Readings on Universities from Radical Reader

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The revolution of the '60's could be characterized by the new way of thinking about education. In these readings on the state of universities and the ideals of higher education, we can see a shift in thinking about what education is for, what students can really do, and what power is held in knowledge.

The Humanities and the Inhumanities
In Louis Kampf's article "The Humanities and the Inhumanities," he questions the significance of what can be called a "well-rounded" education, and how the establishment of the liberal arts connotes class division, indoctrination into the system, commodification of human beings, and false or deceptive culture. His critique of the humanities/liberal arts education relates to something that I have been concerned about for quite some time - the issue of inequity of education, and of colonialist or savior attitudes that permeate the "industry" of education. Too often have I heard of teachers entering the field of education with conscious (or subconscious) intentions of "civilizing" the youth that would be under their care, whether or not the children come from wealthy suburban homes or from poor urban ones. Kampf addresses the attitude of "education as acculturation," and the student's loss of his or her humanity as a result.

He writes, "For the object of a liberal education, we tell ourselves, is the fulfillment of individual capacities, of ideas and passions. Through such fulfillment, we assume, men become whole, sane, peaceful and free - that is, humane." This reminds me of the older artist in the clip of Art Institute conversation we saw in class at the beginning of the quarter. For this artist, art's purpose is to make one (specifically, or most importantly the artist?) come to be fully human. I could not see how through her model, or her ideal, art could have any purposeful affect on people other than the artist.

Kampf, like others, ties efficacy of education to fulfilled action - communal and individual, and writes that "the objective of a liberal education...should be the harmonious reconciliation of philosophy (that is, our ways of thinking). action and nature (the world; what there is). This condition is possible only when we do not feel estranged from the products of our thoughts and actions, when we do not feel separated from the nature we have helped create" (149). In this article, Kampf cites liberal education and the overall institution of higher education as being a vital part of the culture industry.

As a side note, I suggest reading Walter Benjamin's "Author as Producer," or Bertolt Brecht's "Intellectuals and the Class Struggle."

New University of Conference: The Student Rebellion
The New University Conference was an organization of radical faculty, graduate students, independent intellectuals, and university employees. In this group's statement, they claim that the student population, a population that has been taught to value democratic ideals, have found those institutions and members of older generations who have continuously claimed a commitment to democracy and social progress are quite hypocritical.

What I find interesting in this statement, is the claim that the student movement includes a struggle against more global injustices, as well as local injustices stemming from the actions of their university institutions. It seems that it was not the content of the protests (what students were protesting against) that bothered university authorities, but how these protests challenged authority, through disrupting the university space, and interrupting the processes of the institution. How else could protests be effective?

The rupture of authority prompted universities to create free speech zones, designed to carve out permitted space for protest. The creation of these zones undermined any challenge to authority, and thus the fervor and the purpose of protest would fizzle. What does permitted protest do?

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