robertogreco + lifeofthemind   7

“The Moral Crisis of the University” | Gardner Writes
"Michael B. Katz is a new discovery for me (h/t Roving Librarian). His scholarship on the history of public education in the fascinating, troubling, and revelatory. I’m sure his conclusions are contested–whose aren’t?–but at times the clarity and forcefulness of his insights take my breath away.

“The Moral Crisis of the University,” reprinted in Katz’s last book, Reconstructing American Education (1987), is full of such insights. The essay doesn’t make for happy reading, but every time I read it I come away with a renewed understanding of what will be lost if higher education centered on the life of the mind and nurtured by a strong sense of civic obligation disappears. In many cases, this has already happened. The change Katz describes in 1987 has accelerated in ways that may go beyond his worst nightmare. Along with that acceleration, of course, is a great deal of business as usual, as there always is. We look here when the real erosion is happening there. It’s hard to know where to look, even when there are no distractions–and there are always distractions.

There’s an old joke about going broke, credited to Hemingway: Q: “How did you go bankrupt?” A: “Little by little, then all at once.” During the little by little stage, people who sound various alarms risk being called cranks, or worse. And it’s true: a premature or mischievous cultivation of outrage may damage or destroy what little semblance of community may be left.

And yet, the little by little becomes greater every year. Michael Katz gives me a way to see that. With that clarity also comes hope, the hope that recognizing problems really is the first step toward addressing them, managing them, perhaps even solving them.

Here, then, for Week 7 of Open Learning ’18, my last week as hub director, is some Michael Katz for us to consider together.
[W]hat is it exactly that makes a university distinct from other social institutions? [Robert Paul] Wolff offered a compelling definition based on a conception of the ideal university as a “community of learning.” The ideal university, he argued, should be “a community of persons united by collective understandings, by common and communal goals, by bonds of reciprocal obligation, and by a flow of sentiment which makes the preservation of the community an object of desire, not merely a matter of prudence or a command of duty.” Community implies a form of social obligation governed by principles different from those operative in the marketplace and state. Laws of of supply and demand lose priority; wage-labor is not the template for all human relations; the translation of individuals into commodities is resisted. The difficult task of defining common goals or acceptable activity is neither avoided nor deflected onto bureaucracy….

For all their problems, universities and their faculties remain immensely privileged. They retain a freedom of activity and expression not permitted in any other major social institution. There are two justifications for this privilege. One is that it is an essential condition of teaching and learning. The other is that universities have become the major source of moral and social criticism in modern life. They are the major site of whatever social conscience we have left…. If the legitimacy of universities rested only on their service to the marketplace and state, internal freedom would not be an issue. But their legitimacy rests, in fact, on something else: their integrity. Like all privileges, the freedom enjoyed by universities carries correlative responsibilities. In their case it is intellectual honesty and moral courage. Modern universities are the greatest centers of intellectual power in history. Without integrity, they can become little more than supermarkets with raw power for sale. This is the tendency in the modern history of the higher learning. It is what I call the moral crisis of the university.

I firmly believe that these large questions are essential foundations for any effective change or conservation in higher education. For always some new things must be invented, some things will benefit from change, and some things must be conserved. Some core principles must remain non-negotiable. I agree with Katz: tenured faculty in higher education are the last, best hope for addressing these large questions of common goals and acceptable activities.

It may not yet be too late."
gardnercampbell  via:lukeneff  2018  lifeofthemind  liberalarts  highered  highereducation  colleges  universities  community  learning  civics  robertpaulwolff  michaelkatz  1987  howwelearn  purpose  meaning  bureaucracy  interdependence  collectivism  understanding  responsibility  integrity  morality  ethics  neoliberalism 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Frank Bruni's Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be Review | The New Republic
"In fact, Bruni’s breezy anecdotes tend to reinforce the very assumption they ostensibly question: that prestige, power, and wealth are the major goals of education. He’s not asking his readers to examine a cultural obsession with success, so much as assuring them that they can still impress others without attending highly selective undergraduate institutions. Just look at all the people who run huge companies or work at prestigious consulting or law firms, he says. Not all of them went to Ivy League schools! There are “myriad routes to a corner office,” as he puts it. He never seriously considers the possibility that college might shape students into adults who are not interested in a corner office."

"Is influencing student motives beyond the mandate of education? The historian Jacques Barzun once described the business of education as merely “the liquidation of ignorance.” But an alternate tradition that runs from Aristotle to William Deresiewicz argues that it matters why students want to acquire knowledge in the first place. Using the mind as a means to acquire a corner office is very different from enjoying intellectual activity for its own sake. This is not a distinction irrelevant to the madness of college admissions. One girl described in Bruni’s book was so eager to assert a genuine love of the life of the mind that her college application essay depicted a time she urinated in her pants during a particularly interesting conversation with a teacher. Bruni is right to note the ridiculous desperation of the essay, but he fails to draw a deeper conclusion: that someone with a genuinely pure love of learning would probably not broadcast this love to colleges, and she would also not care about attending a prestigious school in the first place. For someone motivated by a love of learning, prestige is irrelevant at best and an annoying distraction at worst.

