I must admit when I first scanned insidehighered.com and came across the title of this article I found it interesting, yet had no idea what it was really about. However, after reading the review and watching the trailing for the upcoming documentary I am extremely excited to see the piece when it is finally released. For now, the documentary is set to screen at Louisiana State University in April and again a few days later for the Wisconsin Film Festival. Full release is still in the works. Until then, we have this nicely written review from Ellen Wexler to hold us over.

The new documentary titled “Starving the Beast” explores the philosophy and key players involved in the recent and ongoing cutting of state financial support for higher education. Directed by Steve Mims, the documentary opens with a powerful speech at Louisiana State University given by James Carville, the well-known Democratic strategist (There is a link to his full speech in the article if you are interested). In it he says, “They say education is a commodity. It’s a barrel of oil, it’s an ounce of gold, it’s a stock. It’s anything.” The “they” in the statement is referring to those involved in the college reform movement. Reformers like politicians, think-tank leaders and university administrators who have the belief that colleges and universities should operate more like a business. Personally, I don’t.

Even though the film had a mostly liberal bias, the ultimate goal was to let advocates on both side speak to the issue without interruption. Overall, the film ends up focusing on the states of Texas, Louisiana, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and even VIRGINIA! It follows the states and their paralleling situations from massive funding cuts, the shutting down of important university centers, and even to unwarranted administrative force-outs. This film truly centers on the issue of the future of colleges and universities in the Unites States which is basically unknown to all of us at this point in time.

So, even though this blog post is mostly a review of a review of a new documentary, I hope that it perks your ears a bit and motivates anyone who is currently in academia, plans for a career in academia, have or are planning to have children, and everyone in between to see it. Even if the film itself is half as compelling as the trailer, it will be a very exciting watch. What do you think the future of higher education holds? Do you think it should be treated more like a big business?

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