Sunday, April 16, 2006
On the long term, the only way to maintain the system is the honesty and intellectual integrity of the professors themselves. The core problem with modern academia is not such much that it's liberal, but that it's completely out of touch with---and ignorant of---what most of the country is thinking. Mr. Savage tried to point that out to his fellow committee members by referring to the Amazon rankings of the books he suggested, but the response was typical of modern academia: proud ignorance. They don't know what the rest of the country is thinking, and they don't care, because anyone who doesn't think like them is evil, evil, evil.
If you closely read the email from Mr. Savage that we have, I think you'll conclude that he is not particularly conservative. The fault for which he will be lynched is that he is intellectually honest. He simply couldn't stomach playing along with the idea that reading Jimmy Carter and Maria Shriver is some sort of bold and intellectually stimulating experience.
He refers specifically to the sixties, and I know exactly the point that he was trying to make: In their youth, the sixties kids who now have tenure saw themselves as boldly overcoming the cloistered and unchallenged orthodoxies of their elders. But today they simply cannot imagine that they have created a new orthodoxy, and their orthodoxy is every bit as sclerotic and flabby as the orthodoxy that they conquered in their youth. They're like communists: They honestly believe that their revolution will last forever, and can never be legitimately challenged. They know that they are right, right, right, and everyone who disagrees is wrong, wrong, wrong. They are the antithesis of what academicians should be.
I don't know how we clean the stables of these intellectual cowards and midgets. But it's going to be ugly, because the current situation cannot stand. Taxpayers and donors will not fund these people indefinitely.
I have seen and gotten to know a whole range of academics (including grad students). I include grad students with academics because often already at this early stage you can tell if they will invest most of their academic and intellectual energy into thinking they are right about everything or if they are interested in intellectual honesty and a true quest for knowledge. But from my experiences, it is exactly as Ben very realistically describes above: "They're like communists," in other words, in the last 40 years liberal academia has been like "Animal Farm in the Ivory Tower" down to the very last detail.
He mentions financial strategies to put pressure on the low ethics/low quality problem, but I also favor the legal battles for freedom of speech/thought regarding many issues.