Saturday, June 09, 2018

some links for the weekend, a case that the university isn't an aristocracy still comess off as aristocratic, Millenials are "generation broke", and Weezer covers Toto's "Africa"

over at Chronicle for Higher Education Nathan Schneider writes that the university system is not necessarily an aristocracy


Less than 5 percent of the university’s budget comes from the legislature of the state whose name it bears and whose elected regents govern it. And we are far from alone. Public universities all over the country are being expected to behave more like private businesses. Tuition nationwide has risen far faster than families’ incomes — by more than 50 percent in Colorado since 2008. It costs about $30,000 each year to be an in-state student at CU Boulder and $50,000 for those from elsewhere.
University people have internalized this. I regularly hear students, colleagues, and administrators refer to themselves as elite, as if this were uncontroversial, even in a populist era when elitism is not doing higher education any political favors. We aspire to selectivity and winning sports teams more than to enabling social mobility. The truth is that most of us are not economically or otherwise especially elite. Nor can what we do in universities operate for long as an income-generating business like any other. Our job is not to be elite, by some contrived measure, or to outcompete the competition. It is to serve. [emphasis added]

My other grandfather was a professor at a state university, a devoted and decorated teacher of orbital mechanics and an early environmental activist. He left a more lucrative career in industry to do it. I once heard him express a longing that I might have the privilege of being a professor too, a longing that at the time seemed about as remote and quaint as a wish that I would succeed him in the horse-and-carriage business.

Somehow, it worked out, and I am starting to understand why this profession meant so much to my grandfathers. Universities are precious institutions that make space for the free inquiry that our politics and markets alone would not know how to value. [emphasis added] A hailstorm, or other circumstances beyond our control, should not be allowed to stop those who seek to experience this.

But this is an appeal to the university system being an elite, an aristocracy.  Sure, it's not an appeal to universities being the home of a financial elite and not to a formal, titled aristocracy.  But in the context of what a variety of authors call the era of neoliberalism the university is the residence of a cognitive elite.   The idea that universities are precious institutions that make space for the ree inquiry that our politics and markets alone would not know how to value doesn't seem like it's proven so much as asserted.  Would Jonathan Haidt and others have gotten around to starting Heterodox Academy if they were really certain and had no doubts that the university systems in place were fostering free inquiry?  For instance ...

or ...

Throw in the observations that the urban/rural divide is growing more pronounced, we can look back on some frustrations vented with the election of Trump to the effect that a bunch of rural ignorant farmers were able to sway the electorate.  Pervasive gerrymandering seemed to play a role but ... if we go back to the more caustic formulations of the idea that the urban centers count in a way that can't be said about the rest of the United States ...

It's time to state something that we've felt for a long time but have been too polite to say out loud: Liberals, progressives, and Democrats do not live in a country that stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Canada to Mexico. We live on a chain of islands. We are citizens of the Urban Archipelago, the United Cities of America. We live on islands of sanity, liberalism, and compassion--New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle, St. Louis, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and on and on. And we live on islands in red states too--a fact obscured by that state-by-state map. Denver and Boulder are our islands in Colorado; Austin is our island in Texas; Las Vegas is our island in Nevada; Miami and Fort Lauderdale are our islands in Florida. Citizens of the Urban Archipelago reject heartland "values" like xenophobia, sexism, racism, and homophobia, as well as the more intolerant strains of Christianity that have taken root in this country. And we are the real Americans. They--rural, red-state voters, the denizens of the exurbs--are not real Americans. They are rubes, fools, and hate-mongers. Red Virginia prohibits any contract between same-sex couples.


another way to read that sanctimonious rant is to suggest that it was a manifesto in favor of the idea that a handful of cities and their urban populations should be allowed to establish the guiding policies for the entirety of the United States, a United City-States of America. 

