U.S. Colleges: Keep the football team, ice pick the English department

Eric Garland Education Trends 5 Comments

St Louis, where I reside, is a hotbed of angry Gen X muckrakers, mostly because we can afford to piss people off and still make rent. I’m pleased to share the city with Rebecca Schuman, a PhD who got out of the Ponzi scheme of the tenure track to pursue a career making university provosts cry hot tears with her brutally funny satire of their supposed leadership.

Schuman now writes a column for Slate about the corrosion of the American university, yet one more winner-take-all institution in American life that is made possible purely because of central bank debt policies.

Her latest target is universities that are getting rid of, well, the education part of university.

If you’re planning to attend either Minnesota State University Moorhead or the University of the District of Columbia, best get in your Romeo and Juliet now—and while you’re at it, you should probably learn the formulas for velocity and momentum, and study up on the Spanish-American War. Because soon, these regional public universities may have no departments of English, physics, or history—nor a host of other programsoften associated with “college,” including political science (MSUM), philosophy (MSUM), computer science (MSUM), and even economics (UDC).

What is confounding about these universities’ plans to possibly obliterate nearly half of their departments is why both institutions, faced with budget crises, went straight for the academic jugular. And not just by cutting highfalutin artsy disciplines, but with an eye toward fields of study that are actually valued in today’s cruel and fickle market. Nobody seems to notice that the structure of today’s higher-ed “business” model is backward: It’s far easier to cut academics than it is to cut anything else, so that’s what universities are doing. The irony that the very raison d’être of a university—education!—is also its most disposable aspect seems lost on everyone (perhaps because nobody studies English, philosophy, or French anymore, so nobody recognizes irony or knows what a raison d’être is).

It’s fascinating that many institutions are strenuously attempting to get the world to downgrade their expectations of them.

“Come to university! It costs tens of thousands of dollars and youth unemployment is skyrocketing! Also, we won’t be teaching you the basics of a classical education! Also, tuition is going up!

Great sales job.