Higher Education Links

by zunguzungu

Angus Johnston is looking forward to a week of protests and campus occupations in the UK (Johnston is the guy to be reading for a broad-viewed perspective on student activism).

In the UK, academic pledge solidarity with students. Among them Slavoj Žižek comments:

People saying you could have delivered the same message without violence. Fuck them! Of course you can deliver the message. But nobody would hear the message. This is what they like, that 100 people gather and write a message and then you don’t even get the bottom note in the day’s paper … You have to break some windows to get the message through.

And this article from Daniel Trilling recalls Raymond Williams’ argument that

…the intellectual sleight of hand practised by critics of direct action is to overlook or obscure the root causes of public anger. In the current context, it is notable that David Cameron, fresh from a trip to China where he had been piously preaching human rights (although not to the extent that it might sour trade relations), made no significant comment on the Millbank occupation until a group of lecturers from Goldsmiths College in south London praised the “magnificent” demonstration. Their transgression, which brought swift condemnation from Downing Street, was to point out that “the real violence in this situation relates not to a smashed window but to the destructive impact of the cuts.” As Williams wrote: “The attachment to reason, to informed argument, to considered public decisions . . . requires something more than an easy rhetorical contrast with the practices of demonstration and direct action.” The point, for Williams, was not to celebrate disorder for its own sake, but to show how protest has become necessary at “those points where truth and reason and argument were systematically blocked.”

The good folks at OccupyCA, ReclaimUC, MobilizeBerkeley, and Those Who Use it will keep you up to date on what’s happening in UC-level activism.

At UC Irvine, the police officer who pulled a gun on student protesters last week was part of the posse sent to round up students chalking slogans on the ground.

Potlach on Michael Walzer and the humanities.

Yves Smith suggests that student debt could be the next big debt bubble, just as, in a laconic offhand last week, Mike Konczal noted

“That right now is the moment our country is turning toward the idea of massive indebtedness as a prerequisite toward participating in the 21st-century economy is incredibly cynical, given how much worthless debt is hanging like an albatross around the neck of this fragile recovery.”

This seems to me to be incredibly important, but the gutting of public education means that while taking on debt used to be a choice (you could always go to a much cheaper public school), students today do not have that option. Debt is impossible to avoid. Since the 80’s, the price of higher education has gone up by roughly 400% in the public universities and 500% in the privates, on average (DoE figures), but putting it in those terms misses the important point that a cheaper “public option” is now absent: public education used to be close enough to free that the rise from paying an average of a grand in the 80’s to over $4k now is the difference between getting by, then, on a minimum wage job and a handful student loans and, now, having no choice but to go massively and deeply into debt. The cost of a public education now, on average, is what the average private university charged in the early nineties.

On how grad programs become less diverse without affirmative action.

On how austerity mysteriously spares white people studies:

The college may cut 100 percent of their contribution to the Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies and the Center for East Asian Studies’ budgets, 40 percent from the Center for Mexican American Studies and 30 percent from the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, among cuts to several other academic centers…Only the Center for European Studies gained college funding — about $10,000. The largest monetary decreases hit the Center for Mexican American Studies, the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies.

A vastly smarter version of Stanley Fish’s “Useless gotta eat, so pay me” argument, though still one I vehemently disagree with. More on that soon.

Speaking of which, Felix Salmon kicks the hell out of Fish’s latest here; Salmon pwns Fish ftw, iow.

Berube pointed out last week that people who defend the humanities by presuming that the humanities are in decline are DOING IT WRONG:

once more with feeling, the entire premise of the segment is wrong.  Here’s Tamron Hall’s intro:  students are “now making the jump to more specialized fields like business and economics,and it’s getting worse. Just look at this:  in 2007, just 8 percent of bachelors degrees were given to disciplines in the humanities.”  So things are getting worse?  Really?  No, not really, not even according to the graphicMSNBC put up at the :13 mark (data source: the American Academy of Arts and Sciences).  Go ahead, look at it again.  I’ll wait right here.  Compared to 17.4 percent in1967, yow!  We are totally in trouble!  … except that the decline was entirely a phenomenon of the 1970s and 1980s, when the percentage dropped to about 7 percent.  And it’s been 8-9 percent for the past 20 years now.

This is similar to a point that Marth Nell Smith made in this fantastic lecture, that I can’t remember if I’ve linked to already. It’s worth watching, though the really good stuff is mostly in the second half.