This is a response to the nearly incomprehensible letter of Howard Hochstatter, published May 21 (“Can sociology face free market?”). Mr. Hochstatter suggests that Washington State University’s department of rural sociology, scheduled for the chopping block, should operate in the free market.
This is the silliest idea I ever heard. Academic departments are not designed to function in the free market, and the free market has no way of dealing with them anyhow. If this were at all possible, then why doesn’t the WSU school of business operate in the free market?
Across the country, colleges of agriculture, in connection with the U. S. Department of Agriculture, have operated cooperative extension programs, including in rural sociology departments, for the educational benefit of the agricultural community, going back to the early 20th century. The objective was to teach farmers how to increase their agricultural productivity: in other words, produce more food.
Maybe these programs are no longer needed; it’s debatable. What isn’t debatable is that education is a long-term enterprise while free markets are very short term. To suggest that an academic department should function in a free market is to completely misunderstand education and free markets.