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Friday, July 2, 2010

Contribution From a Reader

Zoroxyz10 sent this and asked that it be posted. Bloggie thinks it might make an interesting read for a long weekend:



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.”

Bullshit.

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).

zoroxyz10… out.
xxxxxxxxxxx
Reading list:
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
See also:
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

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

As a scientist and engineer about to retire, I am hardly as articulate as the author of this essay; but more often than not, I find myself agreeing with him. Yet, I do not believe that the answer to the destruction of academia lies in the right wing polemics that he advises. I do believe, though, that we do need to return to fundamentals and start again as we have lost our way.

Anonymous said...

If the changes are bullshit, why can't you make the argument that the current structure trying to be saved is also bullshit?

Anonymous said...

Bravo! However, even "bullshit" or "horse shit" are more substantial than what they are handing out at UT. It's more like "chicken shit": ugly, slimy, insubstantial, and inconsequential.

Anonymous said...

Bloggie errs on the side of generosity and tolerance. Hooray for The First Amendment!

That said, the conservative ideologue Xeroxyz10 abuses this blog to peddle this time in elaborate fashion yet another of his boilerplate "culture wars" rants. His essay here could be reduced to:

"There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself." -- Patrick Buchanan

Xerox is not only a copycat Buchananite, but a Borkist to boot, and this explains why he weighs in consistently on this blog: He supports the Jacobs Administration in its attempt to "purge and merge" the main campus of liberal ideas and the liberal professors that reproduce them in A&S College classrooms.

Yes, Hooray for The First Amendment! (but note that Xerox doesn't mention First Amendment freedoms or the traditional role of state public higher education and a liberal arts education in securing these freedoms for future generations of Americans).

Xerox reproduces the lockstep paranoia of Rightest thugs. Ignore his blather. Save the A&S College at UT! Sign the A&S student-generated petition at once and ask your friends to do the same. Support their grassroots campaign against the threats of Jacobs-imposed top-down tyranny!

Anonymous said...

Wow. Glad you got it all figured out.

Seriously, thank you for this well thought out discussion, which clearly took a lot of time and touches on many important topics. Since I come from the right as well, I sympathize with much of your commentary. White collar managers, like our esteemed surgical President, basically maximize bullshit in order to look like they’re doing something. If they did nothing, the university would sail along pretty well and really, nobody would know the difference. So, no sympathy for administrivators.

At the same time, our colleagues have hijacked the curriculum into the deeper reaches of political correctness—more bullshit. My students’ awareness of American history seems to end at slavery; for Europe, it’s witches. A student asked me some questions about an essay she had to write on the evils of Walmart—for her English class! (“I was really looking forward to reading Mark Twain,” this native of the Middle East had said.) When I was an advisor I reviewed transcripts with courses like “Spiderman and Friends” on them, and I’m afraid Spiderman has all too many friends in our catalog. So, yes, plenty plenty of bullshit out there.

But, I must disagree with your breezy dismissal of metaphysics. Get the big things wrong, and you’ll get the small things wrong, and for sure you won’t be able to explain what Locke, Kant, Rousseau, and Nietzsche got wrong. (BTW, Locke, wrong? Really?) Your endorsement of E.O. Wilson weakens your case. After all, if we’re just big ants, why are we bothering with the liberal arts in the first place?

The reading list at the end of the post contains way too many recent, popular, specifically conservative screeds. This of course is why I read most of them with great pleasure. But they are not meant for undergraduate reading lists (Pat Buchanan? Gack!). For that, really, we need to go back to the Greeks and work our way forward. If we stopped short of the Enlightenment the students would be better off. My recommendation is to keep stuff newer than 50 years old off undergraduate reading lists. How else can you tell if it matters than to see if it stands the test of time? This would kill trendiness quicker than a giant magnet to suck all the metal out of our students’ faces.

The most disturbing recommendation is your endorsement of online courses. Online courses are the essence of bullshit. They are cheap (which is why administrators love them), give credit away for little work (or for others’ work, which is why students like them), and pay a little extra (which is why some of our colleagues are happy to prostitute themselves by “teaching” them.) Why this university has taken on the role of correspondence school is beyond me. No discussion, no spontaneity, no engagement. Owens can do this. We should not.

