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VIDEO: The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz

In education, politics, society, technology on October 19, 2015 at 02:19

From: The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz, The Documentary Network, http://documentary.net

Watch the film at http://documentary.net/video/internets-boy-story-aaron-swartz/

The film follows the story of programming prodigy and information activist Aaron Swartz. From Swartz’s help in the development of the basic internet protocol RSS to his co-founding of Reddit, his fingerprints are all over the internet.

But it was Swartz’s groundbreaking work in social justice and political organizing combined with his aggressive approach to information access that ensnared him in a two-year legal nightmare. It was a battle that ended with the taking of his own life at the age of 26. Aaron’s story touched a nerve with people far beyond the online communities in which he was a celebrity. This film is a personal story about what we lose when we are tone deaf about technology and its relationship to our civil liberties.

Film by Brian Knappenberger – Luminant Media

Reposted with permission from: The Documentary Network

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Rebelling against the neoliberal university by Andrew Stones

In education, Europe, society, universities on March 24, 2015 at 19:28

From: Rebelling against the neoliberal university by Andrew Stones, ‘cafébabel’, http://www.cafebabel.co.uk

Higher education across Europe is becoming increasingly marketised. Universities are becoming centres for profit rather than education. Recent events at universities in England and the Netherlands have shown that students are trying to push back against this tide of bureaucracy and unaccountability.

Two scenes of student activism in the UK – in 2012, at the height of Occupy Wall Street, a group of students at the University of Warwick in England stage their own occupy protest on the lawn of the university’s Senate House. A tent is erected and several academics from almost every department agree to speak on subjects ranging from Marxism to poetry.

The response from the university’s security staff is a mixture of a strange paternalism and bafflement – they drink tea in their polyester uniforms, unsure of what is really happening or what their job supposedly is. Fast-forward two years – a similar group of students are sitting in the foyer of the same building, quietly discussing a national demonstration held earlier that day. The same security staff arrive in specially modified vehicles with sirens and hi-vis paint jobs; they explain the police have been called for a separate incident so no one is that alarmed. Seconds later the police do come – only it’s unclear what they want as they immediately start pushing the students, spraying OC gas in their faces and holding tasers above their heads.

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Reposted with permission from: ‘cafébabel’

Featured: American Socrates by Chris Hedges

In biology, education, government, history, philosophy, politics, society on June 16, 2014 at 14:51

Featured: American Socrates by Chris Hedges, Common Dreams, https://www.commondreams.org

Noam Chomsky speaks to the media at a friend’s house in Amman, Jordan, in 2010. (AP/Nader Daoud)

Noam Chomsky speaks to the media at a friend’s house in Amman, Jordan, in 2010. (AP/Nader Daoud)

 

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—Noam Chomsky, whom I interviewed last Thursday at his office at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has influenced intellectuals in the United States and abroad in incalculable ways. His explications of empire, mass propaganda, the hypocrisy and pliability of the liberal class and the failings of academics, as well as the way language is used as a mask by the power elite to prevent us from seeing reality, make him the most important intellectual in the country. The force of his intellect, which is combined with a ferocious independence, terrifies the corporate state—which is why the commercial media and much of the academic establishment treat him as a pariah. He is the Socrates of our time.

 

 

We live in a bleak moment in human history. And Chomsky begins from this reality. He quoted the late Ernst Mayr, a leading evolutionary biologist of the 20th century who argued that we probably will never encounter intelligent extraterrestrials because higher life forms render themselves extinct in a relatively short time.

“Mayr argued that the adaptive value of what is called ‘higher intelligence’ is very low,” Chomsky said. “Beetles and bacteria are much more adaptive than humans. We will find out if it is better to be smart than stupid. We may be a biological error, using the 100,000 years which Mayr gives [as] the life expectancy of a species to destroy ourselves and many other life forms on the planet.”

