The University in Chains Essay

            The book “The University in Chains: Confronting the Military, Industrial and Academic Complex discusses how democracy is disappearing on university campuses across America and the rise of “ideologies and practices in militarization, corporatism and political fundamentalism” (1) is taking its place.  The author gives many possible directions for hope but still his writings lack possible more in depth directions to stop this growing trend.  The author defends this with discussing how this type logic is exactly what he is fighting against.  Pre-written instructions that society has become so use to that it doesn’t know what direction to go when faced with difficulty and if it wasn’t taught that way then don’t do it that way.  Democracy is something we hear more and more since the beginning of the Iraq war up to the next presidential election.  But one question this book asks and as scholars we must ask ourselves, “Is our society, in all aspects, really democratic?”

            In the first essay of the book Giroux discusses how universities have become bedfellows with the American war machine.  Giving the reader a raw look at how far universities have become militarized.  The beginnings can be traced back to the post-WWII years.  Giroux argues that even though it has been at least 50 years since this invasion of militarism into universities, since 911 this militarism has spread beyond the walls of the university into mainstream society.  The concept of militarism is the dominance of the military over the state or the broader culture, militarization is more fundamental and pervasive part of a basic military philosophy and its underlying assumptions.  The author contends that the two meanings are becoming one and is now used as solutions for everything from “drugs, crime, homelessness, obesity, poverty and a number of other social problems” (32).  Giroux writes of how it has become a very powerful structuring principle of society and that militarization gives the models that operate many public schools.

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            After looking at the relationship between the university and the warfare state the author dives into the increased militarization in determining what direction the universities research agenda will follow.  This comes in forms of funding of scientific research that comes from the likes of the Department of Homeland security and Department of Defense.  This direction can only give more room for questioning the legitimacy of the humanities and social sciences, along with the roles of the CIA and defense offices helping to develop curriculum that would be specifically catered to the military personnel.  A good example was the Pat Roberts Intelligence Scholars Program.  IT was named after a Republican senator from Kansas who was Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.  It funded 150 anthropology students in return for their commitment to work for the U.S. intelligence offices upon graduation.  One can see how this would compromise the research that would be done in other countries.

            In Giroux’s second essay it deals with education as a for-profit enterprise.  “Academic entrepreneurs” at a brand name university are forced to sell themselves and their subject matter as if they were consumer goods.  “When universities can no longer balance their budget through tuition increases or federal grants, they can turn to corporate money and self-branding to balance their finances” (110).  But the influence of the corporation has expanded far beyond the non-academic sphere.  As Giroux writes, “What was once the hidden curriculum of many universities, the subordination of higher education to capital has now become an open and most celebrated policy of both public and private higher education” (111).  There are many examples of corporate intrusion into the formally holy ground of scholarship and curriculum.  Another subject of this essay is the sky high cost of higher education for students and how they are forced into debt before even becoming legal adults.  A report from U.S. (2006) the federation of State Public Interests Research Groups shows college graduates are not going into teaching as a profession for the simple fact of needing jobs that pay better just to pay off high debts.  This is a deterrent for many that are not wealthy enough to pay for college.  Giroux throws into this essay how temporary faculty at universities has really made academic freedom just a fleeting thought in an educators mind.  He cites that many may not know that nearly 45% of all higher education faculties are part-time and that more than 60% are on non-tenure track creating the problem of lack of freedom and the exploitation of instructors.

            The final essay of the book deals with the attacks on faculty in the name of “balance and fairness”.  The author considers this to be the most dangerous attack on academic freedom since the McCarthy era.  The demand for “patriotic correctness” has left some faculty without a job.  This attack is not a “natural” call for “restoring academic fairness” but a coordinated, well-funded, long term campaign to shatter the last major social institution not completely permeated by the twisted logic of the extreme right wing.  The impact can be seen more and more by Board of Trustees and university administrators have bought into the logic; increasingly we find state legislatures adopting codes that censure and silence faculty while, ironically, using the language of academic freedom. This effort to destabilize and disrupt university scholarship has been in the making for a long time, and it is only now beginning to hit its stride.

            In concluding Giroux begins to explore directions for hope by calling on university personnel to challenge the militarization, corporatization and patriotic correctness of the university and allow it to return to the pursuit of democratic freedom.  Although the conclusion has many positions that faculty and administrators need to hold to combat these developments fit into what might be called making the new trends visible to students, faculty, administrators and the public.  Giroux writes, “The challenge for faculty in higher education is both structural and ideological” and argues for a renewed labor movement in higher education that challenges the militarization and corporatization of the university.  He also calls on scholars to utilize their knowledge and skills to develop a better understanding of the conditions that have led to the trends that are “devaluing critical learning and undermining viable forms of political agency” (205).

Reference:

Gillis, J. R. (1989).  The Militarization of the Western World.  New York: Rutgers            University.

Giroux, H.A. (2007).  The University in Chains:  Confronting the Military, Industrial and            Academic Complex.  Colorado: Paradigm Publishers.

Giroux, H.A. (2004).  Take Back Higher Education: Race, Youth, and the Crisis of          Democracy in the Post-Civil Rights Era, 1st. Ed., New York: Palgrave McMillan.

U.S. PIRG.  (2006). “Paying back, not giving back: Student debt’s negative impact on   public service career opportunities.”  http://www.uspirg.org/home/reports/report-           archives/affordable-higher-education/affordable-higher-eduation-reports/paying-         back-not -giving-back-student-debts-negative-impact-on-public-service-career-        opportunities#iOVywVS62YQMfjyCIZInHA.