Monday, November 28, 2022

Elite Institutions

Hollis Robbins, a Newhampshirewoman* who is an academic of a type I ordinarily regard with some suspicion, nonetheless made some remarkably good points in her interview with Tyler Cowan. In particular, she notes that the criticisms of colleges from places like Inside Higher Ed and Minding the Campus focus on the problems in the elite institutions like Yale or Stanford or Antioch. It seems reasonable at first, as these are the colleges of the rich, the powerful, and influential, and their impact in the future will be disproportionate. Yet she feels this is overstated, and noted that because of their prestige, they have a greater need to virtue signal. She has taught at several places and is currently at Sonoma State.

Unrelatedly, she insists to others studying and teaching African-American literature that they cannot understand the early African American writers if they do not understand the texts the older writers grew up on and were writing in response to - and that this is largely the Western Canon. In the 1840s the educated black man who was attempting to write down his ideas and arguments had grown up on Shakespeare and the Authorised Version of the Bible, and avidly read newer writers such as Dickens. They cannot be understood without knowing those works as well.

*From what I can figure out, it looks like Madison, NH, near where we camped when the boys were young.

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