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Excerpt: "On hiring faculty off the tenure track: That's part of the business model. It's the same as hiring temps in industry or what they call 'associates' at Wal-Mart, employees that aren't owed benefits."

Noam Chomsky. (photo: Graeme Robertson/Guardian UK)
Noam Chomsky. (photo: Graeme Robertson/Guardian UK)


How America's Great University System Is Getting Destroyed

By Noam Chomsky, AlterNet

01 March 14

 

The following is an edited transcript of remarks given by Noam Chomsky via Skype on 4 February 2014 to a gathering of members and allies of the Adjunct Faculty Association of the United Steelworkers in Pittsburgh, PA. The transcript was prepared by Robin J. Sowards and edited by Prof. Chomsky.

n hiring faculty off the tenure track

That's part of the business model. It's the same as hiring temps in industry or what they call "associates" at Wal-Mart, employees that aren't owed benefits. It's a part of a corporate business model designed to reduce labor costs and to increase labor servility. When universities become corporatized, as has been happening quite systematically over the last generation as part of the general neoliberal assault on the population, their business model means that what matters is the bottom line. The effective owners are the trustees (or the legislature, in the case of state universities), and they want to keep costs down and make sure that labor is docile and obedient. The way to do that is, essentially, temps. Just as the hiring of temps has gone way up in the neoliberal period, you're getting the same phenomenon in the universities. The idea is to divide society into two groups. One group is sometimes called the "plutonomy" (a term used by Citibank when they were advising their investors on where to invest their funds), the top sector of wealth, globally but concentrated mostly in places like the United States. The other group, the rest of the population, is a "precariat," living a precarious existence.

This idea is sometimes made quite overt. So when Alan Greenspan was testifying before Congress in 1997 on the marvels of the economy he was running, he said straight out that one of the bases for its economic success was imposing what he called "greater worker insecurity." If workers are more insecure, that's very "healthy" for the society, because if workers are insecure they won't ask for wages, they won't go on strike, they won't call for benefits; they'll serve the masters gladly and passively. And that's optimal for corporations' economic health. At the time, everyone regarded Greenspan's comment as very reasonable, judging by the lack of reaction and the great acclaim he enjoyed. Well, transfer that to the universities: how do you ensure "greater worker insecurity"? Crucially, by not guaranteeing employment, by keeping people hanging on a limb than can be sawed off at any time, so that they'd better shut up, take tiny salaries, and do their work; and if they get the gift of being allowed to serve under miserable conditions for another year, they should welcome it and not ask for any more. That's the way you keep societies efficient and healthy from the point of view of the corporations. And as universities move towards a corporate business model, precarity is exactly what is being imposed. And we'll see more and more of it.

That's one aspect, but there are other aspects which are also quite familiar from private industry, namely a large increase in layers of administration and bureaucracy. If you have to control people, you have to have an administrative force that does it. So in US industry even more than elsewhere, there's layer after layer of management-a kind of economic waste, but useful for control and domination. And the same is true in universities. In the past 30 or 40 years, there's been a very sharp increase in the proportion of administrators to faculty and students; faculty and students levels have stayed fairly level relative to one another, but the proportion of administrators have gone way up. There's a very good book on it by a well-known sociologist, Benjamin Ginsberg, called The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters (Oxford University Press, 2011), which describes in detail the business style of massive administration and levels of administration-and of course, very highly-paid administrators. This includes professional administrators like deans, for example, who used to be faculty members who took off for a couple of years to serve in an administrative capacity and then go back to the faculty; now they're mostly professionals, who then have to hire sub-deans, and secretaries, and so on and so forth, a whole proliferation of structure that goes along with administrators. All of that is another aspect of the business model.

But using cheap labor-and vulnerable labor-is a business practice that goes as far back as you can trace private enterprise, and unions emerged in response. In the universities, cheap, vulnerable labor means adjuncts and graduate students. Graduate students are even more vulnerable, for obvious reasons. The idea is to transfer instruction to precarious workers, which improves discipline and control but also enables the transfer of funds to other purposes apart from education. The costs, of course, are borne by the students and by the people who are being drawn into these vulnerable occupations. But it's a standard feature of a business-run society to transfer costs to the people. In fact, economists tacitly cooperate in this. So, for example, suppose you find a mistake in your checking account and you call the bank to try to fix it. Well, you know what happens. You call them up, and you get a recorded message saying "We love you, here's a menu." Maybe the menu has what you're looking for, maybe it doesn't. If you happen to find the right option, you listen to some music, and every once and a while a voice comes in and says "Please stand by, we really appreciate your business," and so on. Finally, after some period of time, you may get a human being, who you can ask a short question to. That's what economists call "efficiency." By economic measures, that system reduces labor costs to the bank; of course it imposes costs on you, and those costs are multiplied by the number of users, which can be enormous-but that's not counted as a cost in economic calculation. And if you look over the way the society works, you find this everywhere. So the university imposes costs on students and on faculty who are not only untenured but are maintained on a path that guarantees that they will have no security. All of this is perfectly natural within corporate business models. It's harmful to education, but education is not their goal.