Climate change “may doom us all, and not in the distant future,” Chomsky said. “It may overwhelm everything. This is the first time in human history that we have the capacity to destroy the conditions for decent survival. It is already happening. Look at species destruction. It is estimated to be at about the level of 65 million years ago when an asteroid hit the earth, ended the period of the dinosaurs and wiped out a huge number of species. It is the same level today. And we are the asteroid. If anyone could see us from outer space they would be astonished. There are sectors of the global population trying to impede the global catastrophe. There are other sectors trying to accelerate it. Take a look at whom they are. Those who are trying to impede it are the ones we call backward, indigenous populations—the First Nations in Canada, the aboriginals in Australia, the tribal people in India. Who is accelerating it? The most privileged, so-called advanced, educated populations of the world.”

If Mayr was right, we are at the tail end of a binge, accelerated by the Industrial Revolution, that is about to drive us over a cliff environmentally and economically. A looming breakdown, in Chomsky’s eyes, offers us opportunity as well as danger. He has warned repeatedly that if we are to adapt and survive we must overthrow the corporate power elite through mass movements and return power to autonomous collectives that are focused on sustaining communities rather than exploiting them. Appealing to the established institutions and mechanisms of power will not work.

“We can draw many very good lessons from the early period of the Industrial Revolution,” he said. “The Industrial Revolution took off right around here in eastern Massachusetts in the mid-19th century. This was a period when independent farmers were being driven into the industrial system. Men and women—women left the farms to be ‘factory girls’—bitterly resented it. This was also a period of a very free press, the freest in the history of the country. There were a wide variety of journals. When you read them they are pretty fascinating. The people driven into the industrial system regarded it as an attack on their personal dignity, on their rights as human beings. They were free human beings being forced into what they called ‘wage labor,’ which they regarded as not very different from chattel slavery. In fact this was such a popular mood it was a slogan of the Republican Party—‘The only difference between working for a wage and being a slave is that working for the wage is supposed to be temporary.’ ”

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Innovation is a Social Issue by Martin Eiermann and Christoper Steiner

In economy, education, industrial processes, infrastructure, politics, technology on March 25, 2014 at 03:34

From: Algorithms and the Future of Work: Innovation is a Social Issue by Martin Eiermann and Christoper Steiner, The European Magazine, http://www.theeuropean-magazine.com

The European: You’re talking about a momentous shift in the labor market: The vast majority of workers fall into the category of mid-level employees. Unemployment is already high in the wake of the crisis – and if you’re correct in your predictions, we are looking at a technological shift with tremendous social consequences.
Steiner: Economists go back and forth on this question. Some argue that unemployment will remain high because of these trends, but others point out that people had very similar worries during the industrial revolution. The steam engine revolutionized production, but you still needed as many workers as before. The biggest trend for me is about stratification: The people who can handle algorithms and market themselves will do very well. They will displace people with less expertise and experience.

The European: Does that worry you?
Steiner: I’m more curious than worried. If you look at the top 500 American companies, corporate profits are near an all-time high, yet unemployment levels are higher than average as well. Many companies have not hired back the workers they laid off but have instead managed to increase productivity through software and automation. This isn’t just a future trend, it’s already happening.

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Reposted with permission from: The European

The Dangers of Totalitarianism by Agnes Heller

In classics, education, Europe, politics, society, world on December 4, 2013 at 21:00

From: The Dangers of Totalitarianism by Agnes Heller, Literal Magazine, http://www.literalmagazine.com

How did our education become so market-oriented?

It happened in the last half-century. Education became market-oriented in two senses. Educational institutions behaved as institutions of the market. They became a market. They were producing young people for certain kinds of professions and young people took a kind of profession in order to get a better salary and a better position. And that’s all wrong, and it’s wrong even from the standpoint of technology, even from the standpoint of physics, chemistry. Because if you teach young people Physics, or Chemistry, which is actually the leading branch in science, the moment they finish school, it won’t be important anymore for these branches of science. But if you learn something general, universal; if you learn higher Mathematics, higher Physics, Greek or Latin language or Logic and Philosophy; all these capacities or abilities to argue and think in abstract notions, to think logically, to concentrate and to contemplate and to memorize; you’ve learned everything that you can actually use later on. It is not specialized subject matter, but you can use it all.

How do you see the 21st century? Is it going to get better or worse?

