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robertogreco : herbchildress   4

Luxury Interiors – Popula
"The question of “U.S.C. versus A.S.U.” in this piece was unclear to me; to what extent was Hess underwriting this hierarchy? I wrote to ask her, and she replied that she wished she’d had the space to elaborate in the piece. And for good reason:
I’m from a Sun Devil family. My mom worked at Arizona State… I don’t think any of the jokes about ASU are based on a real understanding of the kind of education you could receive there; it’s based on the number of people who can access that education […]

The same people who surely believe that every child should have access to a college education also make sure to rank some of those educations as enviable and others as embarrassing. The idea of an elite, high-class education must be hoarded by a select few, because if everybody had it, it would lose its value to the elite.

Which just begins to explain why someone like Mossimo Giannulli might want to be able to say, “my daughter is at U.S.C.”

***

When people are willing to drown themselves in debt and even commit literal crimes in order to obtain an elite college education for themselves or their kids, what, really, what exactly, do they they think they are buying?

Or selling. What are people thinking, who are selling an “education” that is actively harming a whole society; that wrecks the fabric of a city, that causes people to lose their grip on their conscience, their sanity; that makes them set so catastrophic an example, somehow both before, and on behalf of, their children. All this makes a mockery of the Enlightenment values—by which I mean the egalitarianism and erudition of Alexander Pope, and not Edmund Burke getting himself in a lather over Marie Antoinette—that a Western education was once imagined to represent.

Reaction to the admissions scandal has so far centered on these rich parents and their unworthy spawn, whose lawyers now prepare to spin a tale of misguided, but forgivable, parental devotion. No less a cultural authority than the playwright David Mamet wrote an “open letter” defending accused admissions cheat Felicity Huffman; according to him, “a parent’s zeal for her children’s future may have overcome her better judgment for a moment.” Except that the “moment” went on for months, according to court filings, and involved Huffman’s paying $15,000 to ensure that her daughter would have twice the time to complete her SAT exam that an ordinary, non-bribery-enabled kid would have. Also to hire a crooked proctor afterwards, who could change some of her daughter’s wrong answers to correct ones.

In any case, Hess is right: You can get an ultrafine education at A.S.U. That place is an R1 university, positively bristling with Nobel laureates and MacArthur fellows. Walter V. Robinson, who led the famous “Spotlight” newsroom at the Boston Globe, teaches there. It’s wild to think anyone would be willing to blow half a million dollars to ensure an admission to U.S.C. over A.S.U.

Anyone who has been to (any) college can tell you that the proportion of enlightenment to hangovers varies greatly from customer to customer. It’s something else altogether that calls for the half-million bucks.

***

Coming from a quite different angle—and on March 27th, the very same day as Hess’s piece—Herb Childress, in the Chronicle of Higher Education, asked: “How did we decide that professors don’t deserve job security or a decent salary?” (“This is How You Kill a Profession.”) Childress is one of tens of thousands of Ph.D.s in the United States who failed to find a place on the tenure track, and who were slowly forced out of a professional academic career as their prospects faded year by year in the academic Hunger Games, as this brutal process is not uncommonly described.

You might assume that people like Childress just “didn’t make it” through some fault of their own, but you’d be wrong. Over the last fifty years academic work has come to look more and more like indentured servitude: Grad students and postdocs are a species of flexible workers in a gig economy, toiling in low-paying jobs waiting for their once-a-year chance to play the tenure track lottery.

Please note that these are the very people who work in the “good schools,” who are compelled to “teach,” for insanely low pay—like, a few thousand dollars per class—people like Mossimo Giannulli’s daughter Olivia Jade, a famous YouTube “Influencer.” This lady’s dad paid hundreds of thousands to put her in the orbit of hugely educated, committed, job-insecure people like Childress. She, meanwhile, impishly bragged to her legion of YouTube followers that she doesn’t really “care about school.”

And yet scholars like Childress can’t let go of their romantic notions of the academy, and their sense of vocation, which can easily be exploited; unfortunately they’ll agree to live the dream even at cut rates, as Childress himself openly admitted in the Chron.
The grief of not finding a home in higher ed—of having done everything as well as I was capable of doing, and having it not pan out; of being told over and over how well I was doing and how much my contributions mattered, even as the prize was withheld—consumed more than a decade. It affected my physical health. It affected my mental health. It ended my first marriage. […]

Like any addict, I have to be vigilant whenever higher ed calls again. I know what it means to be a member of that cult, to believe in the face of all evidence, to persevere, to serve. I know what it means to take a 50-percent pay cut and move across the country to be allowed back inside the academy as a postdoc after six years in the secular professions. To be grateful to give up a career, to give up economic comfort, in order to once again be a member.

Consider the benefits-free, pension-free pittance paid to the vast majority of people providing the elite education, who never saw a dime of all those millions in bribes, and a more complicated and larger picture than we’ve yet seen emerges."



