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Author Topic: 'The threat to our universities' - Stefan Collini  (Read 1955 times)
Sibboleth
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« on: February 25, 2012, 01:56:18 pm »
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'What are universities for? Should they be businesses 'competing on price'? Are students 'consumers', concerned only with getting jobs? A half-baked market ideology informs official thinking about higher education, and it undermines an ideal that a vast number of people cherish'

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/feb/24/threat-to-our-univerisities

Collini has been excellent on this issue recently and so this piece - extracted from his recent book on the subject - is worth reading. There's even a funny bit:

Quote
I realise that by merely raising a quizzical eyebrow about the self-evident priority of these goals I am going to be damned for being out of touch with "the real world". What's even more curious is that everyone who expresses the slightest reservation about this vocabulary turns out to live at the same address. Simply to suggest that universities might have other purposes is immediately to be classed as someone who "lives in the ivory tower".
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« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2012, 04:46:20 pm »
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I loathe, loathe, loathe the attitude that the only good education is the one that makes the most money.

Thanks for posting.
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« Reply #2 on: March 29, 2012, 10:59:42 am »
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I loathe, loathe, loathe the attitude that the only good education is the one that makes the most money.

Thanks for posting.

I second this, and the way they push it in our university... ugh.
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« Reply #3 on: March 29, 2012, 11:10:54 am »
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I realise that by merely raising a quizzical eyebrow about the self-evident priority of these goals I am going to be damned for being out of touch with "the real world".

Some see education as a means to an end; others see it as an end in itself. 

I've gotten past it.  I don't know how old I was when I realized that the vast majority of students see education as a meal ticket.  "What are you going to do with your degree?"  "Oh, I don't know.  Hang it on the wall, maybe.  More likely, it'll collect dust on a shelf."  "No, I mean, how will you market yourself?"  That sort of thing.  To this day I still see education as a goal in itself, but I've been keenly aware that many folks do not.

We roll with it.  We even exploit the fact, using it as a recruiting edge.  (That's probably why Lulu notices that it is being "pushed" in his university.)
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« Reply #4 on: March 29, 2012, 11:12:43 am »
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I realise that by merely raising a quizzical eyebrow about the self-evident priority of these goals I am going to be damned for being out of touch with "the real world".

Some see education as a means to an end; others see it as an end in itself. 

I've gotten past it.  I don't know how old I was when I realized that the vast majority of students see education as a meal ticket.  "What are you going to do with your degree?"  "Oh, I don't know.  Hang it on the wall, maybe.  More likely, it'll collect dust on a shelf."  "No, I mean, how will you market yourself?"  That sort of thing.  To this day I still see education as a goal in itself, but I've been keenly aware that many folks do not.

We roll with it.  We even exploit the fact, using it as a recruiting edge.  (That's probably why Lulu notices that it is being "pushed" in his university.)


It is true that university education is the means to an end, but nonetheless, it shouldn't be the be all/end all of the matter. Education is there to make people into well rounded, intelligent human beings as much as it is there to create job opportunities.
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« Reply #5 on: April 16, 2012, 11:52:40 am »
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This is the attitude at my university as well. Almost everyone taking a science/math/commerce/engineering degree treats anyone in the liberal arts as a second-class student. I would just, for once, like people to admit that the different fields are different, not that any one area of study is better than another. (Although in terms of creating a well-rounded individual, I almost think the liberal arts is better--you're encouraged to focus on developing ideas and finding connections, whereas some of these other programs are exceptionally theoretical and numbers-based.)

I honestly think the problem has some big roots in frosh week programming. Your introduction to the university is basically comprised of "we are segregated" or "engineers have a crazy frosh week because they work harder." Beyond frosh week, I understand that the very nature of the programs makes it difficult for the faculties to interact... but I think more could be done to foster a united sense of school spirit. As it stands right now, my school might as well be in a perpetual civil war.
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« Reply #6 on: April 29, 2012, 04:28:29 pm »
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I realise that by merely raising a quizzical eyebrow about the self-evident priority of these goals I am going to be damned for being out of touch with "the real world".

I've gotten past it.  I don't know how old I was when I realized that the vast majority of students see education as a meal ticket. 

I do rather pity the climbers among them for these hopes.

I always thought of university education as a class signifier, and I think my instincts were as usual correct.  That said, my class signifiers were always third rate. 
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« Reply #7 on: June 21, 2012, 07:30:56 pm »
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Hell, I'm studying Japanese literature in part precisely as a bit of protest against this idea of the university. It was either something along those lines or something in engineering, I was qualified for and at the time that I matriculated interested in both, but by now I've pretty definitively buried my heart in the College of Humanities and Fine Arts.

angus and Hagrid's posts are great, by the way.
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« Reply #8 on: June 22, 2012, 12:11:27 pm »
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I realise that by merely raising a quizzical eyebrow about the self-evident priority of these goals I am going to be damned for being out of touch with "the real world".

