Thursday, February 01, 2018

a postscript to some thoughts on "Against the Seminary Industrial Complex", Christian Smith's rant on BS in academia and a bill proposed in New Mexico that would require high schoolers to apply to at least one college

One of the things mentioned in that piece was the general unhappiness Cal has felt about academia in its current form.  Perhaps not totally unrelated is a rant published by Christian Smith about the BS in academia.

It seems a crisis of faith in the efficacy and viability of academia is not exactly "mainstream" but it's not exactly not normal at the moment.  We looked at Justin Stover's piece about how there was no real defense for the liberal arts aka the humanities.

Stover's case was that the crisis regarding the funding and legitimacy of the humanities is ultimately not about the humanities themselves but about the legitimacy of the class that is expected to both learn and teach the humanities as they have been understood.  There's more to the case than "just" that, to be sure, and there's more to be said about the matter , but it has been congruent with an idea I've been mulling over here in the last year or so, that one of the challenges academicians have struggled to face down is the possibility, or even the reality, that despite what they think about the top one percent the academic world nevertheless constitutes its own form of ruling class and caste of power-wielders.  The possibility that, should some kind of revolution take placein the United States toward a more populist or redistributivist goal be undertaken, that academics in America could or even would be regarded as "class enemies" is not something academics tend to think about, to go by the way academics have written about the formally less educated types of people who stereotypically voted for that one guy.

Enrollments have gone down and prices are still high.  While white collar labor has seen some results from unionization blue collar labor hasn't had the same kinds of success.  Even a person dedicated, in principle, to the value of lifelong education can start to get the impression that academia has become such a prestige racket that it's not worth getting kids in debt up to their eyeballs earning a degree that may net them no jobs. STEM is not necessarily an answer in itself because gluts are gluts.  For a while business and econ majors were oversaturating the job market, law schools are not necessarily the hot ticket now, either (maybe?  rusty on this one).  So with those various thoughts in mind ... Smith's piece.

Some might see the larger crisis as being a crisis in the nature of liberalism itself.  There are folks who see that as being the nature of the crisis.  Others seem to feel, if I'm understanding them, that the delicate balance of Western liberalism and humanism can be salvaged if we just get back to Enlightenment values (John Borstlap's take, as best I can tell); or if we just reinject an appropriate dose of Christendom back into Western liberalism, perhaps, things can be stabilized (which may or may not be a rough way to describe the tack taken by the red and blue partisans in the United States).

There's been some mumurings and rumblings to the effect that education has become a bubble, not unlike real estate was a decade ago.  Rod Dreher recently posted about a proposed law in New Mexico, asking if this might be proof of the existence of the bubble. 

by way of Rod Dreher's blog.

If there's no constraint on what school the kid applies to then a whole bunch of kids could apply to colleges that aren't even in New Mexico.  Let's pretend for sake of imagining things that New Mexico passes a bill and in compliance with the bill 80% of the students apply to some college in California, or Texas, or Washington, or Arizona or ... basically anywhere but New Mexico.  Unless there's a specific provision that high school students in New Mexico schools have to apply to at least one college in New Mexico there's no reason the enrollments would stop dropping, is there?

That's even "if" the thing passes.  If exceptions are made for apprenticing that gets back to the question of what the options are for that.  Ever since people decided to enforce child labor laws in the wake of the Depression there are a lot of things adolescents can't legally do because of child labor laws.  Merely imposing one legal requirement without accounting for its impact on all other associated enforceable policies and norms is just not the shrewdest way to play.  If a kid aims to apprentice then they'd best apprentice fast, I guess.  Whether or not this passes, it might open up some questions as to the extent to which adolescents have been restricted from fully joining the labor force on account of stuff like child labor laws.  Would a teenager who seeks to apprentice be allowed some legal clemency so that he/she and the prospective mentor don't run afoul of child labor laws?  It's certainly possible for people who advocate for this law, which seems like a bad idea since it compels rather than provides and because the goal of raising enrollments seems dubious, because "if" the goal is to go for a better educated workforce so as to lead companies into New Mexico perhaps there's more than one way to tackle that problem than by insisting that every high schooler apply for at least one college. 

And here is, roughly speaking, how this ties to what Cal described as the Seminary Industrial Complex, modeling a would be renaissance in Christian academics on the academic paradigms of the Anglo-American culture seems like it might be a ... not-so-great idea if the crises reported within academia and the liberal arts education in the US and UK have been what they've been. 

If Christian higher education wants to keep up the way things have been going in academia more generally it doesn't look like the present "norm" is all that inspiring. 

And apropos of tlak about Christian learning ... I dunno, it has me thinking about how places like The Gospel Coalition talk about Christian learning ... and yet even among the self-identify Calvinists and Reformed types there hasn't been an English language translation of very much by Bullinger, has there?  There's a market for marriage book s and a need for manliness but a more extensive English language translation of Bullinger?  Eh ... .

I could throw out the idea that maybe If someone in musicology wanted to do something fun they could translate all six of volumes of Anton Reicha's treatise on advanced composition into English.   If a music scholar with mastery of French were to do that I'd want a copy of that set.  Yet, as Kyle Gann has lamented, the musicology ladder has a prestige system and you get more points for doing the hundredth book on the big name composer than for doing pioneering scholarship on someone who isn't as high up on the prestige racket's list.  But as a matter of personal curiosity and interest Boehmian composers are one of my pet interests.  So Reicha's woodwind quintets are all fantastic and I have admired Matiegka's guitar sonatas since I first heard them five or six years ago or so. 

Whether or not the problems that beset academia are entirely due to neoliberalism or neo-Marxists thought seems doubtful ... it might well be that American educational culture has benefited from the worst tendencies of both sets of views. 

No comments: