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.
We should at least insist on a little accountability from this increasingly medieval institution. After teaching some twenty years in the university and writing about its endemic problems, I keep asking myself the same questions.
Why? Why? Why?
Hanson presents many examples of the decline, and asks the following two questions, which I consider essential to understanding the problem:
Why do professors insist after six years on life-long tenure—when everyone from garbage collectors to lawyers and doctors do not enjoy such insulation from both the market and accountability about job performance? If it is for the promise of “academic freedom” and “intellectual diversity” then the resulting institutionalized uniformity and mediocrity were not worth the cost. Compare the lopsided Academic Senate votes about issues extraneous to the operation of the university from gay marriage to the war in Iraq. There are usually reminiscent of plebiscites in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq or Castro’s Cuba with majorities of 90-100%.
Why when academia is so critical of other American institutions, from the Republican party and corporations to churches and the military, does it ignore its own colossal failures? The level of knowledge of the today’s graduate is the stuff of jokes, exactly what one would expect once a common shared instruction in science, history, literature, languages, and mathematics largely disappeared, replaced by a General Education potpourri of specialized classes in gender, race, class, and politics masquerading as knowledge-based?
Like Hanson, I am a long-term member of the professoriate. I have watched over the last 25 plus years as academic institutions in this country have transformed themselves into centers of intellectual uniformity, even as they ubiquitously tout "diversity" and rigorously enforce political correctness; and as they have embraced mediocrity on all levels, even as they arrogantly boast of their intellectually superior status.
While radical professors, disguised as "academics", ponder questions like, "Who are we to judge Saddam Hussein?"; and as political activism--rather than the pursuit of knowledge--becames their primary activity on campus, they should not be surprised as they and their departments become more and more irrelevant and ignored by the people whose taxes and hard work support their very existence. Indeed, they should wonder and rejoice at the largesse that is directed in their direction without demands for improved performance and productivity.
Even most policymakers have had to look elsewhere for a source of ideas and intelligent discussion. In today's world, the academic's role is increasingly taken over by think tanks, which...well, think--as opposed to just emoting and spewing slogans about "social justice."
The transformation of our intellectual centers of knowledge into vast emotional swamps of multicultural victimhood, offended by any idea that they don't like, can be best appreciated by the unwillingness to tolerate dissent and difference of opinion, and the utter willingness to resort to physical violence to silence anyone they don't agree with.
In this manner, the professors--sure of their ideological and moral superiorty-- are no longer bothered by pesky ideas, which might actually have to be defended by reason and logic. No, they rely almost totally these days on the primacy of their feelings, which they proudly point out need no defense, since they are honest feelings and reflect the utmost emotional sensitivity (except, of course, to those who happen to disagree).
David Horowitz once wrote about his unpleasant experience at the University of Hawaii, where he was invited to speak and was received by the very faculty who invited him to speak, with hostility and boorishness. He commented:
When we go to our doctors' offices we don't expect to see signs on their office doors making political statements attacking the war in Iraq or attacking those who oppose it. That's because doctors are professionals and have taken an oath to minister to all their patients regardless of their political beliefs. Why can't we expect the same professionalism and decency from our professors?
The problem is that the public does not demand professionalism from them. If they did demand it, then university budgets would magically shrink from losing all the excess and useless baggage they are forced to carry for life in a variety of disciplines.
But without such accountability, how can we justify entrusting the vulnerable minds of our young people to the rabid emotions of professors who prefer to indoctrinate, rather than teach those minds? Sometimes, whether you are young or old, it is hard to tell the difference between the two, but permitting a student the freedom and respect necessary to make up his or her own mind when presented with the facts, is a clue that being taught to think is the actual goal of a teacher's efforts; as opposed to being forced to regurgitate a particular professor's thoughts.
When you consider today's academic environment with its "cradle to grave" tenure, that ignores performance and takes from each according to his ability and give to each irrespective of competence, you begin to understand why this elite professorial proletariat is able to easily identify with the likes of Saddam, Fidel or Hugo. Is it any wonder that these poor oppressed workers of the academic world believe themselves to be just more helpless victims of American capitalism and imperialism, particularly when they are asked to be professional or accountable for their behavior. Such demands are usually met with cries that their "academic freedoms" are being violated by "fascists" determined to oppress their brilliant minds.
The truth is that many of those minds have not expressed or considered a new idea since the early 1960's, and are only capable of recycling old slogans and regurgitating the same discredited ideas and utopian fantasies of that time. Those slogans and fantasies meant very little then, and less now; but are symbolic of a time in history when the pull of that ideology they was powerful.
Since the Cold War, the utopian tyrannies they worshipped now dress up their underlying socialist/communist agenda in lovely, new postmodern clothes (see here, here and here, for example). But the new look is only the same old anti-U.S., anti-Israel; anti-Freedom; anti-Democracy; anti-Capitalism--only in brighter, more cheerful colors.
The emperor, however, is just as naked as he ever was.
And running through all that colorful postmodern socialist tripe, like a river of psychological dysfunction, is a vast, pervasive denial of the fundamentally anti-human agenda which brought about the suffering and death of millions of people; and which were a direct consequence of the glorious socialist utopias of the 20th century.
The new intellectuals of academia take no responsibility for this, nor do they care about consequences at all. For them, it is all about maintaining a pseudo self-esteem based on a belief that they are the chosen intellectual and moral superiors, destined to lead the way to the next variant of the socialist nightmare. For this, they are perfectly willing to suspend their rational faculty so as to march more mindless in intellectual lock-step. In doing so they are a tyrant's dream! Their slogans and banners are the stuff of dictator's fantasies. For these professors and their minions, the mindset of Orwell's 1984 is a deliberate lifestyle choice.
These are our new intellectuals. Is it any wonder that a fraud like Ward Churchill is their poster boy? And that tyrants like Saddam, Fidel and Hugo ("Give me socialism or give me death" Chavez are their causes celebres?
These 'comrade' professors are still the same useful idiots they always were.
Viva la revolucion! Viven estos idiotas útiles!