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Chomsky writes: "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."

Professor Noam Chomsky, linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist and activist. (photo: Va Shiva)
Professor Noam Chomsky, linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist and activist. (photo: Va Shiva)

Thinking Like Corporations Is Harming American Universities

By Noam Chomsky, The Noam Chomsky Website

09 October 14


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 Walmart, 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 thirty or forty 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, 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 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 , 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 1950s, 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. 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.”

Or take someone like John Dewey, a mainstream twentieth-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.”

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 forty 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 forty 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 fifteen 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 come 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 eighteenth and nineteenth 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. Advice for adjunct faculty organizing unions

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+42 # Dust 2014-10-09 11:55
Germany now has free university education for all students, because they did not want to make education available solely to the wealthy.

What a f-ed up mess the US has become, in so many ways, but perhaps most of all in the profiteering from the educational system.
+33 # Old4Poor 2014-10-09 13:21
It is in all of our interests, including the big corportions, to think of the far future and the need for an informed and thinking public, all as well educated as possible and with creative minds capable of independent thought.

If immediate profit is the only goal, we will soon fall as a society and be consigned to the dustbin of history.

Education should be either free or cheap.
And current student loans need to be modified if not forgiven outright.

The shift Chomsky describes is moving us more and more into an old Feudal system, and we all know how well that worked for humanity. (Think DARK AGES!)
+22 # Dust 2014-10-09 13:43
Don't you know that history and science are lies? The US has always existed as a bright and shining city on a hill, the Gospels were written in English and then translated into Hebrew and Greek*, Jesus rode dinosaurs, and multinational corporations care deeply about every single human being but are prevented from acting in that capacity by evil, God-hating liberals. (at least, according to Texas... )

*I actually had a student tell me that once.
+14 # Old4Poor 2014-10-09 13:57
HA! I recently had a seemingly intelligent man tell me that the Bible said the world was created 6000 years ago. And,of course,that is no where at all in the Bible.

However, some accepted history is questionable as it is written by the victors or becomes common thought with no basis, such as the belief that the Egyptians enslaved the Jews who then built the pyramids for them. (WRONG on both counts)

Plus, achademics who have built their own reputations over parroting the accepted belief of the moment - a process that has kept alive the idea that the Americas were totally populated via the Bering Straight despite all evidence to the contrary.

The most important gift we can give to students (and ourselves) is to question, learn to research, read, think for themselves and to always be open to different ideas or totally revampng what they used to accept as true.
+15 # Dust 2014-10-09 14:48
True, and what is interesting and distressingly depressing is the response from certain folks that says "Well, science used to say X, and they were wrong. Then they said Y and that was wrong, so why should we believe it when they say Z?

This makes the very strength of science, that it can and does change to fit better data and analyses, appear to be a weakness and a steadfast insistence on religious truth somehow more valid.

It drives me crazy. True, we once thought the earth was flat. But we were wrong. Then we though the earth was perfectly spherical. But we were wrong. Now (from space observations and some good math) we posit the world as an oblate spheroid. BUT - the view that the earth is a sphere is less wrong and more accurate than the view that is is flat. The changes and improvements through science increase the accuracy of successive changes; X, Y, and Z aren't all arbitrarily equally wrong; they are asymptotically improving to an absolute.
+4 # Nominae 2014-10-10 00:59
Quoting Dust:
...."Well, science used to say X, and they were wrong.....

KUDOS on the entire comment, Dust ! As noted, we get the objections that you observe from those who mistake Science *FOR* Religion.

Science, at it's BEST, is simply our best understanding of what we think we perceive *in the moment*.

That which does *not* capriciously change (i.e. the laws of Gravity) becomes known over time as "Established Science". Even then, it is not considered to be "God's Word, written in Stone, never to be changed".

It is one of the most refreshingly honest things about the Scientific Method that it is literally *designed* to insist upon questioning, challenging and changing.

Science is, and ever *has been*, a PROCESS, not an *End In Itself*.

