A Memo to College and University Students

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MEMO

To: College and University Students
From: Someone who Does not Know Everything, but Knows Some Things
Re: Happiness and Success

You are not guaranteed happiness.
You are not guaranteed emotional satisfaction.
You are not guaranteed success.
You are not guaranteed to have any career you want; you must have the talent, skill, and hard work needed to succeed in that field.
You are not guaranteed a passing grade or any other grade in a class other than what you earn.
You are not guaranteed freedom from criticism of your views in class or in any other context.
You are not guaranteed that all your choices are good.
You are not guaranteed wealth.
You are not guaranteed “safe zones” in the real world.
You are not guaranteed that elections turn out the way you feel they should.
You are not guaranteed that everyone else agree with your opinions.
You are not guaranteed to know everything–or anything in particular.
You are not guaranteed protection from sickness, injury, death, loss of loved ones, or any of the other bad things that happen to all of us as part of the human condition.

University Student Behavior

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A crowd of college students at the 2007 Pittsb...

A crowd of college students at the 2007 Pittsburgh University Commencement. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As late as the early 1960s, the professor had a near absolute authority to discipline a class in whatever way the professor saw fit. Some professors would even slap students who made foolish comments. Very few people would want to return to those days–a university student should not be afraid of a professor. However, student behavior since the early 1960s has worsened in the college and university setting.

The problem began in 1964 with the student revolutions. Beginning with the “Free Speech Movement” at the University of California at Berkeley, which originally allowed anyone, no matter what the person’s ideology, to speak, the student movement degenerated into an orgy of radical leftism. Students took over administration buildings, and in the case of the University of California, the entire campus. It took then Governor Ronald Reagan calling out the California National Guard to restore order. Such protests continued, though with less radical effects, from the 1970s until the present. Today, however, at the classroom level the problem is with students who talk in class out of turn, walk out early if they feel bored with class, use cellphones and other electronic equipment in class, or smart off at the professor in class or in an e-mail. I suppose in some colleges and universities there has been much more serious disrespect than what I have experienced, but even the relatively “minor” problems in my classes point to some fundamental problems in American society.

“Respect” can mean the respect due any human being for being human, respect for a person’s position (for example, respect for the president of the U.S.), or the respect that is earned when someone lives a good moral life or does a job well. All three forms of respect play a role in the classroom.

Students should respect the professor’s position. The professor worked hard to gain degrees in his field and is in a position of authority over students–not arbitrary or overbearing authority, but authority as someone who teaches, guides, and helps maintain decorum in the classroom. Too many students think they know more than the professor, even in the professor’s own field of study. This is highly unlikely to be the case and is most often evidence of a student’s immaturity. Pampered, spoiled students whose parents have protected them from the harsh realities of life tend to remain at the developmental level befitting someone younger than they. They still hold on to the attitude that they know everything and that older people are ignorant fogies who accept only outmoded ideas. Some students will mature out of this immaturity (especially women), but many do not. I can have a sense of humor about that form of disrespect in class, but if students do not grow out of such arrogance, it will harm them in the future. Other students rebel against any authority figure, no matter how benign. Their misbehavior is not as much personal as it is about a hatred of authority in general.

Students lack respect for human beings qua human beings when they talk in class about non-class related subjects when the teacher is giving a lecture. They are also disrespecting other class members and exhibiting a “me, me, me” attitude that damages the American social framework more than any other attitude. It has become practically difficult to discipline students for such behavior, especially for large classes. Except for test days, I do not fight over phones–if students do not listen in class, they will not do well on exams, and that will be their punishment.  It is the “I don’t care; I’ll do what I want” attitude that so exacerbates me and other professors. Of course if students talk out loud in class about last night’s ball game or about other topics having nothing to do with the lesson for the day they reveal their disrespect for not only the professor, but also for their fellow students. One of the worst behaviors I have seen is when a student walks out of school due to being bored or due to disagreement with the professor. This behavior shows disrespect for both the professor and for the educational process in general.

Then there is the respect that a professor earns for doing a conscientious and thorough job in teaching, who carefully integrates research and teaching, and who helps students to excel. Despite the fact that a conscientious professor does a good job, bad apples in the class who disrespect the professor’s work (usually out of sheer spite) can make trouble for the class and encourage otherwise good teachers to receive poor evaluations by stirring up trouble in the class. Such agitators are dangerous, and if the professor detects their handiwork, the professor can take steps to confront and discipline them.

