Posts Tagged ‘campus culture’

Quote of the day: CAMPUS CULTURE

May 15, 2022


Has hyperpoliticization changed what students expect to be getting out of university? Which is to say, their willingness to entertain uncomfortable ideas? The immense hurdle is the idea that your future income prospects and investment in those prospects are what you’re in college to pursue. The second problem here is that instead of approaching higher education as a place where you expect to be transformed in what you think the world is, what it takes to understand it, that ideal of a higher education — which is essential to developing citizens — has been almost completely displaced by the idea of bits of human capital self-investing to enhance that capital. Sopolitical views, social views, are for many students bracketed if not altogether irrelevant to what they expect a university education to be. What’s the implication of this? That those views are treated as something that you just have culturally, religiously, according to family — but not something that you develop, enrich, maybe change. To put it in brief, neoliberalism essentially aims to roll out education as vocational training, and the extreme right essentially aims to turn education into church. What you have in the middle are a bunch of kids earnestly concerned with social justice, climate crisis, police violence, screaming into that context that their views matter, and that their view should hold sway and if not dictate curriculums at least dictate the culture of campus.

How much should students’ views dictate the culture of a campus? I don’t think they should dictate curriculum. I certainly think that in the open public space of campus, what students believe and student disagreements and student political and social aspirations for the world will govern that. If I can add this: We need to appreciate that young left activist outrage about a burning planet and grotesque inequality and murderous racial violence and gendered abuses of power is accompanied by disgust with the systems and the rules of engagement that have brought us here. Young left activists are pulling the emergency brake because it feels as if there’s no time for debate and compromise and incrementalism; because many see conventional norms and practices as having brought us to the brink and kept us stupid and inert. I don’t think they’re entirely wrong. #MeToo, with its flagrant disregard for due process, did in two years what previous generations of feminists could not pull off, which was to make sexual harassment totally unacceptable in school and workplaces. Black Lives Matter in a summer pushed America’s violent racial history and present into the center of political conversation and transformed the consciousness of a generation. My point here is that if we just focus on this generation’s political style — and we have to remember youth style always aggravates the elders — we ignore their rage at the world they’ve inherited, and their desperation for a more livable and just one, and their critique of our complacency. That is part of what is going on in the streets and on our campuses. But that remains different from educating that rage and helping young people learn not just the deep histories but even the contemporary practices that will make them more powerful thinkers and actors in this world. If they’re right about our complacency, what we still have to offer is knowledge and instruction and some space in a classroom to think.

–Wendy Brown, interviewed by David Marchese in the New York Times Magazine

photo by Mamadi Doumbouya
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