Following up on my recent posts on Andrew Delbanco (here, here, and here), there’s an interesting interview with Delbanco on the Chronicle of the Higher Education as part of their Afterwords series, speaking further about his recent book:
Mostly Delbanco covers the same territory here, and again, I admire his ideals. I remain struck, though, by the way in which he puts the onus on students to resist the commercialization of college life. Again, I wonder, why is it up to students to do this. Don’t they, most of them, end up working with an overwhelmingly overdetermined system, hopelessly recognizing that a college or university degree is necessary for their success in life, and realizing at the exchange of several tens of thousands of dollars in debt they are being offered a chance at a reasonably secure existence. How can it be up to college students to resist this commercialization when college and university life is so thoroughly commercialized from the moment of the transaction–through admissions decisions that consider the ability to pay, to financial aid offerings, to debt loads, to student jobs necessary for paying basic expenses. What student could avoid understanding that there is a deeply commercial angle to the transaction.
Note, I am not saying the commercialization of higher education should not be resisted, but it seems peculiar to me to put emphasis on the need for students to do this. The question ought to be, how do we change the structures of higher education that are making the commercialization of their education inevitable.
That is a tougher nut to crack than pleading with undergraduates to resist pecuniary interests and take humanities majors anyway.