Wednesday, May 09, 2007

    Higher ed soporific

    It seems that recently you can’t click a fiber optic mouse without coming across some blog talking about the role of higher ed. I kind of like that.

    Two blogs in as many days are Dean Dad’s and Salon’s Camille Paglia. DD veers off of a discussion of Marilee Jones (MIT Admissions Dean fired for lying about her education) to roam around why people would opt out of going to college (it is hard, he says) and go right to work (unwilling to pay the opportunity costs of staying in school). DD ends by lauding the missionary-like zeal of grad schoolers “scraping by” on “pittances” and delaying their gratification. Success comes, he implies, through good, honest toil.


    Paglia has intrigued me from the first time I looked at the cover of Sexual Personae. To a repressed Bible/English major, I found it shocking and thrilling: Rock-n-Roll criticism. Paglia is back writing for Salon in which she presents four pages spread out along politics, news, pop-culture and et. al. Her recent posting, page 2, has some of her most provocative writing I have seen from her. I loved it.

    She too veers away from her initial topic (Virginia Tech shootings) and slips into higher ed’s role in life (it must be an irresistible force), point out that age-based academic groupings is a relative new phenomena (she points to her recent review of “Teenage” as appears in the NYTimes Book Review). With high school, grouped as it is along the arbitrary criteria of age, “as become just a frantic, callow rat race for brand-name college admission.” She goes on: “Age segregation by grade, in my opinion, is a mechanistic atrocity that spawns ruthless social cliques, who oppress and enrage the losers in the provincial pecking order.” That pretty much sounds like High School to me (see the film Heathers).

    Paglia’s fix is to promote and return to vocational ed. Discontinue the illusion that everyone needs to be a BA/BA/MA/MS ad nauseum, and allow specific trades to be explored. It is a nice dream. Parents, though, will not get behind little junior forgoing medical school in order to pursue a dream of landscape engineer. Sure it happens, but a prevailing ethos is a prevailing ethos precisely because so many people do NOT fight against it. That is, as long as upwardly mobile is assumed (and for the US, it goes all the way back), our Horatio Alger determination allows little deviation.

    Paglia ends with a zinger: “We need to strip the elite aura from the claustrophobic ‘prestige’ jobs in sterile corporate offices, where high salaries drug the worker clones from recognition of their own imprisonment and castration.” I would say she overstates, but I am, myself, sitting right now in a cube contracting for defense contractor in order to get that higher wage. The irony for me, though, is that I need the wage to pay my student loans.

    Would you like me to read this to you? Listen


    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    there was some good material
    (article plus comments thread)
    along these lines at "barbara's blog"
    (lefty columnist b. ehrenreich).

    worth a look. yrs in the struggle.

    Monday, May 14, 2007  

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