In fact, if you look back farther, it goes even deeper than that. If you go back to the early 1970s when a lot of this began, there was a lot of concern pretty much across the political spectrum over the activism of the 1960s; it's commonly called "the time of troubles." It was a "time of troubles" because the country was getting civilized, and that's dangerous. People were becoming politically engaged and were trying to gain rights for groups that are called "special interests," like women, working people, farmers, the young, the old, and so on. That led to a serious backlash, which was pretty overt. At the liberal end of the spectrum, there's a book called The Crisis of Democracy: Report on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commission, Michel Crozier, Samuel P. Huntington, Joji Watanuki (New York University Press, 1975), produced by the Trilateral Commission, an organization of liberal internationalists. The Carter administration was drawn almost entirely from their ranks. They were concerned with what they called "the crisis of democracy," namely that there's too much democracy. In the 1960s there were pressures from the population, these "special interests," to try to gain rights within the political arena, and that put too much pressure on the state-you can't do that. There was one special interest that they left out, namely the corporate sector, because its interests are the "national interest"; the corporate sector is supposed to control the state, so we don't talk about them. But the "special interests" were causing problems and they said "we have to have more moderation in democracy," the public has to go back to being passive and apathetic. And they were particularly concerned with schools and universities, which they said were not properly doing their job of "indoctrinating the young." You can see from student activism (the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, the feminist movement, the environmental movements) that the young are just not being indoctrinated properly.

Well how do you indoctrinate the young? There are a number of ways. One way is to burden them with hopelessly heavy tuition debt. Debt is a trap, especially student debt, which is enormous, far larger than credit card debt. It's a trap for the rest of your life because the laws are designed so that you can't get out of it. If a business, say, gets in too much debt it can declare bankruptcy, but individuals can almost never be relieved of student debt through bankruptcy. They can even garnish social security if you default. That's a disciplinary technique. I don't say that it was consciously introduced for the purpose, but it certainly has that effect. And it's hard to argue that there's any economic basis for it. Just take a look around the world: higher education is mostly free. In the countries with the highest education standards, let's say Finland, which is at the top all the time, higher education is free. And in a rich, successful capitalist country like Germany, it's free. In Mexico, a poor country, which has pretty decent education standards, considering the economic difficulties they face, it's free. In fact, look at the United States: if you go back to the 1940s and 50s, higher education was pretty close to free. The GI Bill gave free education to vast numbers of people who would never have been able to go to college. It was very good for them and it was very good for the economy and the society; it was part of the reason for the high economic growth rate. Even in private colleges, education was pretty close to free. Take me: I went to college in 1945 at an Ivy League university, University of Pennsylvania, and tuition was $100. That would be maybe $800 in today's dollars. And it was very easy to get a scholarship, so you could live at home, work, and go to school and it didn't cost you anything. Now it's outrageous. I have grandchildren in college, who have to pay for their tuition and work and it's almost impossible. For the students that is a disciplinary technique.

And another technique of indoctrination is to cut back faculty-student contact: large classes, temporary teachers who are overburdened, who can barely survive on an adjunct salary. And since you don't have any job security you can't build up a career, you can't move on and get more. These are all techniques of discipline, indoctrination, and control. And it's very similar to what you'd expect in a factory, where factory workers have to be disciplined, to be obedient; they're not supposed to play a role in, say, organizing production or determining how the workplace functions-that's the job of management. This is now carried over to the universities. And I think it shouldn't surprise anyone who has any experience in private enterprise, in industry; that's the way they work.

On how higher education ought to be

First of all, we should put aside any idea that there was once a "golden age." Things were different and in some ways better in the past, but far from perfect. The traditional universities were, for example, extremely hierarchical, with very little democratic participation in decision-making. One part of the activism of the 1960s was to try to democratize the universities, to bring in, say, student representatives to faculty committees, to bring in staff to participate. These efforts were carried forward under student initiatives, with some degree of success. Most universities now have some degree of student participation in faculty decisions. And I think those are the kinds of things we should be moving towards: a democratic institution, in which the people involved in the institution, whoever they may be (faculty, students, staff), participate in determining the nature of the institution and how it runs; and the same should go for a factory.

These are not radical ideas, I should say. They come straight out of classical liberalism. So if you read, for example, John Stuart Mill, a major figure in the classical liberal tradition, he took it for granted that workplaces ought to be managed and controlled by the people who work in them-that's freedom and democracy (see, e.g., John Stuart Mill, Principles of Political Economy, book 4, ch. 7). We see the same ideas in the United States. Let's say you go back to the Knights of Labor; one of their stated aims was "To establish co-operative institutions such as will tend to supersede the wage-system, by the introduction of a co-operative industrial system" ("Founding Ceremony" for newly-organized Local Associations). Or take someone like, John Dewey, a mainstream 20th-century social philosopher, who called not only for education directed at creative independence in schools, but also worker control in industry, what he called "industrial democracy." He says that as long as the crucial institutions of the society (like production, commerce, transportation, media) are not under democratic control, then "politics [will be] the shadow cast on society by big business" (John Dewey, "The Need for a New Party"[1931]). This idea is almost elementary, it has deep roots in American history and in classical liberalism, it should be second nature to working people, and it should apply the same way to universities. There are some decisions in a university where you don't want to have [democratic transparency because] you have to preserve student privacy, say, and there are various kinds of sensitive issues, but on much of the normal activity of the university, there is no reason why direct participation can't be not only legitimate but helpful. In my department, for example, for 40 years we've had student representatives helpfully participating in department meetings.

On "shared governance" and worker control

The university is probably the social institution in our society that comes closest to democratic worker control. Within a department, for example, it's pretty normal for at least the tenured faculty to be able to determine a substantial amount of what their work is like: what they're going to teach, when they're going to teach, what the curriculum will be. And most of the decisions about the actual work that the faculty is doing are pretty much under tenured faculty control. Now of course there is a higher level of administrators that you can't overrule or control. The faculty can recommend somebody for tenure, let's say, and be turned down by the deans, or the president, or even the trustees or legislators. It doesn't happen all that often, but it can happen and it does. And that's always a part of the background structure, which, although it always existed, was much less of a problem in the days when the administration was drawn from the faculty and in principle recallable. Under representative systems, you have to have someone doing administrative work but they should be recallable at some point under the authority of the people they administer. That's less and less true. There are more and more professional administrators, layer after layer of them, with more and more positions being taken remote from the faculty controls. I mentioned before The Fall of the Faculty by Benjamin Ginsberg, which goes into a lot of detail as to how this works in the several universities he looks at closely: Johns Hopkins, Cornell, and a couple of others.

