Friday, July 30, 2010
Already one can see big bonuses in the offing.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Monday, July 26, 2010
The embedded video worked fine for me, but if you are having trouble with it, or would just prefer to watch directly on YouTube, use this link to go to the playlist:
and click the "Play All Videos" button or select a particular segment from the list to watch.
Friday, July 23, 2010
To: Dr. Nina McClelland, Dr. William McMillen, Dr. Lloyd Jacobs
From: Arts and Sciences Council Ad Hoc Committee (L. Rouillard, M.Caruso, E. Johanson)
Re: Summary of Arts and Sciences Council Meeting, Friday, July 16, 2010
Date: Friday, July 23, 2010
With nearly seventy faculty members, students, alums and emeriti in attendance, Arts and Sciences Council discussed the restructuring proposal made by the Committee of Strategic Organization (CSO) and the proposal made by Arts and Sciences Chairs. During this two-hour discussion, participants generally expressed opposition to the CSO plan, primarily because of the extensive addition of administrators, particularly in the face of the often predicted budget crisis looming in 2012. Lack of documented need or even a precipitating problem requiring restructuring has left many faculty puzzled about the charge given to the CSO. Since the only college restructuring substantially addressed by the CSO plan is for the College of Arts and Sciences, and since there was only one tenure-track faculty from Arts and Sciences on that committee and one tenured full professor who is in an administrative position, faculty are concerned about the lack of representation from the College of Arts and Sciences. The students present also questioned the need for such sweeping changes of the college, changes they perceive as having no positive effect on their education.
Indeed, it is not clear how the CSO plan will address the goal of being a student-centered institution; nor is it clear in either plan how restructuring will improve teaching or help us to strive for excellence. The CSO plan was described as emphasizing research interests at the expense of classroom instruction and students' academic needs. Dedication to providing a strong liberal arts education is part of the University's mission and features prominently in UT's advertising campaigns. It was pointed out that one of the hallmarks of such programs is the presence of a Phi Beta Kappa chapter, something UT has been unable to attain. Fragmentation of the College of Arts and Sciences will only make achieving this distinction less likely even as institutions such as Ohio State University re-unite their previously divided College of Arts and Sciences.
Departments such as Math, English, and Foreign Languages already are forced to rely heavily on part-time instructors and visiting assistant professors, which has serious consequences for students in introductory courses and composition courses, and indeed serious negative consequences for student retention, as current research shows. While part-time instructors and visiting assistant professors are chosen because of their experience and qualifications to teach, the constraints under which they work do not leave them enough time to spend with students outside of class, to mentor students interested in research, or to actively participate in the life of the university community. Faculty and students are understandably concerned about adding administrators when there is such a great need for full-time tenure-track faculty.
It was pointed out that the Faculty Senate was not consulted about the composition of the CSO, a direct violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Ironically, the College of Arts and Sciences would be dismantled in the hopes of creating more collaboration, yet the concept of shared governance, by its nature a collaborative endeavor, is undermined by this proposal in particular, and by this current administrative culture in general.
Participants noted that trans-disciplinary initiatives already exist, such as Writing across the Curriculum, and yet this particular initiative has of late been less than adequately funded. If we cannot fund the interdisciplinary programs we already have, how will we fund the sweeping new initiatives proposed by CSO? The appendix to the Arts and Sciences Chairs' proposal contains a brief listing of extensive collaborative and creative work already being done by this faculty. Can we do more? Yes, but only with the needed resources: more tenure-track faculty, not more administrators.
The structure proposed by CSO impressed the faculty as being exceptionally vague: there is no explanation of how schools differ from colleges, how institutes differ from schools or how directors will carry out the discipline-based responsibilities that Chairs currently perform. Since the CSO has officially disbanded, there are no answers to such major questions. While the collaborative cohorts are depicted as suggestions, fragmenting the College of Arts and Sciences into three colleges only threatens more isolation and the creation of more "silos." There are also serious unintended consequences. For instance, the Department of Physics and Astronomy will be divided; yet that department already does much collaborative work with Engineering, Chemistry, the Medical College, to cite only a few examples. Should this department be divided, one of its Ph.D. programs with a concentration in astronomy will effectively come to an end since the State of Ohio will not permit universities in its system to grant Ph.D.s in astronomy alone.
On the other hand, the Arts and Sciences Chairs' proposal features associate deans who would work across the current college structure to facilitate and coordinate collaboration by allocating the resources needed for team-teaching, cross-disciplinary research and creative work in the arts. Groupings into schools or institutes would arise naturally over a period of two to three years, and faculty and students would establish their own creative, collaborative teams and initiatives. In the discussion of the Chairs' proposal, several people commented favorably on the creation of these positions of associate deans described as "activist agents responsible for improving the 'cross-pollination' in all areas."
Neither plan was collectively endorsed, though we note that there were more positive responses to the restructuring proposed by the Chairs. The leadership changes outlined in that proposal were perceived as potentially having more connection to the students. There was a call for a vote of no-confidence in this administration, but no action was taken at this time. It remains to be seen whether faculty and students will be allowed to collaborate in shaping the future of the College of Arts and Sciences.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Don’t be that shell for easy cash!
Don’t twist my sheepskin into trash!
Don’t cop a bonus for your sins!
Don’t you be hiring tired has-beens!
Don’t fire poor folks that work the floors!
(And mow the lawns and mend the doors)!
Don’t shred the books that students need!
Don’t make this campus nurture greed!
I’ve watched your heart turn black as crow.
Don’t let Jake pimp you any mo!
Above his own policy
by Walt Olson
"When you don't know what to do, reorganize!" Anonymous
This summer, after the majority of faculty had left campus, University of ToledoPresident Lloyd Jacobs commissioned a "Committee on Strategic Reorganization," consisting of 10 female administrators and 2 untenured female faculty to report within three weeks to the President. In doing so, the President:
- violated the University policy of equal opportunity: Policy 3364-50-02,Equal Opportunity Polic
- violated the Collective Bargaining Agreements, in particular section 7.3, between the University and the AAUP
- violated the Constitution of the Faculty Senate, Article II, paragraphs D and F.
It is apparent that President Jacobs believes he is above the rules of theUniversity and has no obligation to honor the documents approved by him or the UT Board of Trustees.
President Jacobs publicly acknowledged that male representatives were excluded from service on this committee of 12 females. When the President shows so little concern for diversity, what kind of example is set for the campus? Is diversity only what the President says it is?
President Jacobs' charge to the Committee required a proposal for an organization structure for the 21st Century and an organization structure that enables "us to realize our Strategic Plan." But what is this Strategic Plan?
A massive Task Force with many committees is currently attempting to define the University's Strategic Plan. The President estimates in a YouTube presentation that the work on the Strategic Plan is about half complete. The reorganization report is premature and presumptive unless the President has already decided what the Strategic Plan for the University will be.
The Committee's report consists of a PowerPoint presentation available onlinehttp://www.utoledo.edu/strategicplan/strategicorg/pdfs/OrgStructureProposal.pdf
In its PowerPoint presentation, the Committee proposes a structure of two new layers of administration between the college deans and the provosts. New deans and dean-level staffs are newly created. Senior Executive Deans are created.There are at least 17 new School Directors and an unknown number of Heads of Faculty.
The created dean positions include:
1. Senior Executive Dean
2. Dean, College of Adult and Lifelong Learning
3. Dean, Honors College
4. Executive Dean for Arts & Sciences
5. Dean, College of Science and Sustainability
6. Dean, College for the Study of the Human Condition
7. Dean, College of the Visual and Performing Arts
The above deans 2, 3 report to the Senior Executive Dean while deans 5, 6 & 7 are under the Executive Dean for Arts & Sciences.
Each of these deans will be highly paid. President Jacobs has said high pay is how one recruits and retains good people.
