Tuesday, September 27, 2022


Because so many of the podcasts, websites, and substacks I pay attention to are by academics or ex-academics, I get a lot of information about what is happening in colleges and the ways in which some views are excluded or shouted down. I could read new examples every day, and it does seem that the more prestigious institutions are among the worst. I have some commenters here who are or were in the academy as well.

It is all presented with the worry that free thought itself may be at stake, because colleges have been the places set aside for odd theories, contrary opinions, and multiple points of view.  If the academy falls, what will replace it for inquiry?

Yet I believe it largely fell decades ago, and what is going on now are the mopping-up exercises, rooting out the last opponents for removal. There was a set of narratives about how America and history and government worked, and a generation rose up determined to fight against them.  Yet by the 60s they were already not unanimous.  It is a standard marxist formulation to frame everything as for us or against us, and it is an effective manipulative tool.  Well surely you don't want to go back to the days when people believed that everything America or Western Civilisation was good, do you?  Well then, you have to go along with our teaching the opposite, unhindered.  I'm trying to remember when that was, exactly, that colleges taught that America was always right.

I find I no longer read much about the latest horrors at San Jose State or Bryn Mawr.  I get why Glenn Loury and John McWhorter care, or Razib Khan or Steve Hsu.  And for those who found their college experience valuable (I did mostly because it was quite cheap, and I met some good people there), I see why they are distressed that good things are going away. Yet I have largely just written college off.  If you are going into engineering or nursing they will throw some extra ridiculous distractions at you, but you are at least learning something useful. For many other topics, the schools are doing more damage than good, largely because of cost and indoctrination, and I don't think it gets better until the system is abandoned. The sciences should save themselves by going to the Polytechnical School model that has lost some favor.


Eric said...

I agree. I've read countless articles arguing about the "death of the humanities", and every time, I think, "Dude, the humanities died back in the 80s. There hasn't been a program like you describe for *decades*."

Where would one go to create a rebirth of the humanities? Certainly not in any existing university.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Some conservative Catholic or evangelical colleges likely do well enough. But it's a rearguard action.

james said...

What things are needed for a humanities course of study?

Information is readily available--books and books and more books online or for not much money, and plenty of videos to explain--but something's missing.

I think it's the interaction. You need to bounce questions off people, ask the expert something that isn't in the video, be given a challenge suited to your skill (that needs someone who knows you well enough and knows the field even better), and when there's no mathematically right answer, to understand the different answers. (E.g. "What is freedom" or "What's the right way to compose a tribal lay")

So what do we need to make reboot humanities? How much interaction do you need for an understanding of French literature, vs how much you need for dance? "Class" size will matter.
Zoom isn't ideal for discussions--each participant has a different latency, and when a quarter of a second matters it's hard to be sure when there's an opening to speak.

If we concentrate on a select few fields, and don't try to be a universe-ity it might be possible to put together a competent program. Churches might be incubators

Thomas Doubting said...

There are also a few secular colleges and universities, like Hillsdale, and the new U. of Austin.

I think it's important to keep the humanities alive, but maybe for most people that will be outside the university. I like the direction of james's thought.