Meanwhile, the faculty are increasingly reduced to a category of temporary workers who are assured a precarious existence with no path to the tenure track. I have personal acquaintances who are effectively permanent lecturers; they're not given real faculty status; they have to apply every year so that they can get appointed again. These things shouldn't be allowed to happen. And in the case of adjuncts, it's been institutionalized: they're not permitted to be a part of the decision-making apparatus, and they're excluded from job security, which merely amplifies the problem. I think staff ought to also be integrated into decision-making, since they're also a part of the university. So there's plenty to do, but I think we can easily understand why these tendencies are developing. They are all part of imposing a business model on just about every aspect of life. That's the neoliberal ideology that most of the world has been living under for 40 years. It's very harmful to people, and there has been resistance to it. And it's worth noticing that two parts of the world, at least, have pretty much escaped from it, namely East Asia, where they never really accepted it, and South America in the past 15 years.

On the alleged need for "flexibility"

"Flexibility" is a term that's very familiar to workers in industry. Part of what's called "labor reform" is to make labor more "flexible," make it easier to hire and fire people. That's, again, a way to ensure maximization of profit and control. "Flexibility" is supposed to be a good thing, like "greater worker insecurity." Putting aside industry where the same is true, in universities there's no justification. So take a case where there's under-enrollment somewhere. That's not a big problem. One of my daughters teaches at a university; she just called me the other night and told me that her teaching load is being shifted because one of the courses that was being offered was under-enrolled. Okay, the world didn't to an end, they just shifted around the teaching arrangements-you teach a different course, or an extra section, or something like that. People don't have to be thrown out or be insecure because of the variation in the number of students enrolling in courses. There are all sorts of ways of adjusting for that variation. The idea that labor should meet the conditions of "flexibility" is just another standard technique of control and domination. Why not say that administrators should be thrown out if there's nothing for them to do that semester, or trustees-what do they have to be there for? The situation is the same with top management in industry: if labor has to be flexible, how about management? Most of them are pretty useless or even harmful anyway, so let's get rid of them. And you can go on like this. Just to take the news from the last couple of days, take, say, Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JP Morgan Chase bank: he just got a pretty substantial raise, almost double his salary, out of gratitude because he had saved the bank from criminal charges that would have sent the management to jail; he got away with only $20 billion in fines for criminal activities. Well I can imagine that getting rid of somebody like that might be helpful to the economy. But that's not what people are talking about when they talk about "labor reform." It's the working people who have to suffer, and they have to suffer by insecurity, by not knowing where tomorrow's piece of bread is going to come from, and therefore be disciplined and obedient and not raise questions or ask for their rights. That's the way that tyrannical systems operate. And the business world is a tyrannical system. When it's imposed on the universities, you find it reflects the same ideas. This shouldn't be any secret.

On the purpose of education

These are debates that go back to the Enlightenment, when issues of higher education and mass education were really being raised, not just education for the clergy and aristocracy. And there were basically two models discussed in the 18th and 19th centuries. They were discussed with pretty evocative imagery. One image of education was that it should be like a vessel that is filled with, say, water. That's what we call these days "teaching to test": you pour water into the vessel and then the vessel returns the water. But it's a pretty leaky vessel, as all of us who went through school experienced, since you could memorize something for an exam that you had no interest in to pass an exam and a week later you forgot what the course was about. The vessel model these days is called "no child left behind," "teaching to test," "race to top," whatever the name may be, and similar things in universities. Enlightenment thinkers opposed that model.

The other model was described as laying out a string along which the student progresses in his or her own way under his or her own initiative, maybe moving the string, maybe deciding to go somewhere else, maybe raising questions. Laying out the string means imposing some degree of structure. So an educational program, whatever it may be, a course on physics or something, isn't going to be just anything goes; it has a certain structure. But the goal of it is for the student to acquire the capacity to inquire, to create, to innovate, to challenge-that's education. One world-famous physicist, in his freshman courses if he was asked "what are we going to cover this semester?", his answer was "it doesn't matter what we cover, it matters what you discover." You have gain the capacity and the self-confidence for that matter to challenge and create and innovate, and that way you learn; that way you've internalized the material and you can go on. It's not a matter of accumulating some fixed array of facts which then you can write down on a test and forget about tomorrow.

These are two quite distinct models of education. The Enlightenment ideal was the second one, and I think that's the one that we ought to be striving towards. That's what real education is, from kindergarten to graduate school. In fact there are programs of that kind for kindergarten, pretty good ones.

On the love of teaching

We certainly want people, both faculty and students, to be engaged in activity that's satisfying, enjoyable, challenging, exciting-and I don't really think that's hard. Even young children are creative, inquisitive, they want to know things, they want to understand things, and unless that's beaten out of your head it stays with you the rest of your life. If you have opportunities to pursue those commitments and concerns, it's one of the most satisfying things in life. That's true if you're a research physicist, it's true if you're a carpenter; you're trying to create something of value and deal with a difficult problem and solve it. I think that's what makes work the kind of thing you want to do; you do it even if you don't have to do it. In a reasonably functioning university, you find people working all the time because they love it; that's what they want to do; they're given the opportunity, they have the resources, they're encouraged to be free and independent and creative-what's better? That's what they love to do. And that, again, can be done at any level.

