In Brave New World, a dystopian novel written by author Aldous Huxley, Power is maintained through technological interventions that begin before birth and last until death. Control is preserved by making citizens sufficiently fulfilled that they do not care about their personal freedom. Creepy enough, Huxley’s vision has become metaphorically true to the world of higher education in the United States (USHE). You may be thinking now, in what ways?
IN USHE, Power is maintained across the institutional pyramid, with the tip made up of a few select and prestigious colleges and the base made up of the most inclusive institutions – with white students increasingly concentrated in the best-funded 468 four-year colleges and more selective in the country, while Blacks and Hispanics are concentrated in the 3250 least funded and broad-access two- and four-year colleges.
In the same way, Control is kept with the strategic opportunity gap that exists. Those born in the lower ranks find it difficult to climb the ranks; although the United States has long seen itself as a meritocracy – a place where anyone who gets an education and works hard can be successful.
This Power and Control I’m focusing on gives a clear picture of why things go wrong and how consistently USHE is designed to keep things as they are. Is this a declaration of desperation? No, but it is a statement of reality. The question now becomes, what can be done with the voices that hold little power and the people who have very little control? I answer with the help of Brave New World where the consequences of state control are a loss of dignity, morality, values and emotions, a loss of humanity in a holistic way. The consequences are similar for those of us who have small voices and little power. We just keep doing what we can do in human terms to make a difference one day at a time. We celebrate small victories in an effort to maintain what is left of our humanity.
With the many challenges, there are still positive influences. Comparable to the drug Soma in Brave New World – there are a lot of influencers on USHE, but not all of them will have the control or power to affect change on the scale they hope for. Soma symbolized the use of instant gratification to control the population of the World State. It also symbolized the powerful influence of science and technology on society and represented the use of religion to control society. These same influences have an impact on our higher education system. Specifically, technology can completely transform higher education in the following ways, as suggested by Greg Jackson, MIT Educational Advisor:
- Streamline administration
- Amplify and extend traditional pedagogies, mechanisms and resources
- Make educational events and materials available outside of the original context
- Activate experiential learning
- Renew and redefine the social environment and / or
- Replace the didactic experience in the classroom
While transformative technological developments have the potential to add value to USHE, issues of power and control will always remain relevant. They will continue to affect and influence any possible development for USHE. We must continue to strive for hierarchical decision-making that represents the diverse nation in which we live and hope to prosper – receiving equal opportunities to hold both power and control. Brave New World tells us that all humans, regardless of their caste, become equal after death. I can only hope that this constant fight for equality in education will not be in vain.
Nicolas Berdiaeff’s Utopias seem much more accessible than one would have believed in other times. And we are now faced with another type of distressing question: how can we avoid their final achievement? … Utopias are achievable. Life leads us to utopias. Perhaps a new century will begin, a century in which the intellectuals and the cultivated classes will once again dream of ways to avoid utopias and return to a non-utopian, less “perfect” and freer society.
We are not striving for perfection here, but we are striving or should be pushing for everyone to be free. The term freedom alone gives us immediate insight into how access has been and continues to be a major problem for minorities and the poor as they fare worse than their peers; reinforce inequalities. Who is really free?
“We are true to our credo when a little girl born in the worst of misery knows she has the same chances of success as anyone else” – President Barack Obama
Although this discussion adds a twist to Brave New World and its relationship with USHE, it goes to the heart of the challenges that no technological development could ever solve. Brave New WorldThe description of a society controlled by technology and artificial fertilization and an attack on human confidence in progress through science and mechanization – fictitious as it is – portrays to me a USHE system fueled by racism. systemic and controlled by inequalities. We have a lot of work to do.
Shana Jones is a doctoral student.