June 24, 2012

Higher Education in America

Andrew Delbanco, who teaches American Studies at Columbia, recently wrote a book on the sorry state of higher education in America: College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be, in which he maps the distance between Is and Ought in the U.S. college system. The college experience, he writes, should be a formative one, in which students are "deterred from sheer self-interest toward a life of enlarged sympathy and civic responsibility." Reviewing the book in the June 10th NYTBR, Michael Roth, the president of Wesleyan, adds that Delbanco believes that college should be a time for them "to see things from another's point of view and to develop a sense of ethical responsibility...[to turn] the soul away from selfish concerns and toward community." "At the core of the college idea," writes Delbanco, is the notion that "to serve others is to serve oneself."

Something like that may have existed in America at one time, but if so, that era is long gone--as most analysts of our educational system clearly recognize.  A study of American college students conducted by the University of Michigan over 1979-2009 revealed a 40% drop in empathy during that time period, along with a fundamental inability to grasp another person's point of view. Another study--the source of which escapes me at the moment--recorded that while in 1965, something like 75% of college freshmen stated that they were in college to develop a workable philosophy of life, by 1985-1990 75% of them said they were there to get rich.

Along with the collapse of empathy is the collapse of learning tout court.  In Academically Adrift, sociologists Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa report that after two years of college, 45% of American students haven’t learned anything, and after four years, 36% haven’t. Most students, they discovered, define college as a social, not an academic or intellectual, experience; half the students in their study said they hadn’t taken a single course in the previous semester that required more than 20 pages of writing, and a third said they hadn’t taken a course requiring more than 40 pages of reading. A Marist poll released on 4 July 2011 (appropriately enough) showed that 69% of Americans in the under-30 age group are unaware that the U.S. declared its independence in 1776. 

All of this, of course, is central to the decline of the United States that I have documented in my own work. After all, you can't have much of a future if this is what American youth has come to. There are many reasons for this catastrophe, but to my mind the major one is the conversion of education into a business, and the university into a corporation. Once the corporate-consumer model of education took hold, all those previous ideals described by Delbanco went up in smoke. Interviewed by the NYTBR in the May 27th issue, Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust identified Clark Kerr's (in)famous study of 1963, The Uses of the University, as "the best book she had read about academia." In response, Jeff Zorn, who teaches English at Santa Clara University, commented (NYTBR, June 17th) that Kerr's book 

"welcomed the very developments that have made American higher education so generally lame: the denigration of teaching; the loss of a center, academically and spiritually: the selling out to Big Business, Big Government, Big Foundations...[and] the redefinition of liberal education...to a vocational major."

Kerr, he concludes, sold his birthright for a mess of pottage, and president Faust doesn't seem to notice (or, perhaps, to mind). As Slavoj Zizek recently put it, we now live in "a new socioeconomic model of potentially unlimited application: a depoliticized technocracy in which bankers and other experts are allowed to demolish democracy." I'm not sure how "new" all this is; we were always, as I have argued, a nation of hustlers; but imported into education, the results are quite obvious. It's hardly an accident that the class of 2012 is out to make money (in point of fact, they can't even find a job), doesn't give a damn about anybody else, and knows virtually nothing; or that (according to a Newsweek poll of 2011) 73% of Americans can’t give the official version of why we fought the Cold War, and 44% are unable to define the Bill of Rights. Indeed, how many even care about our now-shredded Bill of Rights, courtesy of Mr. Obama? Awareness of (for example) the National Defense Authorization Act, with its provision for "indefinite detention," is practically nonexistent, and I'm guessing that less than 2% of American college graduates know what habeas corpus is (make that, was).

Finally, let's not talk of "repairing" the system; under the corporate-consumer model, it can only get worse. Real education--Bildung, in the German sense of the term--can get no traction in the technocorporate state, which is not exactly a breeding ground for creative, independent thought. It can only be pursued by misfits, by the marginalized, by the very few who still think that learning for learning's sake, and the sake of the larger community, is a meaningful ideal. In the America of today, there aren't too many of those around.

(c)Morris Berman, 2012


Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

President Faust is aptly named, isn't she?