Most people think of education as a political issue, but it’s less common to hear talk of human flourishing or happiness as a pressing political concern. This Aristotelian perspective offers something far more valuable than Bruni’s self-serving reassurance that there are many routes to prestige and wealth—education as a vision of a kind of happiness that can be realized even in the absence of wealth and prestige. The only sort of rankings the college admissions process needs is one that recognizes a hierarchy of student motives, in which the love of learning for its own sake is supreme. For anyone with the right motives, the other rankings don’t matter.

If college brochures took their own rhetoric about falling in love with the life of the mind seriously, they would encourage students not to see their studies as purely instrumental. Career services programs love to boast that you can study German literature or philosophy and still get a job in consulting; but whether or not this is true misses the point. A school truly committed to the ideal of intellectual life would not treat philosophy as a means to higher LSAT scores. Students would learn to develop such a strong interest in a subject for its own sake that they no longer cared whether anyone else knew how much they loved the subject, at what institution they were studying it, or whether it would enhance their career prospects. The philosophy department’s slogan might be something like this: “Learn to become the kind of person who will never care about all the money you will not make by choosing this major.”"
via:ayjay  education  highered  highereducation  purpose  success  ivyleague  learning  williamderesiewicz  jacquesbarzun  lifeofthemind 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Ivy League Schools Are Overrated. Send Your Kids Elsewhere. | New Republic
"Experience itself has been reduced to instrumental function, via the college essay. From learning to commodify your experiences for the application, the next step has been to seek out experiences in order to have them to commodify. The New York Times reports that there is now a thriving sector devoted to producing essay-ready summers, but what strikes one is the superficiality of the activities involved: a month traveling around Italy studying the Renaissance, “a whole day” with a band of renegade artists. A whole day!

I’ve noticed something similar when it comes to service. Why is it that people feel the need to go to places like Guatemala to do their projects of rescue or documentation, instead of Milwaukee or Arkansas? When students do stay in the States, why is it that so many head for New Orleans? Perhaps it’s no surprise, when kids are trained to think of service as something they are ultimately doing for themselves—that is, for their résumés. “Do well by doing good,” goes the slogan. How about just doing good?

If there is one idea, above all, through which the concept of social responsibility is communicated at the most prestigious schools, it is “leadership.” “Harvard is for leaders,” goes the Cambridge cliché. To be a high-achieving student is to constantly be urged to think of yourself as a future leader of society. But what these institutions mean by leadership is nothing more than getting to the top. Making partner at a major law firm or becoming a chief executive, climbing the greasy pole of whatever hierarchy you decide to attach yourself to. I don’t think it occurs to the people in charge of elite colleges that the concept of leadership ought to have a higher meaning, or, really, any meaning.

The irony is that elite students are told that they can be whatever they want, but most of them end up choosing to be one of a few very similar things. As of 2010, about a third of graduates went into financing or consulting at a number of top schools, including Harvard, Princeton, and Cornell. Whole fields have disappeared from view: the clergy, the military, electoral politics, even academia itself, for the most part, including basic science. It’s considered glamorous to drop out of a selective college if you want to become the next Mark Zuckerberg, but ludicrous to stay in to become a social worker. “What Wall Street figured out,” as Ezra Klein has put it, “is that colleges are producing a large number of very smart, completely confused graduates. Kids who have ample mental horsepower, an incredible work ethic and no idea what to do next.”

For the most selective colleges, this system is working very well indeed. Application numbers continue to swell, endowments are robust, tuition hikes bring ritual complaints but no decline in business. Whether it is working for anyone else is a different question."

"Is there anything that I can do, a lot of young people have written to ask me, to avoid becoming an out-of-touch, entitled little shit? I don’t have a satisfying answer, short of telling them to transfer to a public university. You cannot cogitate your way to sympathy with people of different backgrounds, still less to knowledge of them. You need to interact with them directly, and it has to be on an equal footing: not in the context of “service,” and not in the spirit of “making an effort,” either—swooping down on a member of the college support staff and offering to “buy them a coffee,” as a former Yalie once suggested, in order to “ask them about themselves.”

Instead of service, how about service work? That’ll really give you insight into other people. How about waiting tables so that you can see how hard it is, physically and mentally? You really aren’t as smart as everyone has been telling you; you’re only smarter in a certain way. There are smart people who do not go to a prestigious college, or to any college—often precisely for reasons of class. There are smart people who are not “smart.”"

