It’s no secret that the American university has become a terrible, exploitative economic model, in which ever-rising undergraduate tuition and an ever-growing pool of cheap non-tenured academic labor (adjunct profs AND Ph.D. students) are being used to fund privatized defense & telecom research, athletics programs, and massive, risky investments in things like hedge funds (yes, universities are big players in the investment market which nearly destroyed the U.S. economy over the past decade). If you thought the academy was all about educating citizens, you are in for some nasty surprises.
One of the most trenchant critiques of this is Bob Samuels, a professor at UCLA who also works as a top-notch education journalist. You can see a brief TV interview with him here (it’s from “Democracy Now!”); during it he explains his basic critique of the nation’s university system, particularly the “public” schools within it. He also writes a superb blog called “Changing Universities.” Its focus is the beleaguered, mismanaged University of California system I am lucky enough to call my professional home for now, but the arguments he makes are germane to all colleges and universities in the United States. If you’re in college, or have been, or have a child who is going there, or are thinking about graduate school, or just got a graduate degree, you should be reading him. The system is rigged, but it isn’t fucked. There is still time to change this.