The Market Economy and The Gap Between Academia and Society

During my B.A studies I quite disdained the average student. Some bragged about the “accomplishment” of finishing the degree without reading even a single article, only their summaries. Some proudly said that they didn’t even once step into the library, because “you can get everything you need online”. Every time we had to choose courses for the upcoming semester, the Facebook groups were filled with the following demands: “I’m looking for an easy course with a high average, without attendance, without homework, with an easy final house test that already has summaries and notes, which it tends to be reused by the professor. Sometimes they even summary the summary, and finish with a 70 pages manuscript which holds the “knowledge” of tens of hours of lecturing.

It is hard to condemn them because most of them have to work at almost a full-time job in order to pay the rent tuition and daily lives. Most of my friends worked at government offices which demanded at least 120 hours a month, on paper. The reality that it was more than that. So, they had to pack all the courses together in two or three days, so they can work in the “days off”. The courses they can’t fit into the tight schedule, they just skip. In most of their semesters, they have almost 7 tests, and the university doesn’t help with this issue. Students have two days between tests, maybe one, maybe two on the same day, so they have to take a late exam just to be able to study. Those who can’t afford to take late-exams have to come up with a strategy that allows them to pass. So, they have to rely on shortcuts.

For most of them, lectures come second to social life, work and hobbies. They prefer to play online games, scroll their Facebook, even buy clothes online, instead of hearing the lecture. Though some professors are just bad at lecturing, most of them are doing a fine job. It’s just that the students have too short of an attention span, or just don’t have the slightest care for those subjects. I heard a lot of complains about “boring” lectures, that for me were far from boring. Students were surprised when lectures were interesting. They tend to say “This is the only course I took that was interesting”. The rest are just deemed as not. The usual complaint is “why should I care about this theoretical issue that has little to do with the real world, the world doesn’t work like that, and those theories are dumb and have no relevance for me after graduation”.

Those lines give a clue about one possible root of the problem. This problem has to do with the way we value things in our society. So, students greatest concern is the relevance of their studies to the “real world” and their future job. When they can’t see the connection between the two, they tend to dismiss the subject and call it “boring”. For most of them, the degree itself is what matters, because this the way for a better job. They didn’t go to the university out of the sheer passion for knowledge and debates, they were forced to by the forces of the market. If it Had been possible to find a good job without a degree, I’m sure many of them wouldn’t have to bother themselves to get one.
Society value most things in terms dictated by the capitalist market. We tend to shove everything into this market in order to determine value. We measure art by its cost, a good painting costs more. We value artists by their “worth” and ranking (which is another form of currency in many ways). Salary is a way to rank “productivity” and importance within society, the more you get the more you are deemed as important. The main reason why society deems academia to be non-relevant is that in many ways, it has little to do with most jobs. But of course it’s not. if you want to work in a government office, you need to be there in order to understand the job, learning about war and peace won’t help much in this regard.

People confuse the role of academia in society and think that it’s supposed to prepare them for their jobs. They believe that academia helps to move the wheels of the economy. While there are professions that you have to have a degree, in order to be able to learn the job, for many others, it is not. So, society mistakenly also push academia into the capitalist market, and try to understand how academia contributes to it only to find that the answer is “not enough” in certain parts. So humanities and social sciences (most of them) are deemed as “a waste of time”.
But academia has a key role in society, which is transparent if you gaze at it from the perspective of the market value.

This is why the students themselves cannot form a bridge between academia and society.
Next time I’ll continue this discussion.

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