I don’t see the 21st century, we are at the beginning of it. Think, at the beginning of the 20th century, think about 1912, whether you could have forseen what was going to happen in 1914 or 1933, or 1942. It was impossible. So I think that at the present moment, right now, 2012, one hundred years after 1912, we cannot possibly know what is going to happen in our century. We can only hope it will be better, that it will be far better than the 20th century. If you have in mind this conflict between democracy and totalitarism, especially in Europe, between republicanism and bonapartism, which is a European conflict from the beginning of modernity, in this situation, in this conflict, you have to take the position of republicanism, of democracy, against bonapartism or totalitarian government. And the danger of totalitarianism is not gone; the danger is always present in the modern world, because it is a modern political institution. It was totally wrong when people believed that totalitarianism was something from the Middle Ages, or something reactionary. It is absolutely not the case. It is as modern as democracy. And that is why, in a modern world, you have to face the danger that there can be a war. And so basically, we have to change the world in order to prevent the world from embracing again different kinds of forms of bonapartism or totalitarian movements in States.

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Reposted with permission from: Literal Magazine

Women Scholars and the Dynamics of Economic Recession

In economics, economy, education, gender, sociology, universities on December 4, 2013 at 20:38

From: Hard Times: Women Scholars and the Dynamics of Economic Recession by Linda Zionkowski, Berfrois, http://www.berfrois.com

Hypatia, Alfred Seifert, 1901

Hypatia, Alfred Seifert, 1901

While straitened budgets and shrinking resources present difficulties for all of us within the university system, some of the most vulnerable people affected are graduate students. Occupying a liminal space as apprentices within the profession, students enrolled in master’s and doctoral programs often find themselves facing a situation in which opportunities for professional development have become occasions for exploitation. No department, of course, would claim the abuse of graduate students as part of its mission statement; rather, we want students enrolled in our programs to flourish as scholars and teachers and bring credit upon our institutions after they graduate and find employment. But in a climate of financial austerity, our good intentions might actually work to the detriment of our students by promoting a set of established practices—or a culture—that works against their best interests. As women increasingly accept administrative positions, becoming deans, chairs, and directors of graduate studies, we find that the situation of graduate students emerges as an important (and recurrent) concern in our working lives. The remarks and suggestions that I’m offering here are meant to call attention to the complicated dynamic of decreasing resources and increasing expectations and propose ways in which we can help our students create a manageable balance between the two.

One of the foundational assumptions of graduate programs is that they develop students’ pedagogical skills, enabling fledgling academics to become confident and proficient teachers in their disciplines. A review of graduate students’ syllabi, grading practices, and teaching evaluations more often than not shows their dedication to their classes and suggests that they prepare seriously for the career they are seeking. But three developments within our profession — the declining number of lines for tenure-track faculty, stipend stagnation, and outstanding record of accomplishments expected of job-seekers — contribute to the overuse of graduate student labor and to the debt load that causes our students to be complicit in their overuse.

Competition to retain tenure-track faculty lines has grown more intense as university budgets have shrunk, resulting in difficulties with staffing courses; the problem is particularly acute in disciplines where effective instruction requires smaller class sizes. Since a substantial number of writing-intensive general education courses (Freshman and Junior Composition, Introduction to Literature, etc.) are often housed in English departments, the opportunity for overload classes easily presents itself to graduate students, some of whom will give time and energy to teaching that could have been spent on progress toward their degree. Graduate students, of course, are entirely justified in accepting overload assignments, even to their own detriment: tuition waivers often do not cover university fees (which at my institution can run in excess of $3,000 annually), and graduate stipends frequently fall below or remain slightly above the Federal Poverty Guidelines for individuals (estimated at $11,170 in 2012). Moreover, graduate students are compelled to bear the cost of their own professional development: hiring committees look for evidence of sustained academic activity, including presentations at conferences, attendance at workshops, and publications based upon archival research, all of which cost far more than can be managed by graduate stipends and travel awards. For our students, the result is the burden of loan debt, or the absolute necessity for overload teaching, or — most often — a combination of both.

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Reposted with permission from: Berfrois

The Gospel of Wealth by Jim Chaffee

In economics, education, government, North America, politics, society on March 21, 2013 at 12:49

From: The Gospel of Wealth: towards a new generation of American consumership by Jim Chaffee, nthposition online magazine, http://www.nthposition.com

Economics and Finance for the American Way of Life is a textbook for a mandatory full year Texas public school course at the end of middle school. It was deemed necessary at this level because this is the age when students take their place among the ranks of their adult peers as consumers, with credit cards and cell phones and online shopping and as soon to be de facto owners of automobiles. Furthermore, fully thirty percent of the students in Texas will not advance beyond this level of education.

