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An email from Noam Chomsky

November 30, 2009

Noam ChomskyRegional UCU officer Mark Oley has been in email contact with Professor Noam Chomsky (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), discussing the situation in UK HE and the University of Leeds in particular. He has received this reply:

“I had a startling experience a few weeks ago.  I travelled to Mexico City for talks at the National University, an enormous and very impressive institution with high standards of achievement and scholarship.  Entrance is selective, but the university is virtually free.  I then visited an even more remarkable institution, the college in Mexico City established by former mayor Lopez Obrador.  Again, the facilities and standards are quite impressive.  It is not only free, but has open admissions, though sometimes that requires some delay and sometimes assistance for students lacking adequate preparation. Shortly after I went to San Francisco for talks, and learned more about the California institutions of higher education.  They have been at the very peak of the international higher education system.  By now tuitions are quite high, even for in-state students, and cutbacks are affecting teaching, research, and staff.  It would be no great surprise if the two major state universities, UC Berkeley and UC Los Angeles, will soon be privatized while the remainder of the state system is reduced considerably in scale and level. Needless to say, Mexico is a poor country with a struggling economy, and California should be one of the richest places in the world, with incomparable advantages. I mention these recent experiences only to emphasize that the recent cut-backs in higher education seen in much of the world cannot simply be traced to economic problems.  Rather, they reflect fundamental choices about the nature of the society in which we will live.  If it is to be designed for the wealthy and privileged, mostly engaged in management and finance while production is transferred abroad and most of the population is left to fend somehow for themselves at the fringes of decent and creative life, then these are good choices.  If we have different aspirations for the world of our children and grandchildren, the choices are shameful and ruinous.

Noam Chomsky”

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Phil Wane permalink
    November 30, 2009 8:09 PM

    I have to say there a lot of things about the state of Higher Education which worry me. Sadly this is a fairly normal state of affairs but traditional wisdom has it that the run up period to a general election is one of the better times as major parties at least pretend to be bothered about education. But I’m not yet getting that vibe and so one wonders if the ruinous combination of recession allied with the costs of bailing out the banking sector will provide economic excuses for underlying political and social shifts that were already devaluing higher education?

    All I know on a personal level, is that as someone who works in the sector (lecturer) I am wondering how on earth I’m going to be able to afford to help out my own children should they ever go to university. There is surely something amiss with a (public) system when those who work within it may not be able to avail themselves of it.


  2. public educator permalink
    December 3, 2009 4:38 PM

    Chomsky is correct when he says that education budget cuts “…reflect fundamental choices about the nature of the society in which we will live.”

    The government and those who control it (corporations, special interests, etc) do not want an educated population. They want not only an uneducated population but an unhealthy one as well -look at the fast food industry, air and water quality, toxic work environments. The less educated and the more obese or diseased the population is the easier it is controlled.

    To quote Omali Yeshitela, “Obama is White power in a Black face”

  3. Anat permalink
    October 22, 2010 1:37 PM

    I always thought that the 50% of highschool graduated going into university dreamed up by Labour was rediculous. Conversly I always believed that those with talent and ability should be able to go into academia regardlesss of economic background. As a lecturer I saw the effect lack of selection had on academic standards in UK universities once lauded internationaly. I guess I am in complete disagreement with Chomsky on this too (as on many other issues). University education should be based on merit! and talent should be spoted and encouraged early and supported. It should start in schools. Encourged and supported there and follow through into higher education (yes financially) regardless of where you come from. But this idiocy of letting everyone in is damaging the essence and quality of higher education. Creating micky mouce courses to get as many students in and having student that are simply not academically able is ruining higher education! Not everyone is capable or suited for academia – FACT. There is absolutely nothing wrong with creating a well planned, executed and staffed network of vocational training that will allow youngsters to do well, enjoy learning and be prepared for a productive and hopefully rewarding working life. Chonsky with all due respect is a dinosour (sometimes a rather dangerous one because of his status) …I think we’ll agree that communism (and to a great extent old style socialism) has died a convincing death some time ago (not taking into account zany left-overs like North Korea and such…)

  4. Paula Nielson permalink
    October 22, 2010 2:17 PM

    “I saw the effect lack of selection had on academic standards in UK universities” this guy says. No way he is or was a lecturer – look at how many spelling and structural errors there are in this diatribe! This is just ill-thought through, self-contradicting ideology.

  5. So Hye Yoon permalink
    May 8, 2011 4:16 AM

    Hello, my name is So hye yoon, and I am a Hana High School first grade student. Hana High School is one of the best high school in Korea. In our school, Noam Chomsky was selected as one of the most influential people in the world. So I want to interview him by email. Could send me his mail adress, please?


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