Quote of the Week

The real danger is that the departments of English are to become service departments, functioning in the name of commerce. Across the board, those subdisciplines which have moved in during literature’s waning hegemony (technical writing, cultural studies, composition/rhetoric, linguistics/TESOL) can all easily be articulated as pure service functions to the educational factory’s imperative to get people ready to work.

Creative writing’s sad responsibility in this eventuality then would be to administer the last rites of the imagination to children damaged beyond redemption on their way to the great maw of America, Inc.

Curtis White, Monstrous Possibility (1998).

Cool, huh? On the one hand, one can’t deny that the attempts to commercialize the Humanities have done incalculable damage to the system of higher education. On the other hand, though, you can practically hear White gnashing his teeth at the idea that all those proles who see having a job as a sine qua non of their existence dare to invade his ivory tower. Unless you have a trust fund that makes work a choice rather than a necessity on a par with breathing, White has no use for you.

This quote brings to mind all of those folks in my grad school for rich kids who kept telling me that the need to graduate and find a job as soon as possible meant I could never be a real scholar. Precisely because I remember only too well the political allegiances of the people who claimed one couldn’t develop intellectually without a trip to Europe at least once a year, I was not at all surprised to discover that Curtis White is a Marxist. Nobody despises the working people quite as much as Marxists.

8 thoughts on “Quote of the Week”

  1. I’ve been reflecting of late how useful it is to look at ideologies and social values not in terms of what they profess to achieve, but in terms of their inadvertent effects. Often, these effects are the exact opposite to what the ideologies claim to represent. For instance, I was relating on Facebook how being brought up in an authoritarian society made the nature of power relations very clear and obvious, whereas in liberal societies students seem to have more difficulties differentiating themselves from their authorities.

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    1. “to look at ideologies and social values not in terms of what they profess to achieve, but in terms of their inadvertent effects.”

      This is how I have come to propose that we look at the War on Drugs. We need to seriously consider that the “inadvertent effects” may actually be the intended goals.

      Because no matter how many specially appointed commissions* (even Nixon’s**, which consisted almost entirely of his hand-picked conservative cronies) conclude that cannabis should be legalized or decriminalized, their conclusions are always ignored. Yet it seems that most activists still feel the best way to solve the problem is to hash over the evidence endlessly and convince people that cannabis is less harmful than alcohol, etc etc. It is irrational to keep trying the same thing over and over especially when it is obviously ineffective, and it becomes so obvious that something else is going on.

      * every one from the late 1800’s to the present day in fact
      ** the president that kicked off the WoD in 1972

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  2. “Nobody despises the working people quite as much as Marxists.”

    Don’t know about despise, but definitely romanticize. Which implies distance and superiority. So maybe yes, despise, especially when they get too close (and make actual demands).

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  3. Isabel :
    Yet it seems that most activists still feel the best way to solve the problem is to hash over the evidence endlessly and convince people that cannabis is less harmful than alcohol, etc etc. It is irrational to keep trying the same thing over and over especially when it is obviously ineffective, and it becomes so obvious that something else is going on.

    This is a statement I agree with completely. I could never understand this strategy, especially in view of it not working.

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  4. Isabel :

    “Nobody despises the working people quite as much as Marxists.”

    Don’t know about despise, but definitely romanticize. Which implies distance and superiority. So maybe yes, despise, especially when they get too close (and make actual demands).

    Romanticize and always – ALWAYS – try to shut up or shrug off when the working people start speaking for themselves. No, they should just sit there like patient dummies nodding to every word of Marxists’ wisdom. I’ve seen it happen a lot.

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  5. Since when is linguistics a subdiscipline of English? Or equivalent to TESOL, an entirely different, although sometimes overlapping field? I mean, if this guy wants to stay in his ivory tower, it would behoove him to understand what else is in it.

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