Strategy for American humanities: blow them up and start again

8 November 2012

A declining, out-of-touch discipline and its vocational counterpart must merge to offer a thriving third way, argues Toby Miller


Strategy for American humanities: blow them up and start again

Credit: James Fryer

The humanities in the US are finished. They are unpopular with students, politicians and bureaucrats.

Students vote through enrolment. The humanities’ share of majors stands at 8-12 per cent of the nation’s undergraduates. That’s less than half the figure in the 1960s and the lowest point since the Second World War, apart from Ronald Reagan’s recession.

Between 1970-71 and 2003-04, English majors declined from 7.6 to 3.9 per cent of the national total, other languages and literatures dropped from 2.5 to 1.3 per cent, philosophy and religious studies fell from 0.9 to 0.7 per cent, and history decreased from 18.5 to 10.7 per cent. By contrast, business enrolment increased by 176 per cent and communication studies shot up 616 per cent. Συνέχεια

The politics of ‘anti-politics’

Wednesday, 11 December 2013 19:58

Written by Elizabeth Humphrys & Tad Tietze

After Russell Brand’s attack on the political system, Elizabeth Humphrys and Tad Tietze of the Australian blog Left Flank offer some thoughts on ‘anti-politics’

Russell Brand at Anonymous protest. Photo by @sparkers7Russell Brand at Anonymous protest. Photo by @sparkers7

‘At a certain point in their historical lives, social classes become detached from their traditional parties. In other words, the traditional parties in that particular organisational form, with the particular men who constitute, represent, and lead them, are no longer recognised by their class (or fraction of a class) as its expression.’

—Gramsci (1971), Selections From The Prison Notebooks, p. 210

‘If the ruling class has lost its consensus, i.e. is no longer “leading” but only “dominant”, exercising coercive force alone, this means precisely that the great masses have become detached from their traditional ideologies, and no longer believe what they used to believe previously, etc. The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.’

ibid, pp. 275-6 Συνέχεια

Contempoaray education reform and a cult of ignorance

By Paul L. Thomas, Ed.D. | Originally Published at the Becoming Radical. March 31, 2013

Writing in Newsweek (1980, January 21) in the cusp of America’s shift into the Reagan era of conservatism that included the roots of the current education reform movement built on accountability, standards, and high-stakes testing, Isaac Asimov declared the U.S. “a cult of ignorance,” explaining:

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” Συνέχεια

The University in Ruins Bill Readings

It is no longer clear what role the University plays in society. The structure of the contemporary University is changing rapidly, and we have yet to understand what precisely these changes will mean. Is a new age dawning for the University, the renaissance of higher education under way? Or is the University in the twilight of its social function, the demise of higher education fast approaching?

We can answer such questions only if we look carefully at the different roles the University has played historically and then imagine how it might be possible to live, and to think, amid the ruins of the University. Tracing the roots of the modern American University in German philosophy and in the work of British thinkers such as Newman and Arnold, Bill Readings argues that historically the integrity of the modern University has been linked to the nation-state, which it has served by promoting and protecting the idea of a national culture. But now the nation-state is in decline, and national culture no longer needs to be either promoted or protected. Increasingly, universities are turning into transnational corporations, and the idea of culture is being replaced by the discourse of “excellence.” On the surface, this does not seem particularly pernicious.

The author cautions, however, that we should not embrace this techno-bureaucratic appeal too quickly. The new University of Excellence is a corporation driven by market forces, and, as such, is more interested in profit margins than in thought. Readings urges us to imagine how to think, without concession to corporate excellence or recourse to romantic nostalgia within an institution in ruins. The result is a passionate appeal for a new community of thinkers.

Digital diploma mills: The automation of higher education by David Noble.

First Monday, Volume 3, Number 1 – 5 January 1998


In recent years changes in universities, especially in North America, show that we have entered a new era in higher education, one which is rapidly drawing the halls of academe into the age of automation. Automation — the distribution of digitized course material online, without the participation of professors who develop such material — is often justified as an inevitable part of the new “knowledge–based” society. It is assumed to improve learning and increase wider access. In practice, however, such automation is often coercive in nature — being forced upon professors as well as students — with commercial interests in mind. This paper argues that the trend towards automation of higher education as implemented in North American universities today is a battle between students and professors on one side, and university administrations and companies with “educational products” to sell on the other. It is not a progressive trend towards a new era at all, but a regressive trend, towards the rather old era of mass production, standardization and purely commercial interests. Συνέχεια

A.D.H.D. Experts Re-evaluate Study’s Zeal for Drugs

Ramin Rahimian for The New York Times

Stephen Hinshaw, a University of California, Berkeley, researcher in an influential 1990s study, said skills training should be a priority in A.D.H.D. cases.

By Συνέχεια

As 2013 draws to a close, capitalist breakdown is intensifying

30 December 2013

The year has ended with no indication that, more than five years after the deepest financial crisis since the 1930s, the world economy is anywhere nearer to returning to what was once considered “normal” economic growth. Rather than an upturn taking shape, warnings of “secular stagnation”—characterised by permanent low growth, recession, falling investment, ever-lower real wages and persistently high unemployment—are proliferating.

The past 12 months have seen a series of unprecedented monetary policies, most notably the money-printing “quantitative easing” (QE) programs of both the US Federal Reserve and the Bank of Japan, in which trillions of dollars have been provided virtually free of charge to the major banks and financial institutions. Συνέχεια

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