Curmudgeonly yours,

John Dickinson.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Glad you got it all figured out.

Seriously, thank you for this well thought out discussion, which clearly took a lot of time and touches on many important topics. Since I come from the right as well, I sympathize with much of your commentary. White collar managers, like our esteemed surgical President, basically maximize bullshit in order to look like they’re doing something. If they did nothing, the university would sail along pretty well and really, nobody would know the difference. So, no sympathy for administrivators.

At the same time, our colleagues have hijacked the curriculum into the deeper reaches of political correctness—more bullshit. My students’ awareness of American history seems to end at slavery; for Europe, it’s witches. A student asked me some questions about an essay she had to write on the evils of Walmart—for her English class! (“I was really looking forward to reading Mark Twain,” this native of the Middle East had said.) When I was an advisor I reviewed transcripts with courses like “Spiderman and Friends” on them, and I’m afraid Spiderman has all too many friends in our catalog. So, yes, plenty plenty of bullshit out there.

But, I must disagree with your breezy dismissal of metaphysics. Get the big things wrong, and you’ll get the small things wrong, and for sure you won’t be able to explain what Locke, Kant, Rousseau, and Nietzsche got wrong. (BTW, Locke, wrong? Really?) Your endorsement of E.O. Wilson weakens your case. After all, if we’re just big ants, why are we bothering with the liberal arts in the first place?

The reading list at the end of the post contains way too many recent, popular, specifically conservative screeds. This of course is why I read most of them with great pleasure. But they are not meant for undergraduate reading lists (Pat Buchanan? Gack!). For that, really, we need to go back to the Greeks and work our way forward. If we stopped short of the Enlightenment the students would be better off. My recommendation is to keep stuff newer than 50 years old off undergraduate reading lists. How else can you tell if it matters than to see if it stands the test of time? This would kill trendiness quicker than a giant magnet to suck all the metal out of our students’ faces.

The most disturbing recommendation is your endorsement of online courses. Online courses are the essence of bullshit. They are cheap (which is why administrators love them), give credit away for little work (or for others’ work, which is why students like them), and pay a little extra (which is why some of our colleagues are happy to prostitute themselves by “teaching” them.) Why this university has taken on the role of correspondence school is beyond me. No discussion, no spontaneity, no engagement. Owens can do this. We should not.

Curmudgeonly yours,

John Dickinson.

Anonymous said...

I agree with many of the items that are posted on this blog (I'm very glad we have it), and though I agree with a few of the things this poster said, I found his overall tone to be hectoring, reductive, and polemical in a manner that is as unreasonable and extreme as what we get from the Jacobs administration on the other side. Particularly galling is its wholesale dismissal of the humanities. Really?

Anonymous said...

I sympathize with a lot of this post, because I come at these questions from the right as well. Administrators bullshit because that's their job. If the 3rd floor of UH vanished in mid-semester, how many weeks would it take anyone to notice? So if you're an administrator, you need to do wacky things to justify your existence at all. It's like 1984 starring Dilbert instead of Vik as Winston Smith.

Our colleagues flick plenty of bullshit at our students. Multiculturalia, English classes writing on the evils of Walmart. A course on an advisee's transcript called "Spiderman and Friends." No bullshit shortage here either.

But the curt dismissal of metaphysics and praise for E.O. Wilson--well, if we're all just large versions of ants why do we need any kind of liberal arts?

And online courses--the essence of bullshit! Students can cheat at will, administrators don't have to pay those burdensome janitors, and our colleagues prostitute themselves to teach a few for the almighty dollah. Sorry, that way lies correspondence school.

I sympathize but remain depressed.

Anonymous said...

I think Zorox paints academia with the rather large and clumsy brush we keep hearing from the right. Full of cliches, stereotypes, and bromides that are probably way off the mark except for a few sixties hold outs. Anyway, it is pretty innacurate. Mostly, this post, and what is happening at UT and all over the country reminds me of the same struggle public schools have gone through after the same folks got through re-inventing them in their own image. Take heed, the greatest proponent of THAT movement is now trying with all her might to undo the damage that she and others like her have done: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/diane-ravitch/ravitch-to-obama-change-course.html

Anonymous said...