It's worth thinking about some of the imaginative and creative educational programs that are being developed at different levels. So, for example, somebody just described to me the other day a program they're using in high schools, a science program where the students are asked an interesting question: "How can a mosquito fly in the rain?" That's a hard question when you think about it. If something hit a human being with the force of a raindrop hitting a mosquito it would absolutely flatten them immediately. So how come the mosquito isn't crushed instantly? And how can the mosquito keep flying? If you pursue that question-and it's a pretty hard question-you get into questions of mathematics, physics, and biology, questions that are challenging enough that you want to find an answer to them.

That's what education should be like at every level, all the way down to kindergarten, literally. There are kindergarten programs in which, say, each child is given a collection of little items: pebbles, shells, seeds, and things like that. Then the class is given the task of finding out which ones are the seeds. It begins with what they call a "scientific conference": the kids talk to each other and they try to figure out which ones are seeds. And of course there's some teacher guidance, but the idea is to have the children think it through. After a while, they try various experiments and they figure out which ones are the seeds. At that point, each child is given a magnifying glass and, with the teacher's help, cracks a seed and looks inside and finds the embryo that makes the seed grow. These children learn something-really, not only something about seeds and what makes things grow; but also about how to discover. They're learning the joy of discovery and creation, and that's what carries you on independently, outside the classroom, outside the course.

The same goes for all education up through graduate school. In a reasonable graduate seminar, you don't expect students to copy it down and repeat whatever you say; you expect them to tell you when you're wrong or to come up with new ideas, to challenge, to pursue some direction that hadn't been thought of before. That's what real education is at every level, and that's what ought to be encouraged. That ought to be the purpose of education. It's not to pour information into somebody's head which will then leak out but to enable them to become creative, independent people who can find excitement in discovery and creation and creativity at whatever level or in whatever domain their interests carry them.

On using corporate rhetoric against corporatization

This is kind of like asking how you should justify to the slave owner that people shouldn't be slaves. You're at a level of moral inquiry where it's probably pretty hard to find answers. We are human beings with human rights. It's good for the individual, it's good for the society, it's even good for the economy, in the narrow sense, if people are creative and independent and free. Everyone benefits if people are able to participate, to control their fate, to work with each other-that may not maximize profit and domination, but why should we take those to be values to be concerned about?

Advice for adjunct faculty organizing unions

You know better than I do what has to be done, the kind of problems you face. Just got ahead and do what has to be done. Don't be intimidated, don't be frightened, and recognize that the future can be in our hands if we're willing to grasp it.

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+49 # Walter J Smith 2014-03-01 15:11
We have here a very good beginning of the discussion of how the US university committed suicide through the 70s, 80s, 90s and since.

Page Smith (no relation) wrote a fine book on that when it was first becoming clear: Killing the Spirit.

We mustn't overlook how the corporate foundations and corporate research funds were deployed to consolidate faculty positions into a much smaller "super star faculty" fund so respective campuses could have a super star professor who taught maybe one or two "super star students" annually in each major discipline, while tying up what salary would normally hire three to five regular tenure track faculty.

The corporate influence also entirely reorganized and redirected the scientific research of the universities, so they now deliver us far more weapons of mass disruption, poison for our foods (spin artistry instead of effective speaking, high-fructose corn syrup, GMOs as food, GE animals, and so on).

Meanwhile the social sciences & humanities were reduced to Pomo (post modern) gibberish instead of philosophy, and pop art instead of anthropology or sociology; and like cybernetic analysis of vote patterns/manipu lations instead of political philosophy. In other words, university civic life has been reduced to imperial manipulation on behalf of the uber-wealthy who control election funding.

Much more needs to be addressed on the recent university's thorough-going, self-adeministe red dissolution.
 
 
+13 # WestWinds 2014-03-01 23:02
[quote name="Walter J Smith"]We have here a very good beginning of the discussion of how the US university committed suicide through the 70s, 80s, 90s and since.

--- Actually, it began in the early 1960's and became manifest (in Boston at Harvard) in the mid 1960's. The hue and cry went up bc the saying was, "If you want to succeed in business, go down to Harvard and turn Left." But it became "turn Right" in the mid 1960's and the literati/illumi nati/intelligen tsia among college and university communities were beside themselves bc they understood the extrapolated ramifications of what was to come.
 
 
-41 # ecoforestree 2014-03-02 12:26
Yeah, Noam and his elitist friends really milked that ivory tower sacred cow for lots of years! Now, millions of poor suckers are trying to figure out how they will pay off many tens of thousands of dollars of college debt for a worthless piece of paper!
 
 
+22 # JSRaleigh 2014-03-02 16:00
Quoting Walter J Smith:
We have here a very good beginning of the discussion of how the US university committed suicide through the 70s, 80s, 90s and since.


The universities didn't commit suicide, they were murdered.
 
 
+7 # ritawalpoleague 2014-03-03 09:40
FYI, Walter J Smith, (and before I write one more word, I'd like to thank great Prof. Noam for opening the door for this analysis/discus sion), I experienced firsthand the slaughter v. suicide of good univ./college ed.. It was in the early 80's, during the one semester I taught in the legal dept. of a local community college.

It was frightening for me to see the number of students in my class, with very bright minds on the whole, who were missing much needed basics, i.e. abilities to write well, think critically, and apply skills and logic to what they wrote, etc.. Curious and then some, I asked a wonderful man who then headed up the English dept. at a local university, what the devil was going on. His reply...

His hands, he said, were tied, and he could not even use the word 'remediation', which so many university students needed when they entered college, with basic skills poor or missing, and critical thinking ability missing.