In terms of learning, it is JUST as important to know the way that things *DON'T* work (and WHY) as to discover the opposite.

Science was Wrong ? Damned skippy ! When done honestly, roughly 50% of new inquiry can be *expected* to be wrong. But it will eventually correct *itself* !

Faced with a heavy question, I would much rather say "I don't know, but I will find out ...." than to shrug my shoulders and mumble some inane platitude about how my invisible friend moves in mysterious ways.

Science itself demonstrates systems far beyond the present power and intelligence of humans, but that magnificence is also *far* beyond the comprehension of any known world religion.

Science can catch up.
+1 # Radscal 2014-10-09 14:57
Yep. Very, very little in the Old Testament has any evidence whatsoever.

The exact date of creation isn't in the Bible, but about 6,000 years is clearly implied. The Jewish calendar, which traditionally is believed to start with that creation, just celebrated the New Year of 5775.

That's not so far off from Bishop Ussher's computation which marks the coming New Year as the year 6018. Unless one assumes the Bible skipped a lot of "begatting," something like 6,000 years is the Biblical age of creation. Even if one goes with the "Biblical day of creation could be much longer" apologetic, and we start with "real" days beginning with Adam and Eve's "Fall from Grace," that condenses all of human existence into those few thousand years.

It's become something of a tradition in anthropology to ironically celebrate Oct. 23, the exact date Ussher figured was Day One.
+4 # Old4Poor 2014-10-09 19:01
As an ordained minister I can only dispute that the 6000 years is clearly implied.

For one thing the good Bishop's math assumes that all generations are listed and included, which is not even true of King Lists by historians compiled at the time.

One also has to accept that Adam and Eve were the first people, etc.

Faith is one thing, fact is another.
+3 # Dust 2014-10-09 20:21
I went to seminary in Berkeley. If we'd had the t-shirts of Jesus riding a velociraptor back then, all of us would have been wearing them!!
+1 # Old4Poor 2014-10-10 01:32
OH, I want one!
+1 # Dust 2014-10-10 11:05
I think Cafe Press carries them... :-)
0 # Old4Poor 2014-10-10 17:33
Thank you. ~Julia
+15 # CarolynScarr 2014-10-09 13:50
This article brought to mind the history of the Berkeley Co-op grocery which was destroyed by thinking like a corporation. The myth is that the Co-op came down because it was too political. In fact it was put on the skids when it hired a Safeway executive to be the chief manager. Under that guy Co-op bought an entire local grocery chain, resulting in two stores in Walnut Creek, pretty close together, a giant store in Castro Valley and many other boondoggles. I know about the Castro Valley store because my dad was center council pres when it was shut down. Good local managers were rotated out just as they were getting acquainted. The area could have supported a modest store with the progressive population of the area, but it was required to support management in proportion to the store's size. Impossible. Rather than work with CV/Hayward's progressives to find a smaller location central management chose to set up a buyers club to buy direct from the warehouse. 8-5 folks had time to go to store but not to do the buyers club bit, so that folded. Finally the whole chain folded and any efforts there may have been to save a few smaller stores did not come off.
Don't let anyone tell you Berkeley Co-op failed because it supported the UFW. It's not true.
0 # MidwestDick 2014-10-09 19:56
-6 # MidwesTom 2014-10-09 15:17
Universities are going through a major change, the US is flooded with PhD's, more and more course offerings are over the web; costs at all levels are being attacked by the reality of the marketplace. At least in the sciences the concept of a tenured professor doing as he pleases is rapidly ending. Only the prestige Professors are surviving with considerable liberty, some teaching only one or two classes, if any.

Several decades ago the major name schools got into, what some would call, a bidding war for top faculty. Many science faculty earn $75,000 to $125,000 in non-management positions at major schools. Today in engineering and science many of the major Universities pay more than industry, where the availability of PhD's has lowered the offering pay for most.

The cost of operating a college has skyrocketed in the past twenty years, to the point that those that do not innovate to cut costs will be lost in the near future.

