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Roger’s Rules

Mile-high thoughts about culture & higher ed

July 25th, 2013 - 8:05 am

Overly cautious? In the age of charlatans like Damien Hirst, Jenny Holzer, the Chapman Brothers, and many other practitioners of mind-numbing psycho-pathology, who can say whether a bucket of medical waste is or is not an art project? If Tracey Emin can win the Turner Prize for My Bed — “her own bed, in all its embarrassing glory. Empty booze bottles, fag butts, stained sheets, worn panties: the bloody aftermath of a nervous breakdown” — why couldn’t a bucket of medical waste be an art project at the “art” department of an over-priced private college in Massachusetts? Maybe the bucket was the product of a performance by Millie Brown, a “vomit artist” who drinks dyed milk which she then regurgitates over a canvas (or, more recently, over the pop singer Lady Gaga in a music video)? Who knows? Certainly, the author of that memo was exercising rational caution. Otherwise, she might have wound up like the janitor at a Cork Street gallery in London who, tidying up after an opening party for Damien Hirst’s latest exhibit, cleared away a tray full of soiled coffee cups, overflowing ashtrays, and the like.

Bad move. The tray was not just a tray full of trash. It was a tray full of trash artfully arranged by Damien Hirst, worth, according to the distraught gallery director, more than £100,000. (But be of good cheer: the garbage in question could be “recreated.”)

Such stories — and they are legion — might make it seem that what is happening in the cultural-academic complex is mostly comic: repellent, no doubt, but somehow more silly than minatory.

The problem is that they are part and parcel of a concerted assault on the fundamental civilizational values of our culture. By some strange process of moral entropy, those institutions which had been the bearers and preservers of our cultural inheritance have mutated into its deadly enemies. It was Williams College, once again, that prompts this melancholy thought. Just last month, the college sponsored “Worlds of Wonder: The Queerness of Childhood,” an “interdisciplinary workshop” that basked in the imprimatur of a dozen college entities from the Dean’s office to the “Committee for Human Sexuality and Diversity” and the “Queer Student Union.” Among the festivities were “Lessons in Drag,” a performance piece, and papers on such pressing subjects as “Queering America’s Progress Narrative: The California Ruins of Leland Stanford Jr.,” “What Does it Mean to Be an Adult if We Queer the Child? Laws of Consent in Comparative Perspective,” and “Sex Panics, Child Prostitutes, and Global Sporting Events, or: How to Save a Sexually Precocious Child and Get a Luxury Hotel for Free.”

I have had occasion before to quote Kingsley Amis’ wise observation that much of what is wrong with our culture can be summed up in the word “workshop.” But even a satirist of Amis’ asperity, I suspect, would have been at a loss when confronted with “The Queerness of Childhood.” “This workshop,” the program reads, “brings together a group of scholars and clinicians working at the intersections of childhood studies, psychoanalysis, psychology, pedagogy, and queer theory in order to have a conversation about queer children and the queerness of childhood.” Really?

It seeks to investigate the child as a critical tool, a political trope, an affective field, a site of cultural production and consumption, a psychoanalytic subject, and a living, breathing, historical personage to whom we are ethically beholden: a figure for both queer political possibility (Jack Halberstam) and political or symbolic death (Edelman). Participants were asked to explore questions such as: Who is the queer child and why does it continue to command the attention of queer theorists and psychoanalysts? What is queer about childhood? … What does the concept of the queer child do to notions of childhood? What does it mean for the queer to “fuck the figural Child” (Edelman) when the gay child is already fucked, in suicidal crisis? How can we attend to the sideways growth of all children?

Nice, eh? It costs $59,712 per year to attend Williams. For what? Politically correct hysteria, buckets of medical waste that are mistaken as art works, and conferences like “The Queerness of Childhood.” Over the last couple of years, there’s been a lot of talk about “the higher education bubble.” What can’t go on forever, the economist Herb Stein once observed, won’t. The gassy, mephitic, overinflated travesty that is the higher education establishment cannot go on forever. Therefore it won’t. A collateral benefit will be the eclipse of these exercises in pathology masquerading as scholarship. It’s not just Williams, or Bowdoin. The disease is endemic. That is the problem. But it is also the reason it won’t prevail.

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Top Rated Comments   
Very informative piece. We're talking about nothing less than the institutionalizing and mainstreaming of madness into a culture. For those of you who wonder how entire countries of seemingly normal people go mad and demonize entire swaths of humanity, you're seeing it in action. Because a an actual human proposed enemy is at the heart of all political correctness, not a challenge of skill, discipline or thought to set oneself against.

Behind all this is privilege, colonialism, homophobia, Islamophobia, sexism; the usual suspects. How much you want to bet BDS and Israel are present?

Unfortunately, at the top of this mental health pyramid is the President of the U.S. himself. While Obama may not be fully on board with every last detail of this madness, he is in fact the centerpiece of the general culture; it is his constituency.