The Committee assumptions include a statement that the proposed structure is based on "21st Century intellectual relationships." It is not clear what this means.
The University has a shrinking budget. Last year the University of Toledo laid off staff because of budget shortfalls. Further layoffs are anticipated. Vice President Scott Scarborough recently reported to the UT Board of Trustees that the University will have a $20 million to $40 million shortfall in 2012. Future budgets of the University will be reduced.
Because the Committee report is in the form of a PowerPoint presentation, little detail and little justification is provided as to how this proposed structure, over laden with administrators, would meet the stated objectives. It is disconcerting that such an important issue with such far reaching import for the University has been presented in a PowerPoint format and treated in a cavalier and irresponsible way.
"I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization." --Petronius Arbiter, 210 B.C.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Right now, we are the College of Fears and Insecurities. We are given the choice today of choosing between the lesser of two evil plans for restructuring the organization of the A&S College within the University. Both plans are jerry-built upon the same faulty assumptions, which we have as a body failed to challenge. Instead we have before us two “reports” that are reduced to two alternative organizational charts – take your pick – either of which will undermine shared governance at the University of Toledo by disenfranchising in the future the Voices of this College, its Departments (Disciplines) and the tenured professoriate within them.
These two organizational charts are the same. One of the proposed architectures for structural change is vertical and the other is horizontal. The horizontal architecture of the ad hoc committee (whose names are not on the document but appear to be mostly chairs and directors of A&S College) has the same layer cake of new deans as the vertical architecture, yet neither of the plans articulate any clear commitment to continuing the strong tradition of shared governance of the university entrenched in the existing A&S College structure. Moreover, the alternative horizontal structure does not guarantee to strive to be any more “egalitarian” in its distribution of power on campus than the vertically-structured plan. Nor does the alternative horizontal structure promise or pretend to “do no harm” to A&S students, faculty, staff and alumni if implemented!
Both proposals stink. I suggest instead that we who have been rendered fearful and threatened by four years of systematic, intentional and cumulative degradation under the Jacobs Administration use this occasion, which is probably the last meeting of this Arts and Sciences Council, to vote “No Confidence” in the leadership of this university and this college: the Board of Trustees, The President, Provosts past and present, and the Dean.
David Nemeth, Professor of Geography and Planning, Member of the Arts & Sciences Council
Friday, July 16, 2010
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Monday, July 12, 2010
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Thursday, July 8, 2010
During March of 2010 there suddenly appeared in the presence of two astonished witnesses this miraculous apparition! Is it a powerful, cryptic message admonishing the Jacobs Administration for imposing a climate of fear on its vulnerable workforce? Does it portend in fact the collapse of the Jacobs Regime? All attempts by The Administration and even the Group of 12 to remove it during the past four months have mysteriously failed. Indeed, there is probably no budget or workforce anymore available to make it disappear during our lifetime. Meanwhile, word has spread. “Come see the Miracle of the Field House!” Crowds now gather to contemplate its meaning. Pilgrims arrive daily from afar. Some standing in silent awe interpret it as the Face of Provosts Past. Indeed, a nose and one eye are unmistakably emerging from behind the ruptured plaster and Chinese wallboard. Could it be an alien from beyond Orion? Perhaps not, but some have stared at length and said it is the Spirit of the Tenured Professoriate finally emerging to take back the Main Campus – and about time! Speculation and rumors are anyway rampant. You are welcome to contemplate it for yourself. Second Floor, West Wall, Memorial Field House. A Miracle sent to save this campus? Why not? Stranger things have happened.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Strategic, market-smart, structurally streamlined and suited for interdisciplinary research and collaboration. . .
Sustainability of new sources of infinitely renewable energy and earth and space exploration. . .
Hard-boiled integral intellectual depth and breadth . . .
The search for ideally-qualified new deans, directors, administrators and super-deans begins. . .
Friday, July 2, 2010
A Facebook group called The University of Toledo Arts and Science Student Council has also been formed. This is an open group and any Facebook member can join. You can view the group page by clicking this link:
On Bullshit (with grateful acknowledgement to the eponymous work of Princeton Professor of Philosophy Emeritus, Harry G. Frankfurt): Being a Concise, Reasonably Comprehensive, Witty, Cogent, Trenchant, Salient, Insightful, at Times Scathing but Nonetheless Most Excellent Critique of the Contemporary Academy
There’s an old joke about a stereotypical German philosophy professor standing in a hallway with two doors – the first door is labeled “This way to the truth” and the second door is labeled “This way to a lecture on the truth.” Without hesitation, the professor proceeds directly through the second door.
Many modern day academics and academic administrators are a lot like that.
Rather than real knowledge and real education they seem to prefer endless diversionary studies and research and lectures and readings and colloquia and symposiums and conferences and committee meetings and deliberations and contract negotiations and video-conferencing and websites and “further funding and research” and campus controversies and bickering and gossip and politics and strategic plans – not to mention fund-raising and recruiting and alumni associations and college sports and awards ceremonies and all sorts of pomp and circumstance and marketing and public relations and ribbon cuttings and cocktail parties (and did I mention strategic plans?) – and almost anything that keeps them from just cutting to the chase and getting to the point.
For far too many pseudo-academics and administrators in academia there is a very good reason why they will do almost anything and everything to avoid getting to the point of all their demonstrative, self-promoting on-campus busy-ness – that being that there simply is no real point. It’s mostly all just bullshit (to borrow the esteemed and erudite professor Frankfurt’s incisive neologism).
True students, teachers and scholars loath the bullshit. But most quickly become jaded out of necessity. True teachers and scholars just shake their heads, pick up their paychecks and do the best they can. Students quickly adapt themselves to the bullshit game, do what they need to do to get their “A’s” and sheepskins and then move on.
Obviously there are many brilliant and capable students, academics and administrators in higher education. But as students we all knew what the bullshit courses and bullshit programs were and who the bullshit professors were. We either actively sought-out or actively avoided the bullshit as much as possible, depending on whether or not we actually wanted a real education or just the easiest path to graduation. Some of the most abysmal courses were required – probably because nobody would have signed up for such bullshit otherwise.
The deal cut between bullshit professors and bullshit students is this: “You don’t expect me to teach and I won’t expect you to learn. I keep my bullshit job and you get your bullshit “A.” And what happens in bullshit academia stays in bullshit academia.”
Similar bullshit deals are cut among academics and administrators. Seasoned academics and administrators know which programs and courses are bullshit and who the real deadbeats and bullshiters are on campus. But in the fairytale world of academic bullshit, the mediocrities are allowed to hide, while the more ambitious schmoozers and bullshit-meisters slither their way up the bullshit career ladder.
Much of the bullshit is dressed in the clothing of pseudo-courses, pseudo-programs, pseudo-disciplines, pseudo-academic and pseudo-administrative departments and entire bullshit pseudo-colleges and bullshit academic and administrative divisions.
The only real purpose of these bullshit entities is to increase their own funding, size and power and promote and perpetuate their own bullshit pseudo-academic (usually politically correct) agendas and the bullshit careers of their top brass.
In essence, the problem with the contemporary academy is that relentless careerism and politically and ideologically motivated mission creep and bullshit proliferation has created a bloated academic and administrative behemoth of ineffective and meaningless bullshit (like General Motors or Wall Street or the Department of Education or local, state and federal government in general) wherein the “beef” of effective and meaningful teaching, learning and research plays an ever diminishing role.
Look at almost any college or university administrative and academic org chart and you will find (if you are wearing your magic lenses of objective and dispassionate critical analysis) an over all bullshit-to-beef ratio of something like 10:1, where mediocrity, redundancy, irrelevancy, absurdity, “beer and circus” and political correctness reign supreme.
And every time anyone even tries to seriously address the problem, the bullshit machine just shifts into overdrive and more committees are formed and more strategic plans are initiated and more outrage is expressed.
