Americas Quarterly (AQ) magazine styles itself as the unbiased “policy journal of the Western Hemisphere.”
In reality the magazine is the primary right-wing mouthpiece for multinational corporations in Central and South America, especially for fossil fuel extractive industries that have laid waste to huge swaths of public and indigenous lands in ecologically sensitive areas, especially the rain forests.
The magazine is an offshoot of Council of the Americas (COA).
According to Brasilwire:
Originally called “Business Group for Latin America”, COA was set up by David Rockefeller, then president of Chase Manhattan Bank, at the request of President Kennedy in the years following the Cuban Revolution in 1959, to help combat the spread of Leftist Governments in the hemisphere. Rockefeller remained at its head until his death in 2017. Other notable staff include former Deputy US Secretary of State, first Director of National Intelligence, key plotter in Venezuela’s failed 2002 Coup and overseer of war crimes in Central America, John D. Negroponte.
These are not good people.
Yet, somehow, inexplicably, one of the editors at AQ has a piece in the New York Times today which posits that universities and university students are so out of touch because their campuses are too nice:
To put it another way, what’s most dangerous for the health of America’s intellectual elite is not that most professors have similar cultural tastes and similar liberal politics. That will probably always be the case. It’s that the campus setup makes it easy for them to forget that reasonable people often don’t share their outlook.
Student bodies and faculties have grown more diverse in recent decades, but that shouldn’t fool us into thinking elite universities have become microcosms of society: The highly educated are far more liberal than average Americans. The divide isn’t just political: Whatever their socioeconomic backgrounds, students and professors have daily routines that are very different from those of lawyers, shopkeepers or manual laborers — and that shapes their worldviews.
Life at a university with a dominant central campus can also narrow students’ views on the world, especially at colleges where most undergraduates live on campus. Letting the university take care of all of students’ needs — food, housing, health care, policing, punishing misbehavior — can be infantilizing for young adults. Worse, it warps students’ political thinking to eat food that simply materializes in front of them and live in residence halls that others keep clean.
It also takes away the chance to encounter people with different roles in society, from retail workers to landlords — interactions that would remind them they won’t be students forever and open questions about the social relevance of the ideas they encounter in the university.
The author of that piece, Nick Burns, is described by the Times as “an editor at Americas Quarterly,” with no context whatsoever as to what AQ actually is. It sounds like just another magazine. No mention of the fact that AQ speaks for dictators and fascists propped up by the one percent — billionaires — the most insulated population on earth when it comes to rubbing shoulders with the common man and understanding the needs of the average wage earner.
Aside from that, the idea that university students do not understand the real world is ridiculous. I’ve worked at three universities, all in urban areas.
To be sure, there is a small subset of students, coming from the economic elite, who are not exposed to the rigors of real life. But that is not true for most students. Most students during a 4-year degree program struggle with work, school, money, food and the rest of the things that the people who fund AQ — Nick Burns’ bosses — will never have to worry about.
But even students from financially favored backgrounds, if they are serious at all about college, will be part of programs that take them out into the world to learn about the social discontents and inequalities of the larger world.
One suspects that is the real problem that Burns and his overseers at multinational corporations have with universities, and the whole “campuses is too nice” argument is just another right-wing bullet point to put out into the world to stoke resentment of the young and the educated.
Universities tend to make people more liberal precisely because so many of the people who teach and study at them are forced by internships, fellowships, field work and four years of pedagogy to confront society’s problems in ways that Nick Burns and AQ never will.
Add to this the fact that young people are more open to learning and new ideas, and of course they will become more liberal when confronted with the truth of how much of capitalism steals from the larger society to distribute to the rich. They learn that a lifetime of servitude to the rich is not the freedom that our parents, grandparents and great grandparents were brainwashed into believing.
Finally, the mere fact that Burns thinks students are cloistered on campuses, never venturing into the outside world, proves how out-of-touch and pointless his right-wing Times hit piece on universities really is.
But this is the way the right-wing media machine works. Consistently, in publication after publication, slip these ideas into the mainstream where they get picked up as talking points on Sunday news shows and, suddenly, reasonable-sounding centrist Democrats are wondering if the problem with universities is that the campuses are too nice.