David Thompson
Subscribe

Categories

Blog powered by Typepad

« Spin | Main | Soap »

September 17, 2007

Comments

Trimegistus

The universities are going to have to get a lot worse before they get better. A college diploma is such a Magic Ticket To Success that even if you don't learn anything it's worth going to school for four years just so you earn more afterwards. It'll take a complete collapse of higher education before that will cease to be true.

HOWEVER, one might see some colleges starting to prune their humanities departments and let retirement and/or institutionalization take care of the worst offenders. This is a risky game, because one thing humanities profs are VERY good at is writing indignant letters to Chronicle of Higher Education about how cuts to humanities department budgets threaten the foundations of our civilization.

Vitruvius

I think it is important when considering the Duke/Durham/Nifong malicious prosecution case to keep in mind that there were a number of related systems failures in play. Remember, a disaster is a bunch of particular problems that occur in just the right order.

In the matter at hand, first, there are the basic "guilty beyond a reasonable doubt" due-process methodological issues, regarding such things as statements, line-ups, and DNA tests, that were so egregiously violated in this case. I see where the feds are now investigating, so there may be some progress on this front.

Second, there is the matter of state-based prosecutorial misconduct intermixed with electoral considerations. The narrower failure of prosecutorial misconduct is now being addressed. The broader issue involves questions such as whether or not state attorneys should be elected in the first place, which is a separate complicated issued that is beyond the scope of this comment, but which goes to the heart of the axiology of democracy.

Third, there is the argumentum ad misericordium industry, also known as the ambulance chasers, race baiters, and professional victims. These people are a perennial problem; snake-oil is just another kind of fraud. They are never going to go away, we're stuck with dealing with them each by every.

Fourth, there is the matter of the marxist Gang of 88 ± Δ and related enablers. These people are part of the third problem, but due to their direct association with the institutions involved in the matter at hand, and the legacy of their failed utopian dreams, they have a unique degree of culpability.

Fifth, there is the matter of the degree of complicity by some organs of the media, regarding their perpetrating selective coverage of the issues at hand, which fortunately, if nothing else, is starting to seriously damage their brand value.

When discussing the relationship between these failure modes and our model of good, I think it is important to keep in mind the scope of the combined failures. If only one or two of these failures had happened, then for better or worse, the whole matter probably wouldn't have risen above the signal to noise ratio. Yet as it stands, this is, indeed, a classic failure. These are the failure modes we need to study if there is any hope for us to learn from our mistakes.

The problems with modern western universities, in particular, are due to the crazy notion some people have had, over the last few decades, that since university graduates traditionally tended to be more productive and successful, everyone should be a university graduate.

This has had two negative effects. Firstly, the intellectual quality of the average student has gone down. It is now the case that a BA is worth no more than a high-school diploma once was. When I did my masters it was considered optional and maybe even a bit indulgent for an engineer. Now, when hiring engineers, we are much more likely to consider a masters to be a significant advantage.

Secondly, we couldn't just throw the new portion of less intelligent students into the parts of the university that actually work, like science, medicine and engineering, because they aren't smart enough. It's all well and good to educate the kids to the best of their ability, but having incompetent doctors and falling bridges is much less than optimal.

Even the departments of English and sociology were overflowing, so we created new departments in fields like race, class, and gender "studies" to house the under-performing. Since these departments are full of, relatively speaking, losers, they have become as we now know them: the angry studies departments.

The solutions to the problems of modern western universities are three-fold. First, the professional parts of the university like medicine and engineering should be split off into independent technical schools. Second, the majority of the remaining students who are ostensibly there for "job studies" should be moved from large monolithic universities into smaller community training colleges. Third, the remaining spaces for what is traditionally known as a renaissance education, as least as paid for by the taxpayer, should be strictly limited to the best and brightest classic academics in society.

Until we see to it that the faux-studies departments that are the source of all the loser anger and Marxist rage on campus are denigrated to the point that they become ex-departments, we will not be receiving the value from our universities that we should.

David

Vitruvius,

“Even the departments of English and sociology were overflowing, so we created new departments in fields like race, class, and gender ‘studies’ to house the under-performing.”

[ Wipes tear from eye. Wipes coffee from chin. ]

“…race baiters and professional victims.”