Whenever things really start to heat up and it looks like the campus bullshit machine might actually blow, the automatic feedback system releases some of the pent up pressure by shuffling program directors, department chairs, deans, vice-presidents, vice-provosts, provosts, presidents and board members, so that the whole bullshit cycle can reboot itself and begin anew.
To make matters even worse, most academics and administrators are absolutely convinced the solution to all this nonsense is to simply promote their own bullshit more vociferously than anyone else. Few ever stop to even consider the possibility that there own bullshit might be exactly that – bullshit.
Someone who knows where all the bodies are buried at UT could scrounge up dozens of bullshit studies and strategic plans from years past, moldering uselessly on different administrator bookshelves around campus. (I have seen a number of them myself).
Nationally there are doubtless hundreds of thousands of such abortive plans and studies that have been generated with great effort and at great expense over the years – and all for naught. By the time one strategic plan is approaching completion a new one is already entering the pipeline – and many of the chief perpetrators and other usual suspects have already moved on to other things or greener pastures – so as to avoid actually being held accountable for all their bullshit.
Rather than getting together to make the best possible academic wheel for everyone once and for all (and then maybe even making it free and universally accessible online) – higher education, like all ludicrously redundant, wasteful and self-perpetuating bureaucracies, instead sets hundreds of thousands of often only marginally qualified people to work each day endlessly reinventing thousands of different and invariably mediocre wheels – only to have them put uselessly on ice so that everyone can stay busy making more and more bullshit.
It’s the myth of Sisyphus all over again – except that instead of a huge boulder, universities are perpetually pushing huge balls of bullshit up a hill like pretentious glorified dung beetles in professorial caps and gowns, only to have their giant bullshit balls inevitably roll back down the hill again every time.
One of the bullshit reasons given for why this endless, wasteful and silly busy-work is necessary is that “ ‘cookie-cutter’ solutions won’t work because each university, college, department, program and course has fundamentally unique and special needs.”
Endless fragmentation, confusion and busy-work are one of the primary sources of all the bullshit. Bullshit gives bullshit-makers and bullshit-movers something to do. That’s all. And bullshit does not create “solutions” by any stretch of the imagination because bullshit only begets more bullshit.
Each new department chair, program director, dean, vice president, provost or president brings with them a new and improved bullshit agenda, “vision,” theory, ego or busy-work laundry list that serves as a pseudo-justification for their bullshit existence and requires the complete bullshit reinvention of the wheel, yet again, from scratch.
As professor Frankfurt so judiciously and regretfully demonstrates in his own On Bullshit, the world is full of bullshit. But the whole point or raison d’etre of the academy – from its earliest Greek and later medieval European origins through Oxbridge, the German research universities and the American Ivy League and land grant universities – has been to strive to distinguish itself from the everyday world of illusion and random bullshit.
The academy has, at least in principle, aspired to the highest intellectual standards and endeavored to cut through all the bullshit of superstition and opinion and speculation and politics and passing fads and fashions – both cultural and intellectual.
Using the tools of critical reason and empirical science, academic scholars and scientists have ideally sought to distill the quintessence of technical and cultural knowledge and practical skills – and then preserve this cultural and intellectual heritage and pass it on to their students, some of whom would in turn become scholars and scientists themselves and accordingly pass the torch on to their students.
What this means in the modern parlance of education-speak is that the whole point of higher education is: effective and meaningful – I repeat, EFFECTIVE AND MEANINGFUL teaching, learning and research.
Everything else is bullshit.
On Bullshit (Part 2)
Those who have read my zoroxyz10 posts on this blog over the past several weeks can clearly see I have serious criticisms for (essentially liberal) academia. But anyone with some knowledge of contemporary higher education who has read these posts with an open mind can also see the criticisms are valid.
BTW – for those who may be curious, zoro alludes to Zoroaster, as in Nietzsche’s Also Sprach Zarathustra (as well as obliquely to the Spanish pulp fiction folk hero Zorro – “The Fox”).
I firmly believe college professors and administrators are by and large intelligent, good and well meaning people who truly want to do the right thing. But academic training in many areas is seriously flawed, which means the academic world view is often seriously flawed.
Moreover, the academic system as a whole is itself dysfunctional and academics are only human. As such they are as susceptible as anyone else to human foibles and frailties. Academics are not above criticism and they are not above being petty, narrow minded and just plain wrong at times.
And man can they ever talk some good bullshit.
Far too many people on campus are completely ignorant of many very important and basic aspects of reality and how the natural and human worlds actually work – and/or they believe things that are at best frivolous, false and meaningless and at worst highly toxic, corrosive and destructive for both individuals and society as a whole.
Not surprisingly, ignorant and misguided people often do ignorant and misguided things – often with the dangerous misguided notion that what they think and do is absolutely true, right and good.
But the point is not to play “gotcha” politics or “gotcha” intellectual games, rather it is to try to save the soul of the academy, which almost everyone agrees is in very serious trouble – albeit for different reasons.
Moderates, traditionalists and conservatives insist the problems are internal, fundamental and systematic and that everything from admissions and the first year experience and pedagogy and content of the core curriculum to the entire academic and administrative organizational structure of universities has to a greater or lesser degree been corrupted in the name of liberal agendas and ideologies and academic careerism.
Insider liberal educators have been telling us for decades that these criticisms are coming only from mean-spirited, bigoted right-wingers.
Liberal educators likewise agree there are serious problems (mostly too much bullshit and professorial busy work obligations, too many class hours, grossly under-educated and apathetic students, not enough salary and grant money and, oh yeah, those freakin’ right-wingers), but educators keep telling us we are nonetheless still on the right path to the Promised Land – only “significant further funding and research will be needed” (indefinitely and to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars a year, thank you very much).
And don’t forget those big fat top administrator salaries, perks and “retention bonus.”
(That “retention bonus” – the entire annual salary of whole handful of unwashed peons – will come in handy to cover some of my moving expenses in a year or two when I transfer to my bigger and better job somewhere else. Actually those moving expenses and other perks will be covered as part of the deal I cut at my new job – but don’t tell anyone – heh-heh… cha-ching!).
Meanwhile, Rome continues to burn – and the bullshit just keeps piling up to the rafters.
Taxpayers keep swallowing all this malarkey and though it is doubtful even most hardcore liberal educators actually believe much of their own bullshit, we can hardly blame them for continuing to talk this nonsense as long as it continues to produce such easy and rich returns.
Tenure, academic freedom and shared governance are supposed to create a protected atmosphere for objectivity, free and honest intellectual discourse and necessary change and reform – but these systems have clearly failed.
This is because academia operates largely as a state-subsidized socialist enterprise with no real competition or accountability. Let’s face it, accreditation reviews etc. are mostly just courteous, collegial, rubber stamp wine and cheese visits to each other’s campuses.
You have to REALLY mess up not to be accredited – and as often as not the mess up is purely technical or bureaucratic (like, ahh, forgetting to get the proper paperwork submitted on time, or at all) as opposed to any demonstrably quantitative or qualitative academic failings.
This incestuous quasi-Marxist system inevitably breeds significant mediocrity, complacency, inefficiency and an intransigent atmosphere of entitlement.
Educators tell us they still need hundreds of billions of dollars annually to try to figure out how to do things like teach students to read and write – things any parent with a GED, a few children’s books and a little patience can accomplish with surprisingly little effort.
Children and young people are naturally smart. Schools and educators as a whole are almost forced to be (or allowed to be) willfully dumb and/or misguided or corrupt because of the inherently dysfunctional educational system. But we keep giving hundreds of billions to the very folks who have created the problem and who have a very big stake in maintaining the status quo education racket.