"More broadly, they need to rethink their conception of merit. If schools are going to train a better class of leaders than the ones we have today, they’re going to have to ask themselves what kinds of qualities they need to promote. Selecting students by GPA or the number of extracurriculars more often benefits the faithful drudge than the original mind.

The changes must go deeper, though, than reforming the admissions process. That might address the problem of mediocrity, but it won’t address the greater one of inequality. The problem is the Ivy League itself. We have contracted the training of our leadership class to a set of private institutions. However much they claim to act for the common good, they will always place their interests first. The arrangement is great for the schools, but is Harvard’s desire for alumni donations a sufficient reason to perpetuate the class system?

I used to think that we needed to create a world where every child had an equal chance to get to the Ivy League. I’ve come to see that what we really need is to create one where you don’t have to go to the Ivy League, or any private college, to get a first-rate education.

High-quality public education, financed with public money, for the benefit of all: the exact commitment that drove the growth of public higher education in the postwar years. Everybody gets an equal chance to go as far as their hard work and talent will take them—you know, the American dream. Everyone who wants it gets to have the kind of mind-expanding, soul-enriching experience that a liberal arts education provides. We recognize that free, quality K–12 education is a right of citizenship. We also need to recognize—as we once did and as many countries still do—that the same is true of higher education. We have tried aristocracy. We have tried meritocracy. Now it’s time to try democracy."
williamderesiewicz  education  class  academia  experience  society  us  socialwork  admissions  colleges  universities  highered  highereducation  clergy  lifeofthemind  ivyleague  2014  leadership  servicelearning  glamor  ineqaulity  incomeinequality 
july 2014 by robertogreco
On Quitting – The New Inquiry
"A symptom: long periods of “silence” on my blog. Long absences marked by infrequent, cryptic declarations. It is not that I don’t want to write. But reading Freud has taught me that symptoms speak. And I have a career ahead of me."

"I begin to wonder about the relationship between geo-history, the saturation of space with affect, and psychic health."

"I’m wrestling with my own disorganization. My own “persistent undoing” given the occasion of the social. I am “undone” when I leave the house, walk down the street, encounter an absenting normality. I have learned not to trust myself. Perhaps it’s all the chemicals that are working and not working in my head."

"I am leaving the United States, resigning from my job, and moving back to Kenya. As I have been trying to narrate this move to those who have known about it—over the past year—I have wondered about the partiality of the stories I was telling. They were not untrue; they were simply not what I really wanted to say, not what I permitted myself to say. In the most benign version, I have said that I cannot build a life here. Some might reasonably say that I could build a career here, as I have been doing, and build a life elsewhere, perhaps negotiate some kind of contract that would permit me to live here for one semester and work in Kenya for the rest of the year. Even assuming some institution was this generous with a junior faculty member, I am not sure that one can so easily separate moments of living from moments of working for extended stretches of time. I’m not sure that’s a sustainable model."

"I’m not sure this is “the life” I want to imagine. I worry about any life that can so readily be “imagined.” Where is the space for fantasy, for play, for the unexpected, for the surprising?"

"At a required end-of-year meeting with my then department chair, I confessed that I was exhausted. I was tired of the banal and uncomprehending racism of white students who spoke of blacks as “they” and “them” and complained about “their broken English” and “bad dialect”; I was tired of a system that served black students badly, promising an education that it failed to deliver, condemning them to repeat classes, to drop out, to believe they were stupid; I was tired of colleagues who marveled when I produced an intelligible sentence; I was tired of attending conference panels where blackness was dismissed as “simple,” “reactive,” “irrelevant,” “done”; I was tired of being invited to be “post-black” as the token African, so not “tainted” by the afterlife of slavery; I was tired of performing a psychic labor that left me too exhausted to do anything except go home, crawl into bed, try to recover, and prepare for the next series of assaults.

Blyden, of course, got it wrong. Fanon got it right.

Leaving the U.S. will not remove me from toxicity and exhaustion. At best, it will allow limited detoxification, perhaps provide me with some energy. Perhaps it will provide a space within which scabbing can begin, and, eventually, scars that will remain tender for way too long."
academia  keguromacharia  2013  essays  writing  mentalhealth  precarity  lucidity  lifeofthemind  education  quitting  deracination  webdubois  toxicity  exhaustion  bipolardisorder  linearity  non-linear  non-linearity  blogging  multiplicity  discipline  labor  humanities  stem  race  guilt  shame  gender  ethnicity  idabwells  edwardwilmotblyden  racism  highered  highereducation  psychology  frantzfanon  linear  nonlinear  alinear 
may 2013 by robertogreco
Bill Watterson's Speech - Kenyon College, 1990
"It's surprising how hard we'll work when the work is done just for ourselves. And with all due respect to John Stuart Mill, maybe utilitarianism is overrated. If I've learned one thing from being a cartoonist, it's how important playing is to creativity and happiness. My job is essentially to come up with 365 ideas a year.

