File /Humanist.vol22.txt, message 155

Date:         Wed, 30 Jul 2008 05:16:55 +0100
From: Humanist Discussion Group <willard.mccarty-AT-MCCARTY.ORG.UK>
Subject: 22.151 remaking universities in the image of business
To: humanist-AT-Princeton.EDU

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 22, No. 151.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to:

         Date: Wed, 30 Jul 2008 05:09:32 +0100
         From: Humanist Discussion Group <>
         Subject: Re: 22.149 remaking universities in the image of business

It's not much of a comment, but : "Amen."

In a similar, if not precisely the same, vein, are, first : Bill
Readings' /The University in Ruins/, in which he argues that the concept
of "excellence" has been so universally applied on university campuses
as to be hollowed out of any meaning and serves as a replacement for
genuinely meaningful description.  This accords, it seems to me, with
Laughlin's warning ; and second, David Kirp's /Shakespeare, Einstein,
and the Bottom Line/ which is a more business-model-friendly account of
where we currently find ourselves and where we are going.  I can't
recall the book sufficiently to say whether or not Kirp intends his work
to be a business-friendly model, but as I recall, it is.  But it does
offer some fairly clear-eyed (again, working from a weak and worn
memory) description (I shy away from the term analysis, with the caveat
that it might be analytical--I simply don't recall being struck by it as
such) of the dangers to humanistic study when "the bottom line" is the
primary concept applied to universities.  Students become customers (and
so many of us think seeing students as clients is bad) and departments
are evaluated quite openly on their attractiveness to market-oriented
(i.e. job seeking) "customers."  Shudder.

Is it worth reminding ourselves of Neil Postman's assertion in /Amusing
Ourselves to Death/ that Huxley's /Brave New World/ was a more accurate
prognostication that Orwell's /1984/ in large part because in the former
the populace's oppression is self-invited?  In short, how do we revolt?


On 29-Jul-08, at 3:06 AM, Humanist Discussion Group wrote:

>              Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 22, No. 149.
>      Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
> <>
>                    Submit to: 
> <>
>        Date: Tue, 29 Jul 2008 06:34:07 +0100
>        From: Willard McCarty < 
> <>>
>        >
> Those here concerned with the future of our universities might wish to
> read and to circulate a paper by Robert Laughlin, Professor of Physics
> at Stanford and Nobel Laureate (1998), "Truth, Ownership, and Scientific
> Tradition", Physics Today 55.12 (December 2002), available at
> Following is a brief extract. (See for more 
> on Laughlin; note in particular his book, A Different Universe.).
>> Although outright fabrication of data
>> by scientists is rare, scientific deception is commonplace.
>> The academic who refuses to exaggerate in proposals, for
>> example, will not get grants. The industrial worker who
>> explains the core of his technical niche to someone else
>> will jeopardize his job. Even at Bell Labs in its heyday it
>> was common for the scientists working in the public domain
>> to be ignorant of matters deeply important to the
>> company even while being exhorted to be "relevant"
>> because the knowledgeable technical people would not
>> reveal the problems to them. The mandate to generate
>> peoperty forces us to deceive. Members of Congress and
>> managers in the NSF and other federal agencies would
>> do well to reflect on this effect and understand that some
>> fraction of the industrial-style research portfolo of which
>> they are so proud is simply lies....
>> In this sense ownership,
>> more accurately the secrecy it necessitates, is not the
>> engine of progress but its enemy. One cannot both expose
>> knowledge to scrutiny and keep it for one's self to
>> sell. It has to be be one or the other.
>> This process is why making over universities in the
>> image of business is such a terrible idea. The great
>> power of university research is its openness and the inherent
>> truthfulness -- stemming from this openness -- of the
>> knowledge it generates.
> One could collect many similar statements from those who in the 
> estimation of society at large exemplify what universities are 
> supposed to be for, who advise in the strongest possible terms against 
> the path down which we appear to be going. I think also of John 
> Polanyi (Nobel Prize in chemistry, 1986), "In Search of the Passionate 
> Idea",
> Comments?
> Yours,
> WM

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