I spent the last ten to fifteen years of my life figuring out what is wrong with higher education. I think I have a handle on that part. The causation is hard to pin down precisely but the story roughly goes: macro-economic change changes the value of higher education credentials as information technologies and financialization make labor more de-centralized and efficient. Politics and culture wars de-legitimize higher education by attributing social policy failures to colleges and universities. This de-legitimization accelerates and legitimizes public disinvestment in higher education and the technology that made labor cheap and exploitable sells the public on the idea that only they can fix higher education. The most vulnerable are the same as they have always been: poor, working class, and African Americans and racial minorities across class. And so here we are.
But how do we fix it?
That is stickier. Long-term, nothing but a reorganization of labor and social policy investment in poor people will do much good. In the short-term, different models of higher education can save a few students who might otherwise be attracted to high-cost, predatory higher education credentials that promise salvation in a global economy that financializes gender and racial cumulative disadvantage. Whew.
I would rather students attend The American College of Building Arts than another for-profit associate’s degree in applied arts.
The American College of Building Arts (ACBA) is an intriguing model. It offers a four-year liberal arts degree and applied learning in craft trades. I learned about the ACBA in a magazine article. I spent days researching it. I decided to support a student at ACBA. The Black Artisans scholarship fund was created.
I aim to support one student at ACBA per year for the next two years…to start.
I grew up with people who build things. My grandmother taught me how to use a soldering iron to fix small electronics and reupholster furniture. I still learn how to program things in my house by first breaking them. My father builds walls and roofs and sometimes tinkers on cars. I have watched “artisanal” become associated with white upper class communities despite the rich, deep history of making in African American communities. For what I hope are known historical reasons, that tradition is deepest in the U.S. south. As ACBA grows I want to support African Americans (especially those from the South) and women to claim our rightful place as craftspeople, artisans and makers.
I am not rich but I am fortunate. I know more people than I know ways to become rich. Maybe that is enough to make a ripple. The first $500 is mine. I am pledging the same next year, if not more based on any writing fees I earn throughout the year.
Please consider supporting the Black Artisans Scholarship Fund with your time, dollars, sharing, and attention.