Re: tenure & potty training (long, rambling)

Michael J. Salvo (
Fri, 27 Sep 1996 12:08:22 -0600

At 12:38 AM 9/27/96 -0700, Kenneth Robert Wright wrote:
>I don't mean capitalism in the sense
>that one needs money to keep the system going. What I mean is
>that the shaping force of the system is conceived in capitalistic
>terms. After all, much (most? all?) of our current college
>system is conceived of in terms of exchange value. We, or if not
>us our students, view education in terms of what its material
>worth is or will be or will translate into:

YES! yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

all the talk about academia being a protected province, gene's crystal
castle, seems to me to spring from the idea that the university *is*
shielded from the cultural values of capitalism. we're not -- nor should we
be totally removed from responding to the needs of our students. these
students, i would posit, are not customers or consumers but CONSTITUENTS of
the university. and the companies, corporations -- all the entities that
hire graduates or pay students' tuition -- are constituents of the university.

i'm so very troubled by the (seemingly recent) move to make universities
profit-producing entities -- or a break-even enterprise. we're simply not
going to make money (as an institution) teaching. similarly, we need to
look at the other variables in this equation. the military doesn't "make"
money ... but it does protect the interests of those who make vast amounts
of money -- profits out of wack with the money they put into the
military/industrial complex. education does support the interests of
business in much the same way.

now, the fracture is between the training employers *want* their
college-graduated new employees to have and the skills they actually show up
with. and there are big problems with this gap. colleges must respond to
these demands, and they (we!) are by and large failing in this task. on the
other hand, we (as educators) must continue providing the most liberal (as
in liberal arts -- although i don't mind a liberal-value institution myself)
education possible.

balance. both/and.

let me add that even the circus is an institution. it'll just be an
institution without roots or a way or maintaining consistent delivery. *i*
don't want to put on grease paint before every class.

the institution of the university (or whatever it will come to be called)
will be re-formed (both in the sense of changed with progress *and* re-built
from the ground up) as we face the changes of the new millenium. i am
concerned, however, that if all the folks i respect (on this list, elsewhere
is cyberspace, at my new institution) who have the potential to enact change
take their show on the road, the very people who have the potential to
change the university will leave it, thereby extracting their own force from
the momentum of change.

a few months ago, becky rickly described the pace of change like steering a
battleship. we've almost faught our way onto the bridge, and then the real
work of steering the ship will begin. it'll take a *long* time to turn the
ship, but once it's turned ... it's just as difficult to put it into reverse.

balance. both/and.

in this case, both/and will mean working both online and in print, it will
mean working both in the institutions and outside them, working with the
rarified geniuses in the upper chambers of the crystal palace and with the
penny rabble at the globe. it means working as a nomad and as "part of the
problem," part of the institution. seems to me, we work contrary to our own
goals by putting ourselves outside the very institutions to which we have
valuable contributions to make, institutions that can profit from our
insight -- and i have faith that if we do this *right* there will be a
reformation of value.

and if *that* doesn't work, and i'm still treated like the poor country
cousin, then i'll join the circus. bowles and gintis, _schooling in
capitalist america_ is still the reference for me ...