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Another One Leaves Academia

A reader writes:

I don’t know if anyone has already posted this, but “The Demands” have been aggregated for some days at http://www.thedemands.org [1]. As of the moment, the site includes a list of 72 universities where protests are taking place, the demands of the protesters, and the telling phrase, “These are living demands and will grow and change as the work grows and changes.”

In addition to the Campus Demands section, it also includes a section on National Demands. This includes the following header:

Michael Brown Jr. was murdered on August 9, 2014.This nationwide movement began as a response to his murder, highlighting the systemic and structural racism that allows Darren Wilson to remain free. These are our beliefs and our demands.

As far as I can tell, none of the demands include a call for a more challenging, well-rounded education.

Some years ago, I began my academic career. Lord willing, I shall complete a Ph.D. in my field this year. I had intended to carry on in academia, because I wanted to teach the things I love. I am glad to say that I am already teaching the things I love, but in a different setting. Working with some interested families who’d already organized a hybrid home school/private school for elementary and middle school students, we have developed a new high school as well. It’s not easy and not without its risks, but teaching at and administering a classical, Christian high school is both more engaging and more meaningful than my past experiences teaching at secular universities.

So I’m another fellow leaving academia, and I can’t say I’m sorry to do so. This kind of nonsense is endemic. I have posted here using a pseudonym since I’ve been an academic, fully recognizing the need to keep my head down and my mouth shut. (I could relate stories about the priorities of departments like my own, but those would be telling and I must still finish.) But that time may be drawing to a close for me, though not for others. I am thankful for what I have learned from the good teachers I’ve had, but I don’t think I’ll look back after I walk away. Things have become worse every year and show no signs of improving.

Administrations are only hastening the end to the charade that the modern university system. Colleges of Law, Medicine, Education, and STEM will surely survive. But I can’t see a way to salvage these bloated, indebted universities once families realize what they’re driving themselves into debt for.

Somehow, we have to save the humanities from the colleges and universities, and keep the light alive until more rational times return.

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33 Comments To "Another One Leaves Academia"

#1 Comment By Chris 1 On December 5, 2015 @ 4:02 am

It’s impossible to leave academia by creating a new academy.

#2 Comment By Phil On December 5, 2015 @ 4:02 am

Somehow, we have to save the humanities from the colleges and universities, and keep the light alive until more rational times return.

Let it burn. I never understood why humanities majors were wasting their money, it’s all stuff you should pursue on the side for fun, while you do a real job for a living like engineering and medicine.

These people in the humanities are in college “finding themselves” and in all kinds of sex and dating mazes and somehow they have time for all that and all the ridiculous activism. Stop accosting me with your petitions, I have to get to the lab to finish my assignment before class! I don’t give a flip about the environment or abortion or microaggressions, I’m paying good money to learn a trade so I can get a JOB.

See you at starbucks after graduation I guess, I’ll take extra sugar in my coffee please.

#3 Comment By James C. On December 5, 2015 @ 6:39 am

A.C. Grayling, Master* of New College of the Humanities in London, has launched a fine broadside against this campaign of destruction in today’s Telegraph.

*(Trigger warning: In light of Harvard’s recent to abandon the centuries-old title of ‘Master’ for the heads of its undergraduate houses because Slavery, let it be known that the Brits do affirm that Black Lives Matter but are just too ignorant to see the intrinsic connection in ALL contexts between the word ‘master’ and subjugation of people of colour.)

Okay, with that out of the way, now to Grayling’s admirable piece. Excerpt:

To attend university is not only to learn more, and to learn it with richer attendant insight, it is also thereby to mature one’s intellect, to grow up, to become an enfranchised adult in mind. Recreating nursery conditions to protect oneself even from mention of what happens in unvarnished human experience is a perversion of that process. In America, students call their universities “school”; alas, it seems that the cotton-wool connotation of that term is too literally carried across to what should be very unlike school in a number of respects. University is where one is not only taught, but learns independently; where one is not only guided, but challenged; where there are not teachers and pupils, but colleagues; where a steady gaze is directed at the data of life and the world, with the aim of understanding both.

It is impossible to pursue the study of history and literature in a “safe space” of cuddly toys and puppy videos. History and literature are full of raw and unignorable things. Imagine a medical student who refuses to dissect any part of a cadaver that would not be visible outside the clothing of a person walking on a city street. This is exactly what the newly inflated politically correct timidity is like.

