Category Archives: Higher Education

No Daylight

Betsy DeVos, Trump nominee for Secretary of Education, asked by Bernie Sanders about tuition-free higher ed:

“Senator I think that’s a really interesting idea and I think it’s really great to consider and think about, but I think we also have to consider the fact that there’s nothing in life that’s truly free. Somebody’s going to pay for it.”

John Lewis, civil rights icon and Democratic congressman from Georgia, about tuition-free higher education:

“I think it’s the wrong message to send to any group. There’s not anything free in America. We all have to pay for something. Education is not free. Health care is not free. Food is not free. Water is not free. I think it’s very misleading to say to the American people, we’re going to give you something free.”


It was a strange semester. Looking back, prematurely, I remember getting overwrought about politics. This is still the case. But what really interests me is the possibility that very few people born after the end of the Cold War fully appreciate just how pitched that battle was. Not only in terms of real violence but ideologically.

Some of the best anti-communists have been Liberals, historically. The same is true today. Ask a friend how many people were killed in (formerly) Indochina during the American War. Ask them how many people have died thus far in Iraq. Yet mainline Cold War Democrats at least offered a social-democratic/ Keynesian settlement to sweeten the pills of proxy wars, dirty tricks, and outright imperialism.

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Student, Customer, Grader

The first truism of grading papers is that some students will undertake the assignment in a sincere fashion. That is to say, they evince a real desire to engage with the prompt or even the course as a whole.

Counterpointing these sincere students are the customers– who frankly don’t GAF about much so long as they get (at a minimum) the B- they think their tuition has purchased them.

The goal of a good grader is to read sympathetically, to lean forward into the flow of language on the page in order to understand. When that language comes from a place of authenticity, even when its claims and conclusions are off, a genuine social exchange occurs. When that language is dull, stolen, mashed together without regard for meaning, lazy, rote, or the product of unconscious ideological training then the social exchange that transpires resembles mere commerce. It’s a lie.

As a genre, the lie is intended not to inform or comfort or contradict or do any of the myriad other things by which our relations to one another are extended and confirmed. The purpose of the lie is to distort, diminish, and deprive. To get over. Such a purpose is in precise alignment with what someone– whom exactly, I forget– once called the casual sociopathy of everyday life under advanced capitalism.