Wednesday, January 17, 2007

“We Don’t Need No Education…”

Having endured as a spectator three and a half years’ undergraduate work by the future Baron, I am disgusted with what passes for higher education in our country. I am particularly disgusted with the culture of the academy itself: insular, feudal, anti-democratic, and parasitical. It could not survive without huge infusions of government “loans” which impoverish students, and large endowments of petrodollars which pollute the environment of the purportedly non-partisan university.

“Higher” education is insidious in its reach. It has strained to credentialize areas of work where once on-the-job training sufficed. It has lured into its intellectual stream students who are unable to swim. Who in academia cares about the failures, the suicides, the alcoholism rate of its student population? So many children are enrolled there who should not be.

This has cut into vocational training, providing information without knowledge or development of critical thinking and analysis. Academia wouldn’t dare teach students how to think: consider the consequences if young, impressionable students were given permission to ask contrary questions, to argue with the received knowledge of the campus classroom, to go up against tenured slackers who have slaveys teaching assistants to do the heavy lifting while they get the credit.

University professors are grossly overpaid and underworked. They are a closely guarded guild with a very small portal and a very large gatekeeper. They are the nobility, untouchable and out of touch with the average American. They are mandarins arguing over minutiae no one cares about.

In a recent essay, Victor Davis Hanson called our universities “corrupt.” He’s right:

What are we to make of this increasingly corrupt institution, whose health is so necessary to the welfare and competitiveness of the United States? It brags that American higher education is the strongest on the globe, but that is largely true only because of the non-political and still untainted hard sciences, engineering, and informational and computer sciences — and despite the humanities, particularly literature, philosophy, and history that have become increasingly ideological and theoretical.

I was thinking of all this the other day, remembering the Larry Summers fiasco, eighty-eight of the Duke faculty weighing in through a public letter against their own students unjustly accused, the Ward Churchill mess, and the assorted outbursts of professors since 9/11.
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There have been many “outbursts” in the last decade. The feminists have built their own ghetto and their weapons of destruction are lethal. Ask Larry Summers.

But they aren’t the only ones with questionable scholarship and trivial, trifling pursuits. The psychologists and their findings grow more grotesque every year. The politicization of psychology is truly astounding when universities support idiotic research claiming to show that conservatives are less intelligent than liberals. Tell that to William F. Buckley.

Then there are the extremist ethicists, Singer at Yale being one, who slide down the slippery slope of where life begins and ends until there is nothing left but utility: you may live if you don’t inconvenience others. Moral thinking has slipped through into the void. Like God, or the military, or conservative thought, ethics — as the average person would conceive it — has disappeared from the university campus.

Which may be why the men are leaving. I don’t know where they’re going, but women now outnumber men in undergraduate schools. This, the old-fashioned anthropologists will tell you, is a worrisome thing, for when women dominate a field the quality of that endeavor lessens. This is not misogyny; it is simply hardwired into the human brain.

Notice, though, that while there is a preponderance of women in higher education, they do not dominate the hard sciences. Nor can they. This is one area — again, because of hardwiring — in which men are relatively safe; women are free to enter as long as they can keep up… and many of them do. But they don’t predominate.

However, we are not allowed, in PC Utopia University, to talk about differences between men and women. I’ll amend that: we arepermitted to talk about those differences if we are portraying the victimization of women. Then, the grievances and animosity are not only permitted, they are encouraged. Hatred of men is perfectly acceptable and there is no such thing as extremism when it comes to vilification of one half of our population.

This is more than arrogance. It is dangerous to the wellbeing of the coming generation. Feminism, unfortunately, has never been about mutual respect. It was founded on hatred of “patriarchy” and a desire for revenge. On that basis it has reaped a sour harvest.

The chance to help underclass women rise above the limits of poverty was dismissed by a narcissistic demand for “equality.” This constant drumbeat has degenerated into — for example, with female firefighters who cannot pass the minimum strength requirements — women in jobs who don’t carry their share of the load. It has resulted in women who scream “sexual harassment” at the drop of a handkerchief. It has devalued the idea of egalitarianism in the name of a false ideology.

Feminists, along with their fellow-traveling diversity pimps, have demolished higher learning. It is a travesty. Now, with the influx of billions of petrodollars from Saudi Arabia and the huge quantity of federal monies doled out as loans that will impoverish students for years, the university has become hopelessly mired in corruption.