[2]

[NFR: Thank you for this, James. It embodies what *ought* to be the response of US universities to these protests. Even if readers who say Emory’s response is a masterful strategic stroke aimed at calming the protesters down while not really giving in to their demands, I still see it as a defeat, because the people running a university did not clearly and explicitly defend the mission of the university, as Grayling did. — RD]

#4 Comment By James C. On December 5, 2015 @ 6:44 am

Argh. I can never get the href tag right. “In light of Harvard’s recent decision…” is what I meant to say.

[3]

No word yet on whether they will abolish master’s degrees out of sensitivity.

#5 Comment By Carlo On December 5, 2015 @ 7:37 am

“As far as I can tell, none of the demands include a call for a more challenging, well-rounded education.”

Well, they grew up in a culture that by and large views knowledge and education as INSTRUMENTAL, not as a value in itself. So, what is the instrumental values of the humanities, if not to facilitate the acquisition of political power? In that sense, the education they have been receiving seems perfectly adequate.

#6 Comment By Heartright On December 5, 2015 @ 8:09 am

” Colleges of Law, Medicine, Education, and STEM will surely survive.”

Perhaps for a while, but a civilisation whose learning is limited to that, will not survive.

[4]

Please take a look at the section Continental Europe.
The public university, operating under the auspices of the Government, publicly accountable etc etc… that is and must be the Golden Standard.
A national education system cannot be run as a collection of private allodia for recalcitrant psychotics, and certainly it will not do to have it run as a daycare centre for undergraduates, who should never be allowed to forget that they are at the low end of pole.

#7 Comment By Malcolm IX On December 5, 2015 @ 8:33 am

Black nationalist activists have realized that in dealing with American left-liberalism, they hold absolutely unlimited power. There will come a point where they overreach, but they’re nowhere near it. I anticipate moves to fire white faculty and administrators in large numbers and replace them with POC, and to drastically ratchet up percentages of students of color well beyond the percentages of the population they comprise.

For the activists, this is about transferring as much power as possible from whites to blacks (with marginal consideration for POC and still more marginal consideration for gender minorities). And for a non-negligible part of the movement, it’s about inflicting as much pain as possible on white people. Google “white tears,” and learn the extent to which the pain of white people is seen by the movement as at best a joke, and sometimes a laudable outcome.

Ugh.

#8 Comment By Malcolm IX On December 5, 2015 @ 8:34 am

Sorry, meant to say “other POC” in my parenthetical. Feel free to correct if you feel so inclined…

#9 Comment By Will Oberton On December 5, 2015 @ 8:42 am

What should be done is first student debt should be forgiven in bankruptcy and then some independent rating agency should certify mastery of disiplines/skills. This would break the university monopoly and the whole bloated thing would fall apart.

#10 Comment By Michelle On December 5, 2015 @ 9:50 am

Even if readers who say Emory’s response is a masterful strategic stroke aimed at calming the protesters down while not really giving in to their demands, I still see it as a defeat, because the people running a university did not clearly and explicitly defend the mission of the university, as Grayling did. — RD]

This statement presumes that university administrators actually know what the mission of the modern multiversity is beyond servicing the customers/students and credentialing. Their actions are perfectly in keeping with that mundane definition.

#11 Comment By Leo On December 5, 2015 @ 10:10 am

Well I for one am looking at opportunities to send my child abroad for education. I believe this will become a more and more common practice for those who can. What is interesting is that since my child is of mixed race (Brazilian and American) we have options, and the thugs who are looking to “diversify” the colleges are losing out on true diversity.

#12 Comment By panda On December 5, 2015 @ 10:14 am

” Stop accosting me with your petitions, I have to get to the lab to finish my assignment before class! I don’t give a flip about the environment or abortion or microaggressions, I’m paying good money to learn a trade so I can get a JOB.

See you at starbucks after graduation I guess, I’ll take extra sugar in my coffee please.

I hope you do realize that in 50 years time, a very large proportion of jobs you are getting technical training for will not exist, but jobs the require,say,writing skills would still be there, in somewhat diminished force…(Of course, whether universities teach those skills to humanities graduates or not is an open question..).

#13 Comment By Donald On December 5, 2015 @ 10:24 am

While I agree with some of the criticism of campus radicals, education in the good old days was all about safe spaces and avoiding harsh realities, both in grade school and college. American history was made pretty, the ugliest portions excised. Hell, we still do this to some degree now, in current events where the fact that we support war crimes overseas ( this year in Yemen, last year in Gaza) is known by people who pay attention, but children blown up by our allies simply doesn’t arouse much interest. We are finally more honest about our past, at least if it is distant enough. But when I was in high school we still were being taught that the Civil War was a tragic conflict between ( white) brothers, and healing finally occurred after the terrible blight of Reconstruction ended and white Southerners were back in charge. I learned nothing to correct this in college–I think Eric Foner’s work came later.

