The Value of the Useless: Erin Manning, Impact, Higher Education Research, Progress
Keywords:college impact, assessment, neoliberalism, student success, value of college.
This article brings the work of Erin Manning to bear on common sense practices and conversations of the value of a college education. Manning’s work provides a productive alternative to the neoliberal discourse of college impact that has dominated higher education research for the past half century. Neoliberalism produces the common sense of the value of education as privatized, datafied (or dividuated), and measurable outcomes. This common sense reduces American higher education to the sum of its parts. To produce worlds to which campus marketing departments on occasion gesture, worlds where college produces spaces of community transformation, we must come to re/value progress in excess of measurable outcomes. In a rotating series of revaluations, this paper puts Manning’s concepts to work in both substance and form in four refrains: redefining value in higher education, revaluing the infrathin and the imperceptible, reconceptualizing liberal education, and valuing the useless.
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