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ERIC Number: EJ877510
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 3
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0190-2946
Graduate Education Is the Dubai of Higher Learning
Adamson, Morgan
Academe, v96 n1 p25-27 Jan-Feb 2010
Mark C. Taylor's op-ed in the "New York Times," "End the University as We Know It," struck a nerve among both faculty and graduate students, as shown by the numerous blog posts and letters to the editor it inspired. Taylor, chair of the religion department at Columbia University, spoke directly to their deepest insecurities by describing graduate education as the "Detroit of higher learning," implying that their intellectual work is irrelevant and that their jobs are, or will soon be, deemed obsolete through a cost-benefit analysis over which they have no control. Taylor seems to be advocating for the expansion of markets in what is called "human capital" in the context of higher education. The concept of human capital, developed by neoclassical economists in the mid-twentieth century, views the knowledge, skills, and education of an individual as a fertile zone for speculative investment. With the growth of the knowledge economy in the past several decades, human capital is becoming increasingly important for financial markets. Given the current situation, the graduate student could not be further from Detroit. If one must think of a city as a metaphor for graduate education today, it should be Dubai rather than Detroit. Dubai implies the global network of financial interests that now swarm around the university, the extreme irregularities in labor practices and the stark inequities in wages that characterize contemporary higher education. Dubai is a frontier for the "new economy," as unstable for workers as it is profitable for financiers. Graduate students are at the center of these circuits of exploitation in the contemporary university, not only because their underpaid and precarious intellectual labor is a virtual human capital free-trade zone, but also because most graduate students are indentured into a life in debt by the financial industry through the predatory system of student loans. The author contends that Taylor's suggestion that graduate education is the Detroit of higher learning is not merely incorrect, it is a misrepresentation of the inner workings of the contemporary university. In contrast to Taylor's insistence that there is little demand for the intellectual labor of graduate students, the author argues that there is great demand for their adaptive and critical cognitive skills--the new knowledge economy is based on these very capacities.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Michigan