Being a college or university professor is a tougher job than in the past–the behavior of high school students in the 1970s has become mainstream behavior on college and university campuses). I fear what the future holds for college and university professors without a restoration of the traditional family, parental discipline, and a commitment from college and university staff to affirm the importance of classroom discipline.

Keeping the Ignorant Ignorant: The Destruction of Core Curricula in American Colleges and Universities

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English: The School of Athens (detail). Fresco...

English: The School of Athens (detail). Fresco, Stanza della Segnatura, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Americans are known world-wide for their ignorance of basic history, geography, and natural science. More than half of Americans totally deny biological evolution (other than perhaps microevolution). A significant number do not believe that the earth revolves around the sun. In one classroom experiment, only about 10% of students could identify the state in which they were living while in college or university on a map. Students are abysmally ignorant of the Bible, one of the major influences on Western civilization. Many cannot tell the difference between Plato and Play Dough. Despite such ignorance, there is a major push to either eliminate or to curtail core requirements in colleges and universities. Sometimes administrators lead the push, and the majority of faculty go along with radical decreases in core requirements, including requirements in the humanities, the natural sciences, and foreign languages. Why would faculty at American universities be so ignorant as to approve the destruction of a basic liberal arts education for college and university students? There are several reasons–none of them are good.

“Follow the money.” As majors in technical fields proliferate and as the hours required to fulfill such majors increase, students often spend more than four years in college. Since many students realize they cannot afford to stay more than four years, they avoid the so-called four-year degrees and go either to community college or technical school or try to get a job when they graduate from high school. In an increasingly competitive academic environment, colleges and universities seek students like mosquitoes seek blood. Students are much of the financial food for American colleges and universities, especially those without state support or without large endowments. Any policy that discourages students from attending college or staying there the full-time alloted for a degree is questioned, no matter how sensible that policy might be. Some students complain that they do not like liberal arts courses–they are difficult for students because they demand study and reading in areas in which the students are either not interested or do not believe will give them “job skills.” The fact that good communication skills and critical thinking as well as basic knowledge of the world around them is essential for jobs is lost on them. College administrators and sympathetic teachers, especially in such departments as Business and Education, support eliminating liberal arts courses to allow more hours for their major field courses without overburdening the “customers” that furnish a ready source of income for the college.

A second factor in gutting core curricula is accreditation agencies and their allies in the social sciences. accrediting agency staff, often holding weak Ed.D. degrees or degrees in the social sciences, prefer a strictly quantitative and utilitarian approach to core curricula. They push the idea of a “common core” across all degrees, which sounds good on the surface but in practice encourages a sparse core. The emphasis on outcomes-based education combined with a purely quantitative approach to evaluation is not friendly to the wisdom one can gain from a good liberal arts education, a wisdom that goes beyond the mere quantitative. Plato and Aristotle both recognized that qualitative knowledge is essential. Accrediting agencies do not deny this, of course, but they insist on quantitative measurability for qualitative criteria, a narrow approach fitting sciences such as psychology which remain stuck in a Newtonian mechanistic framework long surpassed by the natural sciences.

A third factor is the increasing role of corporate models in American institutions. Corporate models have already taken over hospitals, even non-profit hospitals, to the detriment of the fundamental ends of medicine to help sick persons in need. Business tends toward a utilitarian approach to reality in which the bottom line and “customer satisfaction” are what is most important. Considering college and university students to be “customers” is a major category mistake. If we are wanting “customer satisfaction,” why not eliminate the liberal arts all together and offer students only the courses they want to take. Those few students interested in a traditional liberal arts education can have their “consumer needs” satisfied at a college that focuses on the liberal arts. For the other customers there is a token core so college administrators and sympathetic professors can deceive themselves and pretend that their college offers a liberal arts education when it is doing no such thing.

Citizens who are woefully ignorant of history are not the kind of citizens needed in the limited democracy in the United States. Such citizens cannot place decisions of national import in historical context. They do not know enough basic economics to say anything coherent about the budget crisis. They are like the ancient barbarians who destroyed the Western Roman Empire–ignorant and uncouth, as monks struggled to keep the dregs of civilization from burning out. The saddest thing in American colleges and universities is that the barbarians–in the form of college administrators, accrediting agency staff, and many college professors–are within higher education. With the roots so rotten, the tree will inevitably die.

