Juan Cole

The real scandal around the endowment by the Koch brothers of two chairs at Florida State University is that state universities now have to seek such outside money and accept strings. The reason they have to do so is that many state legislatures have chosen not to have state universities any more. At many ‘state universities’ the state contribution to the general operating fund is less than 20 percent, falling toward 10 percent.

This abandonment of their responsibilities to higher education on the part of the states hurts students in the first instance. Institutions that used to be affordable to students from working and lower middle class backgrounds are now increasingly out of reach for them. State universities are becoming the new Ivies, a good bargain still for the upper middle class and the wealthy, but a distant dream for the daughter or son of a worker in a fast food restaurant.

This development is also scary because it promotes the corruption of academia. In fact, as Charles Ferguson showed in his film, “Inside Job,” some academic economists are already hopelessly corrupt. The barracuda capitalist system in contemporary America provides many incentives for economists to promote laissez-faire, anti-regulatory ideas of the sort that led to the 2008 collapse of our economy. Endowments with strings attached are just one more.

Click anywhere on the post to read the whole thing; it is really worth it.


3 thoughts on “Juan Cole

  1. I checked the post on your comment.

    “Take erstwhile progressive Californian blogger Kevin Drum. It’s not that his post today, “Is Harvard Worth it?” is wrong, exactly. The problem is that Drum displays the same obliviousness to the elephant in the room that so many progressives seem to have. After noting that “I ended up graduating from Cal State Long Beach, and I did pretty well during my pre-blogging career,” he tosses out the line “If you can only afford to go to a state university, don’t fret about it too much.”

    Ross Douthat, the conservative blogger at the New York Times, went to Harvard. I went in search of the juvenile oeuvre which our nascent arbiter of conservative thought wrote in the Harvard Crimson during his formative period as a student staff writer. I was seeking material for a conservative Bildungsroman but ended up empty handed. To quote from an article by Jodi Jacobson, ”…But what I have learned from watching the reactions of guys like Douthat is how little they listen, and how little they learn, even when faced with overwhelming evidence.” It wasn’t that he lacked ambition.

    ”We Harvardians are bred to be competitive, of course—to never settle for second best, to climb the ladder until we run out of rungs. We are valedictorians and salutatorians, merit scholars and varsity athletes whose entire lives have been defined by the quest for achievement and success. Here in Cambridge, surrounded by the crème de la crème of America’s future ruling class, we compete for everything—good grades, extracurricular offices, club memberships, summer internships, Law School acceptances, consulting jobs and of course, attractive significant others.” Ross Douthat Staff writer Harvard Crimson

    I did note a development in his attitude. The opening line of his final column in the Harvard Crimson was “Ever since my first Harvard spring, when I was still a bashful, beardless freshman, I’ve cultivated a passionate dislike for the maudlin, overwrought essays that senior Crimson columnists tend to pen as graduation nears.´ He did have the courtesy to explain the meaning of “maudlin, overwrought essays” in the rest of the paragraph. Contrast the former with the opening line of his op-ed piece on October 31, 2010 in the NYT, “From the early 1990s through the 2008 election, Americans grew steadily more liberal. Voters became more supportive of government spending and more sympathetic toward the poor.” This Ex cathedra promulgation without explanation or supporting evidence is typical of his current status in the media theocracy and at odds with your comments. Certainly it is surprising for a former history and literature major not to offer some proof of the veracity of his statements but then I lack the sensus fidelium of his readership and thus represent the common folk. I haven’t answered your question but I’ll end with a quote from one of his Crimson articles.

    “The United States is a democratic republic, not a pure democracy, and our system of government was designed to blend popular passion and elite wisdom –not to rubber stamp the whims of the ignorant and the apathetic. Americans are a remarkably free people, and part of that freedom is the right to tune out the noise from the public square. But those who choose political ignorance should not, through the good offices of 21st century electoral puritanism, be encouraged to cast votes on matters they know nothing about.”

  2. I am slightly lost … what was my question and how does this Harvard guy come into it?

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