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What Starts Here… Accelerates Destruction?

November 27, 2012 • United States, Daily Email Recap

The essay below was penned by a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, Robert Jensen, and appeared in the Austin Post on Nov. 15th. Jensen is a professor in the UT School of Journalism and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center in Austin. He is the author of “Arguing for Our Lives: Critical Thinking in Crisis Times” (City Lights, coming in 2013).

UT Motto Mod: What Starts Here… Accelerates Destruction?

See: http://www.austinpost.org/university-texas/what-starts-here

I want to suggest a slight modification of the University of Texas’ motto, “What starts here changes the world.”

A more accurate slogan — while not quite as pithy and probably less effective for public-relations purposes — would be, “What starts here accelerates the destruction of the world.”

I am not suggesting that the administrators or faculty of UT, where I have been a professor for two decades, want to destroy the world. Rather, I’m arguing that like almost every other institution of higher education in the United States, UT is complicit in the ongoing destruction of the world by offering a curriculum that celebrates the existing economic/political/social systems, which undermine the life-sustaining capacity of the world.

While that claim may sound crazy, I think my reasoning is calm and careful. The destructive features of contemporary America’s systems — an extractive economy that demands endless growth, with a mystical faith in high-energy/high-technology systems and gadgets, dependent on continued mass consumption of goods of questionable value — are all woven into the fabric of UT’s teaching and research. Entire departments on campus are staffed with faculty who seem incapable of imagining a challenge to those features and appear dedicated to maintaining the systems. The goal of most courses is to train students to play by the existing rules, not question the systems that produce the rules.

The obvious problem: We face multiple, cascading ecological crises that should spur us to rethink our economy, politics and society, but the existing rules rule out such thinking. If we can’t transcend these intellectual limits, it is not clear that an ongoing large-scale human presence on the earth will be possible. What is clear is that affluent societies such as the United States cannot continue to live indefinitely in the style to which so many have become accustomed. In the short term such affluence can be maintained only by intensifying already unconscionable levels of inequality, and in the long term even that soulless strategy can’t stop the inevitable decline and eventual collapse.

To read the full essay, please click here: http://www.austinpost.org/university-texas/what-starts-here


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