A recent NPR Marketplace segment covered an expansion of government-backed student financial aid to include for-profit “nontraditional training and education programs”, many of which are geared toward technology work; the featured company is a coding bootcamp that produces software engineers via an intensive 3-5 month course.
We can expect these kinds of changes to the national education system–away from traditional avenues of university-centered higher education, toward more rapid, industry-centered schools — to accelerate as the economy becomes more and more dependent on software and programming. This will be driven both by increased demand from workers who are looking to gain skills for entry into a world of relatively high wages, and by corporations looking to fight these high wages by increasing the supply of labor. And as this process accelerates, we can expect an intensification of the attacks on subjects, fields, and departments that are not geared toward producing workers (i.e. ethnic studies, history) — attacks that have already been underway with the seemingly inexorable privatization of public colleges and universities that started back in the early 1990s.
How will leftists on the campuses respond? I’m not particularly optimistic; for the past couple of decades, the student movement seems to be stuck in a reactive, defensive position that continually fails at influencing the general direction of how higher education is funded and run. This is probably because of the class and social position of students and other people in academia; its far too easy to abstract campus struggles away from the rest of society, and without any concrete connections to movements outside the ivory tower, student/academia struggles are impotent against administrators, who have many friends in government and industry.
Off-campus, the growing “tech-ification” of the workforce points toward a future where tech workers face proletarianization, and lose their ability to negotiate high wages and maintain a professional and upwardly-mobile status. Radical leftists should take stock of this emerging trend in the recomposition of capital and class, and begin right away to try to influence and organize leftist and progressive engineers, scientists, programmers, etc. One important task is to investigate what kinds of ideology are being produced by new forms of tech education (presumably, some kind of libertarian and professional mindset), and how to intervene against it.