If you ever want to find out just how uninteresting you really are, get a job where the quality and frequency of your thoughts determine your livelihood. I've found that the only way I can keep writing every day, year after year, is to let my mind wander into new territories. To do that, I've had to cultivate a kind of mental playfulness.

We're not really taught how to recreate constructively. We need to do more than find diversions; we need to restore and expand ourselves. Our idea of relaxing is all too often to plop down in front of the television set and let its pandering idiocy liquefy our brains. Shutting off the thought process is not rejuvenating; the mind is like a car battery-it recharges by running.

You may be surprised to find how quickly daily routine and the demands of "just getting by: absorb your waking hours. You may be surprised matters of habit rather than thought and inquiry. You may be surprised to find how quickly you start to see your life in terms of other people's expectations rather than issues. You may be surprised to find out how quickly reading a good book sounds like a luxury.

At school, new ideas are thrust at you every day. Out in the world, you'll have to find the inner motivation to search for new ideas on your own. With any luck at all, you'll never need to take an idea and squeeze a punchline out of it, but as bright, creative people, you'll be called upon to generate ideas and solutions all your lives. Letting your mind play is the best way to solve problems."

"Selling out is usually more a matter of buying in. Sell out, and you're really buying into someone else's system of values, rules and rewards."

"But having an enviable career is one thing, and being a happy person is another.

Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive. Ambition is only understood if it's to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential-as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth.

You'll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing, and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you're doing. There are a million ways to sell yourself out, and I guarantee you'll hear about them.

To invent your own life's meaning is not easy, but it's still allowed, and I think you'll be happier for the trouble."

[illustrated: ]
billwatterson  art  life  meaning  meaningmaking  living  1990  commencemtspeeches  thoreau  via:tealtan  creativity  leisurearts  playfulness  play  johnstuartmill  cartoons  comics  comicstrips  inquiry  thinking  thought  lifeofthemind  problemsolving  values  sellingout  expectations  motivation  intrinsicmotivation  soulownership  worth  subversion  eccentricity  success  achievement  salaries  money  artleisure 
april 2013 by robertogreco
Unclassifiable Clarice Lispector | TLS
[now here: ]

“Not much happens in a Lispector novel. In Near to the Wild Heart, Joana recalls her childhood, is orphaned and adopted by an aunt, attends boarding school, marries, chats with her husband’s mistress, takes a lover, and loses both husband and lover. But this “plot” is incidental to the life of her mind, where all the real action takes place.”

“Lispector can be a bafflingly elusive writer. But her images dazzle even when her meaning is most obscure, and when she is writing of what she despises she is lucidity itself.”

“Critics have found Lispector difficult to pin down. “Unclassifiable”, says Edmund White. “As though no one had ever written before”, says Colm Tóibín. Comparisons are invoked with Proust, Kafka, Joyce and, for the introspection, with Virginia Woolf. For Hélène Cixous, she is the very epitome of “écriture féminine” with her assault on binary logic and patriarchal logocentrism.”
plotless  plot  lifeofthemind  lucidity  binarylogic  patricarchallogocentrism  unclassifiable  novels  books  2012  colmtóibín  proust  jamesjoyce  kafka  hélènecixous  literature  brasil  claricelispector  brazil  marcelproust  from delicious
august 2012 by robertogreco
The Glass Bead Game - Wikipedia [via:]
"The Glass Bead Game takes place at an unspecified date, centuries into the future. Hesse suggested that he imagined the book's narrator writing around the start of the 25th century. The setting is a fictional province of central Europe called Castalia, reserved by political decision for the life of the mind; technology and economic life are kept to a strict minimum. Castalia is home to an austere order of intellectuals with a twofold mission: to run boarding schools for boys, and to nurture & play the Glass Bead Game, whose exact nature remains elusive & whose devotees occupy a special school within Castalia known as Waldzell. The rules of the game are only alluded to, and are so sophisticated that they are not easy to imagine. Playing the game well requires years of hard study of music, mathematics, & cultural history. Essentially the game is an abstract synthesis of all arts and sciences. It proceeds by players making deep connections between seemingly unrelated topics."
existentialism  fiction  gamedesign  literature  philosophy  lifeofthemind  hermanhesse  german  knowledge  informatics  ideas  books  history  from delicious
november 2010 by robertogreco

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