A Huge Serving of Academia Nuts
It is clear that something must be done about this lamentable state of affairs. In his recent book The War of Ideas, Walid Phares speaks of the pressing need to clean up "the diseducating process that [has] blurred the intellectual vision of a whole generation." Dennis Prager concurs, writing in an online article: "Our universities are run by fools who are breeding a generation of fools." The exceptions, he continues, "have little impact on the deconstruction of civilization and the breeding of anti-intellectuals taking place at our universities."
Edward Bernard Glick, author of Soldiers, Scholars, and Society: The Social Impact of the American Military, trains his sights on the American university in particular. "American universities," he writes, "have been transformed into the most Marxist, postmodernist, know-nothing, anti-American, anti-military, and anti-capitalist institution in our society. It is now a bastion of situational ethics and moral relativism. ... American academia is now a very intolerant place."
Former Muslim and founder of the Arabs for Israel website Nonie Darwish would surely agree: sorting through the hate mail she receives, she finds that "the worst comes from university professors." No longer disseminators of truth and centers of impartial scholarly research, American universities -- and Canadian and European universities as well -- have become strongholds of a left-wing cultural anthropology.
Despite the damage they can do, contemporary academics and intellectuals (or anti-intellectuals), by and large, strike me as the Mr. Beans of the vaudeville clerisy, epitomes of conceptual ineptitude and an almost farcical soft-mindedness. They seem no less retarded than some of their more celebrated precursors, reprocessing in their mental posture and congenial temperament the ineffable Bertrand Russell. In The Flight from Truth: The Reign of Deceit in the Age of Information, Jean-François Revel cites a 1937 speech in which Russell declared that "Britain should disarm, and if Hitler marched his troops into this country when we were undefended, they should be welcomed like tourists and greeted in a friendly way."
Revel comments on Russell's incredible foray into the domain of public policy: "Bertrand Russell may have been an eminent philosopher in his specialty -- symbolic logic -- but he was nonetheless an imbecile on the subject dealt with in those sentences." Revel deplores those intellectuals who "have employed their talents to justify falsehood ... even foolishness." Plus ça change! And let us not forget that our current crop of errant and pontificating intellectuals is bred in those very universities which claim the privilege of extraterritoriality, responsible only to themselves.
It is distressing to note the degree to which such attitudes, as Robert Conquest points out in The Dragons of Expectation, have "permeate[d] the media and lower-middle academe." But in the four years since his book appeared, it has become increasingly evident that the contagion has spread through the general public as well, an illustration of the efficacy of trickle-down, voodoo politics.
One could continue to exceterize. No doubt many professors, in order to protect their perks and salvage their working environment, feel impelled to go along for the ride, Julius Kelps and Sherman Klumps transformed into contemporary effigies of Buddy Love. (Pace Jerry Lewis and Eddie Murphy.) But this is only a case of an aggregation of nutty professors succumbing to the political designs of their more sinister cohorts and thereby endorsing the ideological conformity that reigns in the academy.
Alternatively, what we are seeing is the corporate expression of that familiar disposition which Czeslaw Milosz in The Captive Mind, drawing from the Arabic, characterized as ketman, the wimpish position taken by those who desire to be "at one with others, in order not to be alone." One way or another, everyone keeps step. And as time goes on, it becomes evident that the choreographers of this macabre dance have no intention of relenting. So much for diversity of opinion, intellectual propriety, and freedom of expression!
Indeed, the epidemic of ignorance, false knowledge, and partisan didactics is well advanced -- a black plague of the mind. The harm it can wreak is incalculable.
As a former professor and guest speaker on the education circuit, I have seen its ravages at first hand. If this mental infection is not checked, we may well find ourselves in an analogous position to that described by Robert Graves in Goodbye to All That. Graves records the carnage unleashed upon a nation by the misguided conduct and sentiments of Britain's elite schools. In Graves' day, the dilemma was a collective outbreak of national chauvinism; in our day, it is just the opposite, the betrayal of our own nation and culture.
Education, to put it bluntly, is neither jingoism nor treason. Scholarship must be disinterested, differing points of view should be presented and debated, strict research methods must be inculcated, and the mind needs to be trained to learn, judge, and think independently. Pedagogical influence is meant to be cognitive, not political. Bias, obviously, is humanly inevitable, but the work of the moral conscience in the act of teaching, which monitors our prejudices and proclivities and keeps them under relative control, is by no means to be scanted.
The situation today, however, has deteriorated markedly. Far too many professors and their nominal superiors have forgotten or have simply overridden the proper business of the university. It is surely time to initiate a public campaign of watchdog legislation and purse-string vigilance to address the monumental aberration embodied in the modern academy. For if we do not get our act together sooner rather than later, we will have been complicit in subsidizing not universities but animal farms feeding the multitudes with tainted provender.
"Goodbye to all that" has become "Hello to all this." Which is why, in the absence of a stringent auditing program applied to university curricula, hiring parameters, and administrative policies, the current intellectual devastation will likely prove no less socially destructive than it did in Graves' long-ago England.