Thursday, January 31, 2013

Notes from an Employed Philosopher

This post can now be found here, via The Chronicle of Higher Education.


  1. Brilliant post. Thank you so much. I'm going to share it widely.

  2. Meghan! You need to submit this to a newspaper/journal/radio station of some sorts! It's too good.

  3. Bravo! If there is any truth to Philosophy, or the saying "wisdom is worth more than rubies"-- but you understand. Little is more Devilish than saying reason belongs only to rich men. You show them!

  4. Thank you for writing this; I enjoyed reading it and am glad you wrote it. As a Philosopher and as a member of the Virginia Revolution that reinstated Teresa Sullivan as President of UVa, I have no sympathy for McCrory's views. I hope that such views will always meet with vigorous opposition and ridicule whenever they are expressed, and that these arguments are so successful that no politician remains so imprudent as to utter them again. But I must register my demurral on one point, to whit, the following claim:

    "McCrory can hide behind the claim that this is about creating jobs, but it’s not. It’s about class, it’s about power, and it’s about who has access to education."

    Putting the point this way invites confusion between the principle and origin of McCrory's views and the views of those like him such as those on Virginia's Board of Visitors, and the effect of implementing such views in concrete policy. The policies endorsed by these individuals may well have deleterious effects on just this kind -- and you could add race here, since it will plainly limit the access of certain minorities to education in the liberal arts -- but what drives such politicos to these poilicies is not their wealth and power, or their association with those with wealth and power, nor yet their elite status, but their degraded sense of the importance of culture and the power of ideas and the value of these for the life of both the individual and society, in short, their philistinism.

    It is widely overlooked in commentary on the event that the Regent who led the Virgina Board of Visitors to depose Teresa Sullivan was once regarded as a future Democratic candidate for Governor of Virginia, who we might suppose to be concerned with just such issues of class, power, and access, and that two of the most vocal leaders of the faculty opposition to the Board's actions were James Ceasar (Political Science) and Kenneth Elzinga (Economics), were also the foremost conservatives on campus.

    The Wall Street Journal, par for the course, published reprehensible drivel decrying the faculty's actions. And what links the Journal and the likes of Helen Dragas and Pat McCrory but this -- a view of the world and of politics that is dominated by economic modes of thinking, bureaucratic modes of rationality, and an impoverished sense of what is worthwhile in human life?

    Objectively, this view limits valuable goods like an education in philosophy to the upper class; but on its own terms this is not because it views philosophy as so valuable, but because it regards it as a frivolous luxury with limited value to society. There is no point making the argument about class before the argument about culture, then, because without first establishing the value of the liberal arts the whole thing appears like a scheme for indebting the lower classes in pursuit of degrees that benefit neither them nor society.

  5. How can you know "limiting the liberal arts to expensive private schools ensures that young people who don’t come from money can never threaten the power of men like [McCrory]." I understand you believe it will, and I am not saying you are wrong, but that doesn't mean you can know this is true. I am not even trying to sustain a philosophical question. I merely want to know how you can know McCrory's intentions. Can you?

    This statement comes from a lower class individual who paid for a private school education with student loan money, which goes without saying I didn't have at the time, and I am still paying for with a job I only work 12 hrs a week. So, I truly see both of your points.

    1. It's probably better to treat the author's post as an interpretation of the motives revealed by McCrory's statement. You are correct that the motives are not directly accessible, but this should not shield the worldview which generated such comments from scrutiny.

      If McCrory is aware of this post, he has ample opportunity to explain his comments in a way that calls into question this interpretation and suggests a more coherent one. I would be happy to read it if he has done that.

      I might also add that McCrory may not be fully aware of his own worldview. Often, many of us apprehend ourselves less than fully.

  6. Very well put!

    Just to put some numbers behind your anecdotal evidence, here is an essay with some useful stats and tables

  7. Meghan, wonderful!!! Thank you for writing this!

  8. Well said.

    I'm in IT now, but I received my BA in Philosophy (UConn '93). I live, work, and pay taxes to the state of North Carolina. Kind of wish my Governor didn't hold me and my education in such contempt. Then again, I don't think much of him either.

  9. Great post. Sounds like your Governor is more interested in wage-slaves than thought-leaders.

  10. Thanks for a strong post. I wrote on similar issues yesterday. What bothers me most of all about McCrory's comments is the idea that the academic elite enjoys redirecting students into non-job related fields. As you point out, his contrast is specious. But what it betrays about a supposed cabal of faculty members delighting in seeing what they can put over on students is just astounding. Certainly McCrory doesn't mean the faculty members he had in school or those who might be his friends. These straw man arguments about what THEY want to do if WE don't stop them negatively impacts all of higher education. I'm glad you called it out for the narrow view it is.

  11. Don't forget...

    Bill Bennett has a PhD in Philosophy from U Texas (a state school).

    Context matters.

  12. The right-wing is utterly scared of the coming eclipse of their ideology. They see Universities as the bastion of socialism and all things bad, and they are desperately trying to shut it all down.

  13. > Educated, concerned citizens aren’t going to sit back and let the economic elite run the show.

    Ergo, there are no such citizens, because an economic elite are allowed to run our show.

    Liberal education doesn't guarantee a job the way a STEM major does. The governor wants to nudge public college students towards job market-friendly majors. Is this wrong only because he's a Repub?

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