Now maybe an era of megalithic corporate feudalism with city-states calling all the shots sounds appealing to editors at The Stranger even now, but there's all kind of ways in which that manifesto, as stated, seems like an aristocratic rather than a democratic impulse ... unless we're talking about a democracy as conceived by ancient Greek city-states or something ... .

Yet here we are fourteen years after The Stranger's manifesto, in the age of Trump because if everyone is living in the cities who wants to vote blue then, guess what?  Clinton could lose more electoral votes on the day of the actual vote than she did by way of pledged voters on a fateful Tuesday.  Clinton lost electoral votes in Washington state when people tried to call for a "Hamilton" moment.  One possible reason among many for that is that for those who insisted on the primacy of the urban archipelago there was a forceful, maybe even brutal reminder that that is not how the electoral systems actually work. 

And we're in an era in which it looks like millenials have a ton of doubt.

It's not necessarily that they have more debt than Generation X in every respect, it's more like Generation X managed to pick up a few conventional assets along the way by way of cars and homes that millenials haven't attained to the same degree.  The chart in the article shows that Gen X got hit harder in initially by the 2008 crash but that there's a slight rebound, whereas millenials are sinking. 

I sometimes get the impression that journalism seems to spend most of its time on Boomers and millenials.  It's almost like Generation X isn't on the radar any more.  There's reason to wonder whether millenials will have a solvent Social Security System by the time they're old enough to draw on it. 

One among many reasons to doubt whether or not #MeToo and #TimesUp may lead to lasting change has less to do with the causes themselves then the details of how individual incidents play out.  For instance ... Jeffrey Tambor's capacity for verbal abuse is probably moot to anyone who has heard his vituperative bent in a single episode of, say, Archer. That's not so much news, it's not even news that "artists have their unique way of doing things" spiel comes up. So the ... explanation Jason Bateman gave for Tambor's way of dealing with cast members doesn't seem surprising.

“What we do for a living is not normal,” Jason Bateman said in Wednesday’s New York Times interview with the cast of Arrested Development, in an effort to address his co-star Jeffrey Tambor’s admitted verbal abuse of Jessica Walter. “Therefore the process is not normal sometimes, and to expect it to be normal is to not understand what happens on set. Again, not to excuse it.” As Hollywood continues to grapple with widespread revelations of hostile work environments, institutional sexism, and sexual misconduct on and off set, Bateman insisted that he wasn’t trying to explain away an actor’s bad behavior—while displaying, over and over, exactly how his industry does it.
Bateman’s glaring mistake in the interview—for which he has already apologized—is how he rushed to defend Tambor from Walter’s account of Tambor screaming at her on the set of Arrested Development years ago. In doing so, Bateman defaulted to every entrenched cultural script of minimizing fault, downplaying misbehavior, and largely attributing Tambor’s verbal harassment to the unique, circumstantial pressures of acting—a process, he suggested, most onlookers could not hope to understand.
but, of course, in this moment in America all sorts of things could be blamed on the atavistic influence of Puritan culture ... although sometimes I wonder how many people who rush to blame the Puritans have read even one sermon by a single Puritan.  Are we sure that what is imputed to the Puritan legacy as a whole couldn't also be credited or blamed to more nominalist Anglican/Episcopalian traditions?  Or Lutherans? Or Baptists?  Or Methodists? 

The point being that there's a low threshold in American cultural discourse for blaming Puritans for the cultural evils of American society that may on the one hand give the American Puritans too much credit and on the other hand may tar them as the originators of ideals and ideas that after so many centuries might be more emblematic of American thought rather than Puritanism across the board--which is another way of saying I like English Puritans a bit more than American Puritans.  It's possible that all sorts of theocratic/dominionist thought from postmillennialist traditions could be pinned on Americans of all sorts of theological stripes or even atheological stripes if we throw in Marxists with their post-Hegelian philosophy of history stuff. 

and on that note ...

for those who have never heard of Richard Sibbes, Digital Puritan has what looks to be his whole catalog over here.

apropos of nothing ... Weezer has covered the Toto song "Africa"


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