Bloggie,

I'm really sorry about the double post (and then the 3rd briefer post). Blogger told me the initial post was too large so I didn't think it would go through.

My apologies,

Yr humble and obd

John Dickinson.

zoroxyz10 said...

Many thanks to Bloggie for generously agreeing to post my On Bullshit essay and for providing an alternative venue for some real academic freedom. Thanks Bloggie.

And thanks to readers for their comments. Here are some brief responses.

Part 1

Don’t just dismiss things out of hand as “right wing bromides etc.” That’s the easy way out. Bork and Buchanan, for instance have been vigorously vilified by the left precisely because so much of what they say is such a devastatingly right-on critique of the left.

Liberals know that a high percentage of people who take the time to read these books will begin to see liberal bullshit for what it is and that’s the last thing they want – so they start right in with the name calling, labeling and demonizing (as I said in my main post – anti-intellectual bullshit tactics taken straight from the Nazi/Stalinist playbooks).

As often as not those who do the name-calling haven’t read the books they are vilifying. They just know who they’re supposed to hate because of superficial default labels or because Michael Moore or Keith Olbermann or their academic milieu have made it clear what good liberal team players are expected to think and do if they don’t want to be labeled as one of THEM.

But if somebody goes nuts at the very idea of you reading a book, doesn’t that make you just a little bit curious about why they’re so worried? If you are scared off by these ghost stories it’s your own fault for not checking things out yourself.

If you read my long and intricate On Bullshit post and then look at Anonymous July 3 12:39’s post, for instance, trying to reduce everything I said to a “Patrick Buchanan style culture war rant” it should be obvious how this demonizing ghost story process works to try to take your eye off the ball.

Here’s how you can get the gist of things in 15 minutes – go look up Buchanan’s Death of the West and Bork’s Slouching Towards Gomorrah at Amazon.com and read some of the 5 star customer reviews (the Amazon reviews themselves tend to be left-biased and not very reliable regarding conservative political books).

Then go read the books. I GUARANTEE you that what you find will NOT be what the scaremongers are telling you. I would bet even the people slamming Bork and Buchanan here on this blog would find themselves saying, “Wait a minute – if these guys are devils, how come everything they’re saying is so incredibly intelligent and true??”

Re July 6 11:44 – another common dismissal technique is “He’s arrogant” or “I don’t like her tone.” If Bill O’Reilly offered you the cure for cancer, would your response be, “Oh, I can’t accept that because he’s just too arrogant”?

Re my dismissal of metaphysics. This bothered several of you. Let me explain. If by metaphysics YOU mean religious faith – I do not consider it my job to try to dissuade you from your religious faith - though I personally generally agree with the likes of Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Bill Mahr et al. insofar as their scientific and philosophical views on religion.

Clearly religion can be extremely negative (radical Islam etc.) but I still think the full-on anti-religion stance of Dawkins & Co. and their refusal to accept the idea that religious faith can be a very positive and comforting social force for many people in the world is wrong-headed. I would follow William James’ lead here – believe what it is good for you to believe. Part 2 follows

Anonymous said...

Zeroxer. If anyone has been guilty of attempting to lead the readers of this blog astray and to "take their eyes off the ball" with off topic "long and intricate" (convoluted) posts, it is you, the self-appointed resident Rightest ideologue.

What interests us here is not what you read and recommend others to read, but what Jacobs and his clowns are reading (your list, no doubt) and how that reading list explains their asinine and destructive war (under the banner of "Do No Harm") against the UT A&S College.

Jacobs intends with a vengeance to render A&S College and its tenured professoriate extinct; to plow them under with salt. He will use the velvet glove, the iron fist, and all sorts of Sneaky Pete bow-tie tactics to wage and win this war.
He and his appointed and annointed satraps will do Great Harm to the academic reputation of this university then float away in their golden parachutes to greener pastures.

Save A&S College. Sign the petition. Thwart the Bad Guys.

zoroxyz10 said...