I was a science major in college, one of those folk learning something that I both loved and would get me a job. I did learn much that I valued about Western civilization (including some about Dante), but virtually nothing about the long period of Western colonialism. If you think about it, that is insane. Western colonialism shaped our world and decisions and policies then laid the foundations for many conflicts ( and accompanying refugee flows) now. I learned only a token bit about other religions.

It’s easy to mock 20 year olds who want to run college, but I don’t think it is quite so easy to say what college should be like. I went to a good liberal arts college decades ago and as just stated, can now see some of the huge gaps in what I learned.

#14 Comment By Geoff Guth On December 5, 2015 @ 10:31 am

I love history. My major focused on medieval studies, and I was quite good at it. My studies of classics were the key to finally learning to appreciate poetry (I think having to translate a poem from Greek or Latin, word by word, line by line, slowed me down enough to appreciate the choice and placement of each and every word).

But even ten years ago, I could see that I’d never make it as an academic. You see, I’m not really interested in postmodernism or feminism or whatever -ism is in fashion today. I just love the poetry and the thought and the beauty and the stories that these people left behind. And yeah, they may have been a bunch of rich old white men, but so what?

If there was a job somewhere where I could pass that along, perhaps I’d could have worked towards that (I’m way too old to be starting an academic career now; I’d perhaps work myself into a tenured position around 106 or so). But it’s publish or perish; teaching really doesn’t count for much.

I thought I might at least be able to salvage some time from my driving job to read a little Horace now and then, but in today’s America, we don’t like anyone to have any time at all that’s not devoted to earning your masters more money. So I guess there really are no refuges left.

#15 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On December 5, 2015 @ 10:33 am

@panda, fortunately for STEM majors fifty years doesn’t happen instantly, so as the specific skills they learn in college become less relevant, they pick up new skills that are equally or more valuable.

#16 Comment By Pastor Brian On December 5, 2015 @ 10:39 am

Dr X is doing the sanest and noblest thing he could possibly do. I am classically homeschooling my children, and tutoring Foundations (the Grammar stage) at our local Classical Conversations coop. I have discovered a great zeal for classical education on the part of many, many parents. They see the outcome of classical Christian education and instantly long for it. They are quite willing to sacrifice to bring it about. However, we have a great need of the kind of leadership that people like Dr X can provide.

Getting the biblical worldview, self-discipline, and the ability to reason, as well as exposing children to the great stories and themes and arts of Western Civilization BEFORE their hearts can be turned by postmodern narratives is crucial. If we wait til University to expose them to these things, the battle is probably already lost.

#17 Comment By M_Young On December 5, 2015 @ 11:33 am

“But when I was in high school we still were being taught that the Civil War was a tragic conflict between ( white) brothers, and healing finally occurred after the terrible blight of Reconstruction ended and white Southerners were back in charge. I learned nothing to correct this in college–I think Eric Foner’s work came later.”

You must be pretty old, because the Marxist, SDS member Eric Foner’s work had been taught, along with fellow Marxist Howard Zinn’s, in college for at least 30 years.

And given what we know now of, say, the shooting of [5] in a scene that could have been right out of Birth of a Nation, or the gun play in the Bunny Park, that maybe the old interpretation of the Civil War and Reconstruction was correct.

#18 Comment By CatherineNY On December 5, 2015 @ 12:14 pm

And now one of the Christakises has announced that she will no longer be teaching at Yale: [6]

[NFR: Dammit! The bad guys won, again. — RD]

#19 Comment By Ben H On December 5, 2015 @ 12:28 pm

The fear is of course that if the schools don’t give into every aspect of the demands they’ll find themselves investigated by the feds for a civil rights violation. We’re in an emerging police state where the government more and more regulates what official thoughts you are allowed to have.

#20 Comment By Chriscom On December 5, 2015 @ 12:30 pm

Let it burn. I never understood why humanities majors were wasting their money, it’s all stuff you should pursue on the side for fun, while you do a real job for a living like engineering and medicine.

There’s always been a battle over this issue, though the New Maoists are adding a twist.

I was an English major in the 1970’s, and ended up in journalism. I was fortunate enough to have studied the works of John Milton, Shakespeare and Chaucer in some depth. That shaped who I am in a profound and permanent way. Apart from its effect on me, I like to think of it as playing my own little part in preserving and transmitting a memory of who we are, in what remains of the tradition of the West. Although many great minds have been shaped by individuals pursuing those treasures on their own, I’m skeptical I would have been one of them. Great teachers really do make a difference.

In retrospect I left that world–the academic part–just in time. My college adviser was very disappointed I didn’t pursue a graduate degree in that field, but being of the persuadable type back then I’m afraid I would have gone along with the dark tide for quite a long time.

