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Now That’s Higher Education!

[ 55 ] July 18, 2013 |

In all the hubbub about the ridiculous salary CUNY wanted to pay David Petraeus to teach, we never thought to ask what kind of teacher he would be. The answer–he’s using his position to channel corporate-funded research about fracking to students.

According to the syllabus, Petraeus will devote two weeks to energy alone, naming those weeks “The Energy Revolution I” and “The Energy Revolution II.” The two “frackademia” studies Petraeus will have his students read for his course titled “The Coming North American Decade(s)? are both seminal industry-funded works.

One of them is a study written by industry-funded National Economic Research Associates (NERA) concluding liquified natural gas (LNG) exports are beneficial to the U.S. economy, despite the fact that exporting fracked gas will raise domestic home-heating and manufacturing prices. NERA was founded by “father of deregulation” Alfred E. Kahn. The study Petraeus will have his students read was contracted out by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to NERA.

The other, a study written by then-Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) research professor Ernest Moniz – now the head of the DOE – is titled “The Future of Natural Gas” and also covers LNG exports. DOE oversees the permitting process for LNG exports. That study was funded by the Clean Skies Foundation, a front group for Chesapeake Energy and covered in-depth in the Public Accountability Initiative’s report titled, “Industry Partner or Industry Puppet?”

Noticeably absent from the reading list: studies tackling the climate impacts, air quality impacts, over-arching ecological impacts such as water contamination, wastewater impacts and supply issues (aka diminishing supply).

Together, the two crucial studies on the syllabus reading list – and the lack of critical readings on the topic of fracking – offers a gimpse into the stamp of legitimacy industry-funded studies get when they have the logo of elite research universities on them. It’s also another portrayal of the ascendancy of the corporate university.

For this kind of deep critical study, I don’t see how one could argue with a $200,000 salary!


Comments (55)

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  1. Sherm says:

    Well, he ain’t getting 200k from CUNY. But I’m sure he’ll make up for his lost income with plenty of corporate board appointments in the future from energy companies.

    • Jeffrey Beaumont says:

      But surely he didn’t need to teach some sham class to get offers to serve on corporate boards, right? I dont see the angle here. Maybe he just wants to teach, and obviously CUNY really wants him… but why not teach a class on some sort of military topic since, you know, he has some expertise there?

      • njorl says:

        Perhaps it was a test of how much he was willing to debase himself in service to his new master. If I were an amoral multi-billion dollar conglomerate, I wouldn’t want to risk hiring people with scruples.

      • Warren Terra says:

        If he “just wanted to teach”, he’d teach something he knows. There’s some sort of angle there, even if it’s merely an ego-gratifying maneuver to become a chin-stroking Public Intellectual. My guess is that it is about bolstering his resume as a politician (or appointable political figure), giving him an apparent and thoroughly respectable job for a few years while he cashes in on the corporate boards and paid speeches. Alternately, his actual goal is to be a University President, which is a believable goal both in terms of that he’d want it and that he’d be considered as a candidate – and teaching for a while could greatly help.

        • Jeffrey Beaumont says:

          Good guesses, I especially like the university president angle. Nothing like a well paid sinecure.

          • Fats Durston says:

            Interesting. My wife once got to meet Petraeus when her college’s dean–another retired general who is now that college’s president–invited Petraeus to give a talk and hobnob on campus.

      • KatWillow says:

        The oil corporations are running the world, and the General knows it, as do all the folks in congress, DOJ, Courts, and Executive Branch, and they’re in a stampede to see who can kiss the most Oil Corp ass the best.

        • UserGoogol says:

          Teaching a handful of students at CUNY is not a particularly efficient way to kiss up to oil corporations. And anyway, it’s not like the whole class is about the “energy revolution.” It seems far more likely that his choice of material merely is a symptom of an existing pro-corporate bias rather than being some nefarious attempt to actively work on behalf of the corporations.

  2. The Wrath of Oliver Kahn says:

    The only way it could be worse is if it were a MOOC.

  3. Another Anonymous says:

    Ewww. I have been a qualified defender of Petraeus’s teaching gig, but he seems hellbent on punishing me for that.

  4. Jeffrey Beaumont says:

    Really this is pretty boring stuff for the most part. I mean it might be interesting to read the newspaper and various industry publications with students to see how they make sense of it, but whatever.

