[F]or the vast majority of students, academic study is nothing more than vocational training. Because ‘academic study has no bearing on life,’ it must be the exclusive determinant of the lives of those who pursue it. The innocently hypocritical reservations people have about science include the expectation that academic study must lead to a profession for all and sundry. Yet scholarship, far from leading inexorably to a profession, may in fact preclude it. For it does not permit you to abandon it; in a way, it places the student under an obligation to become a teacher, but never to embrace the official professions of doctor, lawyer, or university professor. It leads to no good if institutes that grant titles, qualifications, and other prerequisites for life or a profession are permitted to call themselves seats of learning. The objection that the modern state cannot otherwise produce the doctors, lawyers, and teachers it needs is irrelevant. It only illustrates the magnitude of the task entailed in creating qualified people. It only shows how far the development of the professional apparatuses (through knowledge and skill) have forced the modern disciplines to abandon their original unity in the idea of knowledge, a unity which in their eyes has now becomes a mystery, if not a fiction. Anyone who accepts the modern state as a given and believes that everything must serve its development will be forced to reject these ideas. One can only hope that such a person will not call for state protection and support for “learning.” For the true sign of decadence is not the collusion of the university and the state (something that is by no means incompatible with honest barbarity), but the theory and guarantee of academic freedom, when in reality people assume with brutal simplicity that the aim of study is to steer its disciples to a socially conceived individuality and service to the state. No tolerance of opinions and teachings, however free, can be beneficial, so long as there is no guarantee of a form of life that these ideas—the free ideas no less than the strict ones—imply, so long as people can naively deny the huge gulf between ideas and life by pointing to the link between the universities and the state.

Walter Benjamin, The Life of Students (via tirado)

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