Came close to crying for all our kids I did, during the Bushwhacked years, when 'No Child Left Behind' came into being. Almost immediately the logo came to my mind: EVERY CHILD LEFT BEHIND

Neither one bit accidental nor suicidal that all ed., most certainly including upper ed., is being quashed today in the U.S. of (greed and power) A.(ddiction). Gots to keep we the sheeple dumbed down, now don't the villainaire rulers?
 
 
-1 # barbaratodish 2014-03-01 20:27
Though I am more of an "academic squatter", than an academic, per se, (namely I refuse to write and speak in academic jargon, so, as a result, I've been banned from academic associations because, they said, I made too many people uncomfortable! lol), nevertheless, I've taught as an adjunct instructor at various universities, community colleges, etc., and I've encountered tenured faculty who were close to, if not actually, illiterate. I've asked administrators if it is even possible that some professors were illiterate and they answered. "It's possible!" How did these, close to illiterates, even get degrees? Perhaps they were bought at higher ed diploma mills. DUH! Why and how are these functional illiterates and some,(many?) educators who are unfunctional illiterates or unfunctional literates, for that matter, too, given tenure, etc., in primary and secondary schools as well as in dumbed down higher ed and how do they keep tenure? Perhaps because it is a case of "The emperor is wearing no clothes?" Perhaps there is a "conspiracy" or just apathy, denial, or fear of being scrutinized oneself if one becomes a whistleblower, etc., and perhaps that causes those in education to look away while the stupidest are recruited, groomed, vetted, indoctrinated, and while the most sheeple-ish of all individuals are herded into teaching so that students are warehoused into becoming thoughtless, slavish consumers? I'd love to hear Noam Chomsky's defensiveness, comments(excuse s?)on this!
 
 
+19 # WestWinds 2014-03-01 23:20
Part One of Two:
[quote name="barbarato dish"] I've taught as an adjunct instructor at various universities, community colleges, etc., and I've encountered tenured faculty who were close to, if not actually, illiterate. I've asked administrators if it is even possible that some professors were illiterate and they answered. "It's possible!" How did these, close to illiterates, even get degrees? Perhaps they were bought at higher ed diploma mills. DUH!...

--- Here in Floriduh, ALEC has gotten into the university system and this certainly doesn't bode well. I see it as there has been a master plan to destroy every major system out there that We, the People rely on. George W. Bush even said, "It will take time to restore chaos," and I don't believe he was kidding.

Just before my mother received her D.Ed. from Columbia Univ., in NYC, she was pulled aside and made to take a writing exam. When she questioned it, she was told that Columbia was receiving too many complaints from employers that people with graduate degrees could not read or write properly. And the first thing I ran into at an academic convocation at the private college I attended was a speech by the president of the college stating that no matter what discipline you were in, if you could not pass the English classes and guided senior thesis, you would not be allowed to graduate. She was livid stating complaints abound re the falling performance of graduated students at all levels in this country.

Cont'd
 
 
+27 # WestWinds 2014-03-01 23:23
Part Two of Two:

--- I can remember when John Lennon gave his first US interview. I remember thinking that this young man from Liverpool with an art education was better educated than our college graduates.

--- I remember listening to Randi Rhodes talking about having asked major corporations why they didn't come to Florida since the weather is good with lots of people looking for jobs. She was told the reason was bc native Floridians were so poorly educated they made terrible workers.

Personally, I only partly believe this to be the reason. I retired here about a decade ago, and during this time, I have experienced more criminal behavior than all of the other places I have lived in the world; from Helsinki to Honolulu. The trades people here are cradle to grave, generational, line bred criminals functioning under the guise of ethnic/politica l/religious or other ideologues, (which the police fully entertain; and according to my mother who lived in Florida as a child, always have.)

It really all comes back to follow the money. The schools have been savaged just like the judiciary and the medical profession, all in the name of the Golden Calf of profits. We've allowed them to commandeer our souls and we really need to stop this.
 
 
0 # Texas Aggie 2014-03-03 18:22
Can't speak to why all the illiterate academics are that way, but my ex was that way because she was an expert at manipulating people. Her expertise was having paper credentials that had no basis in fact.

She passed college calculus by getting access to the test questions beforehand and memorizing them. She used someone else's data to write her dissertation for a PhD in education and had someone else analyze the data for her. She pretended attendance at conferences were were academic courses to qualify for her teaching certificate. She dislocated both arms patting herself on the back whenever she had a chance to cozy up to someone who could advance her career. And even though her career was education, she avoided actual education whenever possible. "I don't need to take courses. I already have a degree."

I strongly suspect from other people I've met in academia that many of them aren't really as good as their paper trail says they are. This may be one of the reasons.
 
 
+1 # tgemberl 2014-03-05 17:05
barbaratodish,
Couldn't some of this just be explained by people having different gifts? For example, I was never any good at athletics, and over the years I've come to realize that athletic ability is at least in part a mental aptitude. I don't believe you can judge human intelligence entirely by one set of criteria. There may be highly intelligent people who suck at some skill.

Actually, if someone tends to gloat about excelling in some one area, I wonder if that actually implies a level of personal insecurity.
 
 
+1 # barbaratodish 2014-03-06 03:59
Quoting tgemberl:
barbaratodish,
Couldn't some of this just be explained by people having different gifts? For example, I was never any good at athletics, and over the years I've come to realize that athletic ability is at least in part a mental aptitude. I don't believe you can judge human intelligence entirely by one set of criteria. There may be highly intelligent people who suck at some skill.

Actually, if someone tends to gloat about excelling in some one area, I wonder if that actually implies a level of personal insecurity.