    What I do want to know is why the hell is Petraeus teaching on global energy and economics? Doesn’t there political science department have room to let him offer a course on something he knows a little about, like insurgencies, occupations, etc? Would a seminar on some events from the general’s military career not work in the history department up there?

    And final note, when you are only sort of a professor, but you have other titles which you have actually earned, like say “General”, why put “Professor David Petraeus” on the syllabus?

  5. Joshua says:

    Petraeus is basically Dick Cheney without the deferments.

    • Warren Terra says:

      That really isn’t fair, in any number of ways. First of all, “Dick Cheney” makes no sense whatsoever without the deferments. The whole point of “Dick Cheney” is to get other people’s kids killed in the service of profiteers and, if convenient, hegemony. Also, Petraeus is not obviously circumspect about throwing more blood and treasure into the ongoing meat-grinder, but I’m unaware he’s gung-ho about invading all sorts of places all of the time like Cheney is; nor is he as strongly opposed to troop withdrawals. Yes, Petraeus engineered troop increases in Iraq and in Afghanistan, but when Obama got us out of Iraq and set a deadline for leaving Afghanistan, and refused to meddle deeply in most of the Arab Spring, Petraeus was in a position to cause problems, and didn’t noticeably do so.

      • Colin says:

        Also, Cheney’s already gone through a black heart, a robot heart, and now a stolen heart. At worst, Petraeus is still only on the first of those three.

      • JMP says:

        Cheney also has not, as far as we know at least, ever cheated on his wife with a younger, also-married journalist; and Petraeus does not stay animate and sustain his grotesque semblance of life through consuming the blood of the living.

  6. Trollhattan says:

    Evidently, the Second Great American Era of Prosperity will be the result of Surging Our Shale.

    Thanks a heap, general.

  7. Bitter Scribe says:

    The name of his course is “The Coming North American Decade.”

    WTF is that even supposed to mean?

  8. djw says:

    I was wondering why the hell a military guy would teach about (among other things beyond his professional expertise) energy politics. Silly me for not thinking of this.

    • Aimai says:

      Cause if it were going to be energy you’d think a general would be explaining about the whole blood for oil thing.

    • UserGoogol says:

      Looking at the syllabus linked in the article, the overall thrust of the class seems to be to look at various technological industries (energy, life science, advanced manufacturing, and IT) and how developments in these industries will impact the global economy and discuss how America should react to it.

      That’s still not a particularly good fit, but I guess the idea would be that very broadly speaking, Petraeus is in the business of foreign relations and America projecting its power on the global stage, even if the kind of relations he deals with are not really the same kind as would be needed for these situations. (Apparently when he was a student he studied international relations, though, so blowing stuff up isn’t the only kind he’s familiar with.)

  9. Ed K says:

    Remember this the next time Horowitz or one of his friends goes on a crusade against left wing propaganda in the classroom (a.k.a. critical thinking, and they’re explicitly coming out in opposition that that, named as such, now too).

    • rm says:

      Here’s how it works:

      At my podunk regional public state campus, I teach working-class first-generation college students that nothing is more important than arguing in a valid way: citing sources, thinking critically, noticing the whole context, looking at more than one side.

      At the big elite campus the star professor teaches ruling-class students (maybe one or two from my area who have been given a ticket to the ruling class for diversity’s sake) that all that shit is for SUCKERS.

  10. montag2 says:

    Well, we now have some proof of who the military thinks it’s working for.

    Maybe his next module will be on how Wall Street is “doing God’s work.”

  11. DocAmazing says:

    Perdue is now headed by miniature ex-governor Mitch Daniels, and the University of California system is about to be headed by Homeland Security director and Arizona pol Janet Napolitano.

    Higher education is in trouble all over.

    • Cody says:

      Grrr, I didn’t graduate from chicken! At least people know about Purdue, for being a rather storied university when I leave Indiana people often don’t recognize it.

      People keep insisting that the President of Purdue doesn’t really do anything except raise money, and since that seems to be the whole point of universities in general I suppose I find it plausible.

  12. Gary K. says:

    Perdue’s the Chicken guy. It’s Purdue you want.

  13. Shwell Thanksh says:

    Noticeably absent from the reading list: studies tackling the climate impacts, air quality impacts, over-arching ecological impacts such as water contamination, wastewater impacts and supply issues (aka diminishing supply).

    Whew! Glad to see earthquakes didn’t make the top 5.

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