Category Archives: ALFS presentation

The muse of history

I. CLIO
“let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth”

The past’s fantasia cannot hold or let
us go. Flycatcher catching itself in
the pool’s glint gaze, Samarkand where Tamerlane
hewed his bloody thread, unspooling across
the hacked-to-pieces field, a triple axle
splitting Clio’s cataract, muddy then
clear, the opal of a rain-sheened open
eye that looks at nothing but yet holds
our look.
Euterpe, my head is in my hands.
Flies speckle the field. The sizer, hissing,
straps dynamite to a waist no bigger
than a fly’s wing span, but the daughters
of Babylon do not tarry—the road flares
burn blue, bog irises, erect, quivering.

The poem has five parts, and that was the first. I liked it and wanted to study it, but wrote on my copy of it that I must see about deadlines for the ERIP conference in Morelia, and remember to find the book Lower Education. So I am studying the poem here.

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Steal this university!

The book seems dated now, but I did not pay enough attention when it came out in 2003, although I read the reviews. It is about how the for-profit ethos has crept into universities. I do not know whether I knew enough then to understand the book as I do now.

I learned a very great deal from the third chapter, about the inefficiency of merit raises, whose points are supported by this recent article on metrics. And I am fascinated with the poor behavior of some professors I know in the 1995 Yale strike.

The truly important insight I had while reading in this book, however, was that much of the academic advice I have received and been confused by came from professors dealing with the slow encroachment of this model. Either they were in a position to take advantage of it (e.g. had other people to grade for them and were otherwise in a position to say, don’t spend time on teaching), or were themselves struggling with it and saying things that did not make sense entirely, because they, too, were in a new world they did not fully recognize because it used (in another way) the vocabulary of the old, and were looking through a glass, darkly.

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“Where you stand is where you sit”

Here is a book about how to be an academic administrator and it looks quite good.

It is from 2006 but glancing at it I thought it would be older, as it seems to come from an era so much kinder and gentler and humane. The university was already savage, of course, but it really seems to me that things took a hard turn for the worse with the 2008 economic crisis. Others may perceive the shift differently, or may not have perceived it yet.

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Steal this university

I have been reading and lying low, but tomorrow I will have to write, and work out, and socialize over an interesting film. Reading of some interest includes Steal this university, a 2003 book one should have read then (I read the reviews, but one should have read it and taken action on it). It seems dated now, which only shows how rapidly the changes it discusses and predicts have taken hold. A key point from early chapters is the commercialization of education: students are customers because education is a product.

Patrick O’Donnell has a good working bibliography on the corporatization of higher education but it is far from complete, as this topic is broader than one may realize and has also been discussed in greater, more erudite detail than one might think. Yet most people have been too busy with their jobs to notice what has been happening, and what has been happening has also been discussed in an obfuscating way. Finally, those with power are in situations where they are protected from these developments. Those without are in situations where we can see them, but have too few colleagues willing to open their eyes.

Then there is this piece on authoritarian neoliberalism. Neoliberalism is not about free markets, it is about creating inequality in the name of the free market, and turning everything over to the corporations and the authoritarian state. That, of course, is what has happened to universities. My piece, that I must finish, must resist the temptation to cover everything: I am talking about language.

BUT these are victors who will never declare victory — because the carefully-maintained capitalist illusion of the “university education” still benefits them. Never, ever, admit that the university is dead.

That is from this blog post which is very good. We have to use at least some of the words we have always used so that we can maintain the university as simulacrum. But this means that we are not necessarily talking about the same things when we use these words. (There was something I read a few weeks ago, on doublespeak and neoliberalism, that I must find.)

I have been thinking that my piece is not original and is not fresh but I think that if it is taking me as much thought as it is, and if it is true that not enough people understand what is happening, then it has some value.

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Keyword heteronymy

“The invocation of science, of its ground rules, of the exclusive validity of the methods that science has now completely become, now constitutes a surveillance authority punishing free, uncoddled, undisciplined thought and tolerating nothing of mental activity other than what has been methodologically sanctioned. Science and scholarship, the medium of autonomy, has degenerated into an instrument of heteronomy.” (Adorno)

Heteronyms: words with the same spelling that are not the same word, that have two unrelated meanings.

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Lester Spence

Read. John Patrick Leary has done, too.

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Education and the commercial mindset

Read it here.

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