It may be beyond repair.

17 comments:

Wrymouth said...

Oh, come now. My daughter attends the very fine California State University, and those required courses in "Racism and Race" and "Gender Studies" will help her in her chosen field (medicine) way more than the out-moded courses in Greek or Latin ever ... would...?

Sorry. "My bad," as the hep professors would say.

I am proud to note that my daughter finds these courses aggravating more than anything else.

Thanks for the post.

Impchucker said...

There's a lot wrong with institutions of higher education, but my sense is that things are improving, thanks to the influence of, for example, the National Association of Scholars. The high water mark of political correctness was probably the early 90s. The feminists and area studies people have a beachhead, to be sure, and in some places exert considerable influence, but in most places reign only within what has become an academic ghetto. Students no longer take what they have to say very seriously. Postmodernism scarcely touched most departments of philosophy; it is in retreat in English and history. Peter Singer (who is not at Yale but half-time at Melbourne and half-time at Princeton's Center for Human Values-- not, note, its Department of Philosophy) serves, from most philosophers' perspectives, as a reductio ad absurdum of act-utilitarianism. The revival of virtue ethics and ethical intuitionism has revived interest in Aristotle and Aquinas. Kantian approaches to ethics are thriving. Faculty in the humanities and social sciences are still overwhelmingly left-wing, and there's still a lot of nonsense going on, but the trends strike me as unambiguously positive.

Jason_Pappas said...

The university is beyond self-reform. It's time to cut the cord. I'd start by ending federal funding to universities that have not had ROTC in the past 10 years. If they haven't help their country, their country shouldn't help them.

Fellow Peacekeeper said...

There is a lesser degree of PC stupidity crawling into the hard sciences as well : rigorous experimentation and falsification being replaced by opinion, particularly on politically charged issues. The bad science in global warming is just one example.

Dymphna said...

Lord help me...I'm agreeing with all of you.

Impchucker, thanks for the correction about Prof Singer...my bad. Yale, Princeton, Brown -- they all blend in my head and I should have done the research (and provided a link).

Wrymouth-- Your daughter and my son would agree. Though he took a religion course on the ancient Hebrews which made him fascinated with Moses as a person rather than an icon. He'll probably end up rummaging thru the midrashes and legends to dig up more on him...and his professor put his biases out there. It was religious history, but the guy told his class he was a Baptist (I wonder if he's tenured).

Jason Pappas -- I agree totally about allowing ROTC on campus. The fB took two semesters of ROTC for the military info...the "real" ROTCEEs thought he was nuts to do it voluntarily. Besides, he got a cool pair of govt issue boots out of it that he hasn't taken off since. Except for formal dances, which his school actually has. This final semester he's signed up for a military history class in the history dept.

Fellow peacekeeper: I think the soft thinking that creeps into the sciences does get trounced most of the time. Not always though. Witness global warming and "nutrition" and cold fusion.

I hope it's not all over. I'll look up the link to Scholars later today. It might be some optimism there we could all use.

Archonix said...

Dymphna, things are no batter on this side of the pond. In fact I'd say they're worse. These days you need a GCSE simply to be a street sweeper which is forcing anyone with a learning disability out of the jobs market entirely when, at one time, they would have been able to get some miniscule amount of work - which would at least be more desirable than living on benefits. Once more I think about my dad, who is currently quite succesful in his chosen field. If, when he started work, attitudes to education had been like they were today I would never have been born. He started as a chef, learning on the job with a bare minimum of qualifications and doing very well out of it. Today a chef would need to spend more time writing than cooking in order to get his qualifications.

We're all in the same boat. Of ocurse, once agian, it seems that this side of the atlantic is leaning over the prow in order to be first.

Obi's Sister said...

Dymphna,
Like you, I've had to endure 2 years of watching my daughter's "higher education". Last semester, she was saddled with one of the "tenured slackers" teaching of all things, Political Science! Thankfully, she saw through the smoke and mirrors, pronouncing him a Major Moron on each phone call home. Did she learn anything? No, she still doesn't understand the process. His idea of "quality classroom time" was to allow free debate on any current event. The same students would use the same arguements (Dem talking points?) until things would get ugly. He'd reel them in, announce a quiz on chapters X & Y, class dismissed. Surprisingly though, she said he didn't push his own opinions down their throats and require them to parrot them back in order to get a good grade. That was the ONLY silver lining for this class. During the same semester, she said her Spanish professor was more political vocal than this guy. But she had a different name....