"I wasn’t nearly as much of a paragon, but as a brown-trash “gifted” kid who came up poor and went to fancy schools I can easily understand how listening to this brilliant lecturer dazzled my friend, and changed the course of his life. This feeling comes to students anywhere, everywhere, in every school with a good teacher with time and attention to give us. There was and still is something vital, something good and real, to want out of an “education,” something quite beyond the ken of the kind of people who would pay an SAT proctor to cheat.

Then there’s this other angle. I first went off to college already inured to the idea that I was involved in an economy; that we were trading. Everything had been made easier for the rich kids, of course, and it wasn’t their fault, all had been bought and paid for by their parents and grandparents, but also—a crucial thing—they had also lacked our luck; they lacked certain desirable qualities, qualities as randomly distributed as wealth, things with which some of us had won a different lottery, had skipped grades with and been celebrated for: the sort of “intelligence” that made school easy. There seemed to be a natural symbiosis in this structure, crazy and shameful as the whole business of “meritocracy” appears to me now.

But also like all college kids we mainly didn’t give a fuck about any of that and just got to be friends for true reasons, just loved one another. The rich kids happened to be able to teach the poor ones what fork to use and how to ski, and the poor and/or brown kids of halfway reasonable intelligence gave them books, new kinds of food and family, music and art, a view of the other side of the tracks, new ways to have fun. We poor ones brought, say, a taste for Lester Bangs, arroz con pollo, Brian Eno and Virginia Woolf; they treated us to foie gras and Tahoe and big old California cabs on our 18th birthday. Gross, right? Really gross. But the (grotesquely mistaken) idea was that we were bringing each other into a better world, a different world, and a little at a time the true, good world would finally come.

This may sound a bit tinfoil but now I suspect that the problem may have been, all along, that all the college kids started to realize together (as I think they are still) that there was something sick at the roots of this tree of knowledge as it was then constituted. Strangely, dangerously healing, egalitarian ideas began to take hold; demographics changed, and the country began to move to the left. The 90s was the era of the tenured radical on campus, and the culture wars grew white-hot. Al Gore was elected president, and was prevented by the merest whisker from taking office. Even a barely left of center President Gore would have made things a little too parlous for the powers that be, who are on the same side as the Giannullis of the world.

Hess told me that some people think there’s one kind of education within the purview of everyone willing to work to get it, the “embarrassing” kind, and then there’s another kind that is luxury goods, strictly for “elites” from “elite” institutions—however corrupt the latter may be—served tableside by an underpaid servant class.

But the egalitarian view of education and the luxury view are mutually exclusive. Pulling up the drawbridge around your ivory tower only cuts it off from the global commons, which alone can provide the intellectual atmosphere in which a free society, and its academy, can breathe and thrive. Power wants its “meritocracy”: thus the eternal cake-having rhetoric around higher education, the queasy mingling of “exclusivity” and “diversity.”

Note too that the ruling class protects its interests as starkly on the fake left of the centrist Democrats as it does on the right, where the Koch brothers have long bought professors like they were so many cups of coffee. In Jacobin, Liza Featherstone’s … [more]
education  elitism  highered  highereducation  2019  mariabustillos  culture  society  smartness  petebuttigieg  operationvaristyblues  meritocracy  us  capitalism  competition  scarcity  lizafeatherstone  donaldtrump  centrism  herbchildress  academia  colleges  universities  rankings  admissions 
april 2019 by robertogreco
This Is How You Kill a Profession - The Chronicle of Higher Education
"Like any addict, I have to be vigilant whenever higher ed calls again. I know what it means to be a member of that cult, to believe in the face of all evidence, to persevere, to serve. I know what it means to take a 50-percent pay cut and move across the country to be allowed back inside the academy as a postdoc after six years in the secular professions. To be grateful to give up a career, to give up economic comfort, in order to once again be a member.

Part of me still wants it. That kind of faith is in my bones, and reason can only bleach it away somewhat. The imprint is still there, faint, hauntingly imprecise, all the more venerable for its openness to dreams. I worked as a college administrator for seven years after that postdoc, because I couldn’t bear to be away from my beloved community even after it had set me aside. Because I couldn’t walk away.

All cults, all abusers, work the same way, taking us away from friends and family, demanding more effort and more sacrifice and more devotion, only to find that we remain the same tantalizing distance from the next promised level. And the sacrifice normalizes itself into more sacrifice, the devotion becomes its own reward, the burn of the hunger as good as the meal. "
herbchildress  academia  labor  work  cults  highereducation  highered  teaching  colleges  universities  health  inequality  tenure  competition  faith  abuse  adjuncts  service  class  precarity  capitalism  hungergames 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Neighborhood Nazis
"Critics deride communities represented by homeowner associations as walled-off worlds where the well-heeled can collectively ignore problems like crime and fiscal despair. Many association members consider their rules repressive and needlessly complex. Nonetheless, these community organizations continue to spring up in unprecedented numbers. This privatization of government functions raises a host of vexing societal questions.

