to avoid having their careers torpedoed). So he has a point. But to characterize the general state of higher education as one in which conservatives are triumphant is passing strange.

The portrait of higher education painted here is an odd one: universities are controlled by conservatives who, in their wisdom, fill the ranks of the professoriate with left-liberals, expose as many students as possible to left-liberal ideas, and generally preside over the erosion of all they hold dear. Maybe conservatives are stupid after all.

(Hat-tip: Modern Medieval)

4 Responses to “Through the academic looking-glass…”

  1. Janet Says:

    This is just weird.


  2. cburrell Says:

    You said it better than I did.

  3. Janet Says:

    Well, through the looking glass pretty much nails it on the head.


  4. Mac Says:

    So wrong in so many ways that attacking it would be fruitless. And anyway you can’t argue with a conspiracy theory. The weird self-flattering dogmas of the academic left…

    But he (she?) is right about the adjunct system. It’s a serious abuse. I’ve done a bit of teaching in that capacity as a source of a little extra money, and was paid probably 10 or 15% of what a full-time faculty member would make, proportionately.

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