“Diversity” and “Multiculturalism” Divide People from One Another

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Multiculturalism-blurred-people

Multiculturalism-blurred-people (Photo credit: openDemocracy)

Recently I heard of an incident at an American university. A student walked into a library conference room. A group of black women were in the room, and they began to stare at this student. Then the student noticed the sign that said, “Do not enter. African-American Women’s Group.” The student apologized, stating that she was sorry she interrupted their meeting. Silence. Stares. The student could not say anything else given the situation, so the student walked out of the conference room and found another room in which to study.

Besides being another lesson in today’s rudeness, is it really coincidental that the group meeting in the room was sponsored by the university’s diversity office? The office is committed to “identity” as the main factor influencing one’s behavior. “Identity” is a code word for “culture,” and usually it is a code word that means “black.” Such offices, influenced by Neo-Marxist thought and identity politics, may begin by sponsoring meetings with students from outside the United States. Later, however, they tend to degenerate into offices that divide black students from white students, and if there are sufficient numbers of Hispanic students, Hispanic students from the rest of students. Western culture is the enemy. “Eurocentrism” is the enemy. Grievances are magnified with people of European descent being labeled as cruel oppressors. No wonder the students were silent in the conference room and did not respond to a sincere apology. They were facing their mortal enemy.

Diversity training” and multiculturalism are not about uniting people. They divide groups from one another. Instead of recognizing the universal human propensity for evil, they focus only on the sins of Europeans and people of European descent. The special groups who are, by definition, oppressed, can do no wrong since anything they do that seems to be wrong is only due to the oppression of others. Special groups do not have to take responsibility for their actions. They do not have to repent of their sins. They have no sin.

Only in academia could such a worldview survive. Students trained under this model will alienate potential friends and potential employers. If they do not make friends of another race or culture, they will not blame themselves—it is the oppressing “other” that is at fault. If they are not hired or are fired because of a negative and hostile attitude toward their boss and co-workers, the failure to hire or firing is due to the oppressing class acting wrongly against them. Nothing is ever the responsibility of the Holy Ones; it is all the evil Eurocentric Devil that is at fault.

Given the cesspool of contemporary “diversity training,” the federal government should stop forcing schools to focus on so-called “diversity.” Schools should have the courage to fight setting up a multicultural office or a diversity office. The only things that will result from such an office will be increased racial tension, increased isolation of groups, setting up “special studies programs” with low academic standards for the Holy Ones to take, and a breakdown of civic discourse. Multiculturalism, based on flawed Marxist ideology, cannot support true diversity—it can only push its own elitism on those who do not fit into its special groups. Liberal university administrations are not doing their students a favor when they set up a diversity or multicultural program, however well-meaning they will be. It will only end in disaster and pain.

The Plight of the Ph.D.

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English: A display of the academic regalia of ...

English: A display of the academic regalia of Harvard University. Top left: Harvard Law School professional doctorate; bottom left: Harvard Divinity School masters degree; right: Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Ph.D. degree (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At http://dollarcollapse.com/welcome-to-the-third-world/welcome-to-the-third-world-part-8-a-phd-is-now-a-path-to-poverty/ is a fine article by John Rubino on the Ph.D. as a “path to poverty.” In this article, he notes that 67% of American professors are adjuncts, part-time professors who receive a set stipend per course and no benefits. American colleges and universities continue to pour out Ph.D.s. They find graduate students valuable because they teach courses themselves and do not cost the university much money. For all its alleged ideals, the contemporary college or university enjoys its pool of cheap labor, whether from graduate students or adjunct professors. In any other profession, such a situation would be criminal.

Adjunct professors have been around for many years, but in the past they were primarily used to teach evening college courses that full-time faculty did not want to teach. In those days, adjuncts were usually either retired professors or people with graduate degrees working outside a university setting who wanted to teach. The motives were either to make a little extra money or a strong desire to teach. People in those categories still work as adjuncts, especially in the evening college (and sometimes in summer school). I am proud to say that at my university, adjuncts are used primarily in the evening sessions and are used in day classes only when there is a temporary need due to, for example, a faculty member going on sabbatical. The university has also made efforts to make sure that more courses, including some outside the fall and spring semester day classes, are taught by full-time faculty.

