No More Western Art Survey Courses At Yale-Some Links

Via the Yale Daily News: ‘Art History Department To Scrap Survey Course:’

Art history department chair and the course’s instructor Tim Barringer told the News that he plans to demonstrate that a class about the history of art does not just mean Western art. Rather, when there are so many other regions, genres and traditions — all “equally deserving of study” — putting European art on a pedestal is “problematic,” he said.’

As posted:

Click here. Thanks to a reader. Quite a varied discussion on Bloom’s surprise 1987 bestseller: ‘The Closing Of The American Mind

Heather McDonald At The WSJ: ‘ The Humanities Have Forgotten Their Humanity’

Camille Paglia: ‘The Modern Campus Cannot Comprehend Evil

Some people are trying to erode common sense until it becomes less common:

‘The horrors and atrocities of history have been edited out of primary and secondary education except where they can be blamed on racism, sexism, and imperialism — toxins embedded in oppressive outside structures that must be smashed and remade. But the real problem resides in human nature, which religion as well as great art sees as eternally torn by a war between the forces of darkness and light.’

Christopher Hitchens (nearly a free speech absolutist, railing against many of his former friends on the Left) discussing the Yale Press, which was genuinely afraid that publishing this book could lead to violence in the Muslim street:

“…Yale had consulted a range of experts before making its decision and that “[a]ll confirmed that the republication of the cartoons by the Yale University Press ran a serious risk of instigating violence.”

Theodore Dalrymple on Medical Correctness here.

Repost: Free-Speech, White-Devils & Academics-What Purpose The Enlightenment Without Its Defenders?

Via David Thompson: ‘Don’t Oppress My People With Your White Devil Science

As a Straussian might see it: Once you set up (S)cience on the positivist definition, as the only arbiter of facts, one can very easily invite the anti-(S)cience response in kind, which manifests itself here as the retreat into a victimhood/oppressor ideology.

‘(S)cience’ was only a tool of the white oppressor, anyways, don’t you know (and no one actually has to do the hard work the sciences require…how convenient):

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As to these more radical groups splintering and applying pressure upwards upon institutions of learning (or at least remaining very vocal and demanding voices within them), I remain skeptical of merely relying upon an adaptable and healthy post-Enlightenment humanism to push back against them in the long-run.

It seems groups of post-Enlightenment individuals gathering to solve commonly defined problems is a risky business, indeed, or at least subject to the same old schisms and problems religious institutions underwent and continue to undergo regarding human nature. I think it’s fair to say people and institutions are often requiring of constraints, especially when it comes to political power and lawmaking; especially when it comes to the challenges our civilization faces from within and without in maintaining institutional authority.

I’d like to think that secularly liberal leadership, more broadly, including the people who want to be in charge of all of us (at their best operating from within moral communities of not too great a solipsism and self-regard) can resist such pressures. For there certainly are those who would fracture our institutions into rafts of post-Enlightenment ‘-isms’ and politicized movements often driven by illiberal ideologies; movements relying on the presumed self-sufficiency of reason while behaving quite irrationally.

I’m looking around and not seeing too much decency in American politics, lately.

A.C. Grayling makes one of the better cases for morality without religious doctrine, I’ve heard of late, but I’m not entirely sold these particular problems can be addressed sufficiently:

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Jonathan Haidt has infused the more modern field of moral psychology with some of David Hume’s empiricist theory of mind, the idea that intuitions come first, and our reasons for them are usually trotted out afterwards (when was the last time you walked away from an argument/debate/discussion totally converted and persuaded by the reasoning of the other guy?

Yet, how, exactly, did our institutions of higher-learning get to the point of catering to the loudest, often most naive, and often illiberal student-groups claiming their feelings and ideas deserve special treatment?

Isn’t this already a failure of leadership, to some extent?:

Kudos to Haidt for hanging in there, and providing an example:

Update & Repost-From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Haidt’s Vindication of Fusionist Conservatism and Aristotelian Liberalism’

Jonathan Haidt At Minding The Campus: ‘Campus Turmoil Begins In High School’

***My own anecdote: After a fruitful Town Hall discussion here in Seattle, celebrated British mathematician Roger Penrose did some Q & A afterwards. Most questions were from math majors, physicists, engineers and hobbyists in the crowd (many were over my head…but I tried to catch a few).

