The Higher-Ed Catch-22

Chris Hedges sometimes misses, but he often also rings the bell.

He has nailed it on the topic of what you get at the nation’s elite colleges, along with your entitlement to be first hired, last fired:

The nation’s elite universities disdain honest intellectual inquiry, which is by its nature distrustful of authority, fiercely independent and often subversive. They organize learning around minutely specialized disciplines, narrow answers and rigid structures that are designed to produce certain answers. The established corporate hierarchies these institutions service — economic, political and social — come with clear parameters, such as the primacy of an unfettered free market, and with a highly specialized vocabulary. This vocabulary, a sign of the “specialist” and of course the elitist, thwarts universal understanding. It keeps the uninitiated from asking unpleasant questions. It destroys the search for the common good. It dices disciplines, faculty, students and finally experts into tiny, specialized fragments. It allows students and faculty to retreat into these self-imposed fiefdoms and neglect the most pressing moral, political and cultural questions. Those who defy the system—people like Ralph Nader—are branded as irrational and irrelevant. These elite universities have banished self-criticism. They refuse to question a self-justifying system. Organization, technology, self-advancement and information systems are the only things that matter.

Alas, I can attest that the nation’s second-tier colleges — now tellingly rebranded, one and all, as “universities” — are peopled with managers and gatekeepers steeped in the elite disease.  As a result, they devote their core efforts to replicating rather than transcending the sickness.  Despite the times, this socially suicidal squandering of the most precious resources shows no sign of changing.

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11 years ago

At least you qualified your praise of Chris Hedges. He’s a product of these same elite colleges, had a chance to go elsewhere after Harvard College, and then continued on its clutches to get a specious “divinity” degree and then went chasing wars for the New York Times. Now he’s Mister anti-atheist truth-teller? He and Bill McKibben are in a messiah club of two, and if the avowed non-tax payer thinks Ralph Nader is the anti-system guy, check how many endowed credential mills Ralph speaks at. Check, how misty Ralph gets when talking about dear old Princeton, and also note… Read more »

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