Kathleen Fitzpatrick: Generous Thinking

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We once, at least for a very brief moment, understood that the purpose of higher education was not just individual in nature but that it served a social good for us to have a broadly educated public equipped with the tools for social mobility.
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Kathleen Fitzpatrick discusses her book Generous Thinking: A Radical Approach to Saving The University with Chris Richardson. Fitzpatrick is Director of Digital Humanities and Professor of English at Michigan State University. Prior to assuming this role in 2017, she served as Associate Executive Director and Director of Scholarly Communication of the Modern Language Association. She is author of Generous Thinking: The University and the Public Good (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019), as well as Planned Obsolescence:  Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy (NYU Press, 2011) and The Anxiety of Obsolescence: The American Novel in the Age of Television (Vanderbilt University Press, 2006). She is project director of Humanities Commons, an open-access, open-source network serving more than 13,000 scholars and practitioners in the humanities.


McMillan Cottom compellingly explores the ways that for-profit colleges prey on the hopes of the marginalized and disenfranchised, creating astronomical levels of debt and undermining the social mobility that higher education should make possible.


Newfield analyzes the causes and effects of the rampant privatization of public universities and the ways that such privatization prevents them from fulfilling their missions.


Ferguson details the history of student protest in the 1960s and the ways that the institutional backlash against those movements placed organizational and corporate interests over those of the publics that the institutions were meant to serve.


Joseph provides a crucial corrective to arguments that make uncritical use of the notion of “community” as if it could provide a site of escape from the structures of neoliberal society.


Hochschild presents a series of crucial arguments about, among other things, how and why the Right and Left in the United States came to be unable to speak to one another. Beyond the argument, however, I want to recommend Hochschild for her method, which involved a radical project of listening to those with whom she disagreed. The result is moving – at times devastating – but it creates a far richer portrait of how political life in the U.S. came to be the way we find it today.