Tag Archives: politics

The future of the university, the bad part

When I posted on this subject a few days ago, I wish I had known this would be Mainstream Media Says College Sucks week. National Public Radio, the New York Times and the Economist have been discussing the ever greater burden of college tuition, the extremely poor guidance colleges give new students about the cost, the mismatch between graduates and the job market. Even the new sitcom Silicon Valley gets its hero his start by having him tell a major tech investor that if he doesn’t get funding, he might have to go back to college.
But no one has a solution, except regulation and future innovation. This avoids the problem. People go to college for different reasons, but most white-collar employers* use college as minimum requirement.
A college degree is not a guarantee of useful professional skills. A math major, a marketing major and an English major may join the same company the day after graduation, but the first two will get work in keeping with their training sooner than the last. I was a young English major looking for work in the recession of 1989, and I didn’t have a thing about me that an employer would want. But I didn’t quite know that until it was too late.  Continue reading

A matriarchal Iliad

So I set myself a tricky task last post and it’s been stymieing me. How to talk about a more equal culture when one’s understanding of gender roles begins in their inequality? Too easy to make lists of masculine and feminine virtues and vices, but which are innate and which learned? I have some fiction passages from my novel but I didn’t want to go there just yet; they illustrate an argument but they don’t make it.
Happily I got the opportunity to go back, if not to first principles then at least a bit closer, when my wife and I attended Studio Theatre’s production of An Iliad, Lisa Peterson & Denis O’Hare’s passionate play about the the telling of the epic tale and its meaning to humanity.
The Iliad is less gourmet than glutton, not celebrating or condemning war but being there completely, in triumph and in hissy-fit, in bloodlust and in parental guilt. There’s no question about whether it’s a good war — it’s not. Perhaps this is why the Trojan War resonates in a way other epics don’t, save perhaps Don Quixote, perhaps for the same reason: there is no righteousness save self-righteousness, no tragedy that is not earned through folly. It’s a very male book, and patriarchal too, a story of power and fatherhood and sonhood and brotherhood, but not a heroic one.
So I wonder, what would a matriarchal Iliad say? Continue reading