Tuesday, May 24, 2011

University Education Under Fascism

In the Corporatist State of Sinclair Lewis's depiction of fascist America in It Can't Happen Here, it is interesting to see his take on what university education would look like under Fascism. All American universities are closed and entirely new Corporatist ones are created:
"Dr. Macgoblin pointed out that this founding of entirely new universities showed the enormous cultural superiority of the new Corpo state to the Nazis, Bolsheviks, and Fascists. Where these amateurs in recivilization had merely kicked out all treacherous so-called 'intellectual' teachers who mulishly declined to teach physics, cookery, and geography according to the principles and facts laid down by the political bureaus, and the Nazis had merely added the sound measure of discharging Jews who dared attempt to teach medicine, the Americans were the first to start new and completely orthodox institutions, free from the very first of any taint of 'intellectualism.'

All Corpo universities were to have the same curriculum, entirely practical and modern, free of all snobbish tradition.

Entirely omitted were Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, Hebrew, Biblical study, archeology, philolophy; all history before 1500 - except for one course which showed that, through the centuries, the key to civilization had been the defense of Anglo-Saxon purity against barbarianians. Philosophy and its history, psychology, economics, anthropology were retained,but, to avoid the superstitious errors inordinary textbooks, they were to be conned only in new books prepared by able young scholars under the direction of Dr. Macgoblin.

Students were encouraged to read, speak, and try to write modern languages, but they were not to wast time on the so-called 'literature'; reprints from recent newspapers were used instead of antiquated fiction and sentimental poetry. As regards English, some study of literature was permitted, to supply quotations for political speeches, but the chief choruses were in advertising, party journalism, and business correspondence, and no authors before 1800 might be mentioned except Shakespeare and Milton.

In the realm of so-called 'pure science,' it was realized that only too much and too confusing research had already been done, but no pre-Corpo university had ever shown such a wealth of courses in mining engineering, lakeshore-cottage architecture, modern foremanship and production methods, exhibition gymnastics, the higher accountancy, therapeutics of athlete's foot, canning and fruit dehydration, kindergarten training, organization of chess, checkers, and bridge tournaments, cultivation of will power, band music for mass meetings, schnauzer-breeding, stainless-steel formulae, cement-road construction, and all other useful subjects for the formation of he new-world mind and character. And no scholastic institution, even West Point, had ever so richly recognized sport as not a subsidiary but a primary department of scholarship. All the more familiar games were earnestly taught, and to them were added the most absorbing speed contests in infantry drill, aviation, bombing, and operations of tanks, armored cars, and machine guns. All of these carried academic credits, thought students were urged not to elect sports for more than one third of their credits.

What really showed the difference from old-foggy inefficiency was that with the educational speed-up of the Corpo universities, any bright lad could graduate in two years." (pp. 207-8)
I'm afraid to comment on this vision very extensively; suffice it to say that I fight a mild, incremental and respectable version of it every day.

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