Re: Elite post-this and that

Eugene Ortiz (
Sun, 13 Oct 1996 00:14:17 -0600

Mike Salvo wrote:

>nick carbone wrote:
>>The problem is that the priveleges we
>>have, even though we earned them and few of us were born to them, and the
>>advantages we had should be extended to all. I don't pretend that this
>>can happen without a lot of shaking up of the system.
>one of the big problems i have with academia in general, and with futurists
>in particular, is this idea that we *can* extend upper-middle class
>(academic) status to all members of our culture in anything remotely
>resembling this system.

You know, Mike, this reminds me of an argument I was involved in here in
the Spring over students getting upset for getting C's. It seems that the
desire not to make students feel "average" was reason for some for not
giving C's. Of course, if B's become average, then their not B's anymore.
Even if we could extend upper middle-class (academic) status to all members
of our culture (not bloody likely imho, mate), it wouldn't be upper
middle-class anymore.

>and if lyotard is right (that with the loss of
>master narrative we've lost the abilty for massive revolution) massive,
>quick reform isn't a possibility. shaken, stirred, or otherwise re-formed,
>our system depends upon an underclass, a certain percentage of unemployment,
>and the uneven distribution of wealth, both material and academic.

I agree here, as well. Just the very idea of all the excited people hearing
from politicos that their factory jobs will be secure for generations makes
me boil. The very idea that it's possible or even desirable to do something
else is beyond comprehension for a great number of people.


>perhaps we can build a new, common langauge that
>allows fluidity: a new language that has different ends than "defining" and

Yes. I mean I haven't arrived at "a new language" as an answer just yet,
but I think we have to move away from the concepts behind defining and
comprehending -- analyzing, sterilizing, codifying, dissecting, etc --
because they preserve the hierachism of the intelligencia. If there's an
intelligencia, then there must me... what? an ignorencia? And the most
common problem I have seen with this dichotomy is not so much the arrogance
or elitism of the powerful as the fear of arrogance and power on the part
of the weak. And we can't give power like candy or some great gift from on
high. Po' folk got pride and dignity if nothing else.

>it's important that we make distinctions, that we *discriminate*, but at the
>same time, the distinctions we make need to be contextual and meaningful.
>to me, that means avoiding list-making and trying to enforce lists of great
>books, or of excusing the obvious and undeniable priviledge we enjoy -- and
>to admit that it's rather silly, if not insulting, to justify our priviledge
>by saying "you too will have what i have, just wait."

And of course we are smack in the middle of this whole hallowed halls BS.
Why do we bite our lips (yes, even me) when somebody holding a Chair says
that the literature studied in English Departments is the "highest" form of
writing? Because we want in. Maybe with the hope to reform the system. So,
I think we have to make a choice about what is and is not valuable
vis-a-vis our place society and the kind of learning that results in
putting food on the table, paying the rent or mortgage, as well as pulling
political strings.

>we have priviledge. denying it makes us look foolish. failing to produce
>useable knowledge with the priviledge afforded us means we have failed, and
>our culture has a right to ask for accountability.

Well now that's the trick, isn't it? What is usable knowledge and who is
the user? Idealogically, in our field it's not as easy as leaving the
neighborhood for college and medical school and then going back and opening
a free clinic ten years later, is it? Hmmm, now that's a thought out of
left field.

>however, the problem of
>*communicating* the important knowledge we have created regarding rhetoric,
>cultural critique, and digital communication is a separate issue, and i feel
>our successes are simply too powerful, promising, and potentially valuable
>to allow this continued squabbling about academic language / dialect keep us
>from making this knowledge available to the culture we are a part, and which
>supports our inquiry.

Yes, but that's a problem, too. We do squabble about academic language /
dialect. I agree with Steve, that many fycomp students are probably so po
that they don't know a mo exists. Still, they ARE in a "box" and it's very
much tied with a very strong ribbon manufactured by the Department of Mo.
It seems to me that we too often get stuck in the argument over how best to
impart knowledge or skills. But imparting knowledge or skills is top-down
and assumes a finite amount of knowledge or skills to impart and I thought
we were past that. Better to concentrate on inquiry, don't you think?:
discussing ideas for ways to open students to seeing that it's okay to
inquire, that inquiry is more important than imparted knowledge, that
ultimately reading and writing is the means for inquiry, and that inquiry
neither begins nor ends within the confines of the aforementioned hallowed

Sorry if this was too long.


Eugene Ortiz


"All this is fine, but what happens when the rubber meets the road?"