Giroux and the Corporate University

by Lana Lynne on 1.27.11

In the interest of keeping critical thinking alive in higher education, and maintaining awareness of corporate colonization of the university system, check out Henry Giroux's recent article, "Beyond the Swindle of the Corporate University." Calling to task those academics who, in Giroux's view, have retreated from utilizing the university as "a democratic public sphere and a crucial site for learning how to think critically and act with civic courage," Giroux points out a number of examples of how higher education has fallen prey to corporate and political influences:

This [the role of academics] is particularly disturbing given the unapologetic turn that higher education has taken in its willingness to mimic corporate culture and ingratiate itself to the national security state. Universities now face a growing set of challenges arising from budget cuts, diminishing quality, the downsizing of faculty, the militarization of research and the revamping of the curriculum to fit the interests of the market. In the United States, many of the problems in higher education can be linked to low funding, the domination of universities by market mechanisms, the rise of for-profit colleges, the intrusion of the national security state and the lack of faculty self-governance, all of which not only contradict the culture and democratic value of higher education, but also makes a mockery of the very meaning and mission of the university as a place both to think and to provide the formative culture and agents that make a democracy possible. Universities and colleges have been largely abandoned as democratic public spheres dedicated to providing a public service, expanding upon humankind's great intellectual and cultural achievements and educating future generations to be able to confront the challenges of a global democracy. As the humanities and liberal arts are downsized, privatized and commodified, higher education finds itself caught in the paradox of claiming to invest in the future of young people, while offering them few intellectual, civic and moral supports.

Many thought-provoking comments follow the essay. Some applaud Giroux's line of thinking; others criticize it for being needlessly apocalyptic. Of the latter, one commenter felt Giroux's perspective is highly "conservative" and urges people to look at change positively, pointing out how universities were once under the tutelage of the church and the province of the wealthy. Being under a corporate thumb hardly seems better, yet perhaps there is something to be said for looking at the situation with a mind for change.

So, what say thee? What does, or can, the future hold for the ivory tower?
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