Revenge of the Nerds

Jun 29, 2012

The firings at the Times-Picayune, the slashing of higher education budgets and the assault on local teachers must be placed in a larger context of management's waylay on anti-intellectualism and the noble professions.  Since the killing of Socrates, management — and specifically corporate resolution — have sought to eliminate the voices of cynicism and reason. But, hallelujah, I see the reemergence of the philosopher king on the horizon.

The economy and modernity have been the cited as the reasons for annual cuts to higher education, terminations and treatment of local teachers, and the sacking of writers at the Times-Picayune. For some, the phrase “You’re fired” makes for interesting reality television, but it has become a trite, unimaginative hook that is seen as a necessary condition for organizational change.

For decades, conservative governing boards have viewed colleges and universities as orgies of liberalism and inefficiency. In spite of the fact that colleges erected themselves before the establishment of the United States, university traditions are viewed as fragile, disorganized and unresponsive. It’s assumed that if colleges and universities could run like businesses, the State and country would be better off.

Equally, journalists are seemingly too powerful to be unchecked. Pen-toting writers have been blamed for everything from electing the first black President to facilitating the second war in Iraq. Alas, writers must be controlled. Like their academic counterparts, they are also too slow to change and face the public scrutiny of being bohemians posing as professionals. Again, the Times-Picayune should rid itself of its centuries of tradition for a “rational” business orientation.

We can’t forget about teachers who need accountability structures only a certified accountant can understand. We should move principals around like the midlevel managers they actually are, regardless of their longstanding community traditions.

Seriously, no one is asking what the heavy-handed application of business principles will have on the state of intellectualism. I’m the first to recognize how academics, writers and teachers hold onto their traditions much longer than society often finds useful. However, it’s the protection of tradition that makes certain community goods sacred. All traditions should change, but to replace them according what business deems necessary is insidiously hypocritical.

Adam Smith would be appalled with the business class’ rigid and irresponsible use of market approaches to measure people’s worth. Society is demanding that more people go to college, but business elites are stifling the byproducts of an intellectual society.

Still, the captains of industry always forget that the intellectual class may be skinny, but they’re numerous. This week, hundreds of educators and sympathetic community leaders imposed their political will on the Algiers Charter Schools Association and thwarted management’s proposed changes that would have moved principals around to different schools like middle management in a big corporation.

The business class already knows there’s nothing more dangerous than writers with a grudge. However, for the state of intellectualism, it’s about time to unleash the revenge of the nerds.