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Elsewhere (112)

Jeff Goldstein and Mark Bucher on California’s unsustainable public sector: 

Instead of relying on the assertions of union officials about how underpaid government employees might be, citizens can see what these employees are actually making. In thousands of cases, the information is shocking. Consider Redwood City, where three fire captains and one firefighter made between $434,274 and $452,733 in total compensation in 2012. One police officer made $463,690 in total compensation. In all, nine employees made over $400,000 in total compensation with a total of 33, mostly police and fire department employees, making over $300,000 in total compensation in 2012. Those are staggering sums anywhere, but in a city with a population of just 79,009, they’re a recipe for fiscal disaster.

And Peter Wood on Sandra Korn and the inversion of meaning: 

On Monday, February 17, Ms Korn, a Harvard senior, published an essay in the Harvard Crimson, titled The Doctrine of Academic Freedom, with the explosive sub-head, “Let’s give up on academic freedom in favour of justice.” Korn’s argument is simply summarised: The freedom of faculty members to pursue research and to teach has some value, but these activities always and everywhere reflect political considerations. A university community rightly has its own political values and when a faculty member violates them, he should be silenced. “Academic justice” is more important than academic freedom.[…]

Academic freedom, as the idea developed historically, recognised the need to insulate scholars from the politically-minded outsiders who saw scholarship as threatening. Today, members of the professoriate are often politically-minded and the doctrine of “academic freedom” is often inverted in an attempt to insulate them from genuine scholarly standards… To put it concisely: academic freedom once meant protection from politics; now it means protection for politics.

The kind of politics being protected scarcely needs pointing out. Ms Korn, the student who objects to academic freedom (for others, that is), lists her interests as “socialism, being angry about gender” and “occupying things.” She also tells us that “dissent is the highest form of patriotism.” Though again, that’s her dissent, not yours. And so she asks the question, “Why should we put up with research that counters our goals?” You see, finding things out must be entirely subordinate to certain, rather fashionable political assumptions. Which is to say, her assumptions. It’s exactly the quality one hopes for in a modern intellectual.


In the comments, Darleen points us to Bruce Bawer’s thorough parsing of Ms Korn’s background, activities and cartoonish opinions. It’s well worth reading in full. He notes that despite Harvard’s prestige (and annual tuition of around $60,000), Ms Korn seems full of boilerplate and air, rather than knowledge or curiosity: “There’s no sign that she’s been educated at all, in any sense of the term – no sign that she’s learned anything of significance about, say, history or economics... No sign that she grasps the concept of challenging one’s own assumptions by taking in unfamiliar facts and grappling with ideas different from one’s own.” But although barely educated in any meaningful sense, her narcissism and arrogance have been harnessed and put to use, of a kind. Ms Korn seems quite sure of her own intellectual destiny as a corrector of others, a fearless challenger of WrongThought™. Like so many of her peers, she has been thoroughly processedShe’ll no doubt fit in nicely, as all conformists should. 

As usual, feel free to share your own links and snippets in the comments.