Humanities are in a totally different boat.
+10 # Old4Poor 2014-10-09 19:14
When I was working on my MA in American Literature one of my husband's business colleges drunkenly asked me why was I bothering as I could not make any money at that. I told him I believed in preserving and perpetuating the culture, which left him in a daze of non comprehension.

My mother used to say that Engineers should not receive college degrees as they were trained for a profession, not educated.

This may be a little harsh, but when our education system is only geared towards training people to be good little worker bees we lose so much.

I once met the late great Margaret Mead who commented that when she was in High School they learned Greek and Latin, and now the schools were down to Spanish. Not that Spanish is a bad language to learn, but it is also less demanding and so much of our history, philosophy and culture is from the Romans and Greeks. (I.e., I speak and read both Spanish and Latin)

As we continue to dumb down and make things as simple as possible, we also dumb down America's future.
+11 # pandapaw99 2014-10-09 15:36
Higher ed management might think that the corporate business model for the "precariats" is working, actually the job insecurity of the huge number of adjuncts will only contribute to grade inflation, eye candy pedagogy, risk-safe teaching method over innovation, etc. which will eventually short change our students and academic programs.
+11 # Kathymoi 2014-10-09 16:13
It was about 7 or 8 years ago when a business consultant met with the administration at the university where I worked and convinced them that they needed to think of the university as a business, not an educational institution and to think of students as customers, not students. The product they were selling was a college degree, not knowledge, and the advertising was about the job the degree led to, not about the ability to think or to learn or to critically analyze information or anything less concrete and financially measurable than a lucrative job. After the administration was convinced, there were meetings with all the other groups who worked at the university: the faculty, the staff, the trustees. We were all told that we, among ourselves, should now only speak of students as customers and only speak of the university as "our business." It was a very disheartening day for me. ---I admit that I was a rebellious one who continued to think of the goal of the university in terms of education not profits, and to think of the students as students, not customers. But I was beyond the pale.
+7 # Dust 2014-10-09 16:24
That guy should have been relegated to the darkness where there are no cookies. What an evil idiot.
+6 # Nominae 2014-10-10 01:49
Quoting Dust:
.....What an evil idiot.

I will not quibble the "evil", but he may have been no part the "idiot".

Some of the most egregious and apparently insane developments in the field of education during the past three decades suddenly make stark and horrible sense if viewed not on the merit of each "step" but from the mosaic of a Corporate jihad focused on the "dumbing-down of America".

Chomsky does not hammer on the fact that the reason that the Universities "fell for" the Corporate Model is that the Corporations *INUNDATED* the Universities with absolute floods of Cash.

Many of our best research Universities such as Stanford Research Labs now *literally* work directly FOR such Corps. as Cargill, ConAgra and Monsanto.

This, and the student loan scam has definitely reversed the case in America of the Sixties when Universities were the hot-beds and birthing rooms *for* Free Thinking and "Dangerous" Ideas.

How insane is a 30 yr. policy of defunding and degrading the public school systems, wiping out the teacher's unions (still unfinished), instituting "Social Promotion" such that kids who *cannot* pass their grade are "promoted anyway" in order to "enhance their self esteem".

Once "promoted", these kids can *never* catch up academically. But that's the plan.

This seems insane if the object was education. This reads like a *road map* if the idea overall was the dumbing-down of the populace.

"Mission Accomplished" indeed !
+8 # DurangoKid 2014-10-09 18:38
All of this misses one crucial point. In the 18th and 19th centuries universities were instituted to build a nation. They were to be the source of the professional class that builds infrastructure, cures disease, administer the economy, and so forth. All of these sectors were to add up to prosperity that paid for the institutions and turned a tidy profit in the private sector. At the end of the 19th century the elites looked outside the borders of the US for more opportunities. Again, the universities were indispensable in training people to build weapons, global transport, and administer the whole imperialist enterprise. Since the 1970's this same elite class no longer needs the legions of trained professionals to realize capital accumulation. That can be done on the backs of low wage workers elsewhere. With computers a small coterie of managers can have a global reach.

