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Profit-propelled Growth (PART 2)
Vinod Anand | 09 Aug 2013

Profit-propelled Growth (PART 2) (Vinod Anand) And never was a younger generation so ill equipped to withstand the siren songs of the entrepreneurs. Nor poverty, nor filial bonds, nor church authority, nor tradition, nor idealism, nor inhibition of any sort stand between them and the realization of any freak of fancy that enters their TV-heated imaginations. Social workers and journalists who have entered the candy-anti- tinsel world that teenagers increasingly seek to inhabit, and have witnessed their mawkish raptures, their cultivated gluttony, their drug sessions, and their stylized seductions, are uncertain whether to be appalled or exhilarated by these near-hysterical attempts of the young to divest themselves of responsibility. But the comforting ‘frank and free’ epithets, with which the imperturbable progressive is wont to dismiss it all, just do not stick. This ‘permissive’ world that is emerging is not a product of any new enlightenment; no ethic or principle is involved; no idealism pervades it. Its genesis is the moral vacuum created by the bewilderment of their parents caught up hi a dissolving society. The word, moreover, belies its nature. Inasmuch as it imposes on the young the strain of repressing much of their individuality in the grossing task of conforming to all the rages of juvenile fashion, t is all but compulsive. For many of these young people only the exacting demands of a competitive and technically sophisticated civilization stand between them and their surrender to the rituals of the new permissiveness. In such a milieu, no one need wonder that crime, in particular robbery with violence, is one of our fastest growing industries. To the uncluttered conscience of the young, mundane considerations preponderate. These include the fact that the crime industry is increasing in efficiency: the rewards are larger and the chances of being caught smaller; and the fact of a growing public propensity to regard the criminal as the hero rather than the police. And if the deterrents are weaker, the incentives are stronger. The visions portrayed by the glossy magazines of a perpetual dolce vita enjoyed by a young, smart, ruthlessly selfish, fast-moving, freely- spending clique act as a standing temptation today to the impressionable young to make good the deficiencies of talent or fortune by crime rather than by industry. (3) In a centrally controlled economy such as that of the USSR, the rapid spread of higher education in the postwar period has provided people with both a rising standard of consumption, and a dependable and potent source of anxiety. But in a predominantly commercially directed economy, in the U S more than the UK, the growth of anxiety among students and parents has become near pathological. Since the entrance to the universities is regarded, not without reason, as the indispensable first step on the ladder to worldly success, and subsequent degrees as effective passports into the elite occupations of high status and earnings, open cheating during school examination has become endemic. The response of commerce, with the Connivance if not the active Support of high schools and colleges, to the fears that afflict a growing number of students could have been predicted: an endless stream of hastily Contrived textbooks (most of them directed towards some specific course), of collections of lecture notes (sometimes mimeographed on the campus), of concentrated cram courses in pamphlet form, of paperbacks congested with potted knowledge, and of digests of exam questions complete with model answers. And why not? Many universities in different countries are moving with the tide and are on the way to transforming themselves into vast automated degree-punching factories, equipped with computers closed-circuit television, and rows of teaching machines At one end of the factory the raw freshmen are sucked in and, with the minimum of human contact, are passed from process to process, imbibing information on the way, regurgitating it at set intervals to be inspected by machines. If not revealed defective they will emerge at the other end, exhausted perhaps, but ready to be stamped with the firm’s warranty. Admittedly, much graduate teaching is still in the handloom stage and the finished product of high technical excellence None the less, with the inevitable devaluation of the bachelor’s degree, and the consequent growth in the population of post-graduate aspirants, one may confidently anticipate some extension of the principles of mass-production to the training courses for higher degrees. The problems of the staffing of these new metropolitan type universities appear to be met by adopting methods familiar to such competitive industries as film-making or big league football. Academic stars, too, have become increasingly mobile, tending to move to where the contracts are fattest, or, at least, to those institutes where the tangible advantages are greatest. A substantial part of the duties of the senior staff members of American universities consists of organizing appeals for the funds necessary to continue their bidding and counter-bidding for the services of academic VIPs. The effects of this competitive scramble on standards of scholarship and of teaching remain to be seen. One may, however, ascribe to it the growing impatience to have published work to one’s credit. But the knowledge that others also are striving to break into print adds further to the pressure to submit one’s work the sooner, before it is anticipated by others. The effect of this pressure to ‘get in’ first, at a time when rapidly increasing technical and specialized knowledge has augmented the difficulties of editing a scientific journal, goes some way to explain the extent of ‘premature publication’ in journals — the number of papers that are inelegant, unfinished or unintelligible. To this competitive system one may also ascribe a marked preference by competent staff members for research as against teaching, a preference that the university has to respect if it is to be able to attract to its faculties the big names and the promising young men. These developments, an extension of the market-place, with its truck-and-barter manoeuvres, to the big business of higher education, are a far cry from the traditional conception of the universities as seats of learning. Far also is the current conception of education from that which for centuries inspired reformers and philosophers, that of education as a good in itself; that of education as a source of enrichment of man’s personality, inasmuch as it leads to an enlargement of his knowledge, his sensibilities and his intellect. Above all, education was looked to as an influence for bringing people closer together through a common appreciation of history, and of the natural world, and of their heritage of art and literature.  Among all too many of the young, sexual experience too has become not merely permissive, it has become mandatory. Nor is it enough merely to make love. It must not only be done but, like justice, it must be seen to be done.     PAGE  PAGE 1