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Old 09-08-2015, 08:56 PM
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erimir erimir is offline
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Default Neoliberal arts colleges

[Essay] | The Neoliberal Arts, by William Deresiewicz | Harper's Magazine

via When education becomes a business - Lawyers, Guns & Money

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A couple of years ago, I sat down with the newly appointed president of a top-ten liberal-arts college. He had come from a professional school (law, in his case), as so many college deans and presidents now seem to.

I started by telling him that I had just visited an upper-level class, and that no one there had been able to give me a decent definition of “leadership,” even though the college trumpeted the term at every opportunity. He declined to offer one himself. Instead, he said, a bit belligerently, “I’ve been here five months, and no one has been able to give me a satisfactory definition of ‘the liberal arts.’ ”

I offered the one I supplied above: those fields in which knowledge is pursued for its own sake. When you study the liberal arts, I added, what you’re mainly learning to do is make arguments.

“Scientists don’t make arguments,” he said (a statement that would’ve come as a surprise to the scientists on the faculty). “And what about painters? They don’t make arguments.”

I tried to explain the difference between the fine and the liberal arts (the latter are “arts” only by an accident of derivation) with little success. “So what do you think the college should be about?” I finally asked him.

“Leadership,” he said.
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Old 09-08-2015, 09:17 PM
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Default Re: Neoliberal arts colleges

This pisses me off. Everything about it. University is so important, and so expensive, that schlubbs like me are already thinking about scholarships, financial aid, loans and fucking GI bills when our kids are in diapers, yet those same universities don't even know what they are all about?
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Old 09-08-2015, 10:00 PM
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Default Re: Neoliberal arts colleges

They do know what they're about but they know they can't say it outright. They have to hide behind some grand obfuscation about education and leadership and the future generations. As we've learned from some of our higher educators here it's really just about money. And if it's not about money then it's about power.
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Old 09-08-2015, 10:11 PM
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Default Re: Neoliberal arts colleges

And I want to kill myself and my child to figure out how to pay for that? Jeezus I hate the world sometimes
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Old 09-08-2015, 11:28 PM
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Default Re: Neoliberal arts colleges

There has been a slow creep toward anti-intellectualism that's gotten so crazy lately that it's almost a given that even educated people who pin their self-image on how they value knowledge look down on education for its own sake. The idea of education being anything but a means to some concrete vocational end seems totally foreign. (I mean, think how crazy it is that ENGINEERS are looking down their noses at academics. I mean, not to be racist here, but engineers are often the most specialized of insects. They're simple functionaries who know how to do a super-narrow subset of things, but a huge number of them are inarticulate to the point of being almost unintelligible, and holy cats, have you ever seen any sort of user interface designed by an engineer-engineer? There is a reason that even tiny companies need to hire separate industrial and user interface designers. Because your average engineer cannot design a functional toggle switch out of a pre-made toggle switch from Home Depot. Engineers are often so intellectually inflexible that they can do their jobs and maybe wipe their own asses.)

I mean, for one thing, it's just so narrow, this notion that education is about making money and nothing else. In part, yes, but it's also about maturing and intellectual exploration and conscientiousness and developing tools to enhance your understanding and appreciation of everything life has to offer. It's about getting that sense of fulfillment that you can only get from a deep appreciation of some acquired knowledge.

Once you've achieved the financial stability to pay your bills without worrying all the time, money doesn't have the power to improve your quality of life the way a solid liberal arts education does.

But the thing is that our technical capacities are outpacing our moral capacity very rapidly right now. We can do all kinds of things that we should be evaluating from a moral perspective, but too few people even seem to take that into consideration. They do not have the intellectual framework and the insight to think through consequences.

To even do this:


And right now, that is more important than ever.

Quote:
Leadership, service, and creativity do not seek fundamental change (remember, fundamental change is out in neoliberalism); they seek technological or technocratic change within a static social framework, within a market framework. Which is really too bad, because the biggest challenges we face — climate change, resource depletion, the disappearance of work in the face of automation — will require nothing less than fundamental change, a new organization of society. If there was ever a time that we needed young people to imag ine a different world, that time is now.
And that is the reason I'm still holding out some hope that the tides will turn. Public policy and general sentiment isn't going to turn around based on the fact that education is good for individuals. It's still going to hinge on its effect on the workforce, probably. But the job market is changing rapidly and pretty unpredictably. You can't teach concrete vocational skills that are still going to be relevant when students graduate, even, much less through a lifetime of employment. The best thing you can teach them is those broad liberal arts type skills that give them the flexibility and the critical thinking skills to generalize and to adapt to the market's needs, whatever the hell they end up being.

Man, that is a really good article.

And sorry(ish) for all the engineer burns in case anyone here is one. The ones I'm talking about don't know how to read paragraphs, so you're one of the good ones.
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Old 09-09-2015, 05:54 PM
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Default Re: Neoliberal arts colleges

Quote:
Originally Posted by lisarea View Post
Man, that is a really good article.
Yeah, but it angried up the blood somethin' fierce.

Quote:
“So you decided to go for the big bucks,” “What are you going to do with that?”: the thing I find so striking about those kinds of comments is not that people make them but that they seem to feel compelled to make them. It’s as if we’ve all decided, by unspoken consent, to police our children’s aspirations. The attitude hangs in the air, exerting its pressure on students and grown-ups alike. When an adult asks a college student what they’re going to do with that, the question that we ought to ask is what’s at stake for the adult.
When I get access to a time machine, I'm sending this quote back to my younger self. Along with permission to punch some of those assholes in the face.
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