While I was working, I had one co-worker who recommended doing away with all liberal arts courses in high school "because they don't help you get a job" -- another who boasted of not having read a book since leaving collage "because I don't have to pass any tests now, so why should I waste my time?" -- another who actively discouraged her grade school daughter from an interest in painting "because she needs to have a real job one day" -- you get the picture. I'm sure everyone posting here has similar stories.

I graduated from high school in 1971, and I'd say the majority of my classmates were indeed concerned with developing a workable philosophy of life. Yet when I've asked people today what they want from life, it's always a bigger house, car, TV, etc. When I tell them I'm not talking about things, but about life itself, they can't comprehend what I'm talking about. Or else they simply don't see any difference between things & life.

6:03 PM  
Anonymous Mark Notzon said...

Dear MB, et al:

Back in 1999, when I was living and working in Indonesia, just over a year after the collapse of the Indonesian economy and the Suharto government, while I was bemoaning my fate and my heavily depreciated savings account (in Indonesian currency), a British free lance journalist passed on to me several copies of the "New York Review of Books." one of which contained Delbanco's review of volumes devoted to the decline of English departments in universities and colleges in the United States, those being a microcosm, if you will, of the spreading "post-literacy."

I read the article sipping a beer at a small cafe in Jakarta, and my gloom began to dissipate, a bit. I felt like I managed to sustain a life of the mind much more easily out of the States than I could have if I had chosen to go the "main stream" route at home. We have more neuroscience than ever explaining how the brain works, while so little in American "culture" enlivens the senses while enlightening the mind. This is analagous to one of those exercise machines sold through infomercials on late night TV. It is "gymnastically correct" in being designed to turn out the "right" kind of physique, while normal and pleasurable movement in the daily environment becomes less and less possible.

Our institutions of higher learning have become nothing more than legal shells, which I suppose can be filled with either crap or custard, as the market demands, or as demand perceives value. Real learning now belongs to an "invisible college," seen only by--and I am not being sentimental-- the pure of heart.

Mark N.,

9:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The ancient philosophies (stoicism, epicureanism, etc..) are about as anti corporate-consumer as it gets. For a fantastic introduction read Hadot's Philosophy of Life then Mediations by Marcus Aurelius. These traditions concern themselves with the art of living and daily life. How to analyze matters in a a systematic way and provide guidance in our relationship to ourselves, to others, and the world around us. They use reason and logic to achieve wisdom, peace of mind, independence, and inner freedom.

Mr Berman - In your books you've talked about the "monastic option" and cultivating a more simple, less material way of life - but I'm surprised you've never talked about these traditions?

Mr. Berman you've discussed the

10:28 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


1. Wd be really gd if u cd pick a handle; we have too many Anons here.

2. Well, that wd be a whole other book. Why not Seneca, for that matter? You see my pt.


I guess "shell" is the operative word. Thus we now have a democracy in name only, for example, and the same analysis of form vs. hollowed-out content applies to most of American institutions today. Real education happens not because of our educational institutions but in spite of them. The police are not protecting American citizens; they are spying on them and intimidating them. Etc. It's a long list.


10:50 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: Check out E.M. Forster's essay, "What I Believe."

10:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahh... I now see the need for a handle. Thanks.

Exactly, Seneca, Epictetus would all be great also.

I can't believe how I've been on this planet for 40 years and just discovered these 2000 year old authors, ironically from a 24 year PR guy


I'm just surprised somebody like you, Chris Hedges, (name a respectable author) did not introduced this tradition to me given the similarity in your views.

11:10 PM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

Dr. Berman,

Is wealth the cure for greed or the cause of greed?

I think it's the latter. As you probably know, one of the pop theories about obesity among Western & Westernized peoples is that humans, having evolved in relative scarcity, are intrinsically ravenous. We will gobble until we pop, if given the opportunity. And this opportunity is near-ubiquitous in the West; there are very many edibles around.

So the cancer is within us, waiting for a trigger. We can't help how we’re made. It’s the availability of gadgets and Stuff In General that makes us cry More, just as a plate of fried donuts tempts us toward fatness and heart attacks.

Or do these things tempt only the weak? I keep getting the feeling that Americans and the Americanized are winning a Darwin Award. The overly acquisitive are going to get Malthused out of the breeding pool. What do you think?

