Wednesday, 3 March 2021

The next pox-in-the-making

Mercatornet has a gloomy piece by Robert Weissberg on the toxic ideas corrupting today’s universities.

The toxic ideas that have corrupted today’s universities all began as tiny, obscure musings before escaping from the laboratories. They may have started with an unpublished paper or two, a request for modest institutional funding, or an informal discussion group. Eventually, they earn a panel at a regional disciplinary convention and an experimental course. In a few years, the “little idea” has metastasized into a full-blown intellectual plague.

Particularly disturbing is that the intellectual soundness of this “little idea” has no relationship to its burgeoning appeal—the opposite may be true: the wackier it is, the more alluring for career-minded academics chasing “the next big thing.” How else can one explain critical race theory, academic-style feminism, the deconstruction mania, and, alas, much more?

Intellectual sanity requires monitoring the first signs of destructive idiocy, just as the CDC tracks the early signs of an epidemic. Only then can the infant nonsense be strangled in the cradle. Imagine the intellectual mischief we could have avoided if critical race theory died an early, peaceful, obscure death.

That said, here’s the next big evil: “hate studies.”...

I recently encountered this pox-in-the-making in my Bard College alumnae magazine (the Bardian, Fall 2020), which almost incidentally mentioned the Bard Center for the Study of Hate. “Hate” has long been a professional interest of mine, so I looked a little deeper. Lo and behold, Bard’s war on “hate” is a nascent industry that already has a website, webinars, a journal, courses with reading lists, and academic specialists. Rest assured that savvy professors are soliciting naive foundations to combat this alleged evil currently bedeviling America.

As Prof Weissberg says in the article, this is just another academic racket. To my mind we could close a large percentage of university departments both in the US and here in the UK and see a net gain in academic quality.


Sam Vega said...

Agreed. Shut them down. I think the real damage is done, though, when grown-ups outside of the academic sandbox start taking such nonsense seriously. Companies are wary of alienating future consumers, and government agencies don't want to upset the minorities they depend on for votes and taxes. If a few brave people said that certain ideas have no currency in the workplace and are useless in wider society, students would get the message that there is no point in learning convoluted jargon if it doesn't pay in some way. And the workforce would not need to feel they are walking on eggshells, and would increase productivity.

DiscoveredJoys said...

I doubt that anything can be done deliberately (other than laughter and scorn) for the outbreak of such enthusiasms is caused by too many 'elites' chasing too few 'elite jobs' - so they make up 'false jobs' to secure their elite status and self-regard.

If history is anything to go by there will be a 'correction' at some point, although it won't be pretty.


djc said...

The time is ripe for The Dissolution of the Universities.

James Higham said...

Time for a single malt and some inebriation methinks.

A K Haart said...

Sam - I'm sure you are right - the real damage is done. It is a form of corruption in that merit has been sidelined and once that happens the corruption can run too deep to be corrected. It becomes the norm.

DJ - yes there will be a 'correction' at some point and it won't be pretty, although what form it could take is not easy to see. Repression seems to be one ingredient though.

djc - it is although I'm not sure how much plunder there is. Lots of books written by loons don't have much appeal.

James - coffee and a biscuit will do for now :)