More on what is wrong with The Science
A reader recently complained that he signed up to hear more about what is wrong with academia, but was disappointed to find that I never cover the topic “in any depth.” It’s probably true that my pieces on the subject have been too scattered and infrequent for anyone to make sense of,1 and it’s certainly the case that I’ve never laid out my entire conception in a single post. I’ll try to do that now.
First, I want to delimit the problem:
I’m not very interested in pedagogical failures. I think universities do a terrible job of teaching students, and I think that they’re getting worse at it every moment, but this doesn’t keep me up at night because I’m very pessimistic about the possibilities of instruction in the first place. I profited in many ways from the work I put into my lectures and my seminars over the course of my academic career; it broadened my intellectual perspective, and forced me to learn adjacent fields I never cared about before. But, I doubt that my students got very much out of my labours. Untalented pupils can’t be taught anything, while the most intelligent and enthusiastic learn on their own.
As for the most obvious issue, namely the overt politicisation of the academy and the proliferation of nonsense fields like critical chemsex studies – these circus acts are much less prevalent beyond the Anglosphere, and they’re merely the surface manifestations of much deeper pathologies. It’s very easy to mock this stuff (I do it all the time) but as long as university education remains an accoutrement of the aspiring masses, you will never get the pretenders and the pseudointellectuals out of your schools. Preferentially admitted minority students and preferentially hired minority professors still have to learn and teach, and because they can’t do either of these things as well as their more highly selected colleagues, they’ll end up requiring a toy system of fake journals and fake courses of study, where they can pretend to publish and to learn like everyone else. It’s hardly surprising that the leftists, who were responsible for opening the academy to the masses in the first place, dominate these fields and push their boundaries ever further, as they aim to co-opt also more traditional areas of inquiry for their politicised ends.
This cancer may be the death of our intellectual institutions in the longer term, but what most concerns me right now, is how what is left of the traditional university underneath all of these tumorous growths is also failing, and in its own very complex and distinct way.
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