(Btw, have you seen "Citizen Kane" lately? A portrait of a greedhead [Kane] that's not only marvelously melodramatic but also of some psychological & historical insight. Welles said in an interview that the movie was "consciously designed as an attack on the acquisitive society." Uncanny how the word PROMISE echoes all through the movie...and all the promises are broken, esp the fundamental promises of America.)

11:56 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


And still: no handle!

You didn't get my pt, I guess. Chris and I cd write abt Seneca et al. if we wanted to; but authors can't really write about Everything. Capish?

Happy reading, in any case.


7:26 AM  
Blogger jerome langguth said...

Martha Nussbaum's recent Not for Profit covers some of the same ground. I look forward to reading Delbanco's book.

On another note, I just finished Wandering God and was wondering about the possible connections between the "monastic option" and thinking nomadically (I loved your reading of Wittgenstein here). Is a "rhizomatic monasticism" that preserves the tension between the vertical and the nomadic possible? I think maybe Charles Taylor and Albert Borgmann manage something like this, at least some of the time. In any case, a fantastic book.

Finally, I would like to recommend the film Dead Man as an ideal companion to Why America Failed. A surrealist western about our fundamental hucksterism that makes "they eat each other" all too palpable.

7:40 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thanks for your comments on WG; I appreciated it. It's funny: when OWS first appeared, it was obvious to me that altho (amazingly enuf--it's still hard for me to comprehend) they hadn't read my bk, they were doing the horizontal rhizomatic thing. The only problem with that as a formula is that it can only work in a hunter-gatherer world; within civilization, changing things requires some degree of verticality. Which means hierarchy, authority, an actual political program beyond being angry at the maldistribution of wealth, etc. This is why I predicted that OWS wd more or less fade into a kind of permanent teach-in, at best. The thing had no bite, no clout; and actually got praised for its incoherence and lack of definition by a large number of high-profile political supporters, which I found quite incredible. And so the inevitable happened: it amounted to nothing, changed nothing, and faded into obscurity. Fact is, we don't live in a perfect world, in which 'setting an example' via horizontal behavior is enough.

However, beyond the issue of outright secession from the US--which would certainly require some vertical organization--there's the issue of alternative communities (decentralized, eco-sustainable, etc.) just going abt their business (no demonstrations, no protests, or whatever) and creating a different way of life; one that could become increasingly appealing (read: inevitable) as the US cracks up and we enter a post-capitalist, post-carbon world. (A pity Ben & Jerry's sold out; they were on the rt track.) All of this exists in the US at present, but it is rather desultory and inchoate. Over time, however, groups may (like rhizomes) make contact, and coalesce into a genuine alternative, one that is nonprofit and steady-state.

As for capitalism: it's now so vertical it's tipping over. After the Davos meeting in January, the New Yorker ran a cartoon in which one speaker was saying to the audience, "We have to address the dangerous gap that has emerged between the rich and the super-rich." Yes, that's abt it; let's have more bailouts and attempts at business as usual, while we're going down the drain.


8:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

College students in 1965 valued liberal education. That is, they valued civilization, culture, reading, thinking, the arts and sciences. They had learned to value these things from their parents, teachers, and role models in their society. Today young people learn technology worship, cynicism, Narcissism, and winning. Education does not happen in a dead culture.

11:38 AM  
Anonymous Joseph S. said...

College was a difficult time for me. I had the luck of being exposed to certain books (MB's Reenchantment of the World being one of them) at a young, very developmental age and grew to see education as a way to learn more about the world around me, not just as a means to getting money. Unfortunately, my family didn't see it that way and, though they've always been supportive of my endeavors, thought I should get a more "marketable" degree than what I wanted, which was Philosophy. I shouldn't blame them for the friction in those "what are you gonna do with a degree like that?" conversations; they were just doing what any "normal" parent would, though normalcy in today's culture is not something I see as desirable. In the end, I got my degree in Philosophy with a minor in Political Science and have been happy.

I never once believed that my degree meant diddly squat to do with a career, and neither did a career have much to do with living a fulfilled, happy life. I can't say the same about my peers though. They all believed in what we'd been told as kids and then as teens and through college: if you go to school and do well then you'll make a lot of money someday and be happy. In the generation before mine, and from the education I had growing up (which was private schooling, though that doesn't mean much), people did grow up and go to school and then live happily with a stable job. Or so it seemed to us. I had the good fortune of having two professors in college who did not fit the modern education mold. They taught that there's a difference between education and schooling, that knowledge is more important than money, that you should never stop learning or questioning what you know, and much more.