Other colleges and universities do not necessarily have that level of integrity concerning adjuncts. State universities, increasingly strapped for cash when states are going broke, are hiring more adjuncts to teach day classes. Private schools whose endowments have dropped due to the current economic downturn have, in some cases, hired more adjuncts to save money. However, there are also schools who are doing fine financially who hire adjuncts as the most efficient economic way to teach courses. Economic efficiency and saving money rises above finding the best qualified candidate for a full time job. Now many adjuncts are as good as some full-time faculty. I was at a meeting at the American Philosophical Association in which I heard stories of candidates for full time positions who had four or five academic books published as well as multiple articles in peer-reviewed journals. Often these candidates did not find full time work and either had to remain as adjuncts or leave teaching all together. When a school can afford full-time faculty and hires adjuncts in the name of economic efficiency, this is when economic exploitation takes place. The adjuncts are treated as means to an end and not as ends in themselves, as tools to a businesslike, economically lean, “mean” college or university. This is a grossly unethical way to treat workers–and this in a world that gives lip service to helping people in need. As Rubino points out, much of contemporary academia is run like a medieval feudal system in which adjunct faculty serve as serfs and overpaid administrators function as nobles.

What can be done? First, colleges and universities who can afford to hire full-time faculty should not hire adjuncts in order to be “efficient.” Second, accreditation agencies could demand that a condition for accreditation or re-accreditation is a 90+% rate of full-time faculty during the day school. Third, schools who are financially strapped need to stop “biting off more than they can chew” economically. Fourth, adjuncts need to organize and call for an end to exploitative wages. They should demand higher stipends per course and at least the opportunity to consider health insurance plans through the university. Graduate schools should limit the number of students accepted to reflect the actual need for people with graduate degrees in a particular discipline. More full-time faculty should teach introductory courses on their own to lessen the need for more graduate teaching assistants. Schools should avoid building facilities that will significantly increase the school’s expenses.

Most people in the humanities, the area I know best, go into university teaching because of a fascination with their chosen field. They are driven to get a Ph.D. for the learning experience. I know of few Ph.D.s who would take back that experience of learning, even if they are unemployed. With the new emphasis on efficiency, potential graduate students may focus on a field that helps them to get an academic job rather than focusing on the field they love the most. That is a sad and unjust situation. A Ph.D. costs a great deal of money and time. It is a shame that some Ph.D.s in the United States are below the poverty level and receive food stamps and other welfare assistance. This unjust system must be reformed.

On “Diversity Training”

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Marxism's last stand?

Many public and private schools, colleges, universities, and businesses have mandatory classes in “Diversity Training,” usually taught by a diversity or multicultural officer. Some of this trend may be due to federal requirements (and in some states, state government requirements).

Now teaching employees about religious and cultural customs when they have co-workers from different cultural backgrounds can be useful. For example, the Nashville, Tennessee area has a large number of Iraqis, including Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds. If a company hires people from more than one of these three groups, it is useful to educate employees on how to avoid conflicts or diminish conflict between people of different backgrounds.

The vast majority of diversity training is politically motivated and has been from the beginning. “Diversity training” to some multicultural officers focuses only on “traditionally underrepresented groups,” and creates a culture of entitlement and resentment in members of those groups. “People of color” and “Hispanics” are emphasized, while different religious faiths (other than Islam) and Asians are de-emphasized in such courses. The white male is considered the most evil entity in society, and they are automatically grouped into the class of the “oppressors.” In some classes white students have been asked to “confess” their racism, sexism or “homophobia.” Failure to confess such can lead to negative consequences, such as an unsatisfactory mark that could result in a student expelled from a college or university. Women, minorities, and homosexuals are always labeled as “the victims.” “The victims” can never be racist or sexist–only white males are in that class. The lesson of the splendid movie, “Crash,” that people of all backgrounds have their prejudices, is lost on many diversity trainers.