Maybe we need to go beyond our own and others JUDGMENTS of our physical "abilities", namely maybe we all need to TRANSCEND the PERFORMANCE aspects of atheltics, and the derived social definition of what athletics means? Maybe we need internal , self approval, self validity instead of, (or in addition to?) external approval, in terms of competition, winning medals, etc. Do you think tgemberl, then we might be able to focus on the consciousness EXPERIENCE, and the primalness of being physically active?
 
 
0 # tgemberl 2014-03-08 18:07
Barbara,
I agree that we shouldn't let failures in athletics keep us from enjoying exercise. That's what's great about yoga, that it's a form of exercise that isn't competitive.

On the other hand, there's no doubt that people do perform at measurably different levels. We'd be fooling ourselves if we claimed that everyone can be a "winner" in athletics. I think the very nature of competitive activity is to strain our abilities to their maximum. Competitive sports demands not just a strong body, which most of us can have, but also great hand-eye coordination and a tremendous ability to make quick judgments. Our society loves to admire people who have those abilities and rewards them lavishly. I don't see that changing any time soon.
 
 
+26 # WestWinds 2014-03-01 22:53
When I look at all of the craziness that is coming out of these people being perpetrated on us, I fairly die with despair. But the good news is that they are going to eventually destroy themselves. Why? Because destroy is all that they know how to do. They are SO out of contact with humanity and reality that in time the backlash will come. I just hope it gets here before I die of old age. I really DETEST these people and their sick crazy minds. Let's have an Enlightenment Renaissance so I can feel human again!
 
 
+11 # barbaratodish 2014-03-02 00:30
It may be unbelievable, but it's true that higher education in the US is so bad that even some law schools now provide REMEDIAL READING AND WRITING! If LAW is really F/LAW right now, what will F/LAW become in the future? We need to start with giving ourselves PRIMAL LAW (and PRIMAL HUMOR TOO) before it is too late! lmao
 
 
+16 # Dion Giles 2014-03-02 02:14
The demise of university education in America, described here by Noam Chomsky, is driven globally by collusion in many countries, including among others Australia which I have had the opportunity to observe closely as it has been unrolled. The key to this anti-intellectu al Revolt Against Reason is the ascendance of the managerialist class (the same class that resisted the Enlightenment and which strangled the Soviet revolution in the pre-1917 planning stages). A ball-to-ball account of the Australian phase from go to woe is available as a free-to-downloa d book, "Australian Universities: A Portrait of Decline" by scientist Dr Donald Meyers, at http://www.australianuniversities.id.au/ .

It should be noted that the attack on education extends through the phases down to and including pre-primary and up to and including political discourse - something to which Professor Chomsky in particular has drawn attention.
 
 
-27 # DeadlyClear 2014-03-02 03:35
I've watched the decline in the quality of education since the 1960s. Discipline was replaced by an acceptable growing drug culture. Not just students but also teachers and professionals.. . Not just in one state - but throughout America.

I see kids that think pot helps them focus throughout their day claiming it to be medicinal and mixing it with "Monster" drinks to stay awake. This self-medicating is where we are losing in academia. Mix it with the "me" generation - with no forethought about experimenting with drugs and what it is doing to future generations and you have the recipe for educational decay.

They aren't taught how to focus without the use or drugs. As I told 3 unemployed college educated young adults recently, "if pot were a remedy - with the volume you all smoke, you'd for sure be cured by now." They just laughed and took their EBT cards (food stamps) to the store to buy more Monsters.

We don't teach these kids how to focus and we no longer discipline them when they failed to show respect. The problems are basic - not esoteric.
 
 
+6 # Susan1989 2014-03-02 08:01
It seems as though most young people consider college to be a place to party. I am an adult/senior citizen attending a small college in NYC. I have noticed while studying in the library that a large number of student require head phones with music while studying...mumb le to themselves while writing a paper...or just cannot seem to remain quiet or concentrate. Teachers end classes early...and if they don't...student s leave early.
 
 
+1 # debbynicely 2014-03-02 14:47
Then why do you patronize that "small college"? Clearly it is not a place of learning.
 
 
+3 # RLF 2014-03-03 07:08
Most kid I see going to college now are panicked about the amount of money they are going to owe and not partying at all. When I was in Boulder, Co. in the late 70s the administration became highly invaded by Nixon administration people and they were trying to push it right by any means necessary.

Through the 80s to 2008 the phrase that always got my attention from the fed was that they kept "Wage inflation" down...meaning no raises...welcom e to government corporate friendliness... from Reps and Dems both.
 
 
+9 # Anarchist 23 2014-03-02 11:16
The biggest drug culture is the legal drug culture...anti- depressants (why would we need them?!) TV...selling us false pictures of society and ourselves for being less pretty, handsome, blonde, tall, etc. Lies are the biggest drug of all...during the late 60's I asked a doctor what he though about Mai Lai..he answered that our troops wouldn't do something like that and went on to talk about how he took his kids to Disney world and how wonderful it was...Pot is nothing to all the lies and idiocies of the society we now live in, the society that perceptive people have always known, felt and hated.
 
 
-4 # DeadlyClear 2014-03-02 13:18
I used pot as an example because it is so pervasive and we are getting into a more permissive culture. It is a recreational drug - for adults and under certain medical instances under a physician's care is a God send.

But like alcohol, it too can be addictive. If you started drinking in the morning and then took a drink every 20 mins. throughout the day you'd be considered an alcoholic. The same should apply to pot and other prescription drugs that are abused.

When we ignore/over-loo k or miss the signs that our youths and young adults are over medicating themselves and couple that with the lack of respect for educators, the government and society in general we are heading for a morally bankrupt future.
 
 
+17 # mozartssister 2014-03-02 13:40
Actually, no. Not at all. As a culture we are becoming more and more authoritarian, as evidenced by enormous prison-industri al complex and the numbers of people we are locking up for non-violent, victimless crimes.