I was lucky, but most of my peers haven't been. They're either stuck in jobs they don't like, with degrees they have no interest in, thinking that if they just had this much more money then this would happen, and so on. It's very sad. On a TV show I saw last night, a character, talking to a college student, says something along the lines of "The problems of today have been given to you from the previous generations, yes, but that doesn't account for the fact that you guys are the laziest, least responsible generation the world has ever seen."

I'm sorry that this got a little long-winded, but I've lost a lot sleep thinking about this.


12:38 PM  
Anonymous Julian said...

It is my great pleasure to report that 99% of my online students have learned nothing after 2 years of college. After completing 4 years and receiving their BAs, 100% of them have learned absolutely nothing.

I am also proud to report that when I was teaching face-to-face at Northwestern, 100% of my graduate students learned nothing at all prior to receiving their worthless doctorate and masters degrees. This amazing outcome gives me a great feeling of accomplishment, especially knowing that many of them became child psychologists, and they are, as we speak, messing with your children’s heads in innumerable elementary and high schools across the country.

1:36 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

M. Bergot reminds MB that college
"experience" (forget about education) is simply daycare for surplus labor. The bosses have too many applicants for one job; therefore, let the universities do the screening. "Will this person
do anything the hell I ask him to do, just like when he/she was in college?" With some useless degree
and JUMBO student debt, the fresh arrivals to the labor pool will work for cheap.

Also mention to MB that 90 (ninety) percent of the murders in
Mexico go UNsolved--->avoid Walmarts and casinos.

2:42 PM  
Anonymous M.-J. Taylor said...

If you want folks to choose an identity don't give them the option of being anonymous. :D Blogspot does allow you to control that.

And I am surprised by the use of abbreviations such as 'we cd' for we could ... it's the sort of breakdown of language engendered by texting that you seem to be against.

My mother was an academic - a dean and a professor; and she wanted me to get an education for education's sake. I did just that and had a career in journalism in the 1980s that I earned through being in the right place at the right time and knowing the right people. I have never filled out an application or had to prove I had a BA, but I couldn't have done my job without my education.

I,too, graduated in 1971, and unlike the earlier commentator, I do not think my peers had anything in mind besides money.

3:02 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Being technologically challenged, I dunno how to work Blogspot so as to control for Anonymous writers. So I keep asking them to choose a handle. As for my texting habits: yr rt, but I can't stop. Help me, I beg of u!


No need to address me in the third person; it's kind of weird. I mean, I'm here!

As for Mexican murder rate, it's spread across the nation very unevenly, and is highest in border states and Michoacan--which means it's part of the drug war scene, and this is often entwined w/the police, so...no great surprise, I suppose. But outside of that, the homicide rate is quite low. The rate for Mexico City, for example, is 9 per 100,000 per annum, which is the same as Stockton CA or Wichita KS (considerably smaller cities). I can't be sure, but probably those murders don't go unsolved.


6:22 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Three disparate comments on this and the last thread:

- Books: I've mentioned before, Doug Rushkoff's "Life, Inc." is, for me, the best summarization of the corporatization of all aspects of life, including education.

- Tim: Curious if you've ever seen the original (1930) version of "Holiday?" I'd love to see it - supposedly better than the Cukor version (which I find too stolid).

- Thinking about movies and the nomadic impulse in "Wandering God," how about the great ending of Borzage's Depression masterpiece "Man's Castle?"

6:25 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Dear Dark Agers,

I’ve been reading this blog every day, but I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve busy with local politics trying to save my neighbors in our pleasant little village in rural Iowa from having a boondoggle of an unnecessary sewer system forced on them. We may actually be succeeding – which shows that at the local level things may still be possible – occasionally. When this is over I’ll ride off into the sunset, and settle down in Mexico.

A long, long time ago, I mentioned some articles by retired philosophy professor John Kozy on his blog “Expose the Bull” at jkozy(dot)com. Click on “Articles on Culture” and check out two articles: “Leftish Professors” and “Balderdashing Education Bashing”. I mention them again because they are clearly germane to the present topic.