Some see education as a means to an end; others see it as an end in itself.  

I've gotten past it.  I don't know how old I was when I realized that the vast majority of students see education as a meal ticket.  "What are you going to do with your degree?"  "Oh, I don't know.  Hang it on the wall, maybe.  More likely, it'll collect dust on a shelf."  "No, I mean, how will you market yourself?"  That sort of thing.  To this day I still see education as a goal in itself, but I've been keenly aware that many folks do not.

We roll with it.  We even exploit the fact, using it as a recruiting edge.  (That's probably why Lulu notices that it is being "pushed" in his university.)


Great great post Angus.

Right now I find myself in this same cycle of apathy that has been described.  I have graduated with a major for an industry I sure as hell don't want to be working in for the next forty years of my life (Accounting) solely because I even up to today I don't know what the hell I want to do.  In high school I flirted with the idea of becoming a History major, and I even brought it up several times when I was undeclared to my parents.  They always immediately shot it down everytime and encouraged me to get a "degree that makes a living".
Eventually, as time went by I became apathetic and cynical enough about college and adulthood I decided "f*** this" and declared a degree in Accounting.  I never got to liking it one bit as a lot of my fellows went gaga about being some corporate buttboy in the future.  I'm amazed that I managed to graduate with an over 3.0 GPA, considering how much I hated my educational life at that point.
The most motivating classes I've ever taken were the philosophy and social science classes.  However, every time I thought about changing my major there would be this voice that would say "wait!  Don't do that Lad!  Don't you want a comfortable living after you graduate!  Don't you want a field where you can get a job anywhere instead of working at Starf***ingBucks for the next three years before you get a crappy underpaid job as a public school teacher in some podunk town!"
My only comfort is that by getting my Accounting degree I am attractive to museums who are looking for people who can deal with finances to help me eventually pursue a Masters in some sort of History field.  And that some day I'll just try to write a random ass book I can sell on Amazon for $1.25 on Kindle (let the Five Minutes Hate from traditional "made from killed trees" book lovers out there) and make millions of dollars on.

It is unfair the demonization of liberal arts majors.  Like they are subhuman because they come to college to pursue a degree for more purpose than just to say "I LIVED WITHIN A COMFORTABLE $40,000 A YEAR BUDGET!"  Like they are uncool for thinking that philosophical pursuits are a great way to look at and better understand humanity, civilization, legal code, science, and everything else that exists.
Or maybe they look down on such fields because to actually analyze themselves analytically would require some painful truths.  It is painful, but it is worth it.

Which isn't to say that there aren't people who truly want to be Science, Math, or Business majors.  However, there are a lot of them, like me, who find themselves living in utter apathy and cynicism after they graduate.  The comments in this thread kind of hit the nail on the head in my opinion about why that is.
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« Reply #9 on: June 22, 2012, 12:26:46 pm »
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I agree with what's been said... and this is from an engineering student (though it would nowadays fall under building construction and I never received a degree). You need folks to build buildings, manage finances, research cures for cancer, etc...that is how the world works. But I've always enjoyed the quote which goes something like this- art and music aren't necessary to live, but they are some of the things that make life worth living. It's very true- and I find it very ironic that many of those in my state who want to focus on STEM at the expense of liberal arts (and don't get me wrong- some of their ideas do have merit) were themselves liberal arts students.
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« Reply #10 on: June 22, 2012, 05:13:13 pm »
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There is a legitimate reason why the STEM kids look down upon the liberal arts students: statistics. Look at any major Canadian university and the grade averages for the arts school is lower than the ones for the sciences'. More generally, it's the liberal arts departments that are always riddled with claims of grade inflation and all. From that is the justification that engineers had to work harder to get to university and will work harder, leading to a good job at the end. The public also want to believe that economic growth is driven by a mass of workers engaged in constant labour, and stats like GDP confirm the belief.
The first problem: the liberal arts are not defined by grades, but by the transmission of ideas. The second problem: as much as we like to think constant labour drives economic growth the economic potential of an idea may be far greater. But the politician and the average worker does not want to take risks; when those risks succeed without their participation they respond through resentment.
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« Reply #11 on: November 26, 2012, 05:55:02 pm »
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Education is a life long process.  It is a HUMAN RIGHT (yes right, everyone deserves access to education) but it is also an OBLIGATION, especially in a democracy.

