CAYMAN REPORTER: Conduits of capital: The capitalist takeover of higher education

Career College Central Summary:

  • The great under-reported crime against education by corporate America is not the buying and selling of schools by for-profit corporations; that this is a significant threat to education is indubitable and well-documented. But the little-discussed threat to education is the deliberate “hollowing-out” of education from within—i.e. by the philosophy which views education, especially at and up through the community-college level, as preparing students to take jobs in the business world upon their graduation, rather than to learn the art of deepening their distinctly human character by engaging in learning and reflection through courses and content that cannot be bought or sold in the business world, such as philosophy, art, humanities, the history of human cultures, logic and critical thinking, ethical decision-making, etc.
  • These are all activities the deepening of which has traditionally been seen as part of the very definition of a college-level education. These are the activities usually called “academic,” and their function was to deepen and expand the humans who engaged in them, in what, for many students, would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
  • There are three ways in particular in which this hollowing out is being done: emphasis on and money thrown into “basic skills” courses, used to get students to levels of reading and writing they need for jobs; emphasis on “student success,” defined as the numbers of students who pass a given course; and deliberately starving, reducing, and eliminating programmes that widen student’s views and teach them to rationally reflect on and analyse their society and its trends.
  • The focal point of this corporate shift in educational philosophy is clearly reflected in President Obama’s so-called “community college initiative.” That Obama’s plan is not advocating academic education, but turning college-level education into job training, was put succinctly in a news story on PBS, which characterised Obama’s community college proposal as “a plan to better connect the training of students at community colleges with specific types of jobs in the marketplace.”
  • Even more specifically, “the plan would offer $600 million in grants to support job-driven training, like apprenticeships, that will expand partnerships with industry, businesses, unions, community colleges, and training organisations to train workers in the skills they need,” said a White House statement. (14 April 2014).
  • According to the White House’s own press releases, “The Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act includes $2 billion over four years for community college and career training. These resources will help community colleges and other institutions develop, improve, and provide education and training, suitable for workers who are eligible for trade adjustment assistance. The initiative will be housed at the Department of labour and implemented in close cooperation with the Department of Education.”
  • Note, too, that Obama’s plan also stipulates where students will see the most direct influence of that $2 billion: the offer of free tuition being touted by the administration would apply to students who maintain a grade point average of 2.5 or better.
  • So connect the dots of Obama’s plan: emphasis on higher graduation rates, minimal GPA (B average) requirements, teaching basic skills to be used for jobs, and focus on cooperatives between corporations and colleges so that the latter is used as a free (or very cheap) training ground for the former, and one can see the planned trend: community colleges are now to become the new vocational schools for American industry, not the traditional less expensive way to begin one’s collegiate-level academic studies before transferring to a four-year college. Add to that the increased pressure for grade inflation in order to increase the numbers of passing students per class, in order increase the graduation numbers, in order to receive more federal money under Obama’s plan for colleges, and the true academic experience of providing a college education all but disappears, replaced by a “get ‘em ready for the workplace—as quickly as you can (i.e. pass ‘em!)—so we can make our money” educational philosophy,” with the clearly implied enjoinder: “…and for godssake stop teaching them to think about things or to know human or cultural history!”

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CAYMAN REPORTER

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