October 19, 2009


Hedges, Chris, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle (New York: Nation Books, 2009) (“We are a culture that has been denied, or has passively given up, the linguistic and intellectual tools to cope with complexity, to separate illusion from reality. We have traded the printed word for the gleaming image. Public rhetoric is designed to be comprehensible to a ten-year-old child or an adult with a sixth0grade reading level. Most of us speak at this level, are entertained and think at this level.” Id. at 44. "Functional illiteracy in North America is epidemic.. There are 7 million illiterate Americans,. Another 27 million are unable to read well enough to complete a job application, and 30 million can’t read a simple sentence. There are some 50 million who read at a fourth- or fifth-grade level. Nearly a third of the nation’s population is illiterate or barely literate—a figure that is growing by more than 2 million a year. A third of high-school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives, and neither do 42 percent of college graduates. In 2007, 80 percent of the families in the United States did not buy or read a book. And it is not much better beyond our borders. Canada has an illiterate and semiliterate population estimated at 42 percent of the whole, a proportion that mirrors that of the United States." Id. at 44. “The assault on education began more than a century ago by industrialists and capitalists such as Andrew Carnegie. In 1891, Carnegie congratulated the graduates of Pierce College of Business for being ‘fully occupied in obtaining a knowledge of shorthand and typewriting’ rather than wasting time ‘upon dead languages.’ The industrialist Richard Teller Crane was even more pointed in his 1911 dismissal of what humanists call the ‘life of the mind.’ No one who has ‘a taste for literature has the right to be happy’ because only men entitled to happiness . . . are those who are useful.’ The arrival of industrialists in university boards of trustees began as early as the 1870s and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business offered the first academic credential in business administration in 1881. The capitalists, from the start, complained that universities were unprofitable. These early twentieth-century capitalists, like heads of investment houses and hedge-fund managers, were as Donoghue writes, ‘motivated by an ethically based anti-intellectualism that transcended interest in the financial bottom line. Their distrust of the ideal of intellectual inquiry for its own sake, led them to insist that if universities were to be preserved at all, they must operate on a different set of principles from those governing the liberal arts.’“ “And as small., liberal arts schools have folded—at least 200 since 1990—they have been replaced with corporate, for-profit universities, There are now some forty-five colleges and universities listed on the NYSE or the NASDAQ. The University of Phoenix, the largest for profit school with some 300,000 students, proudly calls itself on its Web site: ‘Your corporate university.’ Ronald Taylor, the chief operator and co-founder of DeVry, the second-largest for profit, higher-education provider, bluntly stated his organization’s goal: ‘The colossally simple notion that drives DeVry’s business is that if you ask employers what they want and then provide what they want, the people you supply to them will be hired.’ The only mission undertaken by for-profit universities, and increasingly non-profit universities, is job training. And as universities become glorified vocational schools for the corporations, they adopt values and operating techniques of the corporation, they serve. It may be more cost-effective to replace tenured faculty with adjuncts and whittle down or shutter departments like French or history that do not feed vocational aspirations, but it decimates the possibility of a broad education that permits students to question the assumptions of a decaying culture, reach out beyond our borders, and chart new alternative and directions.” Id. at 109-110 (citations omitted). “I used to live in a country called America.” Id. at 141. READ THIS BOOK! THINK ABOUT THIS BOOK! REFLECT ON YOUR OWN INTELLECTUAL PREDICAMENT! CHANGE, OR DIE! ).