One question came from a youngish man in a beret, a little unkempt, who asked (in a possibly affected, but in a very serious tone):

‘Mr. Penrose, what is meaning in a moribund universe?

‘Eh…sorry…I didn’t catch that?’

‘What is meaning in a mo-ri-bund universe?’

‘Well, that is a different kind of question…I mean, here’s what I can offer you…’

***That’s roughly how I remember it, and Penrose was gracious, but brisk, in moving onto the kinds of questions he might be able to answer, or for which he could provide some insight.

I have a soft spot for contrarian social scientists, like Charles Murray and Jonathan Haidt, pushing against what can so easily become an orthodoxy: Repost-Charles Murray Lecture At AEI: The Happiness Of People…

John Gray Reviews Jonathan Haidt’s New Book At The New Republic: ‘The Knowns And The Unknowns’

Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

From The Remodern Review: ‘The Death Of University Art Programs, Part 3: Ignorance As A Method Of Critique’

Full post here.

Hmmm…..

‘These endless deconstructive debates might not have done our art much good, but it was sure setting us up to take part in the approved modes of the establishment art world. They think if they pile enough words together, they can justify anything. However, they are profoundly wrong. Real art is self evident, and does not need to be propped up with a bunch of meaningless art speak.’

What I noticed in literature:  Most of the old-guard had higher standards and more rigorous methods.  They wanted closer readings and tended to set clearer expectations.  I suspect most thought they actually possessed both knowledge and wisdom and, frankly, they were there to impart both their knowledge and wisdom to us, the students.

‘What happened between them and me?’, I would find myself wondering.

As for the canon, there was the vague notion that it had been, no, still is, being dismantled.  Some deeper epistemic questions tended to hang in the air, put to students straightaway (how does anyone know anything, man? What does a Self do against Nothingness and the Void? how should I be a Creative Self?).

Ah, well.

Related On This Site:

Repost-Daniel Dennett: ‘Postmodernism And Truth’

-Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Repost-From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Nietzsche–Aristocratic Radical or Aristocratic Liberal?’

-Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’

Various Products Of Radical Reason And Reactions To Them- John Gray At The New Statesman

Repost-Roger Scruton At The New Atlantis: ‘Scientism In The Arts & Humanities’

As previously posted:

An old Heather MacDonald piece here (link may not last)

Oh, the humanity.

I agree that students, when facing a syllabus, shouldn’t also have to face the great books mediated, nor their young minds circumscribed, by overt political ideologies.

MacDonald:

‘In other words, the UCLA faculty was now officially indifferent to whether an English major had ever read a word of Chaucer, Milton or Shakespeare, but the department was determined to expose students, according to the course catalog, to “alternative rubrics of gender, sexuality, race, and class.”

Upon hearing “gender, sexuality, race, and class,” I confess my head hangs down a bit and a sigh escapes my lips. Such a lack of imagination does great disservice to works of such powerful imagination.

Then again, I remember my last trip to Southern California (zing).

Of course, there still needs to be an intellectual framework and curriculum for the humanities.

—————–

On that note, Roger Scruton had some keen insights:

“The works of Shakespeare contain important knowledge. But it is not scientific knowledge, nor could it ever be built into a theory. It is knowledge of the human heart”

“…in the days when the humanities involved knowledge of classical languages and an acquaintance with German scholarship, there was no doubt that they required real mental discipline, even if their point could reasonably be doubted. But once subjects like English were admitted to a central place in the curriculum, the question of their validity became urgent. And then, in the wake of English came the pseudo-humanities—women’s studies, gay studies and the like—which were based on the assumption that, if English is a discipline, so too are they.”

Quite importantly:

“And since there is no cogent justification for women’s studies that does not dwell upon the subject’s ideological purpose, the entire curriculum in the humanities began to be seen in ideological terms.”

This is a matter of deep debate in our society right now.

