H/T to George Orwell.
JPM’s comment on yesterday’s post was on my mind today, so of course I found many related essays and other bits in today’s reading.
First off, there are these two directly related items from Tech Central Station (Uriah Kriegel) and Asymmetrical Information (Jane Galt).
Ladies first. Affirmative action and the academic labour market:
…the thought that the academic job market, as described here, is very close to what most academics think labour markets are like outside the economy: a sharply binary process in which there are clearly delineated winners or losers, the outcomes are somewhat arbitrary, and a very slight run of bad luck can land you in a place from which there is literally no hope of escaping. This might go a long way towards explaining academic leftism, in two ways: first, going through the academic job market might make you more left-wing; and second of all, people who think that the entire world works this way might be more predisposed to pursue jobs in academia.
Mr. Kriegel writes, in Autumn of the Humanities:
…Our universities have a double function, involving not only research, but also teaching. The correlate of the above trends on the teaching side of academic function has been the transformation of our universities from institutions of education to institutions of certification. Few students in a regular humanities class are motivated by curiosity and the desire to learn and understand. It’s hard to blame them: they lack role models who do. In the absence of such motivation, the only rationalization they can make of their need to sit in classrooms for four years is the prize at the end of the road: the practical dividends of holding a BA, preferably from a top university.
Lawrence Summers, Harvard’s outgoing president, understood all that. He understood that the advancement of knowledge across the humanities has been systematically sacrificed on the altar of what is essentially a political agenda, as have been the traditional incentives of wonder at the world, fascination with its inner working, and the determination to understand them all.
I recommend reading the whole things.
The general theme of the musing JPM’s comment inspired is to do with the utter strangeness of academic culture, and the above two links certainly address that.
On the same point, there is this huge quantity of anecdotal evidence. I mean, there’s enough of it to convict. I ran through Harvard’s firing (effectively by the Humanities faculty) of Larry Summers, the Taliban ambassador now attending Yale – where they want to refuse miltary recruiters access to campus and keep ROTC shut down – a protest at Oregon State University wondering how a campus newspaper is allowed to publish an OpEd Muslims don’t like and the Capitalist Piglet controversy at the University of Saskatchewan. Not to mention Ward Churchill, Noam Chomsky and Juan Cole.
My wonder at this leaked over into another free speech question. I’ll get to that last.
The wonder is that any student at any publicly funded University in North America can even gain a minimum ability for critical thinking in exchange for $20-$40K per annum. If they do so, they would have done so anyway, and at far less expense while facing less active obstruction.
While the University of Saskatchwan is apparently considering shutting down their undergrad newspaper because of a poorly drawn and humorless cartoon of Jesus fellating a pig, we simultaneously have protests at Oregon State University wondering how an ill word can be published about Muslims staging worldwide riots over cartoons of Muhammed.
On Thursday, about a dozen students — including members of Muslim and Arab student groups — held a vigil on the campus to protest both Blake’s piece and the Danish cartoons.
They handed out flyers that stated “While staying loyal to the main values of freedom of expression that founded this country, we also feel the need to reflect on the values of tolerance and acceptance on this campus.”
Among the students offended by the column was Nada Mohamed, a 20-year-old junior and the vice president of OSU’s Muslim Student Association.
“It was amazing to me that they (the campus newspaper) were allowed to publish this kind of stuff,” she told the Corvallis Gazette-Times.
“Main values of freedom of expression”?? “Allowed to publish”?? Why doesn’t she know the definition of the words irony or parody? Why doesn’t she wonder why Iranian newspapers are allowed to have a contest soliciting the best Holocaust denial cartoons, before worrying about her campus newspaperette? Iran is a hostile environment. As is Yemen.
Finally, on another frontier of free speech we have this.
Placing this problem on the spectrum of free expression concerns is left to the student. How would Nada Mohamed react? Suggest a solution for Stacey Kelley and Westchase. Defend your answers.