A fine use of my money, I'd say.

gun-totin-wacko said...

A few years ago, I took a couple classes at my Alma Mater... just for grins (I already have 2 useless BA degrees). One class was a joke. Easiest class I ever took in my life. And yet... by the second exam, they were giving out a 3.0 on a 4.0 scale for getting (as I recall) 36 right out of 65 multiple guess questions. For an exam that took me a whopping 15 minutes to complete, with the highest grade in my section of 100+ "students". And I wasn't even studying that hard. But that was what the Curve dictated. So the Grad Ass's would bitch at their sections, but so what? Junior could skip class due to a hangover, stumble his way through a ridiculously easy exam, and get the necessary good grade. And don't get me started about the "student-athletes" that were in the class. What a waste.

Anonymous said...

The politicization of psychology is truly astounding when universities support idiotic research claiming to show that conservatives are less intelligent than liberals.

Do you have a link for this?


Hatred of men is perfectly acceptable and there is no such thing as extremism when it comes to vilification of one half of our population.

Feminism, unfortunately, has never been about mutual respect. It was founded on hatred of “patriarchy” and a desire for revenge.

Is there an outcry from the feminists regarding the treatment of women under Sharia? I'm wondering if I've missed it....

Diamond Mair said...

Our daughter takes the attitude, when in college-level classes, that "I'm paying you - you will answer my questions 'til I understand, and you will listen respectfully if I disagree with your premise{s}"
Now, her method of disagreement is assertive, but not disrespectful, so she expects the same courtesy from her instructors ....................................

Jason said...

Dymphna,

As someone who is currently enrolled at one of these 'Institutions of Higher Learning,' I know for a fact that much of what you say is very true. I am fortunate in that the University I attend, despite having the usual cast of Liberal Professors, has a large number of moderate and, surprisingly, Conservative students. Indeed, I have heard many of my fellow campus Conservatives refer to this as the 'last major Conservative University in the U.S'

However, my worst experience with the PC culture of Academia came in a subject that you did not mention specifically, but one that I believe has been greatly affected by the "PC Utopia": History.

I will never forget the day I sat through an hour-long lecture on the last 15 years of the Cold War, and did not hear the name 'Ronald Reagan' mentioned once! I am used to revisionist historians giving the credit for the Cold War's conclusion to Mr. Gorbachov; but I was astounded that she could lecture on the end of the Cold War for nearly an hour and not once mention the leader of the victorious superpower!

Furthermore, according to this Professor, the 1500's was basically a century that was dominated by the Spaniards and the Ottomans; and the only thing we really needed to remember about those two empires was that the Ottomans were nice and kind to all the non-Muslims in thier empire and the Spaniards....well, let's just say I don't think I have ever heard anyone use the word 'Inquisition' as often in a one hour period as she did that day.

Basically, the message was: Islam = peace; Christianity = hate and persecution.

Of course, the course was filled with the usual 'evil white man' rhetoric; and we spent more time studying the daily life of a woman in Southeast Asia than we did...well, Southeast Asia. Protestantism was another victim in her class. I'll distinctly remember one of my (obviously liberal) classmates adding the following to our discussion on how evil Cortes was to the Aztecs/local Indians: "I just don't think the whole Protestant thing is compatible with compassion and stuff" - and the Professor nodded her head in agreement! My first thought was: this girl and the professor probably both consider themselves 'multicultural,' yet they don't even know enough about Spaniards to know that they are, traditionally, Catholics!!

Now, I'm no history major (although I always have been a history buff), but I can honestly say that the PC way in which she taught our class was an abomination. Even the liberal students thought her class was boring and terrible! Moreover, given the deep historical roots of our current War (and the importance of the subject in general), the PC-ification, if you will, of history, has to be one of, if not the, greatest drawback of the current "culture of the academy," as you put it.

Excellent post.

Jason

gun-totin-wacko said...

Jason,

how unfortunate that you have that kind of drivel. I was lucky enough to study history in the early 80s, when there were still token conservatives on campus-even in the History department.