Terry Eagleton, British Marxist and professor in the humanities, debates Scruton below.

Will Marxism & continental philosophy become further guiding lights for the humanities here in America as we find much more so in Britain?

Are we really that thick into the postmodern weeds?:

 —————————–

Judgment, as Scruton points out, shouldn’t necessarily be subsumed to political ideology.  I would agree, and I generally default in assuming that each one of us is the ultimate arbiter of our own judgment.

But, no man is an island.

Does Scruton’s thinking eventually lead us back to the problems that religion can have with artists and writers?

Is there anybody whom you trust to decide what you should and shouldn’t read?

Parents?  Great authors?  Public intellectuals?  Professors?  God?  Laws and lawmakers? Religious leaders?  A school-board?  A democratic majority?  People who think like you?  A Council of Cultural Marxists?

The Department of Institutionalized Idiocy?

See Also On This Site:  Philosopher Of Art Denis Dutton of the Arts & Letters Daily says the arts and Darwin can be sucessfully synthesized: Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

Martha Nussbaum says the university needs to be defend Socratic reason and still be open to diversity:  From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’ 

Stanley Fish also says keep politics out of academia: From The Stanley Fish Blog: Ward Churchill Redux…

Repost-From Slate: ‘MFA vs. NYC’

Full post here.

Of the MFA (Master Of Fine Arts):

‘Staffed by writer-professors preoccupied with their own work or their failure to produce any; freed from pedagogical urgency by the tenuousness of the link between fiction writing and employment; and populated by ever younger, often immediately postcollegiate students, MFA programs today serve less as hotbeds of fierce stylistic inculcation, or finishing schools for almost-ready writers (in the way of, say, Iowa in the ’70s), and more as an ingenious partial solution to an eminent American problem: how to extend our already protracted adolescence past 22 and toward 30, in order to cope with an oversupplied labor market.’

There are of course still storytellers, geniuses honing their craft that will hold up a mirror and lens for humanity within their creative imaginations.  Maybe they can be found at MFA programs, but I’m guessing they’re more likely doing other things:  getting crippled on a naval campaign, spending their days in an attic, learning to navigate the Mississippi by steamboat, or acting and writing for a theater troupe.

Addition:  And as a reader points out:  learning how to communicate during the current technological revolution.

How much good are all these museums, foundations, and institutions actually doing for the arts and humanities?

Related On This SiteFrom Poemshape Via Andrew Sullivan: ‘Let Poetry Die’…Here’s a suggestion to keep aesthetic and political judgements apart-Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment…English departments can’t just copy “(S)cience”…From Bloggingheads: Shakespeare and The Second Law Of ThermodynamicsRepost-How To Study Literature: M.H. Abrams In The Chronicle Of Higher Ed

Wednesday Poem: Wallace Stevens-Anecdote of The JarWednesday Poem: A Postcard From The Volcano..-Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

From The Arnoldian Project: ‘Architecture, Campus, And Learning To Become’

From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?From 2 Blowhards-We Need The Arts: A Sob Story

Arts and Foundations and Institutions-MOMA is private, so perhaps it’s not as decadent if they display Tilda Swinton in a box:

Tilda Swinton At MOMA-From Arma Virumque: ‘Nightmare In A Box’

From The City Journal Via Arts And Letters Daily: Andre Glucksman On “The Postmodern Financial Crisis”

Roger Scruton says keep politics out of the arts, and political judgment apart from aesthetic judgment…this includes race studies/feminist departments/gay studies etc.:  Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment

Some Wednesday Links-Esteem And Prestige

The De Blasio Files-From Via Media: ‘Cuomo-1 De Blasio-0

‘De Blasio and Cuomo are still on good terms in public, and the Mayor has taken pains to say that these new developments will not derail his plans. But this is a major blow to his education agenda. Less than six months after winning on an anti-charter platform, de Blasio’s New York City will be even more hospitable to charter schools than it was under Bloomberg.’

Bad news for the unions and their coalitions, better news for charter students.

From The NY Times:

“Giuliani was a prosecutor, Bloomberg was a C.E.O., and so far, Bill’s a political labor activist.”

