Universities

The Perilous State Of The University: Jonathan Haidt & Jordan B. Peterson

Jonathan Haidt (moral/social psychologist) and Jordan Peterson (clinical psychologist) discuss how they view what’s going on within our universities:

I’d like to think that there’s a reasonable conservative position which is agnostic, and respects the depths and dangers of religious experience, faith claims to knowledge, and the profound impact Christianity has had upon our legal and social institutions.

In essence, this blog believes such moral reasoning can provide a profoundly wise framework for understanding one’s own nature.  It can also help understand the problems which arise from our interactions with each other, with positions of authority, and with the world.  These depths can orient one towards what’s worth conserving (just as can a good humanities or social sciences education), despite being at odds with many other things of value.  Discovering what is true is a continuing job (and blessing) belonging to each of us, especially since the Enlightenment, but this apparently comes with the dangers of ideology, bad ideas, radical resentment, and totalitarian dead-ends still with us.

This agnostic position can, I believe, with some accuracy, view the depths and dangers of fundamentalist Leftism; how swiftly it can take over institutions, and how it appeals to many of the same old human nature problems with often pseudo-religious claims to knowledge.  Marxism, after all, is designed to take people up towards a promised endpoint to human history, and incite individuals into action towards ideals (revolutionary praxis-radical liberation) happy to trammel over the Sciences, the Social Sciences, the Humanities, and much truth besides.

See Also On This Site: The comments section of Theodore Dalrymple In The City Journal: Atheism’s Problems…Repost-Theodore Dalrymple: ‘What The New Atheists Don’t See’

From New York Magazine: If God Is Dead, Who Gets His House?

A Brief Defense Of Agnosticism

Did the ground shift some time ago?  Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On YouTube

Roger Scruton At The WSJ: ‘Memo To Hawking: There’s Still Room For God’

Related On This SiteFrom Darwinian Conservatism: ‘The Evolution of Mind and Mathematics: Dehaene Versus Plantinga and Nagel’

From Edward Feser: ‘Nagel And His Critics Part IV’

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

Steven Pinker somewhat focused on the idea of freedom from violence, which tends to be libertarian. Yet, he’s also skeptical of the more liberal human rights and also religious natural rights. What about a World Leviathan?: At Bloggingheads Steven Pinker Discusses War And Thomas HobbesFrom Reason.TV Via YouTube: ‘Steven Pinker on The Decline of Violence & “The Better Angels of Our Nature”‘Simon Blackburn Reviews Steven Pinker’s “The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial Of Human Nature” Via the University Of Cambridge Philosophy Department

Evolutionary psychology and moral thinking: Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’

Russian Hackers, A Link On el-Sisi’s Egypt & A Little Less Mephistopheles For This Kindergarten

This blog believes fundamental conflicts within the West, fermenting within our institutions, foaming-over into our politics, invite the calculated meddling of those who think differently.

In the world of Statecraft, I’d prefer cold-eyed realism and calculated bastardry, when necessary, in the pursuit of American interests (ideally attached to decent human beings with checked, limited powers).  Overreach and hubris is easy.  Humility and good strategy is hard.

It’d be nice if Russia wasn’t being run as a kleptocracy by an ex-KGB agent, incentivizing a lot of bright hackers with little economic opportunity into the service of State propaganda and espionage…but:

C.S. Dickey:  ‘Putin Outfoxes Obama, Lies In Wait For Trump

Populist steam seems to be translating directly into policy these days.  Maybe it’s a kind of passive-aggressive placation of outrage in the service of ‘optics’.

That would be short-sighted and petty.


Link from a reader:  The Deep State in Egypt has been controlled by the military for a long time…’Egypt’s Failed Revolution.’

Many Westerners will probably go ahead and double-down on certain radical/semi-radical Western ideals just as those ideals are failing to translate into effective strategy by an exiting American administration.

Better keep James Taylor handy.

From Abu Muqawama: ‘Mubarak And Me’From Michael Totten: ‘The New Egyptian Underground’Michael Totten At The American Interest: “A Leaner, Meaner Brotherhood”

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Gore Vidal had a line that stuck with me in his review of Italo Calvino.

‘For the last year, Calvino had been looking forward to his fall and winter at Harvard. He even began to bone up on “literary theory.” He knew perfectly well what a mephitic kindergarten our English departments have become.

Well, that might be a little much.

Personally, I like to read people who don’t really think like me, especially when they satirize bureaucratic bloat and puffery as they find them.

I like folks on the outside looking in…tracing the shape of something.

Why do we have so many administrators, regulators, and overseers within our institutions?:

Incentives matter. A vigorous freedom and skeptical citizenry is hard to maintain, but vital nonetheless.

Climb aboard and hang-on, dazzled as you may be by the thrill of the thing.

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Beauty is no quality in things themselves, it exists merely in the mind which contemplates them; and each mind perceives a different beauty.

