Schadenfreude and the end academic priviledge

3 posts


This needs to be posted in size 24 bold font at every Occupy Whatever site:

If one is a connoisseur of schadenfreude and amused by blinkered hypocrisy, as I am, this promises to be a fecund source of both. While screeching about “the corporations” and “the banks” that destroyed the American economy, academics and their ever-multiplying court of administrative support staff have fostered and directly benefited from the creation of a trillion dollars worth of debt extracted from their own students. Their sanctimonious hypocrisy might be less outrageous if this balloon in debt was not the result of an increase in the cost of tuition that has vastly outpaced inflation; or if, in exchange for such exorbitant tuition bills, they actually taught their students something that might grant them the possibility of repaying the debt such bills incur.

Sadly, as many OWS protesters have discovered, a degree in one of the multitude of “oppression studies”—“disciplines” which have benefited the most from the engorgement of the Academy funded by ever expanding levels of student debt—holds almost no promise of any career that might afford repayment of the loans taken out to finance it.

The point is, when academics screech and wail against proposed austerity measures in their field, one should recognize them for what they are: The protests of a pampered priestly-caste defending its own privilege from the balconies of the ivory-tower against the assembling mob of a larger society that has come to realize it can no longer afford such a large economically-unproductive class; and is also beginning to realize that the “spiritual productions" this class claims to produce aren’t worth having in the first place.

The irony here (and I have something more in mind than the obvious irony of self-professed revolutionaries defending their Estate against the impoverished untenured multitude like clerics during the French revolution) should not be left tacit: Like Wall Street Bankers, the academic class is finally being made to pay for a credit bubble it fostered and exploited; and is now desperately casting about for sources of blame other than its own exploitative cupidity. That is to say, they want a bailout of their own.

It is under this lens that the current rage of academics against proposals such as Gov. Scott's should be understood. Like many other groups in American society, their economic position is crumbling under immense financial strain. The only real difference is that rust-belt factory workers aren’t nearly so self-righteous and convinced of the unconditional moral necessity of their products—they just manufacture them, after all. By contrast, the priestly classes define themselves—and their moral elevation above the rest of society—by their “products.” Both classes are dying and will likely continue to do so; but the privilege of the academic class has for so long been insulated from the wider economy that they have come to take this privilege as a right—a debt owed by the rabble to their betters. Thus, their death throes will be so much more noisy.

Nonetheless, recognizing them for what they are, one may enjoy them like the bellows emitted from Phalaris’ brazen bull.

If this sounds overly nasty, I should note that I myself am someone currently seeking an academic job in one of the less economically useful disciplines; and thus such cuts will undoubtedly affect me negatively. Because of this, I take it as my charge to propose the following solution: Interest rates on student loans should be relative to the program of study, with those pursuing degrees in philosophy (my field) or queer studies paying a higher rate than those in engineering or chemistry. Many in my field will doubtlessly denounce such a proposal as “unfair” or “racist” or whatever else is ready to hand in their worn-out quiver of epithets, but it stands as a matter of fact that future ability to repay a loan is the central consideration in determining the interest rate of any loan other than educational. Just go to a bank and look at the difference between the interest rates on a home loan and a “personal” loan.

So, instead of yet another bailout to yet another unproductive group, I say it’s high time that the Academy's funding be regulated by the same standard as everyone else. That's actual "fairness."

Team Zissou

It's absolutely incredible how much nonsense the real economy can fund.

Bob Dylan Roof
How is the academic class being made to pay for the student loan credit bubble? The government bears all of the risk and has instituted generous forgiveness conditions that pervert the incentive structure of student loans and guarantee a steady flow for the foreseeable future.