One thing teachers could do immediately is cut out all the bullshit education theory (not to mention bullshit class and curriculum content) and just deliver the educational goods straight up. Students rely on their teachers and professors to have in-depth knowledge of the material they teach and students deserve better than goofy politically correct educational theory games.
So stop messing around with bullshit things like “self esteem” and “student-centered” or “collaborative learning,” i.e. you dozing-off in the back of the lecture hall while your students spend the entire class period holding hands and singing Kumbaya, or being subjected to the insipid ramblings of their fellow students’ “presentations” – which were just mindlessly cut and pasted off the Internet the night before (as if you didn’t know that).
Do your job.
Because the academy and liberalism are in most respects essentially synonymous, it is nearly impossible to criticize the academy without criticizing liberalism (and it is almost impossible to discuss liberalism without raising the serious issue of bullshit).
It is not merely an opinion that the academy is largely liberal or “progressive.” All studies or surveys that have been conducted by conservatives or liberals or anyone else show the overwhelmingly predominant ideology on campuses is at least generally liberal, i.e. Marxist-Feminist-Postmodernist.
Moreover, conservatism and any other views that may question liberal dogma are not only NOT fairly and openly engaged in academic intellectual discourse – they are vigorously suppressed and attacked as being fascist, racist, sexist, bigoted etc.
A truly liberal-minded academy would welcome intellectual diversity (not just arbitrary sexual, racial and ethnic diversity). Conservative/non-liberal books would be included among required readings and conservative speakers would be regularly invited to campus.
And instead of being virtually banned from campus and forced to make their livings in think tanks or elsewhere outside the academy, conservative scholars (not fundamentalists or ideologues) would be hired in representative numbers in all relevant academic departments.
Instead, College has largely become what former 60’s liberal radical turned conservative intellectual, David Horowitz, calls “Indoctrination U.” Students, professors and democratic society are clearly not well-served by any such lopsided dogmatism, liberal or otherwise.
Pedagogy and curriculum from K-PhD has been warped by liberalism – shoe-horned into dumbed-down, politically correct, anti-intellectual and anti-rational/anti-scientific leftist political agendas.
Once again, the point of my constructive criticism is not to simply take pot shots at liberals (though that is also a much needed public service). The point here is to try to save the academy (or at least our local version of the academy – that being UT) because we simply cannot make it in this world without a strong and effective higher education system that delivers high quality (meaningful and practical) training and education, efficiently, effectively, equitably and with transparency and accountability to the citizens colleges are supposed to serve.
On Bullshit (Part 3)
Liberal academics scornfully point to the anti-science cosmology and anti-evolution of religious fundamentalists.
But when science doesn’t tell liberal academics the politically correct things they want to hear about human nature and the human condition – with respect to race, gender, intelligence, socio-economics, education, genetics, ontology, epistemology, philosophy of mind and science etc. – academics can be every bit as dogmatic and anti-science as religious fundamentalists.
Political correctness and postmodernism are pseudo-intellectual quasi religious myths – invented by liberal intellectuals not only to rationalize their personal, political and metaphysical hopes, dreams, delusions and ideological agendas (and promote their own careers), but also to mitigate some of the politically incorrect, scientific and existential realities they don’t want to confront.
But in essence postmodern theory is really just a lot of pretentious, insufferably incoherent and willfully absurd bullshit.
Liberal academics consider themselves the most open-minded and intelligent people in the world, but the fact is that – just like any other religious, political, ideological or intellectual fundamentalists – academics rarely truly and objectively consider the often very well-reasoned and as often as not plainly obvious evidence and arguments of the opposition.
“If Oprah and/or Michael Moore and/or Al Gore and/or Katie Couric and/or George Clooney and/or George Soros and/or Noam Chomsky say it’s true, then by God it’s true and I just don’t have to think about it any more.”
Honestly, many if not most of the quaint traditional romantic ideas about art, literature, music, aesthetics, philosophy and liberal arts education are also cultural myths (or, if you prefer, bullshit).
But at least these myths are truly edifying, unifying and constructive – as opposed to the purely corrosive effects of postmodern de(con)struction.
Modern day irrationalist, mystical, pseudo-intellectual anti-science actually traces many of its roots to 18th and 19th century idealist and romantic notions about art, literature, music and philosophy (not to mention Vassari’s much earlier Lives of the Artists and the pseudo-mystical neo-Platonic works of Mirandola, Ficino, etc.).
In many respects postmodernism is just a mish-mash of quasi mystical Platonic and neo-Platonic idealism, irrationalist romanticism (Blake, Coleridge, Goethe, Schiller, Herder, Novalis), idealist dialectical materialism (Hegel/Marx), phenomenology (Husserl, Heidegger) nihilist existentialism (Nietzsche, Sartre) and sublimated medieval Christian, Spanish Inquisition-style anti-science.
These various original sources, which already contained significant amounts of speculative, wild-eyed delusion and bullshit, were all churned together by the likes of Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, et al. to make lots of really big heaping piles of postmodern bullshit.
It also just so happens the veracity of many of the quaint traditional ideas about aesthetics and good and bad art have been confirmed by 21st century evolutionary psychology and neuroscience, i.e. aesthetics are grounded in human evolution and biology. Really good taste is not arbitrary but innately human (See Homo Aestheticus: Where Art Comes From and Why, by Ellen Dissanayake).
The simple aesthetic litmus test is this – classical traditional art, music and literature create a resonance in the human heart. Modern art was a bridge between resonance and dissonance. But postmodern art is dissonant by design.
In all instances the reasons for this resonance or dissonance are rooted in innate human biology, combined with cultural socialization. But the biology runs very deep, predating the socialization by hundreds of thousands if not millions of years. The nature trumps the nurture and all things being equal a Beethoven sonata will always generate much more visceral joy and pleasure than a Sex Pistols album.
Beethoven also inspires spiritual and social harmony and cohesion whereas the Sex Pistols and postmodernism, well…
This is only one specific example, but generally speaking postmodernism and political correctness are not just wrong in terms of traditionalist or conservative academic and ideological perspectives – they are scientifically, empirically and logically wrong (in terms of evolution, genetics, biology, etc.).
Most academics were weaned on liberal milk and have spent their entire lives swimming in the liberal fishbowl of academia, largely unaware that anything else even exists (except insofar as it is “fascist,” “racist,” “sexist,” etc.)
But this is just mindless labeling, name calling, stigmatizing and dehumanizing those who disagree with your views – anti-intellectual tactics taken straight from the Nazi/Stalinist playbooks (In other words, big time bullshit).
Those academics who are more moderate and reasonable (and we can only hope they still constitute a moral majority) tend to tacitly acquiesce to extremist liberal views – at worst out of fear, ignorance, conformity, complacency or self-interest and at best out of a sense of naive collegiality or solidarity.
And just try getting any academic research funding for a politically incorrect study showing, say,
- that all men are not really misogynist rapists
- or that academic failures of minorities can be linked directly to powerful counter-cultural and anti-intellectual social forces in minority communities (not discrimination)
- or that postmodern art is crap
- or that women are underrepresented in math and science for reasons that have far more to do with innate human biology than any real or imagined oppression
- or that every person of color who is routinely questioned or stopped for probable cause is not necessarily a victim of discrimination or racial profiling.
- or that global warming might just possibly be another multi-trillion-dollar liberal political boondoggle in the making – like another Wall Street bailout (the fact that someone like Al Gore has been awarded a sham Nobel Prize and become fabulously wealthy – as in $100 million wealthy – merely from his Michael Moore style rodeo ride aboard this liberal faith-based political/economic hobby horse, should at the very least give us pause to ponder).
“…But everyone with a brain agrees global warming is a sure thing,” you say. What, like radical feminism and postmodernism were “sure things”?? A few hours on the Internet and reading a good scholarly book or two could bring you up to speed on the truth about these issues. Are you up to the challenge?
