Monday, August 10, 2009

Musing on War Money and Art Money In the University


via Ican

Have public and private universities
decided to trade arts education
for nuclear weapons?

While writing about the white and Black consumption of Black death
in hip hop last May, I came across Chomsky's argument, that the
U.S. is moving towards a "Third" world model.

Meaning that
, we are evolving to have two classes of folks in this country,
the elite and the people who
serve them. This is clearly taking root in
California and New York City. Meanwhile in the heartlands, the
economies in
factory and mining towns have been gutted, and been replaced
with the Walmart, prison and meth economies. Neither of these are sustainable,
just or democratic.

A fundamental thread of the American experience has been that the next
generation will have a better life then the current generation. Given the economies,
listed above, this simply isn't feasible.

Which brings me to the arts education article that I came across in the
New York Times today. Patricia Cohen writes,
If you are looking for a sign of how strapped the University of California, Los Angeles, is for cash, consider that its arts and architecture school may resort to holding a bake sale to raise money. California’s severe financial crisis has left its higher-education system — which serves nearly a fifth of the nation’s college students — in particularly bad straits. But tens of thousands of students at public and private colleges and universities around the country will find arts programs, courses and teachers missing — victims of piercing budget cuts — when they descend on campuses this month and next.
The comments on the article were interesting because
of both what they said, and what they didn't say. One commenter
focused on liberal arts and moms. She writes,

August 10th, 2009
10:23 am
Is this about jobs? Do these administrators think, like so many ignorant Americans, that college degrees in the arts or liberal arts don't lead to jobs? College is not vocational training, let me make that clear. But I also can't help but notice that almost every single mother I know with a degree in art is a stay-at-home mother who is also self-employed. Whether they be painters or art gallery owners, private art teachers or web-page designers, commercial artists or wedding photographers, as I enter my middle thirties I'm surprised by how many women I know who have used their art degrees to spend most of their days with their children and make money at the same time. Facebook has made this even more apparent to me as I reconnect with women I haven't seen in 15 or 20 years.

Make cuts in these programs, and you further reduce mothers' (and probably fathers') options for employment. You will also create more latch-key kids at the same time that you usher babies and toddlers into daycare centers as their parents wish it could be otherwise.
Another focused on how the arts are important to trained artists and engineers
on campus. A commenter writes,
August 10th, 2009
10:58 am
I work in engineering and science but regard reduced emphasis on the arts as short-sighted. Scientists and engineers are more creative and productive when they also have education and experiences in the arts. Life-long learning and an appreciation for abstract thought-and tolerance-are also positive outcomes. Arts programs add much to campus life. Spending cuts may be necessary but should be done equitably to all programs so that educational balance is maintained.
In his new book, the Empire of Illusion, Chris Hedges discusses the
relationship between the war economy and the American University.

His general
thesis is that the university has used both private money from
corporations and public tax dollars from the Pentagon and the Department
of Defense to build weapons to supply, advance and sustain our permanent
war economy.

For the record, historically, when I have encountered anti war activists, I
typically, glazed over with a blank stare. It didn't seem like what they were
talking about was relevant to me, what I was passionate about, or what I
was interested in. But, given the expense of war and the expense of
higher education, the relationship of critical thinkers to a sustaining a
Democracy it is an important issue to consider as we move forward.

In reading bell hooks, Chris Hedges and Chomsky recently, it has become
clear that there is a connection between the arts and the ability to make
sense of ones life.
Be it reading a novel, seeing a play, watching a movie
or a tv show, attending a concert or writing a blog.

There is something to be said for a culture
that derives its meaning from
art rather than war.

I am also seeing that there is a connection between a war economy
and our boys being raised to think that being destructive, rageful
and violent is the only and most appropraite way
of being. Bob Herbert
wrote recently about how the murders of the
women at The LA Fitness
in Pennsylvania last week the was an act of hate against women. A
commenter wrote back

To the Editor:

While I greatly appreciate Bob Herbert’s focus on violence toward women, as a psychologist looking for possible causes and solutions, I see a bigger problem. Boys and young men in most of the world are brought up to admire violence through fantasy, media and sports and in preparation for the army and war. They are taught that being a successful man requires physical power, weapons and often violence.

This has to be addressed in our child rearing and in our culture and values, beginning with childhood games and culminating in our emphasis on physical force to solve global problems and sustain our “world supremacy.”

Vivien D. Wolsk
New York, Aug. 8, 2009

Given the connection between how boys are socialized and war, and the
connection between
our two wars, our schools and the dismantling of liberal arts,
I have a few questions.

What happens when a country treats it higher education like vocational/
trade schools?

When are we going to have a conversation about the fact that universities
are a billion dollar business and, given the fact that we are moving
towards an automated jobless society, what will we do with our young people
once they have graduated, if they make it that far?

If the arts programs have to sale cookies in order to survive,
do the engineering and physics departments have to as well?
If not, then why not?

Will the only jobs left be service jobs (waitresses, janitors, nurses)
or servicing the elite/corporations (finance, advertising) or joining the armed

If private corporations provide some funds to science and engineering
(in return for the right of any novel discoveries) the schools
receive research grants/our tax dollars from the
department of defense,
what do the students receive?

How are the interest's of both the students and the public served by this?

Lets Discuss.


Anonymous said...

My friend put me on to your blog. Very fresh perspective on an issue I see all the time as a student but never considered in the way you've presented it here.

Model Minority said...

I responded to your comment, but google ate it.


I like your blog as well and I am glad you appreciate the post.


macon d said...

So good to hear of Chomsky, and of his view on this, thank you. He gets WAY too little attention in the U.S., despite being in its highest rank of intellectuals.

Yes, despite claims that the U.S. has avoided another Depression, I don't see any reversal at all of the general movement toward enrichment of the very few and emiseration of the rest.

Model Minority said...

Yeah, Chomp-Chomp doesn't get play in mainstram media, arguably because of his position of Israel & Palestine.

I hear you re-avoding a Depression, however, I would imagine that this distinction is based on whomever is being asked/analyed.

Thanks for stopping by.


ThinkGoHard said...

your dropping knowledge fam... keep it up

arieswym said...

an additional reason for the disparity between the arts and the sciences/engineering is that the arts are considered to be a feminine field and something frivolous, not "real work." That same connontation carried into the stimulus debate earlier this year when money for the arts was stripped from the bill.

The arts are viewed as something extra and not a necessary part of a complete education and fulfilling life, from their diminishing and optional position in K-12 education, especially in urban schools to the need for bake sales in collegiate settings. Until that sentiment changes I think that there will continue to be a vast funding disparity between the arts and the sciences

M.Dot. said...


thank you.


Yeah. Of course. Hence the connection
between war and boys being socialized to
only able to dominant in relationships.

The school and spending are a reflection of
our politics, not the other way around.

JP said...

The reason the engineering schools don't end up in as dire straights is that corporations and rich alumni tend to support them hard. When I was at my engineering school we got two huge donations one so large they renamed the college of engineering after the person. You don't often get that in the arts.

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