Suspending the critical faculty

Robert Weissberg, Professor of Political Science, Emeritus, at The University of Illinois-Urbana, outlines a cure for what ails the American university.
Now here's my plan. The Koch brothers will secretly underwrite a version of the traditional "Junior Year Abroad" with a strong Peace Corp component.  Have students live among the locals, on small stipends, eat their food and so on.  University credit will be given and everything will be totally free, including transportation.  Meanwhile, there will generous "supervision" fees (i.e., bribes) to the university and professors.  For a start, send out perhaps a hundred students from each of the top 25 universities. 
We'll use a seductive name--"Promoting Economic Justice, One Village at a Time" or "Peace Through Understanding." ...  Locals, including the wise village elders will teach the courses with lots of hands-on experience working in the fields harvesting crops, clearing brush and similar Peace Corps-like activities (recall the early 1960s glory years of helping in the Cuban sugar cane harvest was the ultimate liberal status symbol).  For pedagogical purposes, illnesses will be exclusively treated with traditional, natural remedies (no Big Pharma pills, no greedy doctors!) while all disputes will likewise be settled in accord with indigenous customs.  Critically, students will be told that they are there to learn, not proselytize Western values, and so if men beat their wives, don't criticize; try to understand.  The model is participant-observer anthropology, not the Western missionary.
Once the graduates of the new program return and start raising uncomfortable questions in class about the evils of American society and the socialist paradise on other shores, Weissberg has an even more brilliant and cost-effective plan for dealing with the outraged professors.

H/t Maggie's Farm.


Grim said...

This is a brilliant plan.

Anonymous said...

I really like it. Cost effective, long-lasting, and it will benefit both the economies of the host facilities and the wisdom of the students. (Assuming they recover from what might ail them upon their return.)


E Hines said...

Have students live among the locals, on small stipends, eat their food and so on.

Only so long as those stipends aren't greater than the incomes of the local equivalent of the poor class. These programs shouldn't be distorting the local economies: the students are there to help, not to cause inflation.

Eric Hines

Gringo said...

Back in school they would regale still naive classmates with horror stories of corrupt police, rampant petty thievery, daily bribery, garbage everywhere and a world where few things actually work and kleptocratic governance gives " economic inequality" a whole new meaning-- a nearly starving people while top leaders toured in chauffeured Mercedes. Similar tales would be told of inept foreign aid and officials made fat by selling off oil drilling rights without any regard for environmental protection. Then add lurid tales of violent ethnic rivalries. And on and on.

My years as a tourist and oil drilling service engineer in Latin America definitely changed my points of view.

The "progressive" dogmas in the universities of what were the causes- such as US exploitation- and what were the solutions- such as more government ownership- to Latin America's problems did not agree with what I observed on the ground. A government-owned telephone company which charged $3000 in current dollars for a landline in an urban area, for which you had to wait a year, is a very bad argument for socialism. Having worked in countries with either current or recent guerrilla wars, including working in a war zone, I saw that contrary to "progressive" narrative, there was not a lot of local support for guerrillas.

I saw that the common man had a much better chance of bettering himself in the US. I saw that government in the US was much more honest, efficient, and transparent than the governments I observed in Latin America.

I saw that the US had no monopoly on racism.

That being said, I very much enjoyed my years in Latin America. I also met several former Peace Corps members who had married a local and stayed south of the border.

I very much liked the idea of sending social sciences faculty down south. Which reminds me of a memoir I read of a social scientist . He had an interesting passage on teaching in Colombia on sabbatical. "The Colombian students considered us Imperialist usurpers. But I was teaching them Marcuse." As in, how could they?

I strongly recommend time in the Third World to get rid of liberal-induced guilt. But it takes time. A two week trip won't do it. If you don't speak the local language, fugeddaboutit.

Anonymous said...

This is a great idea, and it need not be limited to poorer countries.

I lived with my family on the economy in West Germany in the '70s. My dad was a master sergeant in the Air Force. Living in a First World country was an education in itself, too. Until that time, we did not know we were rich.


E Hines said...


When in the '70s? My wife and I were there '78-82, also in the USAF.

Eric Hines

Matt Wennerlund said...

I have to wonder though, aren't most schools/professors saying that capitalism/Americanism/Western Civilization IS the reason for third world poverty? Would sending the students there not just tend to reinforce what is being taught? I don't think the students are really being taught how to truly think and reason for themselves?