A few years back, I went to Harpers Ferry, and toured the town. They had a video presentation on John Brown and his merry band. In the first 2 minutes, they mentioned that "slave holders believed their slaves were property." That was the point at which I walked out, barely controlling my anger. (other statements were almost as bad, but with that one, I wanted to scream "yes they did, because the laws of the Country stated that slaves were property"). But no, can't say anything to suggest that.

I used to want a PhD in History, but not really any more. I'd never make it on campus, since I don't want to study "The black lesbian role in 19th century industry and politics."

Canker said...

Diamond Mair,
I understand your daughter's attitude but...sometimes it's a very bad idea. I teach Maths at university, so it's a bit different, but if someone keeps asking me questions `until they understand' I'm likely to tell them to go away and work it out for themselves.

My job is, in the long run, to encourage them to do that well, not just to stuff bits of information in their heads. To (mis?)quote Erasmus, a student is `a lamp to be lit, not a vessel to be filled.'

Great post.

Now I'll duck.

Impchucker said...

Above I explained why I thought things were improving on campus-- which isn't inconsistent with thinking they are quite bad. How bad they are depends a great deal on what part of campus you're on. Business, Engineering, Natural Sciences, and some humanities and social science departments (philosophy, classics, economics, and psychology, for example) are, overall, healthy, though there are plenty of examples of individual professors and courses that are politicized and intellectually bankrupt. Others (history, English, political science) are infected with political correctness to varying degrees, but seem to me to have reached a low point about 15 years ago and now to be recovering slightly. The academic disasters are certain interdisciplinary programs in the liberal arts: women's studies, African-American studies, Asian-American studies, and, most relevantly for this blog, Middle Eastern studies. These fields make no academic sense. Why would a specialist in the status of women in medieval English law, for instance, be a better judge of qualifications for a position, or for tenure, for someone who works on contemporary women poets than a specialist in contemporary poetry would be? The result of placing hiring and promotion decisions in the hands of those unqualified to judge is that decisions end up being made on the basis, not of the quality of the work, but of the degree to which its outcome advances the agenda of the judge. So, in these fields, decisions are made for political rather than academic reasons. That happens sometimes even in the sciences, of course, but in these interdisciplinary programs it happens as a matter of course.

My advice to students: read course descriptions carefully-- political correctness is usually not that difficult to spot-- and avoid anything with "studies" in the title.

Gordon Pasha said...

Wrote a long comment which disappeared into the ether. Darmed Blogspot. Anyway, race and sex based (and, in Canada, linguistic-group based) hiring is rampant in the hard sciences, and man-hating female academics in science are far more common than women-hating male academics (I have never met one of the latter, several of the former). Then there are the questions that granting agencies, like the NSF, ask on grant proposals, regarding participation of "under-represented groups" in the research. Don't get me started on how Womens Studies programs are exempt from achieving the desired male-to-female balance of faculty members. Years ago, I interviewed for a science faculty position at an American university. The dean (a white male) used up our 20 minute meeting to extole the virtues of diversity (not diversity of scientific thought) and to grill me on my opninions regarding immigration. Naive me, I came to the interview expecting to demonstrate that I was a good scientist and teacher. No, I did not get the job. But my eyes were further opened.

Don Miguel said...

If one wants to see how bad History has become in universities, look at the writing and teaching of the cold war, communism and the USSR which are manifested in the feud between the "revisionists" and "traditionalists." Here you have a group of so-called academics (the revisionists) who can't believe and/or won't acknowledge that communism was an abject failure, Stalin murdered millions and that both the KGB and its minions in the CPUSA (Communist Party USA) were heavily involved in espionage in the US. Cognitive dissonance is a way of life with them and better scholarship can be found in a second rate middle school.

Yorkshireminer said...

Having endured as a spectator three and a half years’ undergraduate work by the future Baron, I am disgusted with what passes for higher education in our country


Dear Dymnha,

I think it is the same the world over, don't you have that wonderful institution in Lynchburg called.
Liberty University. I think that they have a dinosaur fossil that they have dated at 10,000 years BC how silly everybody with a smidgen of common sense knows that Bishop Usher dated the creation to I think to a Sunday afternoon in October 4,004 BC so it can't be that old. When prestigious seats of Higher learning can't get there facts right what chance have we.