Multicultural officers sometimes say (and I have heard one state this) that they are concerned with “social justice.” Translate the term “social justice” as “socialism,” and you will get the meaning. “Social justice” is interpreted in Marxist categories of oppressed and oppressor. White males become the new bourgeois, and every other group becomes the new proletariat. The proletariat must transvalue the values of the bourgeois, and this means abrogating freedom of speech. One is only allowed to speak the narrative of the diversity trainer. Any deviation from the Puritanical norm of the politically correct will result in punishment which can be being thrown out of school as a student, a professor being dismissed, or someone who has worked faithfully for years at a business being fired. The rules of the politically correct multiculturalist are as follows:

1. Western civilization is evil and oppressive.

2. Only males can be sexist.

3. Only whites can be racist.

4. Social justice = the social platform of the Democratic party.

5. Believing that practicing homosexuality is morally wrong is homophobia and hate.

6. Refusing to acknowledge one’s hidden racism and sexism is a sign of moral turpitude.

7. Saying anything negative about feminism is a sign of moral turpitude.

8. Bringing up crime statistics regarding race automatically makes a person a racist.

9. If you do not believe that the majority of women in colleges and universities have been raped at least once in their lives, you hate women.

10. If you are opposed to abortion, you hate women.

11. If you do not believe in Great Society programs, you are a racist and a hater.

12. If you oppose affirmative action, you are a racist and a hater.

13. If you defend teaching Western Civilization over World Civilization, you are a racist, a sexist, an ethnocentrist, and a hater.

14. If you are politically conservative, you are a hater.

15. If you criticize President Obama’s policies, then you are a racist.

16. If you criticize Michelle Obama, then you are a racist and a sexist.

Those are only the ones I can think of at the moment. There are many more rules, and it is difficult for anyone to know he has violated one (oops, I just violated one — if anyone uses “he” to refer to both males and females, he/she/it is a racist and a hater).

Diversity training is liberal propaganda. Multiculturalism is anti-Western propaganda. It is past time to halt such training or reformulate it to include teaching about the customs of actual cultures to avoid offense (for example, do not remove an icon from an Eastern Orthodox Christian’s room). Higher education is particularly suspect to such madness given its strong left-wing bias. There are schools who have not bowed to Baal, but they are fewer, and given government policy, under attack. The best route for those schools is to aggressively raise private funds and refuse to participate in the federal student grant and loan programs. A school that rejects federal aid entirely (such as Hillsdale College) can have the independence to be able to avoid the b..l…t of Marxist diversity programs.

Sadness Regarding Academia

July 22, 2012

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English: Old Well at the University of North C...

English: Old Well at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been out of town in Tennessee, my home state, and am back in North Carolina–only to discover that my library books checked out from UNC Libraries could not be renewed because of fines. I drove to Chapel Hill, paid the fines, returned some books, and renewed and checked out more. As I walked the sparsely populated summer school campus, I felt a twinge of sadness at the current state of the academy. Academia is my job and my vocation. I enjoy working in an academic setting, teaching, reading, writing, wandering through libraries, walking around lovely campuses. At its best, the academy teaches the great traditions of Western Civilization as well as introducing students to other civilizations after they better understand out own. Great philosophy, literature, and art are introduced to students. They can also learn science, mathematics, and various technical skills. Ideally, a college or university campus should be a Mecca of learning, free-spirited discussion, and developing the wisdom to use learned knowledge in a prudent way.

Ideals are never actuality, especially in a fallen world. I remember the summer after my senior year in high school, naively thinking that college would be an intellectual community with students like those who used to appear on the GE College Bowl. Alas, that was not the case for the most part. There were serious students, but most were wanting a degree and that was it. They were not interested in learning about the high points of civilized life. It is no surprise to me, looking back to those days in the early 1980s, that the children of those students now have similar attitudes–or worse. Yet there are students who, in spite of themselves, learn something, and that is a joy to any teacher.

The saddest aspect of the current academy is its radicalization by left wing, Neo-Marxist ideas. Along with such comes speech codes, an anti-Christian bias, and a refusal to entertain alternative points of view.. What used to be a venue for knowledge has become, in most places, a soapbox for left wing propaganda. The days when the Agrarians could survive in the academy are long gone. Robert Penn Warren and John Crowe Ransom would probably pass muster–perhaps even Allen Tate. I doubt that Andrew Lytle or Donald Davidson would be hired. I do not think any of them would be hired today at Vanderbilt University where they once wielded such influence. I could name other academic conservatives from the past who would have difficulty in today’s academy, but that would be superfluous–and it is a pathetic fact that such would be superfluous. For once I would like to see a college or university that believes in teaching the classic works of Western Civilization. St. Thomas Aquinas College in California does, but it is by far a rare exception to the rule.