The authoritarians are winning, and ordinary individuals are losing self-efficacy and power in every facet of life while the spoils go to the winning elite. Which perhaps explains, in part, the increasing need to self-medicate you allude to.

It's a symptom, not a cause.
 
 
+2 # Texas Aggie 2014-03-03 18:26
See Mozartssister for an explanation of what you are going on about. She seems to understand the situation very well.
 
 
+16 # reiverpacific 2014-03-02 11:17
Quoting DeadlyClear:
I've watched the decline in the quality of education since the 1960s. Discipline was replaced by an acceptable growing drug culture. Not just students but also teachers and professionals... Not just in one state - but throughout America.

I see kids that think pot helps them focus throughout their day claiming it to be medicinal and mixing it with "Monster" drinks to stay awake. This self-medicating is where we are losing in academia. Mix it with the "me" generation - with no forethought about experimenting with drugs and what it is doing to future generations and you have the recipe for educational decay.

They aren't taught how to focus without the use or drugs. As I told 3 unemployed college educated young adults recently, "if pot were a remedy - with the volume you all smoke, you'd for sure be cured by now." They just laughed and took their EBT cards to the store to buy more Monsters.

We don't teach these kids how to focus and we no longer discipline them when they failed to show respect. The problems are basic - not esoteric.


I think that you confuse "Discipline" with "Conformity"; the 60's and 70's were the breakout era from the conformity bit and I for one am proud to be a child of the push for freedom of speech, thought and action which has been under attack since Mr "Aw-shucks", super-fink (to McCarthy) Reagan -the very author and perpe-traitor of the "Me" mentality, with his counterpart Thatcher across the Pond
 
 
+1 # DeadlyClear 2014-03-02 13:05
When I refer to discipline it is the manner in which educational professionals have been estopped from handing out punishment or any meaningful dialogue without the fear of retribution. The school can set policies, but try to confiscate an electronic device or report that you suspect a student is "high" and likely the parents and their attorney will show up with a complaint.

Breaking out from conformity without respect can create chaos. Our generation was lucky because our families taught respect in the household. The following generations did not have that strict structure...and neither did television programming.
 
 
+7 # Walter J Smith 2014-03-02 19:43
Punishment never accomplishes anything worth accomplishing; it only worsens already challenging moments. No one is more hurt by punishment than the one doing the punishing: they cultivate their arrogance, their self-righteousn ess, their ignorance, their viciousness, their frustration, their incapacity to imagine creative solutions, their unwillingness to learn how to listen with empathy, their inability to even listen to themselves with empathy, their self-hatred, their mean-spirited devotion to evil, etc., instead of discovering what might be helpful.
 
 
+3 # reiverpacific 2014-03-03 17:13
Quoting DeadlyClear:
When I refer to discipline it is the manner in which educational professionals have been estopped from handing out punishment or any meaningful dialogue without the fear of retribution. The school can set policies, but try to confiscate an electronic device or report that you suspect a student is "high" and likely the parents and their attorney will show up with a complaint.

Breaking out from conformity without respect can create chaos. Our generation was lucky because our families taught respect in the household. The following generations did not have that strict structure...and neither did television programming.


"Our" generation -I'm assuming you're a "boomer" like me (a UK one, can't speak for America as I didn't grow up here) was taught respect -and conformity, in our case for the Royal bloody family and the residual "Empah" post WW11, which we saw through as we matured and the social revolution was needed to banish that propaganda forever.
Also, I passed on to my daughter, the "all people and things are due respect as we are all inter-related on our Mother earth ("Metakuye Oyasin" in Lakota)". That's the basis for all things.
I can't use your broad brush to paint an accurate picture of modern youth as there are some pretty good-hearted kids who aren't getting a chance now as public education is under attack everywhere, including the UK.
I personally would like to see apprenticeships re-established and encouraged.
 
 
+5 # JSRaleigh 2014-03-02 16:06
Quoting DeadlyClear:
I've watched the decline in the quality of education since the 1960s. Discipline was replaced by an acceptable growing drug culture.


The decline in education quality since the 1960s is directly attributable to the resistance & backlash against desegregation. The white power establishment (in the north as well as the south) decided that if it was going to have to admit blacks to white schools, they would destroy public education and send their kids to private schools.

Nixon sold the Republican Party to the segregationists & the rest is, as they say, HISTORY.
 
 
+13 # goodsensecynic 2014-03-02 06:30
Welcome to K-mart Kollege!

Here we have exchanged Associate professors for Walmart Associates.

The only faint hope remaining (since even the Democrats endorse the corporate model as applied in the elementary and secondary schools by Arne Duncan and promoted by computer huckster Bill Gares) is for the mass unionization of the professoriat.

Yet, either because they are delusional and think themselves to be "professionals" in the same sense as physicians and lawyers and not employees like carpenters and miners, or because they are witting collaborators with the plutocracy, there is a slate of candidates being vigorously encouraged to take over the AAUP because the national organization of professors is addressing the foundational issues that define the problem of higher education.

The T-partification of scholars and teachers must be stopped.
 
 
+16 # Byronthepoet 2014-03-02 14:57
Professor Chomsky is to be congratulated for his brutally honest, typically frank and robust assessment, and the fact that he has remained indomitable over the past several decades in a system which is often antidemocratic, pretentious and exploitative in the extreme.

For example, as a black citizen of these United States, I was fortunate to have earned an Oxbridge doctorate several decades ago. I had also been to the premier institutions including top Ivy League and other schools, which kindly "gave" me a number of degrees. I was, nevertheless, unable to find a position in academia anywhere in United States, and relegated to teaching as an adjunct on the odd occasion.

