This time it’s different: “ever since Plato” department (short)

From Public no more: A new path to excellent for America’s public universities, in which two business school deans explain how following the b-school model will improve higher education:

The belief that higher education should be funded by society dates back at least to the fourth century BCE, when Plato’s academy offered free admission to selected students–a philosophy that prevailed throughout most of history. Today we face a different and challenging environment… (3).

Talk about the need for transformative change!

But on the other hand, if you stop and think about it for a couple of secs… I mean it just drives you nuts: all these historic guys sitting around on their historic tushes all through, well, history (e.g. Greece, Rome, the Renaissance, Medieval Period, etc.), thinking that the public’s going to fund this for ever just ’cause it’s worked up til now:

While public financial support, along with the award of an exclusive franchise, has led to a level of academic research, open inquiry, and scientific investigation that is the envy of the world, it has also acted to isolate public universities from competition and has engendered a sense of privilege and entitlement. Greater reliance on tuition revenue, better-informed and more selective students, rapidly emerging national and international competition, and stunning new technologies[1] present a different reality (5).

Little do they realise that Reagan’s coming and the public appetite for taxation is going to dry up for ever, bringing their little cartel to an end:

Some public university leaders deny the implications of this new funding reality and continue aggressive lobbying of their state legislatures to return to the high-subsidy model… Although some level of advocacy is important and can be effective, demands on state and federal funds and lack of appetite for additional taxation offer little hope that future needs can be funded through traditional public sources (5).

Wham! Before you know it, Walden has become Wharton.

But things had to change: I read somewhere that Plato spent all his time teaching philosophy and classical Greek–I mean any more public funding, and I bet the man would have started teaching philosophy in classical Greek. And probably German as well, if the University of Virginia is anything to go by.


[1] …stunning new technology. From the forward: “Emily Ambrosy and Linda Knowling of the University of Iowa disentangled one of us from the mysteries of word processing” (xi). “Lead on! The night is waning fast, and it is precious time to me, I know. Lead on, Spirit!” [back]


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