Don’t forget the children.

Timothy Larsen at The Chronicle Of Higher Ed ‘For the Persistent Ph.D. Impulse, Gentle Persuasion

‘Artists and athletes, like academics in the humanities, have chosen identity-based professions. Unlike those who do a job simply because it is a way to earn money, these careers are also splendid forms of self-expression and prestige. For a pool of aspirants much larger than the profession itself, they hold a romance that is not usually evoked by, say, retail sales or database administration. Being a professor is, in this sense, literally a dream job for many people’

Too few spots, too many people.

On This Site:…Stanley Fish At The NY Times Blog: ‘The Last Professors: The Corporate Professors And The Fate Of The Humanities’From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’,,,Natalie Angier In The NY Times: Curriculum Designed To Unite Art And Science.

What Will De Blasio’s New York Look Like?-Some LinksSandinistas At The NY Times: ‘A Mayoral Hopeful Now, de Blasio Was Once a Young Leftist’Two Links On Diane Ravitch & School Reform

George Leef At Forbes: ‘A Tale Of Two Bubbles-Housing & College’

Full piece here.

‘To recapitulate, in the housing market, government meddling led to a widespread mania that drove up prices and caused many to think, “I’ve got to buy even if I can’t afford it because housing is a sure thing.” Similarly, government meddling in higher education led many to think, “I’ve got to get a college degree no matter the cost, because a college degree is the path to prosperity.”

Even if we’ve seen profound changes in our economy and social structure from previous generations; even if technology and globalization are dramatically changing our lives, people going to respond to incentives, flow through established channels, and pursue their interests accordingly.

The opportunity in D.C. is mostly about politics.  A bigger government is subject to ever more fingers in the pie.

I like this quote by Ira Stoll found here which I keep putting up:

‘Indeed, if there is a single fact that sums up the state of American political economy at the present moment, it is this: the Boston office building once home to Inc. Magazine and Fast Company, which chronicled and celebrated small and fast-growing businesses, is now the headquarters of a publication called “Compliance Week.”’

Many people have been flowing to universities and Washington D.C.  just as they flowed into housing, because that’s where a lot of money and opportunity are.  For my piece, people who are Left-of-Center tend to flow to these places first, gravitating towards health-care and education and other rent-seeking enterprises, but also to activism and government.  No surprise there.

That said, whichever party is in charge would also face municipal bond defaults, farm subsidies, the looming failure of Medicaid, a huge national defense budget with numerous contractors suckling away at the teat, a huge Department Of Education etc.  Our government has been inflated larger and larger over time, and I think we’re getting a terrible return on investment.

Is the situation in our universities similar?

Is government behind the bad incentives or has it simply amplified deeper currents?

Is higher-ed a bubble and will it pop like housing?  Slowly deflate?  Keep right on going?

——————

Related On This Site:  Repost: Mark Cuban From His Blog: ‘The Coming Meltdown in College Education & Why The Economy Won’t Get Better Any Time Soon’…From The New Criterion: ‘Higher Ed: An Obituary’,,,Ron Unz At The American Conservative: ‘The Myth Of American Meritocracy’

Analagous to old media? What to change and what to keepFrom The Arnoldian Project: ‘Architecture, Campus, And Learning To Become’

Should you get a college degree, probably, but you also probably shouldn’t lose sight of why you’re going and divorce yourself entirely from the cost:  Gene Expression On Charles Murray: Does College Really Pay Off?…Charles Murray In The New Criterion: The Age Of Educational Romanticism

Inga Saffron At The New Republic: ‘Granite Countertops, Flat-Screen TVs, Fire Pits: How College Dorms Got Luxe’

Full piece here.

Keeping an eye on that upmarket trend in some college amenities.  Meanwhile, the economy’s growing dismally at the moment between 1-2%, and enrollment numbers seem pretty flat:

‘How can student housing be going up-market at the exact moment when we are having a national freak-out over rising college costs and the staggering amounts of student debt?’

Wasn’t there that grad student living in his van a while back?

