Academia as Utopia or Dystopia?

May 26, 2011

In an Inside Higher Education blog post Itir Toksöz  poses two images of academia today, a utopian one and a dystopian one.   She worries that the dystopian image fits her reality more and more.  I like the way she sketches the two:

The perspective number 1 would be called “Academia as Utopia”.  In that perspective, I’d see academia as a place with an efficient and motivating administration and with dearly held ideals for real progress, where students’ lives are enriched, their views changed, their knowledge multiplied. In that sense, one would see academia as a rational wizard of transformation towards better people, better generations and better societies.

The perspective number 2 would be just the opposite and would be called “Academia as Dystopia”.  In that perspective, I’d see academia as a place where all the above optimism is shattered, where the efforts to create better people, better generations, better societies prove to be in vain. It would signal a hierarchical, ineffective, status-quo oriented organizational structure coupled with human flaws such as jealousy, laziness, greed and a student body unwilling to invest in learning.

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About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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