Posts Tagged ‘American higher education’

Higher education’s cult of leadership

August 24, 2015

American higher education has been taken over by “neo-liberalism,” which is the idea that all institutions in society should pattern themselves on profit-seeking corporations and serve the interests of business.

So argues Willliam Deresiewicz, in a good article in the current issue of Harper’s magazine.  The old idea of higher education was to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, he wrote; these have been pushed aside by corporate buzzwords.   As an example, he cited a liberal arts college’s mission statement – leadership, service, integrity, creativity.

He said integrity nowadays means nothing more than “not cheating”.   As for the rest—

HarpersWeb-2015-09-cover-302x410So what’s so bad about leadership, service, and creativity?  What’s bad about them is that, as they’re understood on campus and beyond, they are all encased in neo-liberal assumptions.  Neo-liberalism, which dovetails perfectly with meritocracy, has generated a caste system: “winners and losers,” “makers and takers,” “the best and the brightest,” the whole gospel of Ayn Rand and her Übermenschen.   That’s what “leadership” is finally about.  There are leaders, and then there is everyone else: the led, presumably — the followers, the little people.  Leaders get things done; leaders take command.  When colleges promise to make their students leaders, they’re telling them they’re going to be in charge.