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Videos of SAL/UER Climate Week events

Racism and the Collapsing Society, Barbara Love and Tim Jackins, June 7, 2020

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The Collapsing Society and Higher Education

In the United States (and I think England) there’s been a trend for universities to mimic corporations. As a result, more people who work in universities are exploited. In U.S. universities, only twenty-five percent of the professors work full-time. Of that group, seventy-five percent are white and male. Three-quarters of the contingent teaching staff work for poverty wages. They do not know if they will receive work each semester and are often forced to teach up to five classes per semester at more than one school. This is the situation I find myself in.

In the interest of “making America great” in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), universities are cutting entire divisions, namely the ones that teach literature, languages, and history—the courses that contextualize oppression.

Corporations dictate what kinds of research projects government money funds. (For example, Congress may not allocate money for researching gun violence!) They also pay scholars to conduct research with the hope that their findings will support the corporations’ financial objectives.

As societies collapse, the system destroys knowledge that does not serve its interests. This helps keep people hopeless about working in rational ways to move all of us forward. The less context we receive about oppression, the less able we are to evaluate what is coming our way and build communities that can turn the tide of oppression.

Our country is currently preparing for another presidential election. Candidates with university degrees tell us that scientists are wrong about human-created climate change, that women cannot be raped, and that racism does not play a role in why police officers kill unarmed Black men. They are able to blatantly deny the ways that oppressions and climate change impact our society. It becomes difficult to keep track of reality with the relentless drumbeat of misinformation.

Universities and those who teach in them can play a large role in turning the tide of misinformation. However, with most of those who teach working part-time and long hours just to make ends meet,* they have been less able to do this.

We RCers who teach in the university system cannot afford to be complacent. People are being moved out of teaching and research positions because of what they publish. We have to share what we know in our respective disciplines and what we know about generating information that is based not on feelings but on the reality of human intelligence and connection. We can also discharge on what it was like to learn and who’s been allowed to learn and why.

Working on how capitalism targets the production of knowledge will have a big impact not only on learning but also on climate change, racism, and a host of other oppressions.

Michelle Thompson

New York, New York, USA

(Present Time 182, January 2016)


* “To make ends meet” means to survive.


Last modified: 2020-07-17 20:50:52+00