Submitted by Jim Aune on June 23, 2009 - 3:40pm
Meme alert. The locus of inevitability has entered into current discussions of higher education, with frequent comparisons to other "industries" who failed to anticipate sudden change. Here's but one of recent examples. My own university remains in the hands (perhaps not for long) of someone who neither understands nor respects faculty. (But he has learned the Republican trick of quoting the Bible right after he lies about something.) Missing in this "debate" is the failure to point out the steady abdication by state legislatures of the concept of "public" education. Penn State is, what, down to under 10%, of state support? Also missing is the massive subsidy (even more now, as financial aid has dwindled) to the middle class of state-subsidized tuition, which still makes state universities a relative bargain. All these things are the result of political choices that started in the 1980's or earlier (much like financial deregulation under Reagan) and that were aided by the massive propaganda campaign against the liberal arts that started with Allan Bloom (and continues to this day). We are still failing as a profession to explain what we do and why. As I've said before, we rhetoricians, in English and in Comm, are in an unusually good position to move public opinion on the larger issue of higher education because it is pretty easy to "sell" what we do. We need something like Grover Norquist's weekly strategy meetings in which the Right plots out its talking points for the current news cycle. The "end of faculty governance" is another meme that is circulating rapidly, and I've yet to see a cogent defense by anyone, either locally or nationally.