On the other hand, universities, especially American University have long ceased to be about providing an education which is really unfortunate.
Schools should be (and should behave like) non-profit institutions whose goal is the betterment of society.  But that can't happen if only a select few can go to school, and then use their degree (not their "education" which in most cases they have forgotten within a matter of months) to increase their income.
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« Reply #12 on: November 26, 2012, 06:13:58 pm »
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I realise that by merely raising a quizzical eyebrow about the self-evident priority of these goals I am going to be damned for being out of touch with "the real world".

Some see education as a means to an end; others see it as an end in itself.  

I've gotten past it.  I don't know how old I was when I realized that the vast majority of students see education as a meal ticket.  "What are you going to do with your degree?"  "Oh, I don't know.  Hang it on the wall, maybe.  More likely, it'll collect dust on a shelf."  "No, I mean, how will you market yourself?"  That sort of thing.  To this day I still see education as a goal in itself, but I've been keenly aware that many folks do not.

We roll with it.  We even exploit the fact, using it as a recruiting edge.  (That's probably why Lulu notices that it is being "pushed" in his university.)


Great great post Angus.

Right now I find myself in this same cycle of apathy that has been described.  I have graduated with a major for an industry I sure as hell don't want to be working in for the next forty years of my life (Accounting) solely because I even up to today I don't know what the hell I want to do.  In high school I flirted with the idea of becoming a History major, and I even brought it up several times when I was undeclared to my parents.  They always immediately shot it down everytime and encouraged me to get a "degree that makes a living".
Eventually, as time went by I became apathetic and cynical enough about college and adulthood I decided "f*** this" and declared a degree in Accounting.  I never got to liking it one bit as a lot of my fellows went gaga about being some corporate buttboy in the future.  I'm amazed that I managed to graduate with an over 3.0 GPA, considering how much I hated my educational life at that point.
The most motivating classes I've ever taken were the philosophy and social science classes.  However, every time I thought about changing my major there would be this voice that would say "wait!  Don't do that Lad!  Don't you want a comfortable living after you graduate!  Don't you want a field where you can get a job anywhere instead of working at Starf***ingBucks for the next three years before you get a crappy underpaid job as a public school teacher in some podunk town!"
My only comfort is that by getting my Accounting degree I am attractive to museums who are looking for people who can deal with finances to help me eventually pursue a Masters in some sort of History field.  And that some day I'll just try to write a random ass book I can sell on Amazon for $1.25 on Kindle (let the Five Minutes Hate from traditional "made from killed trees" book lovers out there) and make millions of dollars on.

It is unfair the demonization of liberal arts majors.  Like they are subhuman because they come to college to pursue a degree for more purpose than just to say "I LIVED WITHIN A COMFORTABLE $40,000 A YEAR BUDGET!"  Like they are uncool for thinking that philosophical pursuits are a great way to look at and better understand humanity, civilization, legal code, science, and everything else that exists.
Or maybe they look down on such fields because to actually analyze themselves analytically would require some painful truths.  It is painful, but it is worth it.

Which isn't to say that there aren't people who truly want to be Science, Math, or Business majors.  However, there are a lot of them, like me, who find themselves living in utter apathy and cynicism after they graduate.  The comments in this thread kind of hit the nail on the head in my opinion about why that is.

I'm kind of in the same boat as you, even though I'm probably a little older than you and have gone through some of the stages you have gone through.  When I graduated from high-school I didn't know what I wanted to do, I just knew I wanted to go to college.  What were my interests back then?  Well I liked music, reading, photography.  I thought I could get an arts degree but my parents would never let me.  When I was in college studying something that bored me to death, I decided to study acting, but I simply couldn't afford it.  Once I graduated, I still had no idea what I wanted to do (I still have the same interests I had when I was 19 but I have no idea how to make a living out of them).  I decided to go to grad school thinking that once I got my degree I would have more opportunities and do things that I might really enjoy.
So I got my MA and then I began teaching.  I loved teaching and I felt that I was able to contribute to society in some way.  And I believe I did:  I always had students that would ask me the same questions I had 10-15 years ago when I was their age, and I want to believe that the guidance I gave them made it possible for them to make better decisions than I did.  Many of them for example had the same pressure a lot of us have from our family, and I tried to give them a different perspective by telling them that their happiness is more important than anything.  These were things I wish someone had told me when I was in college.

I now have a different job (an office job) and I still try to help the people around me.  At the same time I pursue my other interests:  I write for a music website, I draw, I take pictures, and I try to be more involved in environmental, human rights or other issues that concern me.  I recently entertained the idea of quitting my job, where I don't make a whole lot of money, just enough to have a comfortable living, and devote more of my time to things I really want to do.  I gave it a lot of thought and I decided to keep doing what I'm doing for now and just try to make the most of it.  We all go through phases, and sometimes we may feel that we're wasting our time (which is really precious) but the truth is that every experience we have teaches us something about ourselves that will make us make better decisions in the future.

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