Here is a quote from the latter of the two articles”

“The ultimate truth is that a social institution can be no better than the society that supports it, and unfortunately American society is not and has never been intellectual. Intellect and scholarship have never been esteemed. Too many parents don't or can't read. Too many homes lack educational resources. Books, magazines, and journals, especially good ones, are lacking in too many homes. Television is pervasive and from the point of view of intellect, is almost universally bad. It deserves its nickname, "boobtube." Intellect and scholarship are not the "business of business" and therefore not the "business of America." And I might add neither is educa¬tion.”

“What do children see when they notice what American society does esteem? Entertainment, sports, and marketing. Therein lies the fame, the honor, and the rewards of being an Ameri¬can.”

“So what do our children want to be? Actors, rock stars, football players, salespeople, and in some cases, simple criminals, and none of these requires great intellect or a broad edu¬cation.”

Well, there you have it in a nutshell. And it goes way beyond education to include just about everything. In fact, that’s “why America failed”!

David Rosen

8:31 PM  
Blogger PWS said...

Professor, I'm not too familiar with academia, I got my degree at night school on the Vietnam GI bill, back in the dark ages. Following the recent UVA controversy, it seems to me that the corporatocracy sees universities existing only for the purpose of enriching the banks who finance overpriced educations with usurious and fraudulent loans.

11:09 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Can u tell me/us what the hell happened at UVA? I've been surfing the Net abt it, and can't come away with any concrete information. Do u know why Teresa Sullivan got fired?


11:50 PM  
Anonymous Larry Shultz said...

Dear MB,
I thought you may like t read this article on the school to prison pipeline.

7:42 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

Best 2 books I've read lately because of WAF bloggers. One sweet. One sour.

1. "Small is Beautiful. Economics as if People Mattered." E.F. Schumacher. I was under the illusion that Economics was a senseless topic. I discovered a glorius and magnificent sunrise in a place I never knew existed.

2. "Slavery By Another Name." Douglas A Blackmon. This book will outrage a few good people. Cruelty is no fun to read, however, it is necessary to know the capabilities of the Southern mind.

8:18 AM  
Anonymous JWO said...

Concerning UVA:


9:00 AM  
Anonymous Ken Smith said...


I agree with M.-J. Taylor regarding your use of abbreviations. It's Twitterish. You don't have a 140-character limitation in your comments, so there is no need to condense the text.

The abbreviations in comments not only slow down the reader but also could give the impression that you are not serious. However, as a daily reader, I believe your comments are quite often as profound as your posts and your books.

With short forms of common words, your comments are much less likely to be copied and quoted on other websites. I especially recommend that you not abbreviate your book titles. Repitition. Repeat. Repetition. It's branding.

Speaking of profound, your recent post on Pitirim Sorokin and the hundred or so comments struck me like nothing else I've read in recent years. I had read Sorokin four decades ago in college, but I had almost forgotten him until reading your brilliant post.

Yrs trly,


11:44 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


I'm disgusted but not really surprised after reading the UVA article. What struck me was this particular paragraph:

At some point in recent American history, we started assuming that if people are rich enough, they must be experts in all things. That’s why we trust Mark Zuckerberg to save Newark schools and Bill Gates to rid the world of malaria. Expertise is so 20th century.

What's the classic American retort to anyone with a brain? "If you're so smart, why aren't you rich?"

How is this any different than Medieval sycophants praising their master as the wisest & most proficient in all things, solely due to his God-appointed rank? Money doesn't just make you wise, it makes you real. The more money, the more real you are. Well, their version of "real" at any rate. Let's not bring anything so disturbing & demanding as personal authenticity into it.

I've previously mentioned that I've begun making collage, and find that I'm reasonably good at it. What's interesting is how many people, after admiring this or that piece, immediately suggest ways to make money from it. While it might be nice to earn a little extra money by doing something I love, that's not why I do it. I'd go on making art if nobody else liked it & not a single soul would pay a penny for it. This explanation often gets me blank and/or disgusted stares.