I hope in the future that there will be good alternatives to the academy–private tutorials in Greek and/or Latin classics or in great works in philosophy, for example. That is most likely a pipe dream. I hope that one day academics wake up that their current course often does more harm that good, creating clones instead of wise thinkers.

Students Cheating and American Subjectivism

June 29, 2012

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Ethics class

Ethics class (Photo credit: aditza121)

Students cheating in school is not a new thing, but it has become an epidemic in recent years. The Internet has made cheating easier, with thousands of term papers students buy and pass off as their own work. Cell phones are now used by students to get answers from their classmates or to look them up on a website. What is most surprising is how many students see no moral problem with cheating. Sometimes irate parents will visit a high school principle or college dean and complain that their child did not cheat, even when the evidence is overwhelmingly against the student. Is it any surprise that there are so many scandals in business and in government? Children are emulating the values of their parents, who reflect the terrible trend in American culture to want something for nothing.

The rampant relativism to which students are exposed on television, by celebrities, by the media, in the K-12 school system, and in colleges and universities makes it easy for students to become subjectivists on ethics. “Whatever floats your boat” or “Whatever I think is right is right for me and whatever you think is right for you” becomes the mantra of many students today. The most dogmatic relativists are as closed-minded as any religious fundamentalist. The fact that they become angry and try to cut a professor off when he argues against subjectivism reveals that they only want their views to be heard. Apparently the position held by the professor and by other students that everyone, including the professor, has the right to speak his mind has not sunk into these students.

I am at a loss to determine how to get beyond the impasse of relativistic propaganda in society. When the United States accepted a traditional Judeo-Christian ethic, as it did from the Second Great Awakening in the late eighteenth century through around 1963, one could argue from a common morality held by the vast majority of Americans. With the decline of Christianity and the proliferation of different religions and cultures, one could try to find common values between them–and between deeply devout people of all major religions much commonality in moral beliefs is present. Radical secularism, agnosticism, and atheism can try to develop a non-relativistic deontological or utilitarian system, but other secularists who desire to do what they want without restraint could say, “Okay, there’s a common morality needed for the good of society, but I don’t care about the good of society. There’s no God to stop me from being a self-centered ass. So that’s what I’ll be.” Without transcendent meaning, how strong is the force of the “ought” in ethics (I am borrowing this point from George Mavrodes). Students may intellectually believe in some kind of deity, but the secular relativism they have been taught from kindergarten onward has already sunk into their psyche. This fact, along with the inherent immaturity and selfishness of youth, make for a combination that will inevitably result in rampant cheating. I have had students of all grades brag to me about how they successfully cheated in school. It is a matter of pride to them. It is a matter of shame to American society that its cultural rot since 1964 has destroyed any notion of transcendent meaning (beyond trying to find it through pleasure), has promoted self-centeredness, has promoted “success” by any means necessary, and has lied to people by telling them they should be proud of their accomplishments even if they did not earn them. With churches catering to the relativist, postmodern young person without trying to correct their relativism, all that results is high recidivism and young people who leave church with the same twisted values they previously had accepted. Without a large-scale religious revival, which I do not see coming in the United States, growing irreligiosity will cause societal destruction in the U.S.–Europe had enough residual tradition to withstand falling into chaos when Europeans gave up on Christianity, but how long will that last? I expect more cheating in the future by students. Some will get caught, most will not care unless they are caught (and even then for selfish reasons), and the shred of integrity left in the American educational system will be threatened.

Arrogance and Academics

June 2, 2012

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English: This image shows an academic gown as ...

English: This image shows an academic gown as worn by someone of the degree of doctor of philosophy. The design follows that set forth by the Intercollegiate Code of Academic Costume which is the dominant style used in the United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

I am lucky at the institution where I teach. The faculty members I know take their teaching seriously and genuinely care about the students. Although some do a great deal of research, those faculty are missing the kind of arrogance one sees sometimes among academics at larger institutions.

