Saturday, September 04, 2010

Frightening analogies

Having a graphologist analyze my handwriting was not pleasant. Who likes to be that exposed?

I got a similar feeling reading The Economist's Schumpeter column about American universities (September 4). "Will America's universities go the way of its car companies?" Here is how it begins:

FIFTY years ago, in the glorious age of three-martini lunches and all-smoking offices, America’s car companies were universally admired. Everybody wanted to know the secrets of their success. How did they churn out dazzling new models every year? How did they manage so many people so successfully (General Motors was then the biggest private-sector employer in the world)? And how did they keep their customers so happy?

Today the world is equally in awe of American universities.
The ensuing description of U.S. universities makes the case for the analogy to old Detroit. All analogies have their problems and, whereas Detroit received most of its bail-outs in recent years, the federal role in propping up universities via research as well as student funding has been steadily growing for many years.

Nevertheless, the story as it is presented in the column reminded me of the visit with the graphologist.