Personally, I thought racism was very much alive and well in academia, notwithstanding the view expressed by some academics that white males in academia were on the way to extinction. In my particular case, I felt that the system was simply impossible.

Noam Chomsky's trenchant criticism is, I believe, seriously correct and bodes ill for the future, in a contemporary society where the hallmark has often been a coarsening of the culture, and the relentless, wholesale pursuit of incomparable ignorance.
 
 
+2 # Walter J Smith 2014-03-02 19:51
Thank you for this intelligent, calm, and excellent response to the article and to your experience. I am one of the white males who was also blessed to be able to go to school - the G I Bill did most of that for me. I also worked my way through to grad school, then taught when I could get the work.

Also, in the 80s & 90s, the academic positions were already rapidly evaporating; and the few committees I was invited to sit upon usually began narrowing the "short lists" by having the dean tell us what candidate the institution needed to fill this or that self-imposed quota - since the university & colleges were so profoundly totally male & white, most positions went to white women, with the next most going to exotic celebrities from Europe or Asia - male and female.

And I remember when the one black female was hired, the campus faculty was in an uproar even though she had plenty of credentials, was a celebrity independent of her teaching as well as a teacher, and was already an established writer.

In other words, my experience verifies yours.

Thank you for your eloquence and honesty, and for the courage to speak so clearly and directly.
 
 
+5 # DurangoKid 2014-03-02 17:28
The university system in the US was instituted to serve capital accumulation. In that respect it has served as a buffer between physical reality and the capitalist system. As capitalism falters, it attempts to make over everything it touches according to it's own internal contradictions. Of course, physical reality is what it is. It cannot be "made over" to fit an ideology. The process of externalization will only take you so far. The choice is between universities as institutions of learning, exploration, and innovation versus profit centers that create debt peonage for the graduates and high salaries for an elite few. One might find in the university system a microcosm of the global economy. Capitalism is cannibalizing itself and if no alternative economic system can arise in time, it could likely take the entire global economy down with it. This is roughly analogous to a capitalist selling you the rope with which to hang him.
 
 
+8 # Cassandra2012 2014-03-02 17:47
And most of this began with selling MBAs as 'academic' scholarship, rather than what it really was/is — subsidized managerial vocational courses.
 
 
+7 # Sangze 2014-03-02 18:15
Money talks. The most important measure of a faculty from the viewpoint of the administration and the yokels who act as "trustees," is the size of its head count. These yahoos, who hold the bank. don't care if those heads have brains in them or not. Fill those lecture halls or we'll cut your program. Professor Chomsky is right.
 
 
+2 # fredboy 2014-03-03 13:53
I retired early from a much-heralded university after assholes there turned the place into a full-blown train wreck. The catch point for me was being ordered to scrap a precise, honest, provable-in-cou rt, forthright, highly motivational grading system for a "forced curve" system that pre-graded classes of students before we even met them--all to artificially lift the grades of a few underperforming finance classes. Total bullshit. Yet I was the only faculty member to speak up and question it--and none of the 80+ students who complained to me about it would speak up either.

So I set out with my great evaluations--an d get offered menial part-time teaching posts that paid less per hour than Home Depot.

As I carefully review my own higher ed experiences, I realized I cannot remember one lasting lesson from any class I was forced to take during the first two years of college. It's time to change the entire process.

Time to either restructure higher ed with the purpose of great learning and teaching, or scrap it and start over. Many of the most successful have proven that it's not really needed at all.

By the way, none of the three colleges and universities I attended will ever receive a penny from this alum. Why? Poor teaching was rampant in all three programs. From guess grading to temper tantrums. Colleges should wise up--bad teachers annually crush most efforts to fund raise from alums.
 
 
0 # vpiercy 2014-03-04 23:01
Coming out of a California JC in the 80s, paying only $640 a semester at UC Berkeley, and having valued what I learned at both places before going to IU-Bloomington, I don't recognize all the complaining about terrible professors. Not all profs in my experience were incredible, but I never had a truly terrible professor. As far as I could tell, they all cared a lot about their work and wanted their students to appreciate their fields. Now, if we are talking about students not always being committed to the ideals of learning, and what effects that can have on the morale and justification for what happens on a campus, e.g., the oft-repeated circumstance of faculty being pressured to lower standards, make classes easier and less demanding, etc., then we are more on the right track. Resentment against professors and academics isn't going to fix things. Figuring out ways to help students see the value of education, to do other things with their lives until they are ready to study seriously--that 's more constructive. The Neoliberal corporatization of colleges & universities is a national, global tragedy. The money flowing disproportionat ely to management and away from the actual mission of instruction via a huge and growing reliance on adjunct faculty, paid poverty wages, and denied many of the dignities, like phones and offices, of the worthy work they do, is unethical & immoral. We're already beginning to pay the price of less democracy and more authoritarianis m in our lives.
 
 
+1 # tgemberl 2014-03-05 17:30
I respect Chomsky's views, but I'm more inclined to interpret the problems he talks about in a sort of Darwinian way. As long as people can get away with doing something, they tend to do it more and more. Because America was so rich after World War II, we thought we could do everything, and consequently came to believe almost anyone could go to college. So our higher education system grew to be bigger than was really sustainable. Like Germany, more people need to get vocational education.

The same analysis covers other problem areas. Because we were so rich, and Americans were generally confident about borrowing money, tuition went up and up, especially after states started to cut funding. Administrators found ways to enlarge their ranks and "feather their nests." Our student loan system facilitated the rise of fraudulent diploma mills that exist only to milk it.

I agree with Chomsky's image of people finding their creative contribution to the work world. But I doubt that college is the right place for everyone to do that. We need to restore the dignity of manual work.
 

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