The reference to "workshops" is funny, because it is how madness not only becomes normal but actual sedate conformity. Colleges are actually teaching people how to not think. The art part of this has been in action a long time, a precursor of political correctness. Even a hint of mere shallow craftsmanship had been hounded out of that community a half-century ago. In fact, the less one had to demonstrate an actual skill, the better. The winner was sheer intellect, and I use "intellect" is the most suspect way.

Oh, well. Maybe I'll spray some liquid sage, wave an eagle feather at it, and it'll all go away. I use my microwave oven as a sweat lodge. It makes my eyeballs jiggle.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I would dearlry love to believe that sooner or later common sense would prevail, somebody would jump up somewhere and shout "Enough of this nonsense! It is poisoning our brains and our souls!", and things would begin to change. But since I first set foot on a college campus in 1964 until this good day the problem has steadily grown more acute. I see no sign of any real countervailing force in the academy. Even something as significant in the real world as the Reagan Revolution left the academy unmoved.

How it will change is not apparent to me. Given that most academies the world over are unrelentingly leftist it seems to me int is endemic in the organization and the brief period of exemption we in the United States had from the scourge, running until roughly until the term of Wilson, was the anomaly, not the other way around.

As we see with the writing of history today where some of the best known historians are not academics, it may be necessary to invent another way to educate the young and abandon the groves with their faculty politics, metastasizing bureaucracies and huge endowments to the academics themselves, and ignore them.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (21)
All Comments   (21)
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I once read an article that posited that American education had been left wing since at least our sending kids to Europe back in the late 19th century (1860s) due to philosophers corroding those hopeful's minds (you know, Karl Marx, Frederick Nietzsche, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and the like). It can be found here on the Blaze: http://www.theblaze.com/contributions/why-liberals-think-being-educated-means-being-liberal/ There are similar articles on other places dealing with the same subject, by the same author. Seems to me education is beyond salvageable, and must be ripped up from the roots, and burned down.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The article assumes that the higher ed curricula will self-implode because the courses are ridiculous. Is this true? I think not. The subject matter of the courses is not the issue. The issue is the take-down of traditional Western culture. Even if the college kids think that the course is absurd, the message is clear: college is a joke, there is no learning benefit, there's no such thing as truth. That's the whole point of the curricula; kids don't actually take queer studies, but, in a wide variety of ways, the college promotes the idea that America is homophobic, and they have academic department research that backs it up. Ditto for Black Studies and racism. Ditto for Environmental Studies and unsustainable capitalist greed. It seems like a very successful campaign to turn America into a European socialist country. Looks like the campaign is working well.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"The article assumes that the higher ed curricula will self-implode because the courses are ridiculous."

I think the idea is that it will implode for economic reasons - a high investment that bears little profit.

Tuition has gone up faster than the rest of the economy and is so high many people take loans they have to pay back for years after graduation. Of course, if they study something useful like electronic engineering and are good enough at it they make nice profit of their invetsment. But if they study things like Gender Studies and Black Studies and Queer Studies there are too few related jobs available and too many graduates competing for them. In the past merely having a college degree, even in nonsense, was enough to give you an advantage in the job market, but today many people have college degrees in nonsense, so for every job you're competing with other graduates. In the end you may not get a high wages job, but you still have to pay back the loan for your tuition. Still many people invest in college education on the increasingly false hope that it will pay back, and the tuition keeps going up - which is the definition of a bubble. And bubbles burst at some point.

If high education doesn't collapse, perhaps people will adjust and more of them will study useful professions that can be translated into good salaries.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The downward trajectory in the visual arts since the coronation of Andy Warhol in the early '60s has finally reached its bottom. It is impossible to degrade the human impulse to want something to look at, a work of art that can encapsulate what is basically un-seeable but universal and life-enhancing, any further. All of human deviancy and debasement has been put on display and called "art" for so long that the decadence hangs over the culture like poisonous gas.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The assault on higher ed is purposeful and is meant to dumb down generations to come, and to indoctrinate them as well. While it is one thing to become 'silly' when one is exploring oneself during time spent in the academy, but it is another when one must do so while adhering to its orthodoxy. And herein lies the crux and the dangers - http://adinakutnicki.com/2012/11/26/the-death-of-the-west-or-its-survival-runs-through-western-academia-addendum-to-the-paradox-pitfalls-of-liberal-democracies-commentary-by-adina-kutnicki/

Indeed, without exaggeration, the death of the west, or its survival, runs through academia.

Adina Kutnicki, Israel http://adinakutnicki.com/about/
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
once again on target.

What happened? The Vietnam War with its "revolution" and politicians - representatives of the people.

Who exempted the "elite" college students and teachers - THEIR sons and they were sons - from the military draft. That citizen duty of "service to the nation" required of the non-elitecommoners". With hue and cry from the Media then booed and hissed on returning from that war, dead and injured physicallly and pychologically,THEY were compelled to.