As this implies, The Economy is the center of the text. Each nation, state, county, city and family has an Economy which must be appeased and cajoled. The duty of every citizen is to cultivate his or her Personal Economy from an early age as this will become the Family Economy, an amalgamation of husband’s and wife’s Economies upon marriage. They hint that there is not only a Global Economy, but in fact a Universal Economy which must be appeased by financial experts who are trained to intercede with the individual’s Personal Economy through the higher Economies. (Makes you wonder what would happen if another country got an ATM on the moon first.) Some university departments such as the Stanford department which consulted on this text specialize in training analysts adroit in intercession on behalf of institutions larger than the individual, such as banks and corporations, while such intercession at the national level is mostly left to economists. In general, the role of the financial engineer (or analyst), which includes MBAs, is to intercede with different Economies on behalf of the people, including through institutions, while the duty of the economist is to interpret the will of The Economy at varying levels.

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Reposted with permission from: nthposition

Wine and Spirits: Baudelaire’s Orgy and Attention by Michael Kinnucan

In art, education, philosophy, poetry, religion, society, writers on December 21, 2012 at 18:06

From: Wine and Spirits: Baudelaire’s Orgy and Attention by Michael Kinnucan, Hypocrite Reader, http://hypocritereader.com

Weil’s description of efforts of attention is an attempt to silence the future by turning us away from the objects of attention and toward attention as such. No time is wasted so long as it is spent attentively; to the question “what should I attend to?” Weil answers that the question itself is always a mistake, that it is sufficient simply to attend. The suspicion that one may be attending to the wrong thing is precisely what will prevent you from ever attending; let the question go, let your moments go, find your way out of time for a while.

In Baudelaire’s formalized conception of drunkenness, one can get drunk on almost anything: wine, poetry or virtue, it doesn’t matter at all. Drunkenness is defined by its opposite, and its opposite is consciousness of time as a ticking clock. We are temporary, temporal beings, and all the clocks tick us away; we have only so much time to spend. How shall we spend it? By forgetting that. If Weil tells us: always attend, because there’s only one thing to attend to, Baudelaire tells us: always get drunk, because there’s only one thing to forget.

Baudelaire’s endless fascination with the figure of the poet can be read as an inquiry into the question: What does it take to “marry the crowd”? Baudelaire’s poet is “accursed,” loathed by his family, misunderstood by his readers, absolutely alone; all this is not evidence of despair but a prerequisite for intoxication. The proud bourgeois cannot marry the crowd because he is too full of himself, too busy; he has too much to lose. He does not have a free and arbitrary will, only petty interests. The poet, to plunge at every movement, must have nothing to lose in the fall. Even Baudelaire’s famous irony, most vicious when turned against himself, reflects not world-weary bitterness but the pleasure of crowds. Irony serves the poet as self-flagellation serves the monk: it humbles the flesh to free the spirit. The poet lacerates his ego because his ego is what holds him back from the crowd.

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Reposted with permission from: Hypocrite Reader

Power, Sociologically Speaking by Vincent J. Roscigno

In culture, economics, education, government, political science, politics, sociology, theory on November 19, 2012 at 22:42

From: Power, Sociologically Speaking by Vincent J. Roscigno, The Society Pages, http://thesocietypages.org

We in the social sciences typically think of power as persuasiveness, the ability to get what one wants—this is the essence of the classic definition attributed to Max Weber, and it’s commonly applied across a host of institutional spheres and interactions, from political parties to the power of consumers. But this view is a bit too simplistic—it obscures power’s fundamentally structural, cultural, and relational nature. This is to say, power is too often thought of as something that a particular leader or party has, rather than something rooted in institutional practices, cultural supports, and alternative pathways outside the usual political apparatus.

