Reducing learning to outputs

Scott Schwartz writes on the “financialization” of higher education and what impact this has on the experience of learning, ostensibly higher education’s raison d’etre:

The City University of New York (CUNY) is the largest urban university system in the country and ranks alongside the California and New York State systems for total enrollment. Until 1976, CUNY was entirely tuition-free. While remaining significantly cheaper than other private universities in New York, CUNY has increasingly pursued a neoliberal business model reflective of for-profit institutions. This is hardly surprising. The financialization of CUNY has occurred in tandem with the financialization of New York City itself, and indeed much of the nation and world economy. …

The banality of this particular evil glazes over the continued emaciation of public education. Several authors have addressed this process (see Giroux’s Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education), as well as discussed models for attempting to stem this trend. While CUNY continues to struggle for funding, both for its students and its large number of precariously contracted educators, the learning experience becomes increasingly denigrated – classroom sizes balloon, facilities erode, teachers exhaust. Commoditizing education (prioritizing its exchange-value over its use-value) inevitably impoverishes public institutions, no matter how skilled CUNY’s Chancellor (with his $500k salary) is at branding. A for-profit space reduces its occupants to their potential output, rendering experience marginal or impossible. By this, I mean to convey the mutual exclusivity of the concepts output and experience. Experience is something that only occurs in the present (one can remember a past experience, but the experience occurred in a present). Output, on the other hand, is something that cannot have a present (if I say ‘I have an output’, it denotes either something that is done or something that will be done).

A deadly thing that this “financialization” does to places meant for learning is the favoring of activity over leisure. “Leisure” meaning not a checked-out vacation-type mentality, but a thoughtful, contemplative, inquisitive way of living. If every school becomes a place for its students and faculty to demonstrate professional output, there’s no longer a purpose to it compared to any vocational school or the professional world generally. 

It seems to me that “financialization” might simply be the packaging and selling of what something is at present, at the expense of what it might become.

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