I'd like to see that earlier version of Holiday myself, much as I do love the Cukor version. I'd also like to recommend the 1940s version of The Razor's Edge -- perhaps Tyrone Power has to work within the sometimes wooden confines of Hollywood piety, but for all that, it's a moving depiction of a genuine NMI. He has no desire for fame, no desire to convert others -- he simply wants to live his life as honestly & meaningfully as possible. The fact that Maugham based the character on a living person gives me a bit more hope that such a life is possible.

1:43 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

M. Bergot occasionally uses the 3rd person for MB when he suspects that paid assassins are lurking about. Using the 3rd person suggests that he is NOT available,
hence not at his computer.
A propos of nothing, it is unlikely that you are a big fan of
Adolf Hitler, who gave the world
Goebbels, who gave fascist talk radio the tools of deception. Will
you reconsider your opinion of AH?
Fascist radio is one of the best sources for what's going in the subconscious mind of America. Day time TV and Vegas are also valuable sources.

2:49 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Yr rt, but I jus' can't stop! My mind has been Twittered, and I can't seem 2 reverse the process. Help me, I'm lost!


2:55 PM  
Blogger Nicholas Colloff said...

Today I was at the Camaldoli hermitage in Tuscany (Italy), as I am walking through the national park, where it is located, on holiday and stopped at the compulsory monastic shop. It was fabulous - products of mind and hand - both a quiet rebuke to the world we have made - a non-secular monastic option! You simply left with a sense of here still is a culture where people know and respect things (not only the monks but the customers)and there are places where hustling does not have the last word. It is comforting!

4:10 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

UVA update -- ousted president Teresa Sullivan was unanimously reinstated:


4:41 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Given the fact that hustlers long ago took over the US univ. system, this is quite a surprise.


5:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tell me why...

I'm an American who has lived abroad for decades. Flew "home" earlier this month. Looked at my fellow passengers in the Arrivals Hall. Scores of manifestly decent people, friendly, good natured, warm, open, kindly Americans. Decent people. Likeable people.

Then the thought, the question.

How can it have come to pass that these people are allowing themselves to be stripped of much of their wealth to pay for the killing of brown skinned strangers on the other side of the world?

Why is this happening?

6:39 PM  
Anonymous teri schooley said...

Julian, Dr. Berman,

Julian: "This amazing outcome gives me a great feeling of accomplishment, especially knowing that many of them became child psychologists, and they are, as we speak, messing with your children’s heads in innumerable elementary and high schools across the country." Child psychologists! Man oh man. For awhile, I ran a small home daycare as one of my sources of income so as not to have to leave my own kids with someone else. One of the children I took care of had the amazing misfortune to have been born to a set of parents where both were psychologists in the school system. I have never seen a more messed-up kid in my life. He was vicious. A character flaw his parents subtly encouraged.

Dr. Berman,

Dad and I were talking the other day about how successfully the US has spread militarism, financial grifting, etc. all over the globe. He commented that it was partly because Americans took their Bibles so seriously, even as they misunderstood the words.

"How so?" asked I.

"Take this verse, for example," he answered, "the US seems to be taking it as a prime directive, but not in the way I believe it was intended."

And he quoted: "'Ye saw I was a stranger and ye took me in.'"


6:48 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


This is Corinthians? I think the exact quote is: "Ye saw I was a stranger and ye took me to the cleaners."


I'm begging u, pick a handle. We have a surfeit of Anons on this blog. Enuf with the Anons!

Anyway, you'll find the answer to your question if u start talking to those Americans. Believe me, it's a frightening experience. Engage them in real conversation, and u won't believe what comes outta their mouths.


7:15 PM  
Anonymous shep said...


When u choose an identity to post, just above the anonymous button is a name selection button. All u have to do is make up a handle. Does not have to be your real name. Anything u want works and you're set.

Pls save the blog manager from getting a headache!

8:16 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

And then there's this:


9:18 PM  
Blogger J. P. CAZADOR said...


I was going to respond to "Anonymous" about the "friendly, decent looking" people he saw at the airport, but as I scrolled down I saw you already responded, and said the same thing I was going to say.

9:44 PM  
Blogger Hormone Monkey said...

Dear Dr. Berman,
Thanks for posting another gem: a very lively discussion. The person who brought up the loan crisis has it right. Money is the root cause of the troubles in academics. The worst (most expensive, least learned) of the pack is the for-profit school industry. Today's reversal of corporate control of a fine public institution gives me hope.

