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Chris Hedges on the State of Higher Education

By       Message Margaret Bassett       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   23 comments

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I saw my life come up before my eyes as I read a piece written by one of my favorite journalists, Chris Hedges.  Find the article here :  
Ivy League Dunces Have Led America Off a Cliff
By Chris Hedges, Truthdig
Posted on December 9, 2008, Printed on December 10, 2008

Just because I grew up in a house which started as a tarpaper shack in 1918--and with some addons  became an adequate four-room domicile for six of us--is no reason why I shouldn't have gone to college.  Nor why my siblings couldn't also.  All over the United States are stories which would make mine look routine.  In this day of downturns, the 30s are the benchmark against which Depressions are measured. I'll not dwell on that, for this is an appeal to think of "higher" education in realistic terms.  

Here is how Chris describes things:  

The nation's elite universities disdain honest intellectual inquiry, which is by its nature distrustful of authority, fiercely independent and often subversive. They organize learning around minutely specialized disciplines, narrow answers and rigid structures that are designed to produce certain answers. The established corporate hierarchies these institutions service -- economic, political and social -- come with clear parameters, such as the primacy of an unfettered free market, and with a highly specialized vocabulary.

However jaded he thinks the socio-political system has become, it is well to get his credentials:

I was sent to boarding school on a scholarship at the age of 10. By the time I had finished eight years in New England prep schools and another eight at Colgate and Harvard, I had a pretty good understanding of the game.

You can see this attitude on display in every word uttered by George W. Bush. Here is a man with severely limited intellectual capacity and no moral core. He, along with Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who attended my boarding school and went on to Yale, is an example of the legions of self-centered mediocrities churned out by places like Andover, Yale and Harvard. Bush was, like the rest of his caste....

What happened to Chris? Did he lose his calling?  I think not.  What he learned in divinity school is something he writes about while describing war. Here's what happens when he visits a modern Professor:

I sat a few months ago with a former classmate from Harvard Divinity School who is now a theology professor. When I asked her what she was teaching, she unleashed a torrent of obscure academic code words. I did not understand, even with three years of seminary, what she was talking about

Well, no need to take more words out of Mr. Hedges' biography.  I just wanted to find a way of saying something I often feel and can't say as well as he can.
When I enrolled at the State University of Iowa, I--like other freshmen--was given a battery of tests which was just another step toward a learning journey.  A second step loomed when some of us were called to a special meeting.  We were advised that we ranked in the highest ten percent--and more would be expected of us.   I felt an outrage.  Who were they to tell me how I should pursue my quest for knowledge as long as I lived up to their rules?  

My mother had taught me well. (She was a schoolteacher with one year of Normal training.) She explained that my classmates might have more trouble learning to read. She told me people do not all learn in the same way and that is all right.  These days, one of my first-grade classmates and I email each other.  It took years for her to catch on, but I persisted since she's nearly deaf and phones won't work. The third member of our class in that one-room schoolhouse is deceased, else we could all be together across the miles.

I just wanted to let you know what I think about elitism, how I champion everyone to learn what they need to know, and why I get quite huffy with this "every child and college education" putdown to parents.  Education is something we all do as we grow up.  Educationists are those who think they have the answers, which make them propagandists in my view.  In a nutshell: The US government has no business running the learning process.  Let teachers be teachers, parents be parents, and let politicians butt out.


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Margaret Bassett passed away August 21, 2011. She was a treasured member of the editorial team for four years.

Margaret Bassett--OEN editor--is an 89-year old, currently living in senior housing, with a lifelong interest in political philosophy. Bachelors from State University of Iowa (1944) and Masters from Roosevelt University (1975) help to unravel important requirements for modern communication. Early introduction to computer science (1966) trumps them. It's payback time. She's been "entitled" so long she hopes to find some good coming off the keyboard into the lives of those who come after her.

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