To be honest, I didn’t relax as much as I could or should have over the holidays. I know a lot of people who find the holidays overly stressful for various reasons, and I’m one of them — not so much over the gift-giving thing, which I really like, but over the felt obligation to run around and spend time with everyone possible and work too hard at enjoying the season. Between December 23 and January 2, I put over 2000 miles on my car, which isn’t bad for a former trucker who still holds a Class A CDL, but is pretty exhausting for someone slowly recovering from pneumonia. And there’s the emotional exhaustion on top of that. My New Year’s wish? For a holiday sometime soon — within ten years, maybe — when the longest distance to travel will be across town rather than across five states.
Anyway. Suffice to say I’m back home, happy to be doing academic work again, and grateful for good friends who live less than a hundred miles away. I’m also almost through Derek Bok’s Universities in the Marketplace. Bok contends “that all students should be admitted on grounds germane to the academic purposes of the institution: that is, on the basis of their capacity to benefit from the educational program, enhance the development of their fellow students, and serve the needs of society” (106) and notes that “the profit motive shifts the focus from providing the best learning experience that available resources allow toward raising prices and cutting costs as much as possible without losing customers” (108). A later paragraph is worth quoting in its entirety (and yes, I know I still haven’t gotten around to writing good blockquote formatting into my stylesheet; it’s on my list): “The constant struggle for more resources can also obscure the larger message of a true liberal arts education — that there is more to life than making money. Competition for students has already caused many colleges to emphasize vocational programs at the expense of traditional majors while aggressively proclaming to prospective students what their degrees will be worth in the marketplace. The importance of material values can only increase in the minds of students if universities repeatedly demonstrate by their own behavior that they are willing to ignore basic academic principles when they get in the way of the search for more resources” (110). While I wish Bok had more to say about the arts and humanities — he focuses very much on the perils of commercialization in athletics and the sciences — I can’t help but agree with his perspective on the intersection of economics and academics.
Now: how does this connect to computers and writing instruction and socioeconomic class? Hm. Well, I figure if I could sum that up in one sentence, I wouldn’t have to go and write some big long dissertation about it. I’m working on it, though.