The problem of power, then, is a prime blind spot; the core, lower-level topics of political science—like individual voting behavior, party politics and alignments, and election outcomes—can direct us away from larger questions about the ends toward which political influence is directed. Sociology is uniquely equipped to look beyond the usual veneer of power, unpack the myths that reinforce it, and see the relational foundations upon which it ultimately rests. A sociological view indeed provides a much-needed corrective, offering a unique glimpse through the myths that veil power’s resilience, uses, and limits.

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Reposted with permission from: The Society Pages

Death by Degrees by n + 1 Magazine

In academia, education, government, history, North America, society, universities on October 15, 2012 at 18:33

From: Death by Degrees by n + 1 Magazine, http://nplusonemag.com

In 605 CE, a year after murdering his father and seizing the throne, the Chinese emperor Yang Guang established the world’s first meritocracy. Weary of making bureaucratic appointments solely on the basis of letters of recommendation, Yang set aside a number of posts for applicants who performed well on a new system of imperial examinations. In theory, any peasant who took the trouble to memorize 400,000 characters — which is to say, anyone who conducted six years of study with an expensive tutor — could join the country’s political elite.

Jean Baudrillard once suggested an important correction to classical Marxism: exchange value is not, as Marx had it, a distortion of a commodity’s underlying use value; use value, instead, is a fiction created by exchange value. In the same way, systems of accreditation do not assess merit; merit is a fiction created by systems of accreditation. Like the market for skin care products, the market for credentials is inexhaustible: as the bachelor’s degree becomes democratized, the master’s degree becomes mandatory for advancement. Our elaborate, expensive system of higher education is first and foremost a system of stratification, and only secondly — and very dimly — a system for imparting knowledge.

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Reposted with permission from: N + 1 Magazine

The Tyranny of Artistic Modernism by Mark Anthony Signorelli and Nikos A. Salingaros

In aesthetics, architecture, art, civilisation, culture, education, nature, society on October 7, 2012 at 04:01

From: The Tyranny of Artistic Modernism by Mark Anthony Signorelli and Nikos A. Salingaros, New English Review, http://www.newenglishreview.org

We who live in the Western world at the present time continue to suffer under the reign of a great tyranny — the tyranny of artistic modernism. The modernist aesthetic, which dominates our age, takes a variety of forms in the respective arts — in architecture, a lack of scale and ornamentation combined with the overwhelming deployment of materials like glass, steel, and brutalist concrete; in the plastic arts, a rejection of natural forms mixed with an unmistakable tendency towards the repulsive or meretricious; in literature, non-linear narrative, esoteric imagery, and an almost perfect lack of poetic form and diction. Yet common now to the practice of all these arts are certain primal impulses which may be said to form the core of the modernist aesthetic — a hostility and defiance towards all traditional standards of excellence, discovered over millennia of craftsmanship and reflection; a notion of the artist’s freedom as absolute, and entirely divorced from the ends of his art; and, as Roger Scruton has so clearly demonstrated, a refusal to apply the category of beauty to either the creation or the estimation of artwork. Standing behind this aesthetic is an ideology supported by nearly the entire institutional structure of the Western world — the universities, the publishing houses, the galleries, the journals, the prize committees, the zoning boards. Books that evince a fidelity to modernist principles are the ones that get published. Buildings that conform to the brutal codes of modernism and its derivatives are the ones that get built. Whatever creative efforts spring from other sources of inspiration other than modernist aggression are invariably ignored and dismissed as something antiquated or reactionary. This is the great totalitarian system of our times — the dictatorship of modernism.

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Reposted with permission from: New English Review

Here There Be Monsters by Brendan Fitzgerald

In academia, community, education, internet, media, research, universities on September 30, 2012 at 04:14

From: Here There Be Monsters by Brendan Fitzgerald, The Morning News, http://www.themorningnews.org

The first warning came in 2008. Kelly, a history professor at George Mason, had launched a new course called “Lying About the Past.” For two months, his students studied “the history of historical hoaxes”—photographs of the Loch Ness monster, forged Hitler diaries, Orson Welles’s War of the Worlds broadcast. Then, they created their own hoax—a deception Kelly previewed on the first day of the semester on his blog.

“We will work together as a group to create an online historical hoax that we will then turn loose on the internet to see if we can actually fool anyone,” wrote Kelly. He signed off: “You have been warned.”

