The unrealities serve the realities?
You remind me of a libertarian relative.
From: T. S. Eliot Discussion forum. on behalf of Carrol Cox
Sent: Thu 6/7/2012 8:43 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: universities and "business"
Any one institution (factory, department store, garbage collection,
elementary school, etc is unreal. The concept of "real" vs "unreal" is about
as unreal as one could possibly get.
The most important reality is three or more people sitting in the same area
talking to each other. Everything else is mere service to that reality.
From: T. S. Eliot Discussion forum. [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf
Of David Boyd
Sent: Thursday, June 07, 2012 6:52 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: universities and "business"
I don't for one moment purport to belittle or to demean all that you
outline: my observations related primarily to the conduct of the
institutions within which all that takes place.
On 7 June 2012 20:48, Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
The irony of stereotypes is that those who espouse them imagine they are
real. The idea that making money or working in business is somehow "real"
and in contrast to what is thought to be not "real" is one of the most
insidious causes of problems in education. I happen to think a life of study
and commitment to reading, writing, critical thinking, and teaching future
generations is about the most "real" thing one can do. I happen to think I
live in as real a world as there is. Otherwise I would not spend my time
studying, for example, century-old poems like The Waste Land and believe it
>>> David Boyd 06/07/12 3:35 PM >>>
But, I am not espousing stereotypes, Nancy - I hope I am living in the real
On 7 June 2012 19:56, Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
If "market forces" were remotely what is claimed for them, we would not be
in the financial mess we're in. It's become a slogan for what you aptly
quote as "the unacceptable face of capitalism." I have no objection to
capitalism as a general economic method, but there are now no controls on
it. That is the lack of any limiting hand that is a serious problem.
I'm not interested in continuing this either, but I cannot be silent when
universities are simply misunderstood and criticized on no basis of insight
and certainly not on business methods as a model. There are corporate
scandals precisely because "market forces" do not protect the public from
outrageous misbehavior by "business." Moreover, there is no single
"fundamental economics." Economists disagree as much as any other group.
So I would appreciate an end to stereotypes of universities if this is to
stop. I realize it is not all that enlightening.
>>> David Boyd 06/07/12 1:50 PM >>>
On 7 June 2012 18:17, Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
No point in prolonging any of this debate, save to say that I do not believe
my critique to be at all 'false', in the same way that I am no apologist at
all for what a right-wing but decent and astute UK Prime Minister was moved
to call 'the unacceptable face of capitalism'
You can readily point to recent 'scandals', but they don't alter one little
bit the fact that, if you take away Adam Smith's 'invisible hand', the
almost-inevitable outcome is very bad indeed - including the sheer waste and
inefficiency that tends to flourish once that hand isn't there.
I don't pretend to know how things work in the USA, but, in the UK,
universities get the vast bulk of their funding from the taxpayer, and are
therefore insulated from market forces: THAT's the nub of the problem ! -
it's fundamental economics.
I agree that the ground is changing--unfortunately it is mainly because
legislators no longer see education as either essential or part of "the
American Dream." Students who did not have enough sense to choose wealthy
parents either work long hours and try to go to university at the same time
or give up, try for jobs with only a High School diploma (or not even that)
and get none.
My point is not that universities do everything right or that they have no
corruption--though in my experience the latter does come mainly from
attempts to impose "business" models where they have no applicability or
from administrators with no real experience of what has to go on in
classrooms and libraries and no preparation to understand the real purpose
of what they are supposedly doing. Example: my university decided we did not
need to teach German because there were not enough majors. So majors in
philosophy (who wanted to go to graduate school where they would have to
read it in the original) and music majors (who have to sing in many
languages) had a sit-in. We still have a German professor at least, but not
a major. It is a stupid and ignorant application of "efficiency." In my own
case, half my career has been on Scots literature (half on Eliot of course),
and it was my study of German and Anglo-Saxon that made it possible. Neither
would now appear to be efficient I assume, and what administrator from a
business background would have the slightest knowledge base on which to
But the key point is that students are not customers; classrooms do not
exist to find out what they like and provide it; universities that attempt
only to provide training without knowledge--let alone wisdom--are classist,
since the children of wealth go to the Ivies and a few top universities
where they do get some broad insight into history and culture as well as
skills; and administrators with no experience in classrooms and scholarship
have no useful preparation for making those activities work.
Faculty do not exist to fulfill administrative ideas; on the contrary, the
only conceivable reason for any administrator's job is to facilitate what
faculty and students do.
I am also weary of the assumption that all "change" is either in itself good
or unavoidable. Change can be bad. Objections to it are not simplistic
resistance to and fear of "change." It might surprise you that on education,
I am what most colleagues would consider pretty conservative, though that is
not unconsidered or mindless clinging to anything. I am appalled at what
goes for education in many places--including schools as well as
>>> Ken Armstrong 06/07/12 12:46 PM >>>
There can be no doubt that the profit motive of big business has lead to
plentiful and infamous cases of corruption and ill-gotten gains, but as
someone who spent thirty-plus years mostly as a non-academic and not a high
level "administrator" in a largish university, I know there is plenty of
evidence on the side of the problems inherent with academics who may have
spent 10 to 20 years (in your example) heaving to the lines of the tenure
process and then a few years later being catapulted into management
positions to which they attempt to apply the same rules and attitudes that
served them well in the tenure or department decision-making process. Those
of good will and common sense usually come out without doing too much damage
and occasionally some real good to processes they have no preparation to
understand; others can do a lot of harm in a relatively short period of
time. As a mid-level administrator I was always grateful for the former and
wary of the latter. The best of the latter were the ones I could ignore
because they were themselves so ignorant of what they were in charge of they
didn't know how to evaluate anything that was happening under them.
The problem with this system is that the ground is changing under it and as
a model that was perhaps appropriate, or more appropriate, many decades ago
it has become more dysfunctional as the world and its perceived functions
change so drastically around it. BTW, in my experience there was no
shortage, either, of plain old incompetent administrators who never were
faculty. The wonder for me was that this was at a verifiably highly
successful institution. I always wondered how things must be going down in
the swamps of the less successful...