November 24, 2009


Tuchman, Gaye, Wannabe U: Inside the Corporate University (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 2009 (Though the focus in on public research universities, what the author writes is very much applicable to non-research and private universities and colleges. The pace of the decline in universities and colleges as places of education and intellectual life has quicken in the last twenty years. Have we reached the point of no return? Perhaps so! Then again, even in the Dark Ages, learning was advanced in monasteries and the like. Perhaps, in these our postmodern Dark Ages, there will be pockets of intellectual life and learning away from the corporate universities. “This book is about how being “business-like” has affected today’s public research universities and how the changes in universities are, in turn, revealing emerging aspects of American life. It argues that the new emphasis on business has introduced new sorts of administrators who have different kinds of relationships with the professoriate. Increasingly, they try to govern them rather than govern with them. As a result, the process if auditing has become ever more important, as administrators create situations in which faculty members must account for themselves. Indeed, these administrative actions appear to be encouraging an accountability regime.” Id. at 21. “Here’s what matters: These and other treatments of grand trends insist that higher education is one of the last revered Western institutions to be “de-churched”; that is, it is one of the last to have its ideological justification recast in terms of corporatization and commodification and to become subject to serious state surveillance. Universities are no longer to lead the minds of students to grasp truth; to grapple with intellectual possibilities; to appreciate the best in art, music, and other forms of culture; and to work toward both enlightened politics and public service. Rather they are now to prepare students for jobs. They are not educate, but to train. To be sure, some of the great American private colleges and universities—such as Harvard, Yale, and the much younger Duke—still discuss past values when they define their current missions. But even when Nannerl Keohane, the liberal political theorist and past president of Duke University and Wellesley College, expresses her admirable vision for the education of students at research universities, she seems to be differentiating between the sort of education that may be offered at the elite private colleges and universities and the kind of training available to everyone else.” Id. at 41. “Although they use different grand narratives, many sociological commentators agree that since the last half of the twentieth century, many once-sacrosanct institutions have been “de-churched.” Law and medicine are probably the two most studied examples, for both professions have undergone extensive reorganization. Whether he is a doctor or a lawyer, the most lone practitioner in business for himself is no longer prototypical. Most lawyers are salaried the lawyers with the most prestige practice in large firms with a corporate clientele. . . . Law firms may have over twenty partners, all of whom are subject to the organization’s rules and regulations. Indeed, the law firm defines its partners and associates should get work done.” Id. at 41 (citations omitted). Anyone seriously interested in education, in being a serious educator, in obtaining a serious education, etc., should read this book. As a society we are sleepwalking our way to stupidity. Administrators who care not a ounce for education, will hire, retain, and promote faculty who, besides being poorly educated themselves, care even less about education—why should one care about educating students if what one get rewarded for is merely training them?--, producing trained but uneducated graduates who are good little worker bees. We have seen the enemy, it is us.).