The comments on the evolutionary basis of obesity are flatly wrong. Unfortunately the best clarification of this confusion is in a review article by John Speakman (International Journal of Obesity) that hides behind the publisher's pay wall. The abstract is available through nature.com.

9:54 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

Dr. Berman

Ive gt yr bck w/re: to the twitter-pated shrtnd wrds. If ths ppl dnt like wht they R rding, Mstro, tell them to eff off!


It's kinda fun, actually. I think I will start writing documents at work like that.

11:28 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, the guy does have a pt, I suppose: b4 2 long every TDH (Tom, Dick, and Harry) will b. wrtg like a moron. Text messaging is the language of buffoons.


12:53 AM  
Anonymous teri schooley said...

Going off the topic for a sec, which I hope is okay; about obesity in America: the US is now ranked as the fattest nation on the planet. But I am not so sure it is *all* due to poor eating habits; some of the blame goes to the quality of the products themselves, especially for poor people, who are increasing in number and have little affordable choices available to them. Our food producers are allowed to put corn syrup in everything - they'd stick it in fresh tomatoes and bananas if they could figure out how - and that stuff affects how your body handles calories, not to mention that it adds empty calories in and of itself. Also, our food is nutritionally different than it was decades ago. Thanks to big ag like Monsanto, we no longer practice crop rotation in the fields or use a variety of seeds; this leads to the inevitable decline in nutritional value. Fruits and vegetables grown in the US have about 10% of the nutrients they had just a few decades ago. In other words, even if you can afford to buy the fresh produce, you are getting roughly 90% less in the way of vitamins and minerals you used to get from the same food. Despite the immense numbers of calories we eat, our bodies think they are starving because we can't get the vitamins and minerals we need from the food available to us. The end result is that our metabolism slows down and our appetites increase as our bodies hoard calories and signal us to "eat more" in an effort to obtain these nutrients.

Naturally, the poorer you are, the less likely it is that you can afford fresh fruits and vegetables or whole grains anyway; depleted as they are now, they'd still be better than calories obtained from processed carbs, which are the cheapest food products. (Or afford anything packaged or canned without corn syrup added - it's a free additive and filler for the food industry thanks to the subsidies given the corn producers. Check out the prices of canned goods without corn syrup vs those with it.)

God only knows what genetic modification does to our food. Scientists in Europe are coming to the conclusion that the very process itself (not just the addition of pesticides to the seeds thus manufactured) is creating food that causes cancers and endocrine disruption. Hillary we-came-we-saw-he-died is threatening the EU countries which have banned GM products with embargoes.

There is not one simple catch-all answer to the question of why we are getting fatter, but I think we aren't putting enough blame on the way our food is produced and processed.

I suspect increasing obesity in America is, ironically, a sign of increasing poverty.


5:42 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


I was surprized by UVA's reversal myself at first, but then I realized how useful this sort of thing is to the powers that be. Something truly blatant & egregious becomes too public, it gets fixed, and the problem quickly goes away, replaced by newer distractions. Plus (and far more importantly), an occasional "victory" of this sort keeps everyone believing that "the system still works" & that things really CAN be fixed, so let's forgot all that doom & gloom & get back to living in the greatest country on Earth!

I just wonder if someone used the deliberately neutral phrase "mistakes were made" or some other no-fault expression.

Mind you, the crude hammer blow is always an option & will be used when necessary ... but if you can cozy & lull the public into "getting its mind right" (as Cool Hand Luke was continually told to do), then what need for anything else?

Still, there are plenty of people who live for the open display of power & control; and as they gain more of both, the less need they feel to conceal their pathology behind a happy smiley face of public concern. T. Friedman's comment about throwing some crappy little country against the wall every 10 years or so, for instance?

9:22 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I tell u, after spending 3 wks in Spain, I was fully aware that American food is little more than cardboard. You can't imagine the difference in taste between Europe and the US.


9:34 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

I always heard that we are the balloon people, by Europeans.

11:07 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


You mean, full of hot air?


11:47 AM  
Anonymous Mark Notzon said...

Dear MB, Teri, et al.