Kelly’s students decided on a project they called “The Last American Pirate.” They invented a man named Edward Owens. He was a Virginian. He lost his money and job after the Panic of 1873. Desperate, he turned to robbing boats on the Chesapeake Bay to regain his lost wealth. And with that, once Owens’s background was complete, the students lowered him delicately into history, like optimistically introducing a Chinese mystery snail into an Appalachian lake.

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Reposted with permission from: The Morning News

Reinventing education by Leonardo Boff

In civilisation, economics, education, Europe, North America, politics, South America, universities on August 18, 2012 at 15:08

 

From: Reinventing education by Leonardo Boff, America Latina en movimiento, http://alainet.org

Muniz Sodre, titular professor of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, is a well learned person. But what is different about him is that he, as few others, thinks about what he knows. The fruit of his thinking is a just released, very notable, book: Reinventing education: diversity, decolonization and networks, (Reinventando la educación: diversidad, descolonización y redes, Vozes, 2012).
In that book, he tries to confront the challenges to pedagogy and education that derive from the different types of knowledge, from the new technologies and transformations advanced by capitalism. All of this begins with our social place: the Southern hemisphere, once colonized, that is undergoing an interesting process of neo-decolonization, and a confrontation with the weakened neo-Eurocentrism, now devastated by the crisis of the Euro.
Muniz Sodre analyzes different currents of pedagogy and education, from the Greek paideia to the world market of education, that represent a crass conception of utilitarian education, transforming education into an enterprise and a market, at the service of world domination.

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Reposted with permission from: America Latina en movimiento

Post-Literacy or Super-Literacy? by Daniel Evans Pritchard

In academia, education, literature, society, technology, writers on July 24, 2012 at 03:25

 

From: Post-Literacy or Super-Literacy?  by Daniel Evans Pritchard, The Quarterly Conversation, http://quarterlyconversation.com

Writing programs form a significant subtext throughout Copula Spiders. The MFA is a booming business, and expert writing advice is not cheaply bought. Tuition at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, where Glover teaches, costs $8,445 per semester, and yet, as he notes, “it is possible to obtain any one of these degrees without writing a publishable sentence, paragraph, story, novel or essay.” Not a ringing endorsement of his employer. Further daring the bounds of professionalism, Glover quotes passages from instructive letters he’s written to students while airing professorial grievances. He may gnash his teeth over the poverty of student writing, but he also revels in his literary superiority—even quoting, analyzing, and commending his own published work.

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Corporal Punishment by David Benatar

In education, ethics, philosophy, psychology, society on July 23, 2012 at 19:52

 

From: Corporal Punishment by David Benatar, World Corporal Punishment Research, http://www.corpun.com

It is surprising that the moral question of corporal punishment has escaped the attention of philosophers to the extent that it has. In this paper I want to consider the various standard arguments that are advanced against corporal punishment and show why they fail to establish the conclusion in defense of which they are usually advanced — that such punishment should be entirely abandoned. However, in doing so I shall show that some of the arguments have some force — sufficient to impose significant moral limitations on the use of corporal punishment — thereby explaining, at least in part, why the abuses are beyond the moral pale.

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Leftist Nostalgia for Academic Standards by Peter Wood

In academia, culture, education, humanities, North America, politics, universities on July 10, 2012 at 23:55

 

From: Leftist Nostalgia for Academic Standards by Peter Wood, National Association of Scholars, http://www.nas.org

What’s happening? We might think of it as a surfeit of success on the part of those who championed “cultural studies” and relativism in the humanities. They won the institutional war, much of which was fought by dismissing the importance of all curricular standards and capturing students with not-so-rigorous courses centered on progressive political themes. Many faculty members who were not actively involved in promoting this curricular dilution passively approved it. Voting to establish a Chicana/Chicano Studies program or accepting that “theory” would henceforth be a major part of an English-department curriculum seemed to them fairly harmless ways to promote progressive values.

The bills for these innovations are coming due. Students everywhere are deserting the humanities in favor of business-degree programs—“neo-managerialism”—and those who remain behind in the “studies” programs and the remnants of the old humanities departments are—all too often—not performing at very “high intellectual standards.”

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