 

Academics have had educational opportunities that most people in the world have not experienced. There may be a glut of Ph.D.s in the academic job market, but even in the United States, Ph.D.s make up a miniscule part of the population. It becomes an easy step for some academics to jump from “I’m better at biology [or history or philosophy, etc.] than most people; therefore, I am better than most people.” The latter does not follow from the former. There are ordinary farmers with a high school education I’d rather be around than some big name academics I have seen at large conferences. Yet there are well known academics who are down to earth, humble, and who help someone asking for advice on a project or advice on how to get an academic job. Other academics, unfortunately, allow their degrees to get to their head. I once heard of an academic who asked his wife to refer to him as “Doctor.” I do not know whether or not she obliged him, but she should have replied, “Doctor,, my a..!” I would be dishonest to deny that I am proud of earning a Ph.D.–but I tell my students they can call me “Dr. Potts,” “Prof. Potts,” or “Mr. Potts,” and after they have graduated they can call me anything, including S.O.B. if that is what they think. I require respect, but “Mr.” is an honorable title, and I would rather not insist on being called “Dr.” I’m reminded of the joke I read in Reader’s Digest a number of years ago–I think it was based on a true event. A man has just received his Ph.D. The phone rings. His eight-year-old son answers the phone, and someone asks for “Dr. John Doe.” The boy replies, “Yeah, my dad’s a doctor, but he’s not the kind who can do you any good.” Humility is one virtue that would help s man not be hurt by his son’s statement.

 

How many professors today will write works that will be remembered one hundred years from now? I expect that most or all of my works will be like the millions of other works in journals sitting on library shelves–not because they’re bad works–I am proud of my scholarly work and of my creative writing–but because I am not an Aristotle, an Aquinas, a Wittgenstein, or a Heidegger. Fulfillment comes from continuing a tradition of scholarly research in philosophy and in knowing that some people find things of value in my work. But I am a man, a human being, with the same bodily needs, limitations, temptations, and sinfulness as all other human beings. Academics who consider letting their degrees and/or accomplishments get to their heads should remember what a Catholic priest says when he crosses the ash on one’s forehead on Ash Wednesday: “Remember, O man, that dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return.”

 

Political Correctness and the Stifling of Debate over World Views

April 20, 2012

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No political correctness

One of the negative results of the tenured leftist radicals’ influence in academia has been political correctness–the aggressive advocacy of leftist ideology and the personal demeaning of those who disagree. Sometimes faculty members and students find that being demeaned by leftist professors and administrators is the least of their problem. I personally know two professors who were fired for attacking politically correct ideology. Both found other positions, one won a lawsuit against the school that fired him, but both are more hesitant to speak up against leftist positions, which is precisely what the radicals in academia want. At Vanderbilt University, Christian student groups are banned that do not allow those who disagree with the theological and moral teachings of traditional Christianity. This communicates the idea that traditional Christian views are not welcome in the public square of academia. When traditionalists are attacked, no rational arguments are given; rather, there are a plethora of personal attacks on those who oppose the leftist agenda, often vicious and using foul language. Such attacks are intentional and are an attempt to intimidate.

The most divisive moral issues in American society–the morality of procured abortion, active euthanasia, physician assisted suicide, the ethics of sexuality, including homosexuality, etc., are closely tied to specific world views. For example, the battle over the moral rightness of homosexuality is, to a significant extent, a battle between those who accept the malleability of human nature vs. those who believe in a stable human nature. This is not the only world view issue in this debate, but it is important, and a debate over different views on human nature and world views should be an important part of learning in academia. Instead, a new orthodoxy, more rigid than the most rabid of Christian fundamentalists, has invaded academia with speech codes, attacks on traditional Christians, dismissed students, fired faculty, and a shutting down of freedom of speech and free debate. Academia, the institution that should be at the heart of free debate that is essential for an educated human being, has become the New Inquisition, excommunicating all who disagree with a radical leftist agenda. Some schools have become more open since political correctness was identified, but traditionalists generally have a harder time in academia–that is bearable as long as open discussion of world view issues, including moral issues, is allowed to continue. Smaller schools that have not faced political correctness in the past, perhaps with some faculty and administrators falsely believing that they are being the wave of the future, may push for shutting down world view debates “to be like the bigger schools.” As radical faculty are hired who are loud, pushy, and intimidating, most faculty and administrators will give in to shut them up even if such cowardliness corrupts education. I have known liberal Democratic faculty who strongly oppose political correctness–hopefully the true liberals can join with conservatives in opening the university up to an open, frank discussion of world views. The faculty will learn more–and so will the students.

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