Now some college students who come from modest backgrounds are stressing the same thing, according to an article in a recent Chronicle of Higher Education. (Here, though it requires a subscription.) While they are talking about class in their own way, here are some of my own observations on class and our universities today:
• The job market for professors in the 1960s was wonderful, but things changed in the 1970s. The market got much tighter, and that meant that colleges and universities could afford to hire the “best,” meaning people who had gone to the “best” schools. Such people are usually rich, and so our schools are now populated by professors who seldom come from poor backgrounds. Their concern with class issues is either non-existent, or else not informed by actual experience.
• In addition, the 1960s turned people’s attention away from class to other things.
• The result is a lot of cluelessness about class in our colleges and universities. The biggest buzzword of our era, diversity, does not mean diversity in terms of class. People who are poor, especially white males, are not thought of as contributing any diversity to a campus.
• Moreover, leftism from the 1960s has meant that a large number of administrators have to be hired. These are the affirmative-action officers, the environmental overseers, and the diversity experts that now crowd our colleges and universities. While all these administrators are there to make the modern university more progressives, what leftists don’t say is that the money used to pay these people come from the pockets of the students, which in turn means that poor people have a harder time affording college than they did forty years ago.
• Professors and administrators are adamant that there be affirmative action for minorities and women, but are much less excited about affirmative action for poor people.
• Statistics telling students that college is worth it, based on salaries comparing those who went to college with those who didn’t, ignore the possibility that none of this matters to poor people since the statistics don’t compare future salaries among classes. That is, it could very well be that for poorer people there is only a slight advantage, since the jobs they are likely to get aren’t that much better than the jobs they would get without a college degree.
Several years ago I began urging professors who didn’t like the atmosphere on campus and who came from modest backgrounds to begin speaking up about class. One did and reported that the “usual suspects” touting the PC line got rather nervous about what he was saying. I wish he had kept it up.
Still, the fact that there are now students bringing up this topic is a welcome sign. I know that for conservatives, this is going to look like an internal fight on the left, but anything is better than allowing the current powers-that-be to rule unchallenged.