Agribusiness thrives on a procedure American society has perfected: How to process the life out of natural resources, while calling it, in economic terms, "adding value." When I first ate the squat and tiny bananas found in Indonesia, which do not have the photogenic qualities of those found in our supermarkets, my tongue told me I really had not tasted a banana before. This gives a new meaning to the term "banana republic." A republic is known, in part, by the quality of bananas it grows.

Mark N.

12:01 PM  
Blogger Tim Hudson said...

I'm writing this a little before work, so you'll have to forgive any lapses in grammar or spelling. I was one of those students who went to a SLAC and studied one of the humanities. I spent four years reading, usually a couple hundred pages a week, and writing, usually about fifty pages, philosophy and theology. I spent hours and hours thinking, examining and researching any and every idea that caught my fancy. I both double majored in philosophy and religious studies and I double minored in each as well.

I never made less than a perfect grade in any of these, and won a number of ethics competitions. I planned on going to graduate school in my field, moving toward a PhD, then hopefully coming "home" to my Alma Mater to teach.

I attended one of the very best schools in the nation, Yale, for my masters degree. Then I realized the situation; I was fucked. I was, and am, probably one of the top ten thousand people in Philosophy of Religion, perhaps in the top five thousand. Not bad in a world of six, soon to be seven, billion. That being said even with scholarships I still had to borrow five thousand a semester at my undergraduate institution which costs $60,000 a year. So even with 5/6ths of my collage paid for I still graduated with $40,000 in loans just from my undergraduate degree. I borrowed another $20,000 at Yale, five thousand a semester to live on and ten thousand over the summers to do research.

I'm now $60,000 and change in debt that can't be removed via bankruptcy, 24 years old and looking about there were less than ten jobs in my subfield last year. Yale, Harvard and Chicago graduate more than that every year! That isn't even including those who are trying to move from one tenure track position to another.

So if I, someone who is trying to keep the flame of intelectual discussion going, am so fucked as to be working at Walmart right now for $7.45 is it any wonder that:

"It's hardly an accident that the class of 2012 is out to make money (in point of fact, they can't even find a job), doesn't give a damn about anybody else, and knows virtually nothing"

11:00 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


But you do know something, viz. don't borrow money for yr education.

"Hell is the truth recognized in hindsight"--Hobbes.


12:58 PM  
Blogger Noah Linden said...


I knew food is far less nutritious than it used to be, but teri schooley's comment has shaken me to my core.

With American food having only 10% of the nutrients it used to have only a few decades ago, it is no surprise that Americans are so stupid.

I am 100% sure that this was deliberately planned by the American government to stupefy the American populace; yet I am also 100% sure that Americans have by and large welcomed with open arms the new Age Of Stupidity.

I would suggest to anyone reading this that they take supplements daily that give 100% of the daily requirements of every single vitamin and mineral.

1:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reply to Tim Hudson,
The job market in academic philosophy was so bad in 1977 that after my PhD, I bailed out into software, a high demand field then. I'm surprised it never got better. But the humanities have lost a lot of their turf in the University.
There is one consolation I can attest to. If you end up outside of academia, you will be able to think through philosophy from the ground up, not distracted by academic fashions. This would give you a better chance of ending up with a worthwhile vision. No worries if it doesn't impress the professors. Understanding is worth more than recognition.
Fred Strohm

1:23 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Two things you shd know:

1. I don't post messages from Anons. You need to pick a handle.

2. No pt in posting on anything but the most recent post. No one reads the old ones.

So--try again!


6:54 PM  
Anonymous Ptero9 said...

I think it was the 2nd day of Kindergarten when it occurred to me that school was not going to be anything more than a place to get out of. Somehow I did graduate HS, but by that time was already too engrossed in the questions that were always calling me to feel that college could give me anything of importance.

I have remained happily employed ever since in jobs that at least hold my interest, but always leave me with my heart and soul still intact.

Recently, I came across an ad for your book MB, and was so excited by the title, Dark Ages America, I poked around the net for more info. Having listened to all the interviews and lectures of yours that I could find, I now look forward to reading your books.

Although I don't think I'll agree with all of your ideas, I sense some common ground with you especially having had the mystical experience that knocks one back into their body.

I wanted to ask you if Mexico has provided you with someone to talk to? I know the feeling, although I do have a smattering of friends who will engage in a difficult conversation from time to time. My husband for one.

Thank you for all of your hard work.


4:36 PM  

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