Cornel West Interview


Here is an excerpt from an interview with Cornel West I came across on Alternet.  I was most interested to read about West’s criticism of Obama and his comments about Michael Moore’s faith in Obama:

McNally: My fiancee said the saddest moment for her was watching how excited people were the night Barack Obama was elected. Share a little bit about your feelings that night and your feelings today.

West: I was ready because I draw a radical distinction between the symbolic and the substantial. As a critical supporter of Barack Obama, engaged in over 50 events for him from Iowa to Ohio, I knew that at a symbolic level something could happen that was unprecedented. And it did happen. At that symbolic level, I can understand the tears, I can understand the jubilation, I can understand the euphoria. But I always knew there was a sense in which he, now heading the American empire, was tied to the shadow government, tied to CIA, FBI, tied to the establishment waiting to embrace him. It was clear when he chose his economic team, when he chose his foreign policy team, he was choosing, of course, the recycled neo-liberals and recycled neo-Clintonites that substantially you’re going to end up with these technocratic policies that consider poor people and working people as afterthoughts. Beginning with bankers, beginning with elites.

Symbolically, black man breaks through makes you want to break dance. So, yes, we have to be able to relate to both of these. So I resonate with your dear fiancee, because the hopes that were generated and the call for change, and then we end up with this recycled neo-liberalism. There’s no fundamental change at all. Continue reading

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Wal-Mart Edu


Marc Bousquet has an interesting response to Obamba’s initiative to pump some money into higher ed, in particular community colleges.  The short of Bousquet’s concerns, which I think is warranted, revolve–for one– around the consequences of the top-down organization of cc’s:

Louisville fails for the same reason many community colleges fail: they put cheap, permanently temporary teachers (students, retirees, moonlighters, folks willing to work for status) in the front lines of first-year courses, and then–desperate to armor-plate the curriculum against the uneven preparation of the faculty–convert the tenure stream into supervisors of the temps.  The bribe for the tenured overclass includes being freed to teach only the fraction of students who get through the obstacle course of the first year or two.

But this suckiness is what Obama and Duncan like about community colleges and enterprise universities like the U of L.  Not the low graduation rates–they’ll pull at their chins thoughtfully and agree with you there.

What they like–no, love–is the organization of community colleges, the top-down control of curriculum, the tenured management and the disposable teachers. That’s perfect! Community colleges regularly fire union officials and anyone else who gets in their way. Continue reading

Reforming Community Colleges


Cool take on Obama’s proposed reform of community colleges at Savage Minds:

There has been a lot of talk about Obama’s recent commitment to community college education. The plan, outlined here, calls for increased community college graduation, funding for innovation in educational strategies and techniques for increasing completion rates, increased partnerships between community colleges and businesses, modernized facilities, and the development of online courses (interestingly to be created and distributed by the Department of Defense).

I don’t really know enough to evaluate all the elements of the plan — from a cursory glance, it looks like it will be a helpful in certain areas, overall doing little but doing little harm, as well. It’s not the kind of massive educational reform we need at the community college level (and even more at the university level, and still more at the K-12 level), but I see little reason to be against it.

Except for this: David Brooks supports it. And David Brooks’ track record is perfect: he’s never been right about anything.

It Depends On Interpretation: Iraq Pact


This story and this topic has been slowly getting traction in the media, it seems, or I am just now catching up with it. Of course, knowing little or nothing about international diplomacy or international law, I have little to say about it, however, this particular article was pretty interesting – McLatchy reports:

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration has adopted a much looser interpretation than the Iraqi government of several key provisions of the pending U.S.-Iraq security agreement, U.S. officials said Tuesday — just hours before the Iraqi parliament was to hold its historic vote.

These include a provision that bans the launch of attacks on other countries from Iraq, a requirement to notify the Iraqis in advance of U.S. military operations and the question of Iraqi legal jurisdiction over American troops and military contractors.

Officials in Washington said the administration has withheld the official English translation of the agreement in an effort to suppress a public dispute with the Iraqis until after the Iraqi parliament votes. Continue reading

Critchley on Obama (Again).


I think we should start a new series “So-and-so on Obama” as many people have expressed their opinion on the significance of the election. Simon Critchley’s take

Obama’s victory marks a symbolically powerful moment in American history, defined as it is by the stain of slavery and the fact of racism. It will have hugely beneficial consequences for how the United States is seen throughout the world. His victory was also strategically brilliant and his campaign transformed those disillusioned with and disenfranchised by the Bush administration into a highly motivated and organized popular force. But I dispute that Obama’s victory is about change in any significant sense.

So Obama’s victory is not about change. Check. It’s all about the search for unity which in politics, Critchley argues, translates into political moralism – exactly how that takes place is not really dealt with in the article: Continue reading

Obama: Overcoming Anti-Intellectualism?


Clearly influenced by this post Nicholas Kristof has this to say about Obama:

The second most remarkable thing about his election is that American voters have just picked a president who is an open, out-of-the-closet, practicing intellectual.

Maybe, just maybe, the result will be a step away from the anti-intellectualism that has long been a strain in American life. Smart and educated leadership is no panacea, but we’ve seen recently that the converse — a White House that scorns expertise and shrugs at nuance — doesn’t get very far either.

We can’t solve our educational challenges when, according to polls, Americans are approximately as likely to believe in flying saucers as in evolution, and when one-fifth of Americans believe that the sun orbits the Earth.

Almost half of young Americans said in a 2006 poll that it was not necessary to know the locations of countries where important news was made. That must be a relief to Sarah Palin, who, according to Fox News, didn’t realize that Africa was a continent rather than a country. Continue reading

Critchley on Obambi


Simon Critchley delivered a lecture last September at the New School entitled “Barack Obama and the American Void.”  It’s pretty decent. He examines Obama’s subjectivity, the existential detachment that seems to haunt him, and its relation to democracy as well as Obama’s “politics which is driven by an anti-political fantasy.”

My favorite question during the Q&A was when someone tells Critchley that he’s a cross between David Brooks, Maureen Dowd and Dr. Phil and accuses him of being psychoanalytically superficial. Critchley seems haunted by being called Dr. Phil.  I don’t know, maybe that’s not so bad, isn’t Dr. Phil kind of like an Aristotle (of the Nichomachean Ethics) of our time???

We’ll see what Obambi can get done over the next four years…

Click here to watch