UO Prof Elliot Berkman on “The Self-Defeat of Academia”

Thanks to a helpful reader for the link. A snippet:

These last few years have been tough for higher education. Enrollment is down year after year, state funding increases have stalled even as costs skyrocket, and most people don’t have much confidence overall in American colleges and universities.

The standard explanation within academia for these trends is that the relentless drumbeat of criticism of universities from right-wing media have combined with increasing anti-intellectualism in the US to erode public perceptions of the value of higher education. Attacks from conservative media have increased, focused in particular on the well-established liberal bias in higher ed, so the partisan divide in perceptions of universities is not surprising.

But right-wing attacks on the academy and its denizens are only part of the story. A closer look at the data shows that a sizeable number of liberals are dissatisfied with higher education. Besides, focusing only on partisan media places the responsibility for recent downward trends in enrolment, funding, and public opinion outside of academia. We – professors and administrators in higher education – need to accept our role in these trends. Only by confronting how we contribute to our deteriorating public image can we reverse it.

If the right-wing media attacks on universities amount to a public relations battle, then we are clearly on the losing side. We’re barely even putting up a fight. The reluctance to make the case for our value to society goes back to a very different time, when we could take public support for granted. But things have changed. …

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9 Responses to UO Prof Elliot Berkman on “The Self-Defeat of Academia”

  1. The word of the day for today is... says:

    belief in or reliance on academic or other formal qualifications as the best measure of a person’s intelligence or ability to do a particular job.
    “credentialism is to a large degree responsible for people assuming that they need a degree”.

    • ODA says:

      Big Data.
      Big Data
      When you apply to a job with hundreds or thousands of other applicants and the employer needs to whittle the list down to three–Credentialism is only the first pass; after that can start linking your name with voting roles, facebook, twitter, google, fitbit, gps, candy crush, and other for profit data sinks and make even more (arbitrary) cuts to the pile…
      I guess there is a silver lining so far, in that they do not check your DNA, amazon food delivery, and fitbit first to see how you will impact their insurance pool. (Or do they?)

  2. Dog says:

    Always good to look at data


    Enrollment downward trend is quite weak

    basically down by 10% over a 5 year period, perhaps even a small self correction because of over crowded colleges.

    While I agree fully that Academia needs to evolve, I don’t think such evolution is needed for campuses to still be populated

  3. Anonymous says:

    Berkman is way too entranced by the Twitter, but this series on why you shouldn’t be a professor is gold: https://twitter.com/Psychologician/status/1026509494035996675

  4. enrollmentup says:

    Enrollment in 4-year universities trending up, according to Berkman’s link. Hardly self-defeat, although Berkman raises some fine points.

  5. Dog says:

    A lot of important, but ignored issues, are raised in Derek’s Bok
    2009 book: Our Nations Underachieving Colleges:


    It is well worth reading, I suspect most academics will violently dispute everything written in this book but what if some of the ideas are mildly correct – particularly the one in which Higher Ed is now longer producing relevant citizens of the world. Yes, I know the stock answer, of course we are, we cultivate and instill critical thinking – I am still waiting for objective evidence to verify this claim.

    At the very least, Bok suggests we need to modify and evolve our legacy curriculum. Yes, I know, of course, we are doing that …

  6. Winston says:

    I didn’t know that we were allowed to read Quillette!

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