At least there’s this:

‘Administration officials once managed everything on campus, from the English faculty to the janitors, until they realized they could save money by outsourcing the non-academic stuff. It’s much easier to lease a piece of campus land to a developer than to undertake an arduous fund-raising campaign to pay for a new dorm. It’s also 20 percent cheaper: Private companies are able to shave $16,000 off the per-bed cost in their student residences’

Perhaps fewer administrators in the first-place might be part of the answer, administering fewer students who borrow heavily and incentivize rising tuition-costs with debt, as the government keeps pumping more money in?

A softer landing would be nice for that part of the problem.

Some photos.

From The American Conservative Blog:  The false promise of MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses). Reihan Salam At Reuters: ‘Online Education Can Be Good Or Cheap, But Not Both’

Megan McArdle At Bloomberg: ‘Why Education And Healthcare Cost So Much’

Analagous to old media? What to change and what to keepFrom The Arnoldian Project: ‘Architecture, Campus, And Learning To Become’

Should you get a college degree, probably, but you also probably shouldn’t lose sight of why you’re going and divorce yourself entirely from the cost:  Gene Expression On Charles Murray: Does College Really Pay Off?…Charles Murray In The New Criterion: The Age Of Educational Romanticism

Rachel Lu At Richocet: ‘Protecting The Caste’

Full piece here.

This seems like a reasonably balanced view from an adjunct:

‘I understand how this all happened. Originally adjuncts were supposed to be a temporary stop-gap to fill the occasional teaching shortage. A faculty member had to leave for a semester, so you hired some young graduate student or new PhD to fill in temporarily. Now adjuncts pull a major share of the workload, but nobody really wants to sacrifice their own interests to accommodate us, so they go on treating us like we’re a minor and temporary phenomenon even when we obviously are not’

I remember thinking when I was an undergraduate (most people view higher ed through the undergraduate lens, and it’s a limited view), that there was clearly a supply/demand problem for teaching positions.

There seemed to be lots of talented post docs, pressured to publish, many of whom would likely make excellent tenured material, with no place to go.

Addition: My view, of course, was as a student of the humanities.

Related On This Site: Reihan Salam At Reuters: ‘Online Education Can Be Good Or Cheap, But Not Both’

Repost: Mark Cuban From His Blog: ‘The Coming Meltdown in College Education & Why The Economy Won’t Get Better Any Time Soon’…From The New Criterion: ‘Higher Ed: An Obituary’,,,Ron Unz At The American Conservative: ‘The Myth Of American Meritocracy’

Analagous to old media? What to change and what to keepFrom The Arnoldian Project: ‘Architecture, Campus, And Learning To Become’

Should you get a college degree, probably, but you also probably shouldn’t lose sight of why you’re going and divorce yourself entirely from the cost:  Gene Expression On Charles Murray: Does College Really Pay Off?…Charles Murray In The New Criterion: The Age Of Educational Romanticism

Reihan Salam At Reuters: ‘Online Education Can Be Good Or Cheap, But Not Both’

Full piece here.

More on MOOC’s, or Massive Online Open Courses:

‘Tyler Cowen, the George Mason University economist and co-founder of Marginal Revolution University, a popular massive online open course, has argued that U.S. higher education institutions already reach the easiest students to teach (the “low-hanging fruit”), and so efforts to expand higher education access means reaching students who either face serious obstacles to graduating or who are otherwise less inclined to stick around.’

and:

‘I have no doubt that online education is going to get better over time, and that innovators at places like edX and Udacity will find ways to better combine labor and technology in ways that will help contain higher education costs. But we shouldn’t expect miracles. Somehow we need to come up with better ways of engaging the large number of young Americans who aren’t destined to complete a bachelor’s degree, and who might need less in the way of help and hassle when they’re being offered real-world, job-specific skills. Until then, be very skeptical of anyone who promises that online education is going to make it much cheaper to educate struggling students.’

No easy fixes?

Some people learn much more quickly than others, and some have learned how to learn.  Some are dedicated and driven, and some have not ever put forth much effort.  Some have specific natural aptitudes and some simply don’t, while others have aptitudes that they’ve already developed by the time they reach a learning environment.  A few may have aptitudes they didn’t know they had.

