Since today marks the first day of my early (semi)retirement, I'm liberal, and I've spent my entire adult life, including the last 37 years on the faculty, at a (some would say "the") top-rated public research university, I'd like to add my two-cents.Highly selective colleges and universities will always be able to pick and choose from among children of the well-to-do for whom price is, at best, a secondary concern. For the vast majority of the undergrads I teach, the Great Recession and the prolonged economic slump may as well have happened in Tibet. It's something they have read (an article) about, or perhaps seen (most of) a TED talk about.There are many wonderful students in my classes, to be sure. They study, they speak and write well, they do community service to "give back" to the less fortunate. But the median student with whom I interact these days glides through life with an attitude of deep, unthinking entitlement. A fair number of of them reside in upscale, high-rise residence apartments that rival the toniest condos in Georgetown or on the upper East Side. Laundry service and housekeeping are available for an additional charge."Research" for many of them consists of entering a few keywords into Google and assembling a word-collage from whatever few items appear at the top of the list. Surveys show that they "study" and average five or six hours/week. None of them would dream of taking a class before 11 AM, or after 4 PM, or at all on Fridays.And, no, it was not always thus. As I say, I've been here a long, long time. As state support for higher education has evaporated (we build prisons at the rate of one per week in America, and the money has to come from someplace), tuitions have risen to the point where more students matriculate to my campus from households in the top two percent, by income, than from the bottom fifty percent. True fact ... and this is a "public" university.Which is a big part of why I decided to retire early (at age 63 -- which is not all that early, I suppose, but is considered highly unusual for tenured full profs where I am). I rose out of deep, ugly poverty, and I chose my career to help others do the same. I did not sign up to assist the privileged and entitled to become even more privileged and entitled. But that's what has happened on my campus, and on others like it.Happily, for the past decade my research has consisted primarily of hands-on political power-building with impoverished folks in the most troubled big city in America. I am blessed with a cadre of undergrads and a few grad students who have chosen to work side by side with me. It nourishes my soul and has kept me sane. But I don't get paid to do that alone, and so it has become time to retire, at least from the teaching part.One last thing. Having worked at manual labor for all of my own undergraduate days, I am well aware that I've got some nerve complaining about the privileged career I have enjoyed. Being a professor is not hard work; roofing a house in the summertime is. Nevertheless, I am saddened by what has taken place in higher education over the past couple of decades.
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