Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

Sometimes the overly political nature  §

of the academy pushes me very near the precipice.

Too much of the working class critique of the academic is spot-on. There are indeed an awful lot of people in the academy that lack completely any kind of common sense, and that apply this lack of common sense to a broad variety of problems and tasks in the least helpful of ways.

Why? Here’s why.

The top strata of the system, the wellspring of university resources, lies in the marriage of politics, accounting, and consumerism, not in the arts and letters. At every successively lower level, instrumental rationality carries the day, complicity in the interest of continued employment being the cardinal virtue. The only other virtue is uniqueness—possessing a set of "skills" so very specific that there is absolutely no competition, and so inapplicable that no clear quantitative measurement can be made about their value.

The result is a system in which those that are most able to pursue, in rational and totalitarian fashion, maximally esoteric skills with minimal real-world applicability, are able best to secure their positions. Such a state of affairs is rational with respect to the market, but completely incompatible with any common-sense understanding of the purpose of knowledge or of the academy.

The bizarre irrationalities of the market and of government thus carry over into the world of the academy and infect it, the result being a system in which students are often left unserved, underserved, or having been encouraged into debt with the mistaken idea that they are making a rational cost-benefit calculation, and in which nobody (including myself) is willing to see, comment on, or try to change this, because to do so is to become an immediate financial and political liability and to thus be put straight out of work.

We can’t afford to do that, because after all, we’re the products of this very system; we have our student loans to pay back as well and are counting on its continued operation in order to do so.

And so we continue to specialize, to become ever more political and bureaucratic, and to learn to repress anything resembling a common-sense critique of the system within which we work, lest we immediately find ourselves out of work with years of university debt to repay.