The end of the university

Harvard_Museum_of_Natural_History_050227Kevin Carey thinks universities will soon go the way of the newspaper:

Colleges are caught in [a] debt-fueled price spiral… They’re also in the information business in a time when technology is driving down the cost of selling information to record, destabilizing lows.  In combination, these two trends threaten to shake the foundation of the modern university, in much the same way that other seemingly impregnable institutions have been torn apart.  … Students will benefit enormously from radically lower prices… But these huge changes will also seriously threaten the ability of universities to provide all the things beyond teaching on which society depends: science, culture, the transmission of our civilization from one generation to the next.

I wonder what Saul Smilanksy should say about this.  Smilansky has argued that if you’re a college professor, you might be morally obligated to retire early, even if you’re doing pretty well in your job, as long as you can reasonably expect to be replaced by someone who will do an even better job than you.  If Carey’s predictions are correct, perhaps a lot of professors should expect that they will not be replaced by anyone, thus removing any Smilanskyan obligation to retire.  Or maybe the end is not quite so near; maybe a retiring professor should expect one or two more generations of professors to follow.  In that case, perhaps Smilanksy should say the obligation to retire is the same or even more pressing.

Related articles:
£1.99 - small Causation and Responsibility
By Carolina Sartorio, University of Wisconsin-Madison
(August 2007)
Philosophy Compass

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