How Higher Education in the US Was Destroyed in 5 Basic Steps | Alternet

How Higher Education in the US Was Destroyed in 5 Basic Steps | Alternet.

Predicable.  The author Debra Leigh Scott doesn’t mention Thorstein Veblen’s essay The Higher Learning in America published some 100 years ago but he noted then how business was taking over higher education.

Pure science is under attack everywhere, a consequence of the decline of the importance of the national state and the rise of global corporate power.  It’s anarchy out there.  Corporations don’t want to spend a dime more than they need to in order to make megaprofits so they want ‘science’ that is strictly geared to their needs.  Countries (meaning you and I) are left with supporting pure science with the uncertain knowledge that it will benefit them in any practical way.  States still do support pure science in many forms, but the pressure is on the increased importance of ‘applied’ science…which is really engineering.

4 thoughts on “How Higher Education in the US Was Destroyed in 5 Basic Steps | Alternet

  1. It’s an interesting thesis, but:

    1. It’s too easy to blame corporations for everything wrong with North American civilization today. Are heads of companies really more greedy than any other powerful people? Do corporations even have an interest in the deterioration of educational standards? Reducing the masses to slavery doesn’t necessarily make you richer.

    2. While the proportion of adjuncts in the university teaching corps has increased, could this be due to the great increase in the number of college students? In the early 1960s only 15 or 20% of high schoolers ever went on to a college of any kind; today about two-thirds do.

    3. Consider Scott’s sentence: “The real winners…are those people who in the 1960s saw…college campuses…as a threat to their…power.” But this is a projection of today’s perceptions backward in time. The persons whom Scott refers to are nearly all dead now. She can only be referring to their kids and grandkids in power now, assuming that these retain their parents’ outlooks verbatim.

    I’m not defending corporate behavior here, but feel the political opposition has yet to answer these questions.


    1. I’m actually much less inclined to blame any individuals in this issue than Scott is. Greed is a Christian thing and not a particularly useful explanation for why people accumulate large amounts of capital. Corporations are driven by the dynamics of the process of capital accumulation. If they wish to survive (and that’s a pretty basic instinct) they need to produce dividends for their investors. If they don’t do that, they’re done. I think that Scott personalizes the issue too readily. Besides, from the conversations I’ve had with people working in large corporations, they live in their own kind of hell at the moment. The personal stress is enormous. What’s to be done? Not much, I surmise. There’s a certain inevitability about history. We all come and go. Empires do, countries do, economic systems do. There’s no guarantee the process will always be peaceful or violent for that matter. As an observer it’s very interesting. As a participant, I can only wish that my pension cheques keep coming!
      Back in the late 70s I and a colleague produced a report on sessional faculty for the then nascent faculty association at Douglas College. The tendency even then was to hire more and more sessionals not so much because it was cheaper for the College, but because it allowed for more programming flexibility. I was sessional for 7 years before landing my full-time teaching position. The flexibility that the administration gained was at the expense of people like me. We fought back, often against our own unionized full time colleagues, and gained membership in the union and some benefits. I still lost my contract at Douglas because there was no job security at all. Who knows where this is going. I suspect that over the next few decades there will be less and less of a need for large numbers of highly educated folk but we don’t want a lot of unemployed rowdies running around either with too much time on their hands so some other system will evolve to balance things out, albeit not necessarily in a peaceful way. Education and job training are two separate things. I think education is taking a back seat to training at the moment, but who knows for how long. There are so many variables in all of this, it’s staggering.
      Societies like ours need science to function. Who pays for it, and by what mechanism, is what’s up for ‘adjustment’ these days. The global capitalist market
      Of course, there’s always the tension between private and public interests. They don’t always jive. But that’s a topic for another day. Got to walk the dog.
      By the way, Thorstein Veblen is still one of my favourite philosophers and economists. His books are classics in my mind and still highly relevant. Most of them are available for free download.


      1. Thanks for your answer. The trend toward central governments’ losing control over international exchange in general, and the possibility this will cause them to lose their voice in how higher education & research is done and to what purposes, is disturbing. I like that you point it out as a macroscopic phenomenon beyond individual will, however.


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