Universities are a place where students not only study in order to obtain a degree that will lead to their future careers, but it is also a place for students to learn how to challenge pre-existing ideas and be educated in a way that allows them to think for themselves. The purpose of higher education is to create an environment that gives students the knowledge and tools they need to become engaged, informed citizens who will be active individuals in society upon graduation. Higher education has the responsibility of searching for the truth regardless of where it may lead and to educate students to think critically and imagine other ways of being and doing.
However, memories of the university as a citadel of democratic learning have been replaced by a university eager to define itself in economic terms. Students are beginning to be viewed by university administrators as a major source of income for banks and other financial institutions. In fact, a survey conducted by The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that “19 out of 40 presidents from the top 40 research universities sat on at least one company board.” Universities are one of the few spaces left in which the ideals of a democracy can be carried out, but as tuition rates go up, budget cuts for schools rise and the number of classes and faculty goes down it is increasingly difficult for young people to go to college. The university works as a center of critique and a vital source of civic education, but the consequence of this dramatic transformation has resulted in the near death of such a university.
A neoliberal ideology is enlisted to narrow the parameters of the purpose of higher education, it increasingly limits – through high tuition rates, technocratic modes of learning, the reduction of faculty to temporary workers and authoritarian modes of governance – the ability of many young people to attend college, while at the same time refusing to provide a critical education to those who do. If academics cannot defend the university as a public good and democratic public sphere, then who will?
Title: “Beyond the Swindle of the Corporate University: Higher Education in the Service of Democracy.”
Author: Henry A. Giroux
Source: TruthOut.org January 18, 2011
Student Researcher: Camille Avis, Sonoma state University
Faculty Adviser: John Kornfeld, Sonoma state University