If so, see the reading list at the end of this piece – like Climategate: A Veteran Meteorologist Exposes the Global Warming Scam, by Brian Sussman. Chapter 5 of the best-selling Superfreakonomics also offers a concise deconstruction of global “warming” – more recently downgraded to “climate change” – soon enough to become, “Oh, I always knew that was all just bullshit.”
You can inform yourself on the sly and nobody has to know. Shhhh…
But just like that “fascist sexist racist bigot,” former Harvard President (and current top-ranking Obama administration economic advisor) Larry Summers – by daring to even mention these taboo (and incidentally true) ideas in liberal academia, you might as well be braiding your own hangman’s noose.
Academic freedom? Socratic dialogue and free and open civil discourse in the public square? Hardly.
Because of the abuses of faculty tenure, teacher’s unions, politicized funding for politically correct education and “research,” opportunistic careerism etc. schools and universities have become financially and administratively bloated and inefficient, academically mediocre and unaccountable and politically corrupt, entrenched and intransigent.
The whole idea of academic peer review (of each other’s ridiculous theories) in the humanities and social sciences (if not to some degree in the sciences as well) has also become a joke (e.g. the Sokal Hoax etc.).
If there was any truly effective system of objective administrative and interdisciplinary academic reality checks and balances in place to mitigate really dumb decisions of provosts, deans and department chairs and to realistically monitor academic teaching, research and publication (making sure nobody was trying to sneak in complete absurdity [Sokal Hoax] or merely projecting personal agendas, delusions or pathologies into pseudo-academic teaching and scholarship), most politically correct and Marxist-Feminist-Postmodern nonsense in academia would never have seen the light of day.
Only completely insular, homogenous and willfully careerist, political, ignorant, deluded and/or scientifically illiterate academics could have ever created the current systematic catastrophe in liberal arts education, or produced such PC/PoMo pseudo-academic bullshit. It has been wisely said that, just as there are no atheists in foxholes, there are no postmodernists on airplanes.
If someone from the English or Philosophy department had only bothered to walk down the hall forty years ago to ask their colleagues in math and physics (or for that matter some of their more level-headed fellow colleagues in English and Philosophy) what they thought about all this newfangled postmodern theory stuff, the howls of laughter from their colleagues could have set the nascent PoMo humanities profs back on the path of goodness and righteousness and saved the rest of us a whole lot of trouble (and a whole lot of bullshit).
But this was never going to happen of course since postmodernism arose out of the humanities’ and social sciences’ “two cultures” academic discipline envy and resentment with respect to the indisputably flashy and fabulous progress and achievements of science and technology (see Roger Kimball’s essay The Two Cultures Today: On the C. P. Snow – F. R. Leavis Controversy, online in The New Criterion).
Even the likes of W. H. Auden, who was a true and brilliant old-fashioned intellectual, humanities scholar, critic and poet, freely admitted that, “When I am in the presence of scientists, I feel like a shabby curate who has strayed by mistake into a drawing room full of dukes.”
While scientists were sending us to the moon, Jupiter, Saturn and beyond, launching the Hubble telescope, curing diseases, cracking the genetic code, maximizing agricultural yields, creating the personal computer revolution etc., all the humanities could come up with were things like “transgressive” speculations about whether or not Shakespeare might have been gay, or for that matter whether the Derridean hermeneutic de(con)struction of Adorno’s negative dialectic subverts the proletarian hypostasis of late capitalism’s privileged ‘male gaze’ power episteme through dialogic (Bakhtin, et al.) grammatology of the Other’s holistic alterity and inter[text]ual metanarrative locus, both with-in and with-out the ‘trace’ (assuming transvaluation and implied erasure) posited by a box of Corn Flakes – or, through the postcolonial subjugation of signified ‘differánce’ and absence implicit in the simulacra of a transgendered box of Lucky Charms.…
(Yes, it’s all meaningless postmodern bullshit jargon).
So, if you can’t beat ‘em and you don’t want to join ‘em, and you’re bored and your academic discipline has pretty much petered-out into a more or less mopping-up operation and you just don’t know what else to do with yourself – invent postmodern theory to “prove” that science is just a vast white male conspiracy and that true wisdom is possessed only by the high priests and priestesses of postmodern philosophy, deconstructionist critical theory and the Divine Feminine.
Did somebody say ‘BULLSHIT’?
On Bullshit (Part 4)
Liberal academics have always actually prided themselves on the fact that the Ivory Tower and the “real world” are two completely discrete realms that have nothing whatsoever to do with one another.
Academics in the trenches complain, and often rightly so, about academic bureaucracy and administration. But do they really think that they, shabby world-renouncing curates that they are, could do any better handling the practical, overly complex and idiosyncratic operation of a university?
Apparently they do since academic administrators from department chair to president tend to be quasi or former academics and/or direct-from-college-to-college-administration administrators. Very little fresh air manages to penetrate the thick castle walls of the academy.
The Education College PhD administrators are probably the worst of all. Their postmodern education jargon bullshit is like a really, really dumbed-down version of Marxist-Feminist-Postmodernist philosophy and literary and critical theory.
Then there are the MBA administrators – which takes us into an entirely new fanciful kingdom of business, management and PR bullshit. Can you say, “Six-Sigma?”
Academics are accustomed to the idea that academic freedom means the freedom to be dead wrong, indefinitely and with impunity (and worse, to teach tings that are dead wrong, indefinitely and with impunity) – and never having to say you’re sorry, no matter what.
It is sadly rare but not unheard of for academics to openly admit their mistakes. If possible they prefer to remain obstinate and indignant. If the countervailing evidence proves too glaring and inescapable, they may resort to the extreme measure of slouching off in a huff.
But when Bertrand Russell pointed out a fundamental error (Russell’s Paradox) in Gottlob Frege’s logical calculus – rather than having a hissy fit or resorting to ad hominem counter-attacks impugning Russell’s politics or character – Frege gratefully and honorably (though no doubt with great disappointment) acknowledged Russell’s astute observation and swiftly went back to the drawing board to try to fix things.
Academics also seem to believe funding for education and idiosyncratic academic research (no matter how silly, mediocre, false, useless, meaningless or utterly irrelevant that “research” may be) is a divine feudal right – sanctioned by The Lord of the Rings and his wizened wizard Merlin, who has an enchanted Horn of Plenty somewhere on the Magic Mountain that somehow or other taps into the Secret Golden Horde of the Keepers of the Public Trough to provide a limitless supply of professorial research grant gold.
(Funded and published academic research should be a privilege reserved for the best of the best – not a divine right or a career requirement for every mediocrity who stumbles onto campus).
Upper administrators have a similarly enviable sweetheart career deal – except they have an even bigger golden cornucopia, which is closely guarded by the mighty Thor in Valhalla.
Notice too that as often as not those faculty who drift into administration are those who didn’t have much of an academic career to speak of in the first place and/or are fleeing the lowlands of stagnant or dying pseudo-disciplines for the dizzying heights where only deans and provosts dare to tread.
Academic and political opportunists have quickly learned that if you can’t compete on merits, you resort to subterfuge, politics, schmoozing, threats, demands, false claims of discrimination, propaganda, pseudo-scholarship, pseudoscience, slander, ideological terrorism and whatever else it takes to win the zero-sum, us-them, winner-take-all game.
But by pandering to liberal groupthink mob mentality and mediocrity, the well-meaning moderate-conservative-traditionalists have allowed the academy to become flooded with armies of rank and file partisan pseudo-academics, who are eroding the very foundations of the entire liberal arts and professional training enterprise.
Like tactical rank and file soldiers in the field who have little understanding of the strategic objectives of their generals, rank and file PoMo/PC academics are on a “mission from God” – they’re just not exactly sure what that mission is. (I’ll tell you what it is – it’s a lot of bullshit).