Re Anonymous July 8 6:54

As I said in my main post, because you guys have spent decades decimating the academy and the curriculum with liberal leftist Marxist-Feminist-Postmodern Politically Correct bullshit Theory and undermining science, western civilization and culture and the humanities and social sciences – the A&S College has arrived at its present state of catastrophe where choices are few, difficult and painful.

When the humanities and social sciences should have been working on making their disciplines solid they were instead out conducting relentless PoMo/PC barbarian raids across campus and throughout elite and popular culture.

People puzzle over why America has sunk so low in terms of science, engineering, technology and solid economic and industrial power and the Toledo Museum of Art and Toledo Symphony and the Toledo Ballet and the Toledo Jazz Society and Toledo Poet’s Society etc. wonder why there isn’t enough interest in and support for the arts – but the answer is clear – it’s because you guys have dumbed everything down into the gutter with your bullshit New Age mumbo jumbo and PoMo/PC courses in Spiderman and “Girls and Their Feelings” and Hip-Hop “Culture” and “Getting Even with Whitey” and “How to Make Even the Smartest Students Dumber Than a Rock with Education Theory.”

Now America and the academy are in a shambles and several generations of groupthink liberal young people don’t know much about anything at all except that they should despise and fear science and their own great country, culture and society and hate all those non-liberal “racists and fascists and sexists and bigots.”

Because of you and the entrenched leftist professoriate we have finally arrived at the point where only the sort of draconian methods of Jacobs & Co. can possibly do much good.

Jacobs’ worst error is turning over too much of the reform effort to some of your own meatheaded pseudo-academic colleagues with their bullshit Education College Marxist-Feminist-Postmodern org charts.

You are reaping the whirlwind of your own bullshit. How does it feel?

6:54 said...

Was that Part 2?

Anonymous said...

Zorox shows that although there are only a few who question the administration's bullshit, this nonetheless sticks in their craw that there are some they can't control or influence. It seems to really bother them, and probably for good reason.

zoroxyz10 said...

Zoroxyz Responses Part 2

Now, if by metaphysics you mean philosophical metaphysics – then I would direct you to A. J. Ayer’s Language, Truth and Logic. This is an excellent and very readable book for the professional philosopher and educated layman alike and there you will find a good explanation for why metaphysics is unnecessary.

I personally happen to be a scientific rationalist and materialist (which is not a very traditionally conservative thing to be). This is not a personal preference but simply a worldview determined by the facts. There’s always Kierkegaard’s “leap of faith,” but for me that would not be honest.

And incidentally I would not even consider myself necessarily a conservative – I don’t need a label – I just happen to find many things that conservatives say to be right on the money and many things liberals say to be total bullshit.

There is also a whole lot of common ground that wing-nuts prefer to overlook. I could find all sorts of conservative quotes that even hardcore liberals would accept as obvious – as long as the quotes were not attributed to conservatives.

I could also take all sorts of quotes from Obama or Noam Chomsky or Marx that I could label as quotes from Judge Bork and groupthink liberals would predictably go to work ripping them to shreds.

Re E. O. Wilson – in his Consilience he merely points to the fact that all knowledge is increasingly coalescing under a smaller and smaller overarching umbrella of scientific knowledge – and that at some point in the not too distant future this increasing synthesis of knowledge will likely reach a singularity. This is in fact happening. If you don’t like it for whatever reason – don’t blame Wilson for being the messenger.

Re what Locke, Kant, Nietzsche and Rousseau got wrong – Because of tremendous scientific advances in recent years all of these gentlemen have been proven wrong on at least some things, which is by no means necessarily an indictment of their intelligence given the times they lived in and the knowledge they had at their disposal.

Locke for instance was wrong in some of his notions regarding perception and in his notion of the human mind as a tabula rasa or blank slate – see Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature.

Kant’s analytic/synthetic distinction has been called into question by Quine et al. According to Kant’s own analysis – a failure to prove the possibility of synthetic a priori propositions would make metaphysics impossible. Although Kant and others believed he had succeeded in demonstrating the possibility of the synthetic a priori in his Critique of Pure Reason, it is now pretty clear he did not. See A. J. Ayer et al. again.

