Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Beyond the Swindle of the Corporate University: Higher Education in the Service of Democracy

Memories of the university as a citadel of democratic learning have been replaced by a university eager to define itself largely in economic terms. As the center of gravity shifts away from the humanities and the notion of the university as a public good, university presidents ignore public values while refusing to address major social issues and problems.(3) Instead, such administrators now display corporate affiliations like a badge of honor, sit on corporate boards and pull in huge salaries. A survey conducted by The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that "19 out of 40 presidents from the top 40 research universities sat on at least one company board."(4) Rather than treated as a social investment in the future, students are now viewed by university administrators as a major source of revenue for banks and other financial institutions that provide funds for them to meet escalating tuition payments. For older generations, higher education opened up opportunities for self-definition as well as pursuing a career in the field of one's choosing. It was relatively cheap, rigorous and accessible, even to many working-class youth. But as recent events in both the United States and Britain make clear, this is no longer the case. Instead of embodying the hope of a better life and future, higher education has become prohibitively expensive and exclusionary, now offering primarily a credential and, for most students, a lifetime of debt payments. Preparing the best and the brightest has given way to preparing what might be called Generation Debt.(5)

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Beyond the Swindle of the Corporate University: Higher Education in the Service of Democracy

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