But since their fancy educations have taught them to resent their own great culture and society, they are certain of one thing – that all white patriarchal western civilization must be burned to the ground before the founding of the New Jerusalem can begin – and they will carry their deluded counter-cultural revolutionary banners to the bitter end. What a bunch of bullshit!
Dumbed-down academic standards and pseudo-academic programs were created for “social justice,” so that “everyone can have a college degree” (especially women and minorities) – irregardless of whether or not they can actually earn one worth having, or even really need one.
This has created the equivalent of a bloated, bureaucratic, top-heavy, pseudo-academic “real estate” bubble in academia that is inherently vacuous – has been underwritten by extravagant government subsidies, skyrocketing tuitions and a HUGE outstanding student loan bubble. (Where will you be when the student loan implosion tsunami knocks out the power in the Ivory Tower?) The center simply cannot hold much longer.
What is currently taking place, therefore, is something like the collapse of the pseudo-academic market bubble. On the national level, flooding the market with inept and poorly trained people holding meaningless quasi-academic and pseudo-academic degrees has contributed to intellectual, cultural and even economic depression.
The day of reckoning in academia has been long coming. The humanities and social sciences have been completely off the rails for quite some time now with their postmodern politically correct insanity – promulgating the anti-science anti-culture anti-intellectual sentiments that have caused America to backslide significantly in terms of real viable brain power.
If America does not respond quickly to its massive intellectual deficit (primarily in math, science, technology and engineering), it will soon pass into historical obscurity as a second rate power (the ultimate dream come true for many deluded Marxists and “Progressives,” who continue to feverishly saw away at the social, political and economic branches we all sit upon).
Hopefully it is not too late for us to recover our intellectual, technological, industrial and economic preeminence.
Since meaningful substantive reform never comes from within an entrenched bureaucracy, and since academia is clearly awash to the gunwales in liberalism, the only place essential and desperately needed reform can come from is moderates and conservatives (or stealth blog critics – or repentant liberals who are finally willing to come clean and acknowledge the absurdity of their past deluded PoMo/PC pseudo-academic enterprises – and roll up their sleeves and start helping the rest of us dig our way out of all their bullshit).
In many respects the PhD has become the new bachelor’s degree – it takes a lot more time and money but in the end many of those with PhD’s (and especially those with “PhD’s”) don’t necessarily seem to have a whole lot more general knowledge or common sense than people used to have with a good old fashioned bachelor’s degree.
I refer the jury’s attention once again to Exhibits A and B – which clearly illustrate irrefutable evidence of willful, malicious, pre-meditated and lame-brained Political Correctness and Postmodernism (aka Bullshit) on the part of the defendants – tens of thousands of contemporary and presumably highly educated PhD’s.
And how many of these PhD’s can even add and subtract there way out of a paper bag (never mind algebra or calculus), or read Latin or Greek, or speak any foreign language fluently, or possess even basic intellectual, scientific, historical or cultural literacy?
If they did possess the broad-based renaissance training of true scholars, they would have been able to clearly see through all the PoMo/PC bullshit right from the beginning.
For many if not most people, community colleges or technical/professional training is probably the way to go. Everyone should have basic cultural literacy and reading and writing and basic arithmetic skills etc. – but the idea that absolutely everyone should have a liberal arts bachelor’s degree is ridiculous.
Especially given that a student from a decent public high school used to receive the equivalent of a present day bachelor’s degree, and then some, by the time of graduation.
In the good old days, all reasonably competent high school students learned to write and speak correctly. They studied sophisticated math and science and real history and great literature and English grammar and Latin and German and French and they developed art and music skills and appreciation and good penmanship and civilized social skills and they learned to respect their teachers and elders and one another and to practice good personal health, hygiene, self-discipline, responsibility, ethics etc. – but that was before liberal education theories and politics turned public high schools into sink holes of mediocrity and depravity.
Now students need to go to college just to become semi-literate. And even then, as often as not they emerge from college utterly clueless – assuming they emerge at all, since drop-out rates are horrific.
Many if not most of these college drop-outs never belonged at a four year college in the first place. Sending them there under false politically correct pretenses (when they should have been receiving remedial education or going to technical or community colleges instead) is a disservice to them and everyone else.
On the other hand, a good number of drop-outs are outstanding students who simply cannot stomach all the endless bullshit involved in higher education.
Skim through the literature in the Chronicle of Higher Education etc. regarding the getting of degrees – especially PhD’s. The consensus is that the entire process is dreadfully antiquated, ineffective, protracted and excruciating for students and professors alike – all for no good reason whatsoever. And even with all that unnecessary pain, the outcomes are dismal.
Everyone deserves equal opportunity, but equal outcomes cannot be guaranteed because that is impossible. We are NOT all the same. We do not all arrive on this Earth or at school the same and we do not all emerge from school the same or with the same accomplishments. Trying to blame different academic outcomes entirely on the “oppression” of the system or the lack of an “even playing field” is pure nonsense.
Inner city schools (and public schools in general) ARE garbage, there’s no doubt. And private schools ARE often vastly superior. These inequalities do need to be addressed (mostly by taking PC curriculum and PC teachers and PC administrators out of inner city schools and all other schools).
But even some of those who make it to Harvard continue to complain about discrimination, sexism, racism etc. And THAT is outrageous.
All in all – what a terrible, terrible waste of youth and human potential.
Each human being is an individual and needs to be treated as such, within reason and within the limits of what the education system can reasonably provide. Even with the best education in the world, some students will excel, many will achieve adequately and some will simply not make it over the bar (unless we set the academic bar essentially on the ground where anyone can practically fall over it, which is more or less the current state of affairs in at least some of the powder puff pseudo-disciplines).
Incidentally, this is another reason why education in most areas will inevitably go mainly online (probably much sooner than later) – because online education CAN provide each individual with precisely what they need in any academic area (quickly, economically, conveniently and effectively).
A teacher simply can’t spend three hours going over something with one student when most students can get it in ten minutes – but an online course CAN do that. A teacher simply can’t give exceptional students the attention they deserve to help them sail through a year’s worth of schoolwork in a fraction of that time – but online education CAN do that.
On Bullshit (Part 5)
None of this political/academic upheaval is by any means merely accidental or coincidental either. It is part of a master Marxist-Socialist strategic plan clearly outlined by 19th and 20th century Marxist revolutionaries and ideologues – from Marx, Engels and Gramasci, to Noam Chomsky, Bill and Hilary Clinton, Bill Ayers and Rahm Emanuel (I will refrain from mentioning The Anointed One here by name in an unflattering context, out of deference to those with particularly delicate constitutions).
Even given the recent history of wars, genocides, political catastrophes, the expansion of rogue and narco-states and the proliferation of global terrorism and crime syndicates – the implosion of the former Soviet Union and the widespread social and economic corrosion in liberal European countries (France, Holland, England, Germany) present day liberals are apparently still deluded enough to think breaking the back of the “Imperialist American global hegemony” will somehow open the door for a “global village” of liberty, fraternity and equality for all in a Marxist-Feminist-Postmodernist Nirvana.
How do YOU spell ‘bullshit’?
The real irony in all this is that the people who are presumably served by these liberal ideologies and agendas (women, minorities and the poor) – ideologies promulgated by those with no respect for or understanding of the hard-won liberties and cultural and social fabric they thoughtlessly tear to shreds in the name of the Brave New Marxist-Feminist-Postmodern World – are the ones who, as victims of learned helplessness and as groupthink wards of a paternalistic state, give up the most in the way of their personal liberty and humanity.
Minorities are not “empowered” by divisive identity politics and affirmative action, or by selling their souls to the politically correct state.
Neither women nor minorities are “empowered” by the expansion of mega-government, the disintegration of the family or of social and financial institutions, or the melting away of democratic nations into a “global village,” or by the denigration and disempowerment of men – who, when not appropriately integrated into civil society, can far too often become degenerate social liabilities and violent criminals who prey on the weak and vulnerable (like women, children, the elderly, small business owners etc.).
