Thomas Frank on The Price of Admission to College Education
May 27, 2012 3 Comments
Thomas Frank has an article in the June 2012 Harper’s that’s worth reading, called “Easy Chair: The Price of Admission.” Frank takes a look at the evolution of education, as it increasingly becomes a profit-making scheme designed for pay-to-play Capitalism, rather than a place where one can explore what it is to be human and grapple with various forms of knowledge before entering into the workforce.
In the “Life Can Change Pretty Rapidly” category, Frank reminded me that it was the Department of Justice under George H. W. Bush which actually busted the Ivy League for price-fixing back in the early ’90s.
That’s a reminder that:
1) The Ivy League focus on money over minds is not new and…
2) Republicans used to support moderate policies. In my lifetime, no less!
My favorite part of Frank’s article is his take-down of the claim that university’s are charitable institutions.
FRANK: Charitable institutions do not exploit the labor of their charges, nor do they relentlessly bid down their wages, as universities do with the grad students and new Ph.D.’s who take on much of the teaching. They don’t run their endowments as you would a hedge fund….They don’t take kickbacks to steer kids into the toothy mouths of expensive private lenders. They don’t sell their souls for seats on corporate boards or research grants from tobacco companies or a Division I title. They don’t replace scholarly leaders with armies of professional managers who proceed to fiddle with the curriculum, funnel resources to business schools, and strive for supremacy as…”one among many industries that pursue intellectual properties.” These are the deeds of profit-maximizing entities. The fact that universities don’t have shareholders and don’t pay exorbitant bonuses to top officers is merely a matter of organizational detail.
Mind you, I think that there is still a great deal of traditional learning and grappling with age-old ideas going on at our colleges and universities, only that sort of approach to the classroom is under siege from the increasingly dominant approach that emphasizes commerce and skills training. It’s awesome to have some skills training involved, but do we really want all our higher education to be nothing more than different brands of the Devry Technology approach to schooling?
Where I disagree with Franks is in his belief in the awareness of those who put profit over people.
FRANK: Massive indebtedness changes a person, maybe even more than a college education does, and it’s reasonable to suspect that the politicians who have allowed the tuition disaster to take its course know this.
I’m not so sure. I suspect that the politicians doing the bidding of the private lenders and allowing tuition to rise so rampantly are doing so out of ideology and greed, but with little understanding of how it’s changing and damaging the new generation. I guess it doesn’t matter. Either way, the results are the same.
Even President Obama, when talking about education, seems to put it purely in terms of job training. Can’t our higher education reflect higher values?
Polentical: Tuition Fairness