I feel deeply in a poetics of space. In the local and the ordinary you will eventually find something perhaps universal.

- Susan Howe.  A quote from an article from the Boston Review.


Down with the Ivy League.  This excerpt from a longer article in The American Scholar:

The way students are treated in college trains them for the social position they will occupy once they get out. At schools like Cleveland State, they’re being trained for positions somewhere in the middle of the class system, in the depths of one bureaucracy or another. They’re being conditioned for lives with few second chances, no extensions, little support, narrow opportunity—lives of subordination, supervision, and control, lives of deadlines, not guidelines. At places like Yale, of course, it’s the reverse. The elite like to think of themselves as belonging to a meritocracy, but that’s true only up to a point. Getting through the gate is very difficult, but once you’re in, there’s almost nothing you can do to get kicked out. Not the most abject academic failure, not the most heinous act of plagiarism, not even threatening a fellow student with bodily harm—I’ve heard of all three—will get you expelled. The feeling is that, by gosh, it just wouldn’t be fair—in other words, the self-protectiveness of the old-boy network, even if it now includes girls. Elite schools nurture excellence, but they also nurture what a former Yale graduate student I know calls “entitled mediocrity.”

More info on how elite schools fail their students here.


Four Hindi poets I want to spend time with.


I want to read Julian Barnes.  And these two articles from the Boston Review about Aimé Césaire and the end of the gay novel.


And I am leaving all these notes here, because I will probably not get to read any of them any time soon, because I'm working at the Feria del Libro Monterrey:

8 comentarios:

Anónimo dijo...
Este blog ha sido eliminado por un administrador de blog.
Ryan dijo...

Very interesting comments on the Ivies. And not far off the mark. For a great reading of this, see Walter Benn Michaels' recent book, THE TROUBLE WITH DIVERSITY, wherein he discusses, among many things, the idea that diversity hasn't created equality in the Ivy Leagues, but just different groups from the same class.

I must take issue with the idea to abolish the ivies, however. My advanced degree was "earned" at an Ivy, and while there are certainly problems at these schools, these same problems exist at other schools too. To abolish the standard-bearers for academic excellence is to claim that the social problems there somehow trump the benefits, a claim that doesn't seem to hold any water if the end result is to educate within a fair system. Let's attempt to make that system fair.

j. pluecker dijo...

I hear what your saying Ryan, but I do disagree. I don't think the Ivies are standard bearers for academic excellence (at least as far as students are concerned and often faculty as well). I think they are standard bearers for a certain kind of societal power based on position and a certain shared vocabulary of words, gesture and style. Students at public schools often have to work much harder than those at elite schools (which is what the article points out).

At the same time, when I say Down with the Ivies, I am not so much calling for them to disappear (as if I had that power) as I am calling to take them off of their pedestal. I am against the kind of societal discrimination that says that the degree of a C student at Harvard is somehow more prestigious and worth more than an A student who busted ass at the University of Houston.

Right, abrazos for you, Ryan.

Ryan dijo...

I definitely agree. Nothing should be worth anything in name only.

Ryan dijo...

Deresiewicz has read too much of Walter Benn Michaels, or at least steals the latter's very argument, and his points are some that are very "safe" to write about now, considered that criticism of higher education is rampant on the internet and in print.

I'll admit, I feel somewhat lame defending the Ivy League...I feel like the defense isn't warranted, and is certainly not lacking. But I take issue with your terms of placing "elite" (akin to Republican use of the word) and "not elite" as a one to one ratio, as us against them, as a binary, where the C students of Harvard are gloating and condescending over the poor, hard-working students of elsewhere. I know plenty of cases that both refute and support this. And I knew of cases that supported the "arrogant mediocre college student from a not-so-good school" as well. These definitions and ways of speaking and gesturing (both literally and figuratively, at times) exist at all institutions. That's what makes the Institution a scary ideological body: we learn to talk the way those at our schools talk. To adopt different vocabularies is perfectly human, and the point the author of the article is trying to make: that rejecting one or another way of speaking because it signifies lack of intelligence seems just has defeatist has rejecting another way of speaking because it makes us vulnerable to "elitism."

j. pluecker dijo...

I agree that elitist/nonelitist instition binaries don't really work and that there spaces of both in all institutions.

I also agree that attacking "elitism" in the contempoary world is definitely problematic what with the Republican attacks.

Despite critique of high ed maybe being rampant in some spheres, I don't find that critique has trickled out into daily life. And I still find the need to knock the Ivies off a certain pedestal.

Maybe what you're reminding me is that while I do that, I have to be clear that I still value intellectual thought and debate and dialogue (even if it is confined at times to a small circle, I still value the small circle.) I'm no Repub anti-elitist.

So yeah. I think this is the most I have ever dialogued in the comments of my blog before. Thanks for giving me that chance and pointing out some holes in my logic.

Abrazos regiomontanos.

Ryan dijo...

I recently debated with a friend of mine about "individualism," he being for and I against. I stressed that my problem with the argument wasn't that I was against individualism per se, but that I was against having the argument because it's a "republican-owned" (I just made that up now) argument: there are certain arguments the very precedent of which lies in republican attacks on what it terms "liberalism" at every turn (The university system is a fabulous example of this...republican calls for reprimanding and silencing the "leftist" professorial class are often witch hunts.) That being said, I know that my friend with whom I had this debate is no republican...but I feel this is the debate about god that refutes the existence of god only to need the belief in the existence of god by others in order to refute it.

I fully agree that the Ivy League must not be allowed to stand on its own, by name/class distinctions only, and that much of academia needs renovating...I just have no clue how any of this might be done.

There are places where this debate has trickled over into daily life, in certain parts of New England there exists a very strong anti-academic (positioned against a DIY and auto-didactic opposite) sense that we no longer need such faith in these institutions at all, but that they still contribute...just not as much as their rhetoric hints at.

j. pluecker dijo...

nice. and nicely put.

gracias por el diálogo.