Women are not “empowered” by politically correct anger and resentment, or the “freedom” to be sexually promiscuous and irresponsible sex objects or drug abusers, or the “right” to cavalierly flush their own offspring down the toilet, or by pathetic exhibitionist, narcissistic, condescending academic feminist charades like The Vagina Monologues, etc.
And finally, anyone who knows anything at all about history knows that whenever fanatic totalitarian ideologues (of whatever stripe) get a firm grip on power, among those loaded onto the first trains headed for Auschwitz or the Gulag are the intellectuals – i.e., you guys.
So be careful what you wish for.
Following is a thumbnail sketch of some of the directions the humanities and social sciences need to go if they want to survive at all – followed by a short reading list:
The future of the liberal arts (humanities and social sciences) necessarily requires two basic paradigm shifts (which should always have been plainly obvious):
A return to traditional intellectual values and standards that require real evidence and verification – not wild and completely unmitigated ideology-driven speculation and propaganda; and a return to substantive skills- and content-based teaching and learning (as opposed to countless meaningless courses where students randomly share their feelings and mis-informed opinions, as if this somehow constitutes meaningful intellectual discourse, and then everyone gets an “A for effort”).
Integrating directly with (as opposed to foolishly fighting against) science. (Except for those unduly influenced by religion, romanticism, idealism, postmodernism or some similar unrealistic ideology, it has long been plainly obvious that philosophy or critical theory in any form must of necessity complement and defer to empirical science).
Also, regard anything that happened politically, academically or culturally after 1960 with great circumspection; and cease the deluded enterprise of trying to prove all human history, culture and civilization (not to mention reality itself) are somehow fundamentally mystical, matriarchal, black, gay and/or Marxist.
Moreover, recognize that different people have different needs and aptitudes. It is simply foolish to try to cram Shakespeare and algebra down every last student’s throat. In Europe, Japan and elsewhere people with certain academic or artistic (or for that matter athletic) aptitudes are cultivated early-on and people who lack these aptitudes or inclinations are put somewhere else where they can learn what the need to learn and what they are able to learn in order to live useful, productive and happy lives.
Philosopher Roger Scruton makes the distinction between the history of philosophy (the more or less linear progress of ideas through history, in the general direction of truth) versus the history of ideas (the haphazard and as often as not dead wrong meanderings of the good, the bad and the ugly of all human thought).
All college students need a fundamental course in real (not PC) history and the history of philosophy and ideas – AS WELL AS THE HISTORY OF HUMAN DELUSION. Students need a basic understanding of what has been thought and what has proven to be valid and what has not – and why. Politically correct and intellectually agnostic relativism is unacceptable.
If students don’t completely understand the fundamentals of critical reason and knowledge (and many will not) at least they will have heard it somewhere – as opposed to fumbling their way through life armed only with the bullshit they may randomly stumble across in a New Age bookstore.
Note that nobody with an even rudimentary understanding of the history and dynamics of human error, folly and delusion could have ever been duped by postmodernism.
Recommended readings might include: Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition and Other Confusions of Our Time, by Micheal Shermer; Madame Blavatsky’s Baboon: A History of the Mediums, Mystics and Misfits Who Brought Spiritualism to America, by Peter Washington (a fascinating historical overview of some of the kooks who gave us what eventually became the “New Age”); and Intellectual Morons: How Ideology Makes Smart People Fall for Stupid Ideas, by Daniel J. Flynn.
There are also a number of excellent primers on basic critical reasoning and logical argument (as opposed to pseudo-critical, politically correct deconstructionist “thinking”) that don’t necessarily require the admittedly somewhat stuffy formal logic of syllogisms etc.
And don’t forget good old Francis Bacon’s Novum Organum. There’s absolutely no excuse for academics getting all befuddled by the postmodern “idols of the mind” when dear Sir Francis had already laid out a clear and simple map of all the intellectual booby traps and minefields way back in Anno Domini 1620.
In ENGLISH, return exclusively to your traditional charge – teaching great literature and writing, grammar, linguistics and the history of English. If you have become too relativist and multicultural to know great literature from trash anymore, you can’t go too far wrong sticking with the traditional canon.
But to paraphrase Louis Armstrong, “Man, if you gotta PhD in English and you still gotta ask what great literature is, you ain’t never gonna know.”
An historical review of literary criticism is important (Aristotle’s Poetics, Matthew Arnold, T.S. Eliott, I. A. Richards, Cleanth Brooks, John Crowe Ransom, Robert Penn Warren, Northrop Frye, E. M. Forster, Harold Bloom, et al.) and you can even toss in a brief overview of deconstruction and postmodernism for laughs, using Terry Eagleton’s ubiquitous Literary Theory: An Introduction.
But moving forward, literary theory MUST tie into neo-Darwinian evolutionary psychology and neuroscience (see Evolution and Literary Theory, by Joseph Carroll, The Mating Mind: How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature, by Geoffrey Miller, Homo Aestheticus: Where Art Comes From and Why, by Ellen Dissanayake, etc.)
People can still have critical opinions about the various pleasures and merits of works of art, music and literature – but raw aesthetics has to be grounded in human biology because the physical human brain is the mechanism that actually does all perceiving, interpretation and aesthetic calculation.
No intellectual endeavors are entirely immune from bullshit speculation and extrapolation, and neo-Darwinian evolutionary psychology and neuroscience are no exceptions. But compared to this general bio-genetic, evolutionary and neuroscience direction in aesthetics, everything else is just pie in the sky speculation and pipe dreams.
In PHILOSOPHY, stop wasting time on bullshit pseudo problems and acting like a bunch of medieval Christian scholastics counting angels on the head of a pin (particularly those in continental “philosophy” – but the Anglo-American analytic philosophers are also off on far too many ridiculous wild goose chases).
Some of the old philosophical categories essentially no longer exist except in a quaint historical or modern naturalized sense:
Metaphysics – Like the Chimera, there’s no such beast. Extremely subtle and complex theoretical meta-thinking in science, mathematics or analytic philosophy may produce results and puzzles that are amazing, wonderful, counter-intuitive, paradoxical, disturbing or seemingly incomprehensible – but these are not metaphysics. Sentimental longings for or speculations regarding the quasi-religious, non-material and anthropomorphic supernatural is, however, purely chimerical metaphysics.
Ethics – As Hume rightly noted, you cannot derive a foundational categorical imperative “ought” from an existential “is” – that leaves something like Jamesian utilitarian neo-pragmatism with some naturalized neo-Darwinian survival imperatives added in – i.e. simply believing and doing what it is pragmatically good and right and best to believe and do, for the greater good of the individual and society as a whole. Arbitrary ideology, theory and metaphysics only create unnecessary rigidity, dogmatism, strife and muddle.
Aesthetics – Now equates with evolutionary psychology and cognitive neuroscience.
Cosmology – Now equates with astrophysics.
Theology – Precisely.
Politics – Essentially conservative limited government and checks and balances as the Founding Fathers and Edmund Burke correctly recognized – until further notice, the only apparent remedy for greed and corrupt self-interest is, sadly, other people’s greed and corrupt self-interest – i.e. restrained constitutional democracy and socially conscious free market capitalism are the only way to go. Popper (The Open Society and Its Enemies), Hayek (The Road to Serfdom) and Friedman (Capitalism and Freedom) have the general right idea. Rawls and Keynes are generally wrong.
The interesting stuff where philosophy can still do something meaningful is in Philosophy of Mind and Philosophy of Science.
Regarding the former, the likes of neo-Darwinian philosopher Daniel Dennett, cognitive scientist Steven Pinker and the eliminative materialist neuro-philosophers Paul and Patricia Churchland are on the right track. Neo-dualists like Chalmers and mysterians like McGinn are off the mark.
