Friday, January 23, 2009

Too cool for school

What is happening in traditional universities where the ethos of the liberal arts is still given lip service is the forthright policy of for-profit universities, which make no pretense of valuing what used to be called the “higher learning.” John Sperling, founder of the group that gave us Phoenix University, is refreshingly blunt: “Coming here is not a rite of passage. We are not trying to develop value systems or go in for that ‘expand their minds’” nonsense.

The for-profit university is the logical end of a shift from a model of education centered in an individual professor who delivers insight and inspiration to a model that begins and ends with the imperative to deliver the information and skills necessary to gain employment.

Stanley Fish in the New York Times.


Anonymous said...

And that, ultimately was why Paul Buchanan got fired. It was not the rude email per se (and as it turns out the student never did provide proof that her father died, so he was correct in his suspicions even if his mode of expression was off). It was the fact that he had repeatedly challenged the VC and Dean of Arts on the "bums in seats" mentality that led to a dumbing down of standards and recruitment of unqualified students--many from abroad--that was the underlying reason for his dismissal. Had you and your colleagues at Craccum dug a little deeper rather than just salaciously publish the selectively leaked "bad" email out an email correspondence of more than a half dozen missives, you might have helped prevent the loss of one of the Arts' finest lecturers. As it is, he is gone and the student remains--was that a fair trade off?

Samuel said...

"As it is, he is gone"

Not that this necessarily detracts from your argument, but he's been back for months.

Paul said...

Oi yoi yoi: we spoke to Buchanan, his union, the student, Sahar (the Palestinista who seemed to be behind the complaint), numerous people in the Department and the Faculty, uncle Tom Cobley and all. Although Buchanan's opposition to University policies was mentioned by some in passing, we did not have any reason to think it the primary motive in his dismissal. So we would have been irresponsible, and possibly misguided, to have claimed it was the cause. Besides, there is such a thing as defamation.

Anonymous said...

Samuel: Sorry to say but he is living overseas. The terms of his reinstatement have not been announced but may involve a paper reinstatement rather than an actual one. I guess we shall find out once Uni starts in March.
Paul: your spin is unconvincing (although at least you admit to Sahar's role). It might have behooved you and your colleagues to inquire further of the International Office and Faculty insiders as to the broader context in which things played out. Either way, the thrust of your post is spot on with regard to the managerial attitude at Auckland U. The Buchanan dismissal was used as an example to others who might challenge the corporatising logics, and what it has left behind is a climate of fear and low morale (at least in the Arts).

StephenR said...

Yeah Buchanan is blogging at from Singapore, he says. Under the name 'Pablo', for whatever reason.

Anonymous said...

Just to be clear, Stephen, that "Pablo" is not me, the occaisional lurker, but an interloper