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Amazon

Amazon
 

Just a quick note on the heralded Amazon arrival in Northern Virginia. As a humanist I have to hope that any company that picked that name can’t be totally bad news for liberal education – think mythology or geography or both.

But there is a broader and more serious response that warrants discussion, and I offer very quick, professionally self-serving comments in that direction.

For the immediate academic reply to the Amazon decision has, understandably enough, emphasized expanded tech training – new programs in computing, massive projected student numbers in these and related fields, new tech-training competition between Virginia Tech and Mason. And all this is inevitable and, hopefully, ultimately constructive.

But the same Amazon decision raises other issues and opportunities that are important in their own right. Thus there are questions about regional government broadly construed, in an expanding but challenging environment; questions as well about the nature of contemporary work; questions certainly about personal and social balance amid technology advance; questions even about how aesthetics combine with economic and population growth. Responding to these issues will certainly involve additional kinds of job training, even the possibility of new programs (how about, for example, an exciting interdisciplinary focus on the urban environment). Even wider response must involve insistence on exposure to broad discussions of the quality of human life, involving not only appropriate humanistic and social science programs but also the kind of solid higher education offerings that should actually accompany tech training. Regional institutions should be ready to respond in these domains as well, and should be enthusiastically articulate in their embrace of this wider agenda.

And it would be good to see some of these wider needs and opportunities reflected in our academic positioning, as the dust settles from the initial excitement. The points probably will not be directly disputed, but they risk being downplayed amid the enthusiasms of the moment. Hence the invitation to wider discussion – and to commitments that will supplement the boost to technologies.