Regarding the latter, an up-to-date philosophy of science in the spirit of Ernst Mach and Karl Popper is much needed – forget the overly speculative and agenda-driven stuff of Kuhn and Feyerabend.
Of course, as A. J. Ayer points out in Language, Truth and Logic (and Quine in Two Dogmas of Empiricism), a viable foundational analytic/synthetic theory of inductive reasoning and empirical science may not be necessarily useful, desirable or even possible.
A fairly comprehensive history of philosophy needs to be covered – the pre-Socratics, Plato, Aristotle, some of the medieval scholastics like Aquinas and Duns Scotus, Machiavelli, More, Erasmus, Montaigne, Francis Bacon, Spinoza, Descartes, Locke, Hobbes, Voltaire and the philosophes, Comte, Pascal, Burke, Hume, Kant, Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, Mill, James, Whitehead, Russell, Ryle, Ayer, Austin, Strawson, Santayana, Ortega y Gasset, Camus, Popper, Quine, Stove et al. can still make great and edifying reading – even some Rousseau, Nietzsche, Bergson, Sartre and Habermas if you must – but for pity’s sake go easy on the Hegel, Marx, Heidegger, etc. That’s cruel and unusual punishment.
As for Adorno, Marcuse, Foucault, Merleau-Ponty, Derrida, Deleuze & Co. – perhaps part of an elective course in very bad and unreadable obscurantist postmodern fiction (or 20th Century Bullshit on Steroids).
Bryan Magee, Roger Scruton, Robert C. Solomon, Simon Blackburn and Colin McGinn have each written some excellent brief surveys and histories of philosophy. The Oxford University Press “Very Short Introduction” series is generally quite good. Bertrand Russell’s The Problems of Philosophy and A. J. Ayer’s Language, Truth and Logic are excellent classics – as is William Barrett’s Irrational Man. Also highly recommended and more recent introductions, What Is Analytic Philosophy?, by Hans-Johann Glock and Theory and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science, by Peter Godfrey-Smith.
At each juncture there needs to be valid contemporary analytic critique. Nobody should walk away without some idea of where Locke, Rousseau, Kant or Nietzsche (not to mention the PoMo crowd) went wrong.
It also needs to be made clear in more advanced studies that the viable modern thread of analytic phil winds through the works of Francis Bacon, Descartes, Hume, Ryle, Strawson, Ayer, et al, as well as the often highly difficult, technical and math/logic oriented works of Mach, Carnap, Frege, Russel/Whitehead, Wittgenstein, Tarski, Peirce, Quine et al., and probably some of the “good” Rorty, i.e. the clear-headed analytic Rorty for good measure. Rorty’s conversational style, especially in Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, makes him almost as enjoyable to read as a good novel.
In HISTORY, stick to authentic teaching and research and dump the revisionist Marxist/PC theories and agendas. See The Killing of History: How Literary Critics and Social Theorists Are Murdering Our Past, by Keith Windschuttle.
Ditto ANTHROPOLOGY and SOCIOLOGY – and repeating from above – cease the deluded enterprise of trying to prove all human history, culture and civilization (not to mention reality itself) are somehow fundamentally mystical, matriarchal, black, gay and/or Marxist.
In ECONOMICS, again, dump the voodoo Marxist feel good global village world is flat economic theories – bring Adam Smith, Milton Friedman (Free to Choose, Capitalism and Freedom) and Friedrich Hayek (The Road to Serfdom, The Constitution of Liberty) up to speed with 21st century realities.
In PSYCHOLOGY, forget cultish Freudian Marxist Postmodern Lacanian theory – look at people in terms of what is actually empirically there – genetics, neo-Darwinian evolutionary psychology and cognitive neuroscience – brain physiology, bio-feedback, cognitive behavioral therapy and appropriate medications (though the efficacy of many if not most medications is trumped by simple good living habits – sleep, diet, exercise, positive social interactions, avoiding self-destructive behaviors, substance abuse, obesity, environmental toxins, etc.) – overall human physiology – along with some admittedly strong social influences, both good and bad.
The mind and the brain are one and the same. There is no Cartesian/Freudian ghost in the machine or any disembodied theoretical supernatural or “quantum” deus ex machina, so stop wasting time chasing after these fanciful, quixotic theoretical constructs.
Read Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate and Daniel Dennett’s Consciousness Explained and Darwin’s Dangerous Idea.
Below are some good books that tell the story of the rise of radical liberalism in academia and popular culture. At least some of these books would be required reading in any reasonably unbiased curriculum. Any academic with a PhD in anything meaningful should be at least conversant in this stuff.
If you think these might be “dangerous right-wing books,” consider the irony of a liberal academic being forbidden to read certain “banned books,” as if by the Spanish Inquisition or the Index Librorum Prohibitorum of the Roman Catholic Church.
Take the plunge. Expand your mind. If you disagree, at least you will have received an accurate message directly from the horse’s mouth – as opposed to biased second-hand reports from the liberal puppet masters.
And if you are at all intelligent and open minded, I’m betting you are likely to find yourself (perhaps shockingly) nodding your head in agreement, over and over and over again.
May we all live long and prosper together with the strong and revitalized (eventually free online?) academy of the 21st century (and, um, don’t forget to cut out all the bullshit).
First and foremost are these excellent and scathing critiques:
Theory’s Empire: An Anthology of Dissent, Daphne Patai and Wilfrido Corall eds. – wherein Noam Chomsky and dozens of other leading academics and intellectuals weigh-in against PoMo/PC.
Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science, by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont
Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and It’s Quarrels with Science, by Paul R. Gross and Norman Levitt
The Closing of the American Mind, by Alan Bloom
Tenured Radicals: How Politics Has Corrupted Our Higher Education, by Roger Kimball (Kimball is almost universally outstanding)
One-Party Classroom: How Radical Professor’s at America’s Top Colleges Indoctrinate Students and Undermine Our Democracy, by David Horowitz
The Killing of History: How Literary Critics and Social Theorists Are Murdering Our Past, by Keith Windschuttle
The Rape of the Masters: How Political Correctness Sabotages Art, by Roger Kimball
Experiments Against Reality: The Fate of Culture in the Postmodern Age, by Roger Kimball
Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, by renowned Harvard sociobiologist E. O. Wilson
The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature, by renowned Harvard cognitive scientist Steven Pinker
The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life, by Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray
The Modern Mind: An Intellectual History of the 20th Century, by Peter Watson
The Treason of the Intellectuals, by Julien Benda and Roger Kimball
The Road to Serfdom, by Friedrich Hayek
Beer and Circus: How Big-Time College Sports Is Crippling Undergraduate Education, by Murray Sperber
Hating Whitey and Other Progressive Causes, by David Horowitz
Climategate: A Veteran Meteorologist Exposes the Global Warming Scam, by Brian Sussman
Intellectual Morons: How Ideology Makes Smart People Fall for Stupid Ideas, by Daniel J. Flynn
Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media, by John Stossel
The True Believer, by Eric Hoffer
The Long March: How the Cultural Revolution of the 1960’s Changed America, by Roger Kimball
Hoodwinked: How Intellectual Hucksters Have Hijacked American Culture, by Jack Cashill
The Death of Right and Wrong: Exposing the Left’s Assault on our Culture and Values, by lesbian feminist and former director of the LA chapter of NOW, Tammy Bruce
Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning, by Jonah Goldberg
Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline, by Judge Robert H. Bork
The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization, by Patrick Buchanan
Also, virtually everything written by the British physician and social critic Theodore Dalrymple is outstanding:
Our Culture, What’s Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses
Not With a Bang but a Whimper: The Politics of Decline
Life at the Bottom: The Worldview that Makes the Underclass
In Praise of Prejudice: The Necessity of Preconceived Ideas