A simple proposal

September 25, 2014

Readers sympathetic to Fred Inglis (“Trained obedience”, Features, 28 August) and Marina Warner (“Attempts to ‘gag and silence’ academics are commonplace”, News, 11 September) and their fears for the independence of academics amid a marketised higher education sector should read Paul Goodman’s The Community of Scholars (1962). Goodman observes that the “peculiar disease of modern administration is that it replaces in a formal and functionless way, the community of scholars itself”, turning teachers and students into “company men” and “grade-seekers”. Universities are run like banks; college presidents act like chief executives; education is considered a “brand good for selling and buying” like any other. Particular attention should be paid to the author’s final chapter, “A simple proposal”, as it was a key influence on the free universities movement.

Martin Levy
University of Bradford

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Reader's comments (2)

Thanks for the reference - I found the contribution below online, which made an interesting read, but didn't contain neither the quotes nor the "simple proposal". Is it perhaps some sort of summary? http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article/the-community-of-scholars-1962/ Also enjoyed this short biography http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/paul-goodman
Hi, What you have in the Commentary article is a review of The community of scholars - one of quite a number. I have a copy of the book in front of me now. It was published by Random House (175 pages). Really, my reference to the final chapter is offered as a tease. I want people to read the book, to engage with its arguments. But, in a nutshell, this is what Goodman says - secede. Small numbers of teachers and students should go ahead and set up their own universities. That's quite an idea - exciting but maybe not practical for established academics with families to support. Nonetheless, it's often been tried - in the thirties, in the sixties and even (arguably) in our own era. For the thirties, Goodman references Black Mountain College, in North Carolina, of which he was a part. As I say, to put meat on the idea, you'll have to read the book. For myself, I'm trying to puzzle out its relevance. It's also worth reading The community for its own sake. Goodman is a lovely, conversational, writer, knowledgeable enough to draw in all sort of historical references You might also like to read his Compulsory miseducation. But, all his books are inspiring. Thanks for both references. Martin

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