With that in mind, I did marvel at Lubiano’s readiness to assume the lacrosse team’s guilt - “regardless of the ‘truth’” – apparently on grounds that the players were “exemplars of the upper end of the class hierarchy, the politically dominant race and ethnicity, the dominant gender, the dominant sexuality, and the dominant social group on campus.” Lubiano’s eagerness to denounce so many categories of humankind in one breath is, clearly, a sign of her righteousness.

I also had to marvel at the claim that she – a tenured and statusful professor at an elite PC university - is “victimised” and “at the mercy of racist, sexist, heterosexist, and global capitalist constructions of the meaning of skin colour on a daily basis.” Likewise the claim that she is “physically traumatized and psychologically assaulted… in the dark of a power that never admits to its own existence.” Poor lamb.

If you peruse Lubiano’s “work”, it gets even more fantastical and incoherent. We are, naturally, treated to reams of gratuitous jargon, which – once decoded – reveal little more than a series of wild and unsupported assertions. However, in one of her more lucid moments Lubiano says, confidently: “Once white working class people learn that corporate capitalism is using racism to manipulate them, they will want to join with racially oppressed people against capitalism.” It’s all very outraged and self-righteous in tone, which seems a tad inappropriate given Lubiano’s own repeated deceptions and her wilful disregard for evidence and due process.

TDK

"Secondly, we couldn't just throw the new portion of less intelligent students into the parts of the university that actually work, like science, medicine and engineering, because they aren't smart enough. It's all well and good to educate the kids to the best of their ability, but having incompetent doctors and falling bridges is much less than optimal."

I'm not sure I agree with this. Firstly, while it is true that many of the best still do go into more demanding degrees, clearly a large number do not. It's many years since C P Snow identified the two cultures. It's also clear that in Britain at least, there is a cultural disdain for sciences which dates back to at least the Victorian era. In the past that was mitigated by the fact that the alternative was Classics; today the alternative is cultural Marxism. Yet clearly a lot of very intelligent people take that route to politics, journalism, law, the civil service et al.

I note in particular that in medicine we are not producing sufficient doctors. I suggest that we do have a big enough pool of potentially able candidates but they do not apply for whatever reason.

"Even the departments of English and sociology were overflowing, so we created new departments in fields like race, class, and gender "studies" to house the under-performing. Since these departments are full of, relatively speaking, losers, they have become as we now know them: the angry studies departments."

I'm not sure "overflowing" is the primary reason. A generic English Literature department (to pick one) is clearly designed to study all English Literature, dead white males included. Black and women's studies are different for several reasons. If women authors were unfairly excluded in the past then clearly a more enlightened English Literature department would obviously now include them. There would be a one off change, and then everything would trundle along as before. If instead a separate department were created it would be a permanent revolution. Such a department can propagandise about the ill treatment of women in society. While such a department exists, it is proof that women still need help. That many of the female authors championed by such groups are derided as 2nd rate by outsiders is proof of ongoing sexism. It's clear that in creating the discipline certain assumptions are taken for granted. You can't imagine Ayn Rand teaching or her works being celebrated in such a department.

I don't think such a change is limited to the arts. We have recently seen the growth of Peace Studies, which is clearly an agenda laden curriculum. Following that we now see Environmental Studies. This is marketed as an attempt to make science more relevant and the effort commences at secondary schools. In this case the advocacy is towards Green politics, but again certain conclusions are forbidden. In my view it has much in common with Creation science in that the conclusions are pre-determined and evidence then sought to back up the claims.

The word "relevant" is often bandied about in education as a cure for declining interest. It seems to me from both my children's education and the young people I have to work with that relevancy frequently means reducing the content of the subject and substituting advocacy instead.

http://www.civitas.org.uk/press/prcsCorruption.php

georges

Hi everyone.

Can I just take you up on the phrase "Cultural Marxism"? A lot of the PoMo ideas you think of as "Marxist" would have horrified Marx. I'm not thereby saying that Marx and his ideas are wonderful, just that they are quite opposite to PoMo ideas. For one thing, Marx's stance is anti-Green. In the Communist Manifesto, for instance, he refers to "the idiocy of rural life". Marx sees history as humanity's struggle for mastery over nature, and he's definitely on the side of the humans, not Gaia. He is, in Green terms, an "enemy of the earth". Marx believes in Progress with a capital P, and that's very un-PoMo. The writer Francis Wheen, for instance, is a fan of Marx, and an opponent of PoMo.