David Hume

A Few Sunday Thoughts On The Higher Ed Bubble

Walter Russell Mead-‘The Higher Ed Bubble Is Very, Very Real

‘The bubble is something else: high demand for education has combined with an inefficient guild structure (guilds were once the dominant form of economic organization in everything from carpentry to textile weaving; today only a handful survive, mostly in the learned professions) and government price subsidies to create an unsustainable method of service delivery.’

There are a few ways of thinking about what may be in store for higher education.

1.  The old media/new media analogy and technological dislocation-Basically, individuals can have access to much of the college library, and beyond, on a handheld device for a few hundred dollars.  What to do with this access and that knowledge, as well as how and what to think about it will still require pedagogy, rigor, the passing on of knowledge and method, grades, well-ordered minds, time and money.  Information and knowledge aren’t “free”, of course, either for the producers of that knowledge individually nor as members of groups and institutions.  It’s not free ultimately for the technology itself and the curators and gatekeepers of the technology, but it’s much cheaper and easily accessible than before.

How can we deliver an education more efficiently?

The current curators and gatekeepers in our universities and guild structures will feel increasing pressure (and I think many are finding new opportunities) from this technological dislocation.  Professors (publish or perish!) now have greater real time connections with known and previously unknown colleagues, amateurs around the world, past research and thinkers, as well as opportunities to engage students in the classroom.  For motivated students, there will be a chance to get more of what they pay for, targeting their studies and getting more feedback from fellow students, perhaps professors, and other materials.  They can be graded on what they’ve learned more effectively.  It’s a delivery issue.

The old media’s control as gatekeepers and curators of public opinion has been undermined with so much information out there.  They often don’t lead the discussion, but find themselves racing to keep up with it (including cat videos and celebrity gossip).  It’s a delivery issue, and they’ve had to organize their business models around this new marketplace, and the ad revenue models aren’t working like they used to.  Some have got a good thing going and kept it going, while others went down rat holes under bad leadership and disappeared.  Most resisted the change.  All have had to adapt and think hard about what it’s most important to take with them and their duty to communities of readers if for no other reason than to generate revenue, by continuing to shape public opinion.

It’s still an industry in flux.

The housing bubble/higher ed bubble analogy-I happen to believe that when you strip the cost of an education from the consumers of that education, you tend get more irresponsibility on both sides.  There’s a large psychological buy-in that everyone needs to go to college, just like everyone needed to own a home.  It represents some of what is best about America, but when you’ve propped up that dream on unsustainable debt levels, well, it’s unsustainable.

A lot of people are borrowing money they can’t afford to go to college.  It won’t pay off for all of them, especially in this economy, and the debt is non-dischargeable.  Many people don’t even know why they’re in college or aren’t particularly committed to getting an education.  Many people are leaving high school unprepared, and sometimes college.  Colleges have gotten locked into competitive feedback loops to attract students with amenities, and students have gotten locked into competitive feedback loops amongst themselves to get into the best colleges.

No one wants to be left behind.

It might be worthwhile to think again about the core-educational mission.

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’

 Should you get a college degree?  Yes, you probably should, but understand there are many entrenched interests who don’t always have your interests in mind:  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.’

Allan Bloom had in mind the idea of a true liberal arts education: Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’

Repost-Too Much “Quality Control” In Universities?

Here’s a great rant.

“The galling part of this whole process is that it really has no impact on what we and our professors actually do in our classroom. Perhaps I should not say this publicly. The issue is not one of of being opposed to high standards. We already do have high standards. We believe strongly in pedagogy and teaching excellence. The issue is that the assumptions and thought process behind this sort of modeling is fundamentally wrong-headed, diminishing, rather than enhancing education.”

It can sure get in the way if you’re trying to teach or trying to learn.

uploaded by mattbucher

What the cartoon doesn’t touch on is how much “creative types” can get in the way too.

Addition:  I think it’s going too far, trying to apply libertarian economics onto education, but Milton Friedman on Education is thought-provoking.

Related On This Site:  Louis Menand At The New Yorker: ‘Live And Learn: Why We Have College’

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Repost-From NPR: ‘Author Louis Menand On Reforming American Universities’

Full audio here. (around 5:00 min)

Is it just the humanities…or the whole university?

Menand wonders in his new book, why it often can take 9 years for a humanities PhD to get their doctorate.  He suggests part of the answer lies in the numbers:  fewer opportunities and fewer university programs since 1970.  Over-trained and underpaid.

Addition:  An emailer points out that all those jobs were directly tied to economic and cultural growth…and now that’s receding?

Related On This Site: Did Martha Nussbaum succeed in addressing a perhaps broader problem?  From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’

Philosopher Of Art Denis Dutton of the Arts & Letters Daily argues the arts and Darwin can be sucessfully synthesized: Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

Conservative Briton Roger Scruton suggests keeping political and aesthetic judgments apart in the humanities: Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment

How might Nietzsche figure in the discussion, at least with regard to Camille Paglia.  See the comments:  Repost-Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was Successful

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