Monday, December 1, 2014

UVA and Our Heart of Darkness

All of Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz...

If you think our country isn't currently sinking in a fetid sea of corruption born of greed, inequality, and a slavish adherence to market forces, think again. Read the recent account in The Rolling Stone of the brutal, animalistic, predatory rape of a freshman woman on the campus of The University of Virginia. The scales will fall from your eyes.

The description of abusive behavior perpetrated at the venerable university is physically sickening.

Update: This article is now under scrutiny by the media for its failure to fact-check.  This is a sad turn of events surrounding violence perpetrated on women. However, I stand by my premise that women are being abused and the powerful are ignoring their sacred trust in order to protect their 'brand.'  The evidence for this lies in the student body reaction after the article and the pile of stones placed by women on the campus, with each stone representing an event.  There is clearly a problem.

The case is finally--years  later--the subject of an investigation.  But only after the leaders of the institution have had their hand forced by the publication of repetitive, abhorrent events swept under the rug to maintain UVA's "reputation."  In the modern parlance, the UVA 'brand' must be protected so the dollars keep flowing.

If you doubt a systematic abuse of women on the campus, look at the pile of stones placed on the Phi Kappa Psi porch last week by young women who have been the victim of "a bad experience," as the women in the Rolling Stone article came to view their sexual abuse in frat houses. As in: "I had a bad experience" after I was drugged and then raped by privileged frat boys.

From the article, it is clear that money talks--and that some are more equal than others.

Thirty years of concentrated effort has been centered on privatizing nearly every institution in this country because the 'magic of market forces' promises to right any wrongs through fevered competition.  But it has brought us down to this: we would sacrifice our own children in order to maintain a money-making machine.

UVA, like other public schools across the country, has seen state funding dwindle as taxes have been held low. Nearly all schools continually search for grants, donors, and wealthy alumnus with nostalgic ties to campuses. They pander to the monied elite, many of whom have fraternity ties.  De-funding public schools has been the policy of the right, including K-12 schools where "vouchers" are promised to bring market-driven competition into the lives of all our children.

In the 70's, when I was a college student, most of the funding of state schools was provided by the state.  When state funding was the norm, students found higher ed in easy access.  Who knew these would be the golden years of opportunity to advance by furthering an education?  It was possible then to work a part-time job, live independently, graduate debt-free, and find a decent job.

No more.  But that could be the case if we had the will.

Today we pit our students against each other in a "race to the top" where achieving high test scores and grades encourages cheating and a single-minded attention to scores, not learning for its own sake. Students, too, understand the need for winning at any cost and are mired in a market that demands ever more from those competing for limited resources.

Following a high-school career driven by the desire for a seat at a college--students land on campus where they apparently drug and drink themselves into oblivion. On some level the students must realize their purposeless existence of chasing the next score (money, grades, whatever).

For those who realize their dream (is it their dream?) of graduating into a job, most face beginning life mired in debt where true adulthood--owning a home, raising a family--is pushed further into the future.

We haven't learned much from the past.  This story has been told before (Leopold's Congo, the Gilded Age, Louis XVI).

Concentrated wealth corrupts absolutely.  Our education system has absolutely been corrupted by the same forces.