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Has MetaEzra Jumped the Shark?

MetaEzra reader MP writes in to ask whether or not my earlier allusion to the Great Depression was unfair when trying to understand the difficult decisions that Day Hall is grappling with these days:

I usually dig 'historical perspective'...and your little snippets about Cornell during the Great Depression are interesting but, your (sic) on the verge of jumping the shark here mate. The historical comparison is a bit unwarranted, eh?

But I am pretty certain the only thing that has jumped the shark has been the American economy. When economists across the country are claiming that this is the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression, I think that looking at what type of environment the University faced in the 1930s is completely appropriate. And all I maintained in the post is that the tough decisions of today are not unlike what was faced eighty years ago. I never suggested that the times should be exactly comparable.

So the comparison is completely apt. I don't think I am the only one concerned about the "deep structural rot" in the American economy and the effect that this will have on our institutions of higher education as they struggle to maintain adequate cashflows. But I've been worried about these things for a while, as evidenced by my thoughts on college tuition and the credit crisis from last spring.

What's truly unfortunate about the current situation is that higher education is uniquely suited to provide the innovation and resourcefulness needed to lead the economy in such dire times. As David Skorton has argued, the long-term economic benefits to higher education are astounding. The physical and applied sciences offer future efficiencies and technological advances. The social sciences improve our policy-making abilities, shunning politics for informed decisions. And the humanities inform our own mortal condition, allowing us to better endure the highs and lows of life on this planet and lead future generations to a better future.

Besides, the gigolo story was just too good to pass up.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on January 29, 2009 (#)

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