A lot of people will need some sort of knowledge or certification right now.  A lot of people will need to learn more about a subject for their jobs on someone’s dime with skin in the game, which is often a challenge for good teachers.   This is why I don’t think free-market solutions will entirely work for education, but could help break the logjam of entrenched interests, inefficiency, and waste in our public education system, and help with the rising costs of higher ed and the unsustainable student-loan debt.

Technology won’t be a panacea, but I still think some of the core education mission is technologically portable enough to shake up the old model.  That’s the hope anyways.

Related On This Site: Update And Repost-Mark Cuban From His Blog: ‘The Coming Meltdown in College Education & Why The Economy Won’t Get Better Any Time Soon’Diane Ravitch At Education Week: ‘Why Michelle Rhee and Adrian Fenty Lost’

Analagous to old media? What to change and what to keepFrom The Arnoldian Project: ‘Architecture, Campus, And Learning To Become’

Should you get a college degree, probably, but you also probably shouldn’t lose sight of why you’re going and divorce yourself entirely from the cost:  Gene Expression On Charles Murray: Does College Really Pay Off?…Charles Murray In The New Criterion: The Age Of Educational Romanticism

Update And Repost-Mark Cuban From His Blog: ‘The Coming Meltdown in College Education & Why The Economy Won’t Get Better Any Time Soon’

Full post here.

‘Its far too easy to borrow money for college.  Did you know that there is more outstanding debt for student loans than there is for Auto Loans or Credit Card loans ? Thats right. The 37mm holders of student loans have more debt than the 175mm or so credit card owners in this country and more than the all of the debt on cars in this country. While the average student loan debt is about 23k. The median is close to $12,500. And growing. Past 1 TRILLION DOLLARS.’

Perhaps there won’t be a meltdown, but current debt levels probably can’t be sustained.  Technology, global competition and various other factors are putting pressure on higher education in the U.S, and forcing it to change.

It still seems as though a promise and a wish this past century we Americans have had for ourselves has been extended as far as it will go (education and opportunity for all).  There are a lot of people whose livelihood depends upon keeping things the way they are.

Also…

As Clayton Christensen argues in the startupgrind video below, universities have competed together to move upmarket, with rock walls, high-end facilities, and more and more amenities.  All the while, they’ve been getting heavier on management and administration.  Christensen suggests that newer business models are utilizing technology at their core, and training people on the job for specific skills.  This is seriously undercutting the old university model.

I find myself thinking of this misalignment (straying from the core educational mission, overpromising, the end of an era?) when I see splashy diversity-laden brochure photos, and huge athletic programs hyped as the faces of university life.  Costs keep going up and the value of many degrees keeps going down.

Perhaps there is a correlation with other overall trends in our society to run museums like businesses, the competition between the private and public sectors,  the growth of the ‘meritocracy’ and Washington D.C. and our continually growing government as well.  Perhaps I’m overhyping it myself, but the ‘greatness’ model is under serious stress.

Will half of universities be in bankruptcy in a few decades?  How much will technology disrupt education?

——————————–

Interesting times.  What have venture capitalists got right, and what might they be missing?

What has really changed regarding human nature?

Related On This Site: Should you get a college degree?:  Gene Expression On Charles Murray: Does College Really Pay Off?…Charles Murray In The New Criterion: The Age Of Educational Romanticism

The libertarian angle, getting smart, ambitious people off of the degree treadmill:  From The American Interest: Francis Fukuyama Interviews Peter Thiel-’A Conversation With Peter Thiel’ I think it’s going too far, trying to apply libertarian economics onto education, but Milton Friedman on Education is thought-provoking.

A deeper look at what education “ought” to be A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’

Nothing that Allan Bloom didn’t point out in the Closing Of The American Mind, at least with regard to a true liberal arts education: Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’

Perhaps some of the problem is due to the ideological interests holing up at our universities; at least in the liberal arts: Repost-Revisting Larry Summers: What Did He Say Again?From The Harvard Educational Review-