Rousseau and Nietzsche are more difficult to pin down since they are much more literary and broad ranging and not system builders whose ideas are more grounded in formal logic or analysis – so it is a bit like trying to show where James Joyce went “wrong” in Ulysses or trying to discuss the interpretation of Bible verses. So, before you can really criticize them you need to know whose version of what they supposedly said you are criticizing.

Almost anybody can find some way to agree or disagree with almost anything Nietzsche says or supposedly says. The most dangerous philosophers and ideologues are by definition those who can be all things to all people.

Robespierre adopted Rousseau’s ideas in his prosecution of the horrors of the Jacobin Reign of Terror and Burke accordingly laid much of the blame for the atrocities at Rousseau’s feet. Liberals, postmodernists and hippies picked up on Rousseau and all did great jobs proving him wrong in real terms.

Voltaire and the Philosophes criticized Rousseau for his Noble Savage idea among other things. Voltaire wrote Rousseau a letter saying that although he found Rousseau’s critique of civilized society amusing he would demur from Rousseau’s recommendation that civilized people should regress to a savage state and “crawl around on all fours.”

zoroxyz10 said...

Zoroxyz Responses Part 3

Re the humanities – I do not by any means dismiss the humanities – I dismiss the postmodernist dismissal of the humanities and their sellout of great literature in favor of deconstructionist theory and their incursions into science and other areas where they have no business with their bullshit theory.

Re Anonymous July 6 5:15 – Diane Ravitch is right on in most of her critiques of liberal education and I highly recommend her books. It is not surprising that both Bush and Obama have mucked things up with education and Ravitch is smart enough to recognize education is far more important than a partisan us/them thing.

Part of the whole problem is that the politics and funding and administration of the whole megasystem is completely dysfunctional - so as to be literally beyond repair. Education needs a completely new private sector solution.

And I agree teachers cannot be expected to fix the socially damaged students who are the product of degenerate liberal social values and politics. But we need to try to fix the catastrophe somehow. It needs to begin by returning to traditional social values so that kids arrive at school ready to learn rather than already damaged beyond repair.

The black community was, incidentally, originally on the right track to full integration with mainstream white society. 19th and early 20th century black intellectuals and community leaders like W. E. B. Du Bois were HIGHLY intelligent, civilized, well-mannered and well educated and wanted the rank and file black community to follow their lead. Du Bois and others like him would be as appalled as Thomas Sowell or anyone else by contemporary liberal degeneracy.

Du Bois recognized that all people are not alike and all black people are not alike and he thus promoted his idea of the Talented Tenth – i.e. the idea that the top ten percent of the black community’s best and brightest needed to take responsibility for getting themselves educated and then leading the black community into full integration and equality with white society.

There was doubtless racism etc. but the black community was on the right track with their strong intellectual and social and family values before they were radicalized by 60’s black and white liberals. We all know the very, very sad story of the ensuing social catastrophe from which the black community is still reeling - but they are now beginning to steadily recover by setting aside liberal bullshit and racial resentment and just keeping their eyes on the prize.

Re online education. I happen to have done extensive research into online education. Yes there is a lot of online education bullshit – but the simple fact is that, done right, online education can do everything traditional classroom education can do and a whole lot more -- better, faster and cheaper.

Online education also produces greater versatility and better outcomes and higher student and teacher satisfaction. There’s a lot of anti-online education hype out there because it threatens those who have held a monopoly on education and academia. But ultimately it will be a very good thing for all stakeholders.

Here’s a possible education solution. Have Bill Gates and Oprah and Warren Buffet et al. fund a free national online education portal – have Bill Gates donate cheap laptops for all students (with appropriate filters that only allow access through the education portal) and create a national system of online access centers. Then have the best scholars in the world upload their lectures and materials to the portal. Then set up a system for local mentors and teachers to get together with students to access the portal and interact with and learn the world class content. Then test and certify.

totalmotion said...

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M agree..I do believe, though, that we do need to return to fundamentals and start again as we have lost our way.