I agree wholeheartedly that replacing science teaching with moral arguments about Green politics is wrong. Green ideas are particularly in need of challenge. They tend to get a free pass most of the time. Only the old LM crowd at "Spiked" attempt any kind of systematic refutation of Green ideology.

David

Georges,

I guess you’ll have to ask TDK. For what it’s worth, I’d assumed the term “cultural Marxism” was being used, very loosely, to acknowledge the general premise and tenor of certain subjects, defined in part by rumblings about hierarchy, alienation and oppression (often of a doubtful or imaginary kind - see Ms Lubiano, above).

TDK

When I used the phrase "Cultural Marxism" above I was contrasting it with a classical education. David's summation is correct.

I would agree with your point about what constitutes Marxism. Clearly left politics encompasses several positions today that it did not 150 years ago. Marx thought he was basing his thought upon Science and that places him firmly in the rationalist tradition. (see Steven Hicks). Nevertheless, despite the efforts of those like Francis Wheen, it is clear that PoMo is a current of those who self describe as Marxist.

Nevertheless it is well to remember that his opposition to "ruralism" is informed by a 19th century argument between lefists who desired a return to a supposed rural Arcadia and those that wanted to retain industrialisation but not the system of ownership. That is to say, the Green-left has a long history. Indeed many on the Green left refute your entire thesis and claim Marx as a Green. See Wikipedia for example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eco-socialism

georges

TDK

Thanks for that link on "Eco-socialism". I don't buy the "Marx was a Green" argument. It displays a religious attitude, of those who are mentally unfree. They aren't able to say "no, Marx wasn't a Green, and there we disagree with him". So what he said has to pass through a 180 degree rotation of interpretation, to conform to current pieties.

William Morris makes more sense as a Green Leftist.

AntiCitizenOne

I'd say that Marx's theories had been pretty conclusively proved false.

Franklin

Vitruvius, QFT.

http://artblog.net/?name=2007-09-18-13-15-intelligence

EBD

If the players hadn't been charged -- and proclaimed guilty -- by Nifong in the first place, the long march of the Group of 88 would have been hobbled, and in terms of the media libel considerations alone would have cut the media's speechifying short. By the time North Carolina's Attorney General made clear a year later -- too late to un-smear the students or the university of the city of Durham -- that the charges were being dropped not because of a lack of evidence, but rather because the students were innocent of the charges, the Group of 88's tactical victories stemmed from the initial decision to prosecute. Their effective silencing of their academic colleagues during that year was not based on the soundness of their arguments but on the -- somewhat understandable -- reluctance of other professors to publicly defend "rich" white students who had, after all, been indicted on charges of gang-raping a poor negro woman.

In effect, the Gang of 88 took the ball from Nifong and then ran roughshod over any defense. Here's an instructive email sent by Professor Houston A. Baker, Jr., -- the George D. and Susan Fox Beischer Professor of English at Duke -- to the mother of a member of the lacrosse team who had not been charged asked Baker if he would, in light of the charges being dropped, reconsider his public letter of support to campus activists who put up "wanted" posters of the "rapist" lacrosse players:

"LIES you a just a provacateur (sic) on a happy New Years (sic) eve trying to get credit for a scummy bunch of white males!...

I really hope whoever sent this stupid farce of an email rots in...umhappy (sic) new year to you...and forgive me if your (sic) really are, quite sadly, mother of a 'farm animal.'"

BTW, Baker once wrote that choosing between Jacqueline Susann and William Shakespeare is "no different from choosing between a hoagy and a pizza", and that "I am one whose career is dedicated to the day when we have a disappearance of those standards.")

David

EBD,

It’s hard not to marvel at how Lubiano and her academic lynch mob were so eager to portray *themselves* as the “victims” of the saga, heroically resisting “institutional racism” and a “campaign of intimidation.” The perversity of this claim is hard to express, as is the self-preoccupation of her many fanciful statements. But then Lubiano seems to view “being black” as some kind of profession.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blogroll