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Wednesday, June 29, 2005


Yesterday, my next-to-last-day at the office, a truly vile manuscript crossed my desk. I was cranking out rejection letters for one of the editors I occasionally assist, and, as the author did not include the TITLE of his work in his cover letter, I had to flip around through the supporting materials to find it.

(Okay, I actually probably would have read the proposal anyway, because I'm nosy and it was a slow day.)

And what does this work propose to do? Why, to reveal the LIES AND DECEITS of higher education, that YOU, the PAYING CUSTOMER, deserve to know. I wish I could quote from this screed (which actually, um . . . I did photocopy), but I suppose it counts as intellectual property. And anyway, although the phrasings are unique and enraging, you can probably imagine them for yourself.

In many ways the book is incoherent--at one point, the author will complain that universities don't provide the classical liberal arts education parents want, but instead political, revisionist INTERPRETATIONS. . . and then a short while later he'll argue that while the general public understands that college exists to prepare students for the working world, actual universities look down on job training. It also frequently shows its author's age (academics are all bearded, draft-dodging Communists), and wastes its time on pointless attacks (don't you hate the way academics talk like those idiots on NPR? And hey, how *about* NPR? I mean, do you, reader, know ANYONE in real life who talks like those weirdo snobs?).

There are the usual far-right claims: academics hate Christians, America, and any notion of "truth." But they looove homosexuals, and have a fearsome ability to affect the minds of your children [George Washington Boyfriend snorted aloud when I read him that part]. And, of course, they don't actually work for a living!

But there are also some more bizarre and seemingly unrelated issues: High school guidance counselors don't know dick. (Often true, but WTF?). Most classes are taught by graduate students. Accreditation is a sham. Education majors have the lowest SAT scores. Universities are badly run because they're managed by the faculty (??).

But if there's one underlying message, it's that colleges and universities aren't accountable to their actual employers, students and their parents. Scientists research whatever they want to study, not what the public, or our elected officials, think is valuable. (No mention of what industry thinks is important, or where some of those research dollars actually come from.) Grade inflation isn't actually a problem--in fact, many teachers take delight in failing their students! Some fail 50% of each class! Researchers get sabbatical years off--on the taxpayer dime. To do nothing. Academic freedom means that instructors are free to teach whatever blatant untruths they like, but students aren't allowed to argue.

ARRGGGH. I know many people have discussed this consumerist mentality before--the students who think working really hard means they must deserve an A rather than an A- (and anyway, they need it to get into law school!); the parents who outright say that they're paying $100K so their students deserve good grades; and all the rest--but to see so much of it, in one place, combined with a complete misunderstanding of how higher education actually functions, is just deeply upsetting.

Even more upsetting is the fact that this book will get published. Or one like it. It's badly written, but it's not SO badly written that an enterprising editor couldn't make something out of it that would appeal to the right audience. And though the author isn't an acdemic, he's got just enough professional credibility to make up a convincing book-jacket author bio.

I guess what kills me is the resentment combined with the sense of entitlement--this deep, deep suspicion of the educated, of anyone who thinks differently than they, or of anyone in any minimal position of power (that's us--the ones molding young minds).

I mean, really. Go ahead and open your own fucking schools.

link | posted by La Lecturess at 12:50 PM |


Blogger Ianqui commented at 5:42 PM~  

Hmm. Sounds like David Horowitz. I guess all they'll have to do is go to his publisher to get this book out.

Blogger Stewgad commented at 8:12 AM~  

I hate it when non-academics seek to profit by attacking academia. It's like shooting fish in a barrel - it is just too easy to dust off this old diatribe. It's been done, it's not particularly enlightening, and it is clearly an attempt to money-grub from a likely receptive audience in this increasingly conservative climate.

And besides, didn't this guy learn to write (if badly) and think (if at all) in a college or university? Ingrate. :)

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