And so the populations of colleges/universities expanded exponentially, particularly in the "soft subjects" over time to gender, black studies and what have you. With inevitable growth of influence and power of the professors and administrators. The quid pro quo the increases in the financial benefits and status to these generally exclusive brother/sisterhoods.

assively supported directly and indirectly by the government. Tax remissions, direct contributions and of course government student loans. For which only now - a half century later and a different generation of youthful citizens - the chickens have come home to roost.

Lessening the importance and status of practical men/women who PROVED they CAN DO. Managing in their daily travails among disparate competing people how to manage them to a common goal: "to provide the greatest good to the greatest numbers" of those people.

Outside the ivory towers of academia and government with protected tenure the world and means to succeed within that world look very different.

Their Vietnam War as seed for their Civil War as "revolution". Encouraging antagonisms among naturally competing disparate elements of the Republic: sex, race, class, age, civil or military, college or not, religious or not, political faction, whatever worked. With special benefits/bribes to those who gathered to their colours.

Other, esssentially unlawful/uncontitutional, exercises in power, to follow that first "affirmative action" for college students to assure their continued hold on civic power.

QUI BONO from such fracturing of a viable civic and legal social contract in pitting citizen against citizen?.

No surprise the benefiticiaries are those who have since their "revololution of the 1960s" engineered their "Fundamental Transformation" of that nation which stands on the pillar, the foundation of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution/Law of the USA.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Very informative piece. We're talking about nothing less than the institutionalizing and mainstreaming of madness into a culture. For those of you who wonder how entire countries of seemingly normal people go mad and demonize entire swaths of humanity, you're seeing it in action. Because a an actual human proposed enemy is at the heart of all political correctness, not a challenge of skill, discipline or thought to set oneself against.

Behind all this is privilege, colonialism, homophobia, Islamophobia, sexism; the usual suspects. How much you want to bet BDS and Israel are present?

Unfortunately, at the top of this mental health pyramid is the President of the U.S. himself. While Obama may not be fully on board with every last detail of this madness, he is in fact the centerpiece of the general culture; it is his constituency.

The reference to "workshops" is funny, because it is how madness not only becomes normal but actual sedate conformity. Colleges are actually teaching people how to not think. The art part of this has been in action a long time, a precursor of political correctness. Even a hint of mere shallow craftsmanship had been hounded out of that community a half-century ago. In fact, the less one had to demonstrate an actual skill, the better. The winner was sheer intellect, and I use "intellect" is the most suspect way.

Oh, well. Maybe I'll spray some liquid sage, wave an eagle feather at it, and it'll all go away. I use my microwave oven as a sweat lodge. It makes my eyeballs jiggle.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"We're talking about nothing less than the institutionalizing and mainstreaming of madness into a culture."

Indeed. Western civilization is out of its mind because its mind, its academia, is not completely there. Academia influences the media and the "agents of culture" who then influence the wide society.

I don't see how it can be changed from within because in academia resistance often results in excommunication.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Astute observation about Warhol. Read Tom Wolfe's 'The Painted Word' - a terrific work on the banality of modern 'art'.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I would dearlry love to believe that sooner or later common sense would prevail, somebody would jump up somewhere and shout "Enough of this nonsense! It is poisoning our brains and our souls!", and things would begin to change. But since I first set foot on a college campus in 1964 until this good day the problem has steadily grown more acute. I see no sign of any real countervailing force in the academy. Even something as significant in the real world as the Reagan Revolution left the academy unmoved.

How it will change is not apparent to me. Given that most academies the world over are unrelentingly leftist it seems to me int is endemic in the organization and the brief period of exemption we in the United States had from the scourge, running until roughly until the term of Wilson, was the anomaly, not the other way around.

As we see with the writing of history today where some of the best known historians are not academics, it may be necessary to invent another way to educate the young and abandon the groves with their faculty politics, metastasizing bureaucracies and huge endowments to the academics themselves, and ignore them.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Maybe, like in the media, we need alternative education as well. Start new schools and universities, perhaps some Internet-based ones.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Somebody does jump out and shout "enough" from time to ime. They are treated as heretics, fools or both. Sarah Palin could serve as a recent example. The rage and heer contempt the politicl and cultural Left has for "deniers" is the exact same reflex seen in all fundamentalist religions. Intolerance, fear and loathing are the infected core of secular leftism.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Maybe it was just a bucket of aborted fetuses?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
How often are minds are subjugated by the enemy's ideology making us complicit in our own oppression.

There is no such thing as political correctness "run amok." here is no such thing as nazism "run amok." There is no such thing as communism "run amok." It is what it is.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Roger Kimball's readers might enjoy this essay too: http://clarespark.com/2009/11/08/is-the-history-of-psychiatry-a-big-mess-2/. Note especially the list of those authors who influenced Freud. And the footnote at the bottom of the page, announcing what "socially responsible" business leaders were promising enlisted men if they would stick with the program in World War 2.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"buckets of medical waste" which are "mistaken" for Art? Forsooth, it may be actually "Art", artfully placed in the Driscoll Dining Hall as an ironic comment on.. cafeteria food???
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Are you referring to the Driscoll dining hall at UT-Austin in the early 80's?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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