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Interview: David Gelernter on America-Lite

MR. DRISCOLL:  And in another video interview with BigThink, and this sort of dovetails with the conclusion of "America-Lite", on the topic of the future of computing and the Internet, you casually mention that, "I think that universities, as we know them, will be dead in ten or fifteen years."  That's quite a dramatic charge for a Yale University professor.  How do you see higher education changing?

DR. GELERNTER:  I think it's going to have to change dramatically.  And I would say that certainly some institutions will survive.  The Yales and the Harvards, the Oxfords, the Cambridges, the Stanfords, don't deliver very much education.  Well, they do in technical fields, in science and technology.  But in the humanities, in the center of the university, they're doing very little educating.

On the other hand, the prestige of their degrees really buys something, you know, when you're looking for a job.  And so they charge a lot of money, but they deliver a product that's worth something.

But most universities have to get by on the strength of the education they deliver.  And most universities are delivering none, virtually none.  And students who pay enormous sums of money and parents, often, who help them or who pay, are noticing that their children -- and the students know when they're being phonied; they know what's phony.  They don't have to pay to listen to politically charged nonsense in the humanities and social sciences; not when the Internet offers such a convenient solution; not the perfect solution.

I'd much rather learn face-to-face than over the Internet.  But the Internet is a solution.  And the product is so defective and is so grossly expensive.  I mean, the two together mean that we are certainly going to see a -- the defectiveness and overpricedness of the product, combined with the Internet alternative, means that things are certainly going to change.

MR. DRISCOLL:  Last question: In your recent interview with Hugh Hewitt, Hugh described the tone of America-Lite as a rather gloomy prognosis for the nation.  Is it too late for conservatives to wrest the culture back from the left?  And if it is too late, where does America go from here?

DR. GELERNTER:  Hugh Hewitt is absolutely great, but I don't think it's really gloomy.  I mean, I -- there's certainly gloomy parts of the book.  But the conclusion is as upbeat a I could possibly make it, because this nation has been in worse trouble than this before.

I mean, if you look at where this nation stood in early 1942, when we were losing a war to the Japanese and we didn't have any -- we didn't have any weapons with which to fight, and we were being thrown back on every front; or a decade earlier, when we were facing a genuine depression and we didn't know what to do to the economic system to make it work again, we've got through much worse times than this.

We will get through these times so long as we open our eyes and take an active role and don't just let it all slide by.  We'll get out of it.

MR. DRISCOLL:  This is Ed Driscoll with PJ Media.com, and we've been talking with David Gelernter of Yale, the author of the new book, America-Lite:  How Imperial Academia Dismantled Our Culture (and Ushered In the Obamacrats).  It's published by Encounter Books and available from amazon.com and your local bookseller.

And David, thank you once again very much for stopping by today.

DR. GELERNTER:  My pleasure.  And thank you.

(Transcription by eScribers.net.)