Tag: higher education

Teaching in an Age of Ahistorical Individualism

By Matt Godbey

Response to “Teaching Amid Terror: A Meditation on Whiteness

Beth Connors-Manke’s “Teaching Amid Terror” offers a profound and profoundly necessary reflection on the role of teachers and educators in a time of increased violence against black bodies by individuals and institutions tasked with protecting them. For all of us, it is a reminder that in America when we talk about race the past is never the past. For white educators, especially those like me who focus on and teach African-American literature, it reminds us as well that whiteness is an identity whose roots are grounded in racism and, though we abhor and reject racism and violence, we nonetheless have profited from our whiteness and owe it to our students to acknowledge such privilege. Further, as she writes, this has never been more true than it is now, when college campuses are increasingly corporatized and pledging fealty to the seductive allure of neoliberalism’s promise of profits and shiny new facilities.



A Meditation on Whiteness

By Beth Connors-Manke

October Featured Essay

Note: in August The Whole Horse Project published Jeff Gross’s “Into the Caldron: Neoliberalism, Ideology, Education and Life Itself” which discussed, in part, the controversy over social media posts by sociology professor Zandria F. Robinson. Below is an extended reflection sparked by one of Robinson’s tweets.

“Whiteness is most certainly and inevitably terror.” –Tweet by Zandria F. Robinson

An assertion like this—an assertion so sweeping—troubles me. Many categorical statements, like this one, aren’t true. They need qualifiers; they need limits set on them.

Like this: Whiteness is most certainly and inevitably terror when a man walks into a church and kills nine church folk during Bible study.

Or, like this: Whiteness is most certainly and inevitably terror when a police officer shoots a 12-year-old boy dead in a park.

It’s hard to argue with those qualified statements, although a number of people still would. But maybe what troubles me here isn’t that lack of qualifiers—maybe it’s the definition of whiteness.


Beth Connors-Manke

By Leigh M. Johnson

Response to “Into the Caldron

If there is an award for packing the most multivalent and oft-exploited terms into a single essay title, Jeff Gross should win it for what follows “Into the Caldron”: neoliberalism, ideology, education, and life itself. Those four words and things are the conversational equivalent of IEDs in the Academy these days. Buried along the discursive roadside, lying in wait for some poor soul with insufficiently protective theoretical armor to trip their wires and unleash their autoschediastic havoc, these are the sorts of broad conceptual terms that earn students demerits in their essays—What exactly do you mean by this? Define your terms. Be Specific.—though I suspect many of us worry that we’re also hand-waving in the general direction of mysterious phenomenon most of the time we employ them.

If there is another award for clearly and succinctly explicating workable definitions of “neoliberalism,” “ideology,” and “education” in the service of an eminently persuasive argument about what really matters in and for “life itself,” Gross should win that prize as well.



Neoliberalism, Ideology, Education, and Life Itself

By Jeff Gross

August Featured Essay

When I started college during the fall of 1998, our entire incoming class was given Canisius College t-shirts with the following oft-cited John Dewey “quotation” on the backs: “Education is not preparation for life but life itself.” The passage is bastardized from two different Dewey pieces. In “Self-Realization as the Moral Ideal,” Dewey suggests, “if I were asked to name the most needed of all reforms in the spirit of education, I should say: ‘Cease conceiving of education as mere preparation for later life, and make it the full meaning of the present life.’” His quotation would take up a little more space on the back of a t-shirt or on a bumper sticker, though the oft-cited misquote seems to grasp the core of Dewey’s sentiment. Later, Dewey returns to the idea in “Educational Lectures before Brigham Young Academy, 2. Social Aspects of Education,” where he describes one of the purposes of education as the “social idea”: “The definition which it offers is that education is the preparation for the social position of life, the preparation of the individual to play his proper part in the community or state of which he is a member.” Dewey’s sentiments echoed Thomas Jefferson’s ideals for higher education in the United States as a space where a citizenry capable of self-government would emerge.

That same semester, as our t-shirts proclaimed a celebration of the intellectual experience of education and the meaningfulness of education for life, signs of a different meaning of college were all around. Bookstore bags, from the eFollett campus store, were preloaded with brochures and offers for credit cards and magazine subscriptions. The financial aid office recommended Sallie Mae loans. Education as an idea and education as an enterprise shared common ground, but a battle was afoot on campuses all over for which version of education would win. The subsequent decades have shown the battle lines emerge, especially as neoliberalism and conservatism have aligned to attack liberal arts programs as well as programs specifically aimed at the studies of racism, sexism, ecology, and poverty. Donors have influenced hiring; governors and legislators have pressured programs and orchestrated financial attacks, which—done in the name of austerity—have forced universities to be remade in a revenue-driven way.

Today, we’re left in a precarious position where university faculty and students can no longer question everything because academic departments are cut in the name of austerity and academic freedom is undermined. In this paradigm, if we apply the ethos that education is supposed to be life itself, then we end up with a system in which not all lives matter, especially those already decentered from power.

Jeff Gross