'I call it secession by the successful,' says Evan McKenzie, a political scientist at the University of Illinois and author of Privatopia (Yale University Press, 1994), a book dissecting the blissful illusions associations proffer. 'When we think about citizenship in our communities, we think of some concept of rights and responsibilities. But common interest developments encourage secessionist mentalities. They give people a variety of incentives for not seeing themselves as belonging to their city or county, since they belong to associations that provide services such as recreation centers, swimming pools, and parks. Meanwhile, those cities and counties shrivel from neglect.'

Elitism exacts another price as well: Associations exert more control over their members' lives than do any municipal, state, or federal entities. They may mandate how many hours a day you may keep your garage door open, whether you can build a pool in your backyard, what kind of shrubs get planted out front, and how high your flagpole can be. Assuming that flagpoles are allowed.

In short, they are not refuges for renegades.

In their early stages, homeowners' associations are run by developer-appointed boards of directors, usually made up of builders working on the development, with one or two homeowners added to the mix. The boards, in turn, hire outside companies to handle daily management chores, and to act as buffers between themselves and agitated residents.

As a rule, appointed board members get most of the votes -- typically about three votes per lot in the project. Homeowners usually receive one vote per home, no matter how many people live in the house.

This formula allows developers to retain control of the property through the association until the community is nearly complete, or up to some preset date. The association is likewise guided by a set of codes, covenants, and restrictions -- known as CC&Rs -- signed by every home buyer. The CC&Rs remain in effect long after the developer turns the board over to homeowner-elected officers and departs. At that point, elected representatives maintain the rules, which typically can be overturned only by a 'supermajority,' or 75 percent of homeowner votes.

Under board tutelage, community parks are established, recreation centers are built, swimming pools are maintained, and architectural consistency is imposed, all financed by membership fees. Associations also lobby state and local governments on a variety of issues, including land zoning decisions and tax relief for services they already provide, like garbage collection, and they've won many struggles. In New Jersey, for example, a recent referendum banned double payment for services.

Problems arise from the associations' contradictory roles. On the one hand, they operate as governments. On the other hand, they're still private concerns and thereby not subject to constitutional guarantees like free speech. The courts consider membership in them voluntary -- akin to joining the Elks or Kiwanis -- although many new homes come with associations attached.

'People who buy into them do give up a large part of their rights as citizens,' McKenzie says, adding that associations don't always wield their power wisely. The gradation of enforcement exercised by civil authorities is lacking, he says. 'For example, if you cross an empty street in the middle of the block and a cop sees you, will he give you a fine? Probably not.'

Associations aren't as flexible: 'Boards feel it's their mandate to enforce every rule every time. And they tend to be made up of people who have some desire to hold power over their neighbors. The situation can create neighborhood Hitlers."

[Printable version: http://www.utne.com/print.aspx?id={60089ED4-89BF-40FE-8917-39A05ACA1221} URL includes those curly brackets, so cut and paste to get there.]

[Referenced on page 307 of Landscapes of Betrayal, Landscapes of Joy, by Herb Childress
http://www.sunypress.edu/p-3177-landscapes-of-betrayal-landscap.aspx ]

[See also Robert Reich's "Secession by the Succesful" (1991) http://www-personal.umich.edu/~gmarkus/secession.html
and http://alternativeperspective.blogspot.com/2006/06/meritocracy-secession-of-successful.html
and http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Youth,+crime,+and+cultural+space.-a020562409
and Evan McKenzie's "Common-Interest Housing in the Communities
of Tomorrow" (.pdf) http://tigger.uic.edu/~mckenzie/comoftom.pdf ]

[This relates to the Silicon Valley secessionist attitude that has been raging lately:
http://danhon.com/2013/10/21/your-grim-meathook-future/ ]
evanmckenzie  privatopia  homeownerassociations  hoas  rules  seccession  secessionbythesuccessfull  economics  power  control  gatedcommunities  elitism  property  government  secession  1995  timvanderpool  politics  policy  class  society  zoning  exclusion  restrictions  herbchildress 
october 2013 by robertogreco
Between the By-Road and the Main Road: How Does School Environment Shape Teenagers' Behaviors?
"Childress explains there were 3 questions that framed his study:

I had built my study on 3 simple questions: How do teenagers use spaces? How do they apply meanings & values to any particular place? How do conflicts about those places arise btwn teens & adults & btwn particular subsets of teens, & how are those conflicts resolved?

In…answering those questions, Childress comes to name 13 pairs of competing ideas he labels as modernist & existential. I couldn't help but consider how the ambiguities that Childress frames in his study of how teenagers live & behave w/ the sensibilities that inform high school design. In what ways do our rather modernist secondary school environments shape teenager's behavior? What might happen if the assumptions that informed school design were less modernist & more existential?

[13 pairs listed]

Childress concludes his study by stating that the presence of joy is the factor most important in what works & doesn't…work in teenagers' lives."
maryannreilly  schools  schooldesign  adolescents  teens  modernism  herbchildress  2000  books  toread  lcproject  tcsnmy  learning  education  joy  well-being  environment  environmentaldesign  purpose  society  unschooling  deschooling  2011 
september 2011 by robertogreco

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