I’m currently reading Stanley Aronowitz’s ‘Against Schooling’. It’s powerful stuff. What Aronowitze does is set out a damning critique of the current state of higher education in the US, showing the way that higher education colleges and schools have been transformed from a places of critical thought and freedom into instrumentalized gateways into the workforce. Further than that, he shows how the obsession with undergraduate and post graduate degrees (I’m using the Australian terms, as I’m more comfortable with them; Aronowitz uses terms like graduate students), often seen as the saviour of American workers, promise little more than a precarious position in a workforce that is becoming increasingly tenuous and casualized.
Having set this rather bleak picture, Aronowitz then extends his argument by showing the effect that this has had upon the teachers and the students in the schooling system. They have lost the capacity – and the space – for critical thought and education. Of course, this has not happened across the board; rather, in those schools frequented by the lower classes – community colleges and the like – there is a much greater emphasis on teaching, rather than research – this is the infamous ‘tiered’ model of education. And without research, these schools simply become factories for turning out accredited slaves to the system. This is evident in the number of courses lecturers are expected to teach, the limited time for research, and, of course, the removal of the requirement for a universal education and an emphasis on other fields – like technical and scientific ones.
What this means, of course, is that rather than being a tool to develop social mobility, schools and universities actually work to reinforce social classes. They propagate the status quo.