Neoliberalism · Academic repression


Academic repression

Fig. 1. “The Evolution of Intellectual Freedom.” Comic by Jorge Cham, 2011, via Episyllogism[1] fair use.

When I look at higher education, I see what seems nearly like a perfect storm, indeed a quadruple-whammy. Capitalists, especially capitalist libertarians, valorize only the ‘education’ (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics [STEM]) that directly increases their profits while deriding all other inquiry (“basket weaving,” technically referring to anthropology and the arts, but for which, read the humanities and social sciences generally, never mind human science). Neoliberalism thus propels a reduction of education to job training (that is, preparation for serfdom), and when those jobs fail to materialize, as in my own case and as in far too many cases, people are naturally going to wonder what value they got from their student loans.

This combines with pervasive U.S. anti-intellectualism, a neoliberal reallocation of funds from the actual work of higher education and from teaching to administrations and to extracurricular activities, and the rise of white Christian nationalism to cast education alternatively as a “waste of money” and recently as undermining “Amerikkkan” values, especially with critical Race Theory history, but earlier with the counterculture, antiwar, and liberation movements of the 1960s and 1970s.[2]

Education thus has become less about inquiry, a quest for knowledge, and more about an ideological battleground where capitalists extract wealth from the rest of us first through student loans and then through serfdom. It has, tragically, in short, become a scam.

Megan Brenan, “Americans’ Confidence in Higher Education Down Sharply,” Gallup, July 11, 2023,

Zachary Schermele, “Public Trust in Higher Ed Has Plummeted. Yes, Again,” Chronicle of Higher Education, July 11, 2023,

Melissa Korn, Andrea Fuller, and Jennifer S. Forsyth, “Colleges Spend Like There’s No Tomorrow. ‘These Places Are Just Devouring Money,’” Wall Street Journal, August 10, 2023,

Susan Snyder and Ryan W. Briggs, “Penn gave ex-President Amy Gutmann a $3.7 million home loan as she prepared to depart the university,” Philadelphia Inquirer, August 22, 2023,

  1. [1]Bob Lane, “Academic Freedom,” Episyllogism, November 3, 2016,
  2. [2]Ellen Schrecker, “The 50-Year War on Higher Education,” Chronicle of Higher Education, October 14, 2022,

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