The sickness in our universities

This has been talked about, and written about for several years by various academics who value higher education for its purpose of passing on to the next generation the essences of our culture, and the gems of our civilization. I could put a list of names here, but I won’t. I was inspired to write this post from an interview Dinesh D’Souza had with Mark Bauerlein on his latest book, “The Dumbest Generation Grows Up: Woke, Entitled, and Drunk with Power”: (go to 22:12 on the video timeline).

Contrary to how I’m leading into this, my purpose is not to condemn a whole generation of people. What interested me in the interview is Bauerlein described what it’s been like inside his academic milieu, which I’m sure many other academics will find familiar. What he described is a culture of cowardice that’s a pushover for a small number of faculty and students who bully the rest of the faculty into compliance with their social orthodoxy.

What I’ve seen over the years is how this dysfunctional, anti-academic culture has spread. It started in the Ivy League schools, and is now commonplace in many academic institutions across the West.

Something that Heather Mac Donald has encountered when she’s tried to warn academics of this spreading culture is there are some institutions it hasn’t touched. The academics in these places are blithely unaware that it even exists, and seem doubtful that they will be affected by it. What she’s pointed out is this attitude is misguided and dangerous, because this was a common attitude in the institutions where it spread, and took over. No one suspected the existence of this corrosive culture, nor its potential to so devastatingly impact the functioning of a university. I do not speak of its financial health, though that is a potential problem from this. What I’m talking about is its ability to educate students, not just handing out diplomas for a large fee.

What also interested me about the interview with Bauerlein is he talked a bit about the history of “how we got here.” It’s one part guilt for our society’s past sins, and one part lack of confidence in the validity of truth and principle. He spoke about how academics “don’t want to be judgmental,” and don’t want to believe in anything “too much.” It reminded me a lot of a complaint from Professor Allan Bloom in his book, “The Closing of the American Mind, where he wrote in the 1980s that his students thought it bizarre and a bit dangerous to be committed to principles, and to the belief in the existence of an objective truth. He said their attitude was like if they asked you if you believed in witches (as in really believing they have supernatural powers). To them, all truth was relative. Bauerlein spoke to this, saying that when this is the operative assumption, as it is in many academic institutions, then the only thing left is pursuit of power, and all social interactions become about power moves, and social status; taking institutional power for oneself, and one’s allies, and maintaining it. When that’s all anyone cares about, the mission of education is sacrificed in favor of producing ideological missionaries.

Related articles:

The result of capitalizing on peak envy

Our political pathology and its consequences

Trying to arrive at clarity on the state of higher education

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s