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ERIC Number: EJ847851
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Jun-26
Pages: 1
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0009-5982
The Bad Old Days: How Higher Education Fared during the Great Depression
Schrecker, Ellen
Chronicle of Higher Education, v55 n40 pB9 Jun 2009
It is hard to predict exactly how academe should respond to the most serious economic crisis since the 1930s. In this article, the author suggests the possibility of assessing some possible options by looking at how higher education fared during the Great Depression. After all, despite its enormous growth since World War II, academe's institutional structures and educational mission remain more or less the same. The current economic meltdown may well force the restructuring of American higher education--and not necessarily in a positive direction. It could accelerate the transformation of traditional full-time tenure-track faculty positions into contingent ones, for instance, or impel panicky administrators to cut programs or even whole departments without consulting their faculties. That is not something that academics need to accept. During the Depression, most faculties were passive in the face of cutbacks and administrative fiats. Their years of relative penury may have acclimated them to hard times, or they may have believed that collective action did not comport with the genteel image they wanted to maintain. Such submissiveness in the current crunch risks abandoning whatever remains of the faculty's role within the nation's colleges, a role that until now has enhanced the overall quality of teaching and research. Unless the powers that be are reminded that academics are workers too, there is no guarantee that the billions of dollars the current stimulus program will direct to higher education will save any faculty jobs. It is long past time for the academic profession to make its case for the value of higher education, even--or perhaps especially--in a period of economic stress. The author calls for a reorientation of the public discourse about higher education. Just as the Obama administration is trying to shuffle off the sleazier values of the hedge-fund managers, the author contends that academe can also rededicate itself to the common good--to an education that not only prepares all its students for becoming citizens of a wider world, but also enhances the overall quality of their lives.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A