Still, there is a certain prestige in obtaining a college degree and it does enhance your earning power. Capital still seeks valorizeation, but not in the form of making stuff, just making deals. Now the universities have changed into profit centers that extract value rather than add value. And any exploitative institution requires some form of coercion to make it run. Consider for a moment the student loan situation. The value that could have been created by that graduate is siphoned off by financial institutions. They're more like mining operations.
+3 # Nominae 2014-10-10 01:15
[quote name="DurangoKi d"]All of this misses one crucial point. In the 18th and 19th centuries universities were instituted to build a nation......
They're more like mining operations..../quote]

*Stunningly* apt analysis - thank you.
+4 # Majikman 2014-10-10 08:37
It goes further than only universities being run as a business. The same applies to health care, utilities, government or any other entity where the quality of life and the common good should be paramount rather than the profit incentive. Turning people into commodities is the perfect model for mutual destruction as we are witnessing.
+3 # Savonarola 2014-10-11 06:48
I sent this to my two kids, who are trying to figure out what they want in a higher education. I have explained to them that they must not take on debt to do this, so they need to figure out what they want and what they can afford. What struck me about this, thank you Professor Chomsky, is that I hardly ever see articulated any more what education is SUPPOSED to do. Things now are all about recite, regurgitate, check the box. There is no room for the joy of learning. In a world like this, it is hard to explain to my kids what the University used to be like. About spending time with my professors, about them designing courses of study for me -- on a free audit -- because I asked and they shared with me a joy of learning. How do you convey that there was a community out there of others who lived to learn? Never stopped learning. Wanted to share learning.

I'm trying to show them at home, of course. But this serves as an interesting list of warning signs of a bad university (count the levels of admin) and a good one (tenured faculty, student representation, true discourse). Thank you.
+1 # Old4Poor 2014-10-11 12:45
Excellent points. As someone who grew up loving learning and books,and still does (At the moment I am researching the late 17th Dynasty of Egypt and their successful efforts to drive out the Hyksos invaders), I am saddened by how such a fantastic experiecne can be corrupted by greed and the drive for more momney.
+1 # reiverpacific 2014-10-11 17:50
Y'all know that the Flintsones was a documentary, right!?
+1 # Salty 2014-10-11 22:37
One reason our public schools, like our colleges and universities, have been attacked by neo-liberals, is to eliminate the power of the teacher's unions, who have been a major source of support for the Democratic Party. Another, which is more obvious, is, of course, that Conservatives want to make money from students. And another reason is to dumb down our general population in order to control them. Dumb people in general are more likely to vote against their own interests and support the party of the rich, our GOP. I refer all to the book, Why Is Corporate America Bashing Our Schools, by Kathy Emery and Susan O'Banion.
+1 # politicfix 2014-10-12 09:56
Education begins with the parents. They say a child has all it's values by the age of 5. If parents teach selfishness, fear, restrictive religious beliefs, and limited thinking that theirs is the only way, then they will not stray from those boundaries as an adult. If parents are more open to unselfishness, truth, forward thinking, and perhaps advocate universal and spiritual (rather than restricted religious) teachings they are open to avenues of growth. I read an article years ago that said, upon graduation, they put a square hat on your head signifying that you are now an indoctrinated blockhead based on decades of education developed by people who want everyone to think the same way. If a child is able to think for themselves independently and reason how they really feel about what is being presented, they are less likely to follow that concept and be talked into something that they don't find logical or reasonable. Those basic qualities divide the population into those who have an agenda based on selfishness and greed, or those who want unselfishness and want others to succeed as well as themselves and perhaps feel that character is more valuable to nature than wealth. That wealth is material and dissolves, where character is moral and has lasting effects. It's a choice as one matures and begins with the basic principles that a child is taught early in life. Through experiences you can listen to your unselfish conscience, or you can fire it based on strength of character

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