Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Bill Clinton's recent contributions(?) to higher ed.

I know who will get my vote for president this November.  She* shares many of my ideals (though she doesn't always live up to them as well as I'd like; then again, neither do I), she's competent, and I'm still hopeful that she'll be elected, and will do a good job. 

But I'm still finding this campaign depressing, in a number of ways.  And the way that's most relevant to this blog  (and which has actually been in the news for at least a few weeks, but just popped up again on the front page of the online Washington Post) is the amount of money Bill Clinton has made as an "Honorary Chancellor" at Laureate International Universities. According to the WP story, these were the duties for which he earned 17.6 million over 5 years**:

Angel Urena, a Clinton spokesman, said the former president "engaged with students at Laureate's campuses worldwide and advised Laureate's leadership on social responsibility and increasing access to higher education." Adam Smith, a Laureate spokesman, said Clinton "was paid to advise Laureate, inspire students and visit the campuses and communities they serve, and that's what he did, with great conviction and energy."

I'm not even sure what to say, or what to ask. The question of influence-peddling aside (and I guess it can't really be put aside, because once you've done that, what's left?), is there anything that can justify this kind of money for this kind of "engagement" and "advice"?  Setting aside what this says about the role of money in U.S. politics (and, once again, I realize that's probably the central question, but I'm trying to get to the issues appropriate to this blog, and the ones that are, honestly, hitting most close to home for me), what does this say about the U.S. system of higher education, and about Americans' view of the U.S. education system's role in the world?  Are we*** now engaged in peddling knockoffs of what once was (and to some extent still is) a great American-made "product" to the rest of the world?  Am I missing something that would make this revelation okay, or even slightly less dispiriting (please?) 

*No, not Stein, though I appreciate the need to make the distinction.  4 nationwide candidates:  2 male, 2 female, 1 of each gender from major/established parties, and 1 of each from smaller parties.  That sounds about right -- representative of the population, at least in one way --  and is one of the bright spots that periodically bring some cheer to an otherwise dreary political year.  

**And no, I'm not going to do the math to compare this amount with what I made over those 5 years, or my projected lifetime earnings, or the accumulated lifetime earnings of several generations of my generally well-educated, reasonably prosperous, immediate family, many of whom work(ed) in jobs that fall under the general headings of public service and/or education, but some of whom were in more lucrative, business-related fields.  Because that would be really, really depressing. 

***We as a nation, because we who read and comment on this blog -- including our members who work or have worked in the for-profit sector -- seem determined to keep producing the real thing, even at considerable personal cost. 



  1. Some years ago I swore that I would never again vote for the lesser of two evils because that only perpetuates the evil of two lessers.

    I've stuck to it for several long, bitter cycles, always voting for the (IMHO, of course) least insane candidate regardless of standing in the polls. I don't know if I will be able to hold to that vow this time out.

    But an interesting feature of this cycle is the juxtaposition of the actual and assumed operating styles of the major parties. The movers and shakers among the dems made their choice in a smoke-filled room (with purely allegorical smoke, of course) and lied about it while they rammed that decision down the throats of a populist movement in their own party. And the GOP actually stuck to their guns (Get it? Get it?) on the publicly acclaimed rules and nominated the guy that all their major strategists know is a total SNAFU candidate whether he wins of loses.

    I'd be mightily amused if I wasn't crying inside.

  2. The Clintons are masters at this game. Sickens me. Without doubt, the worst election cycle of my life. I truly hate both of them.

  3. Replies
    1. That does appear to be true in your case, but try not to be too hard on yourself.
      You’ll find education helps.