So here’s a shout-out for the value of the humanities, and I hope for the day when they will be taught again.

#21 Comment By David J. White On December 5, 2015 @ 12:48 pm

@panda, fortunately for STEM majors fifty years doesn’t happen instantly, so as the specific skills they learn in college become less relevant, they pick up new skills that are equally or more valuable.

Or, of course, as they get older and their salaries rise, companies can simply fire them and hire, at lower cost, the newest crop of graduates who were trained in the latest trendy skill set. Rinse, repeat.

#22 Comment By JohnE_o On December 5, 2015 @ 1:04 pm

From the previous thread:

>I don’t know if anyone has already posted this, but “The Demands” have been aggregated for some days at [7]. As of the moment, the site includes a list of 72 universities where protests are taking place…

All this text written about 72 – 72 out of of thousands of universities in the US?

Maybe this isn’t quite the crisis that one might think…

#23 Comment By Uncle Billy On December 5, 2015 @ 2:37 pm

And we wonder why the Chinese are eating our lunch? I am not optimistic about our future.

#24 Comment By William Tighe On December 5, 2015 @ 3:32 pm

Phil wrote:

“Let it burn. I never understood why humanities majors were wasting their money, it’s all stuff you should pursue on the side for fun, while you do a real job for a living like engineering and medicine.”

Interesting how history repeats itself (one is tempted to add Karl Marx’s “the first time as tragedy, the second as farce”) since it was this sort of argument which the Medieval scholastic academic teachers of Theology/Philosophy, joined by those in Law and Medicine, used during the Renaissance to justify the exclusion of “humanist” studies (which meant Classical Latin and Greek, and Classical Literature) from the university curriculum. It might, as some of them conceded, be a beneficial “leisure interest,” but had no place alongside “practical subjects” like Divinity, law, and Medicine.

#25 Comment By Heartright On December 5, 2015 @ 3:34 pm

NFR: as Grayling did ( etc )

A person so closely tied ( being the vice chairman ) to the British Humanist Association cannot be taken at face value when stating things like “A university is not the place for those who need a room with cuddly toys when frightened by ideas. Instead of changing the university to accommodate them, let them go elsewhere; and let ideas and debate flourish. ” – not after said organisation approved of banning a video of the Lord’s Prayer in cinemas as offensive.

It was of the likes of Grayling that Dawkins tweeted that certain people DESERVE to be offended. Master Grayling believes in the flourishing of ideas HE approves of, but not of those ideas of which he does not approve. Exactly like those troublesome undergraduates.

@panda (Of course, whether universities teach those skills to humanities graduates or not is an open question..).

Those who are so open to deconstructing grammar as part of a structure of oppression end up immunizing themselves to being taught the skills in question.

#26 Comment By Pat On December 5, 2015 @ 4:22 pm

“Even if readers who say Emory’s response is a masterful strategic stroke aimed at calming the protesters down while not really giving in to their demands, I still see it as a defeat, because the people running a university did not clearly and explicitly defend the mission of the university, as Grayling did. — RD”

The folks who run the university don’t care about pleasing you, though. They need to keep peace on campus and prevent disruption of finals week and parse out which bits of the students’ complaints represent real problems that need to be solved, which require some discussion with the students, and which can be left to simmer down on their own after a pro forma acknowledgment. They need to set a good example for the students themselves, and reassure their trustees that they can keep the situation from blowing up. And in all of this, they need to avoid saying anything that would get them into deeper trouble.

In short, they have to manage a real situation on the ground, not perform for an outside audience that wishes they would serve as its mouthpiece.

My dad sometimes accused us of playing ‘let’s you and him fight.’ It wasn’t a compliment.

#27 Comment By Charles Featherstone On December 5, 2015 @ 5:16 pm

Working with some interested families who’d already organized a hybrid home school/private school for elementary and middle school students, we have developed a new high school as well. It’s not easy and not without its risks, but teaching at and administering a classical, Christian high school is both more engaging and more meaningful than my past experiences teaching at secular universities.

I’m fascinated by this, and would like to learn to more. Please contact me.

#28 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On December 5, 2015 @ 6:42 pm

@David J. White, that’s a risk, but if you stay ahead of the curve it’s possible to always be more valuable than the new graduates.

#29 Comment By Donald On December 5, 2015 @ 7:33 pm

I am fairly old–I was in college n the late 70’s and only read about Foner later.

My point though, is that I expect constant battles about what is taught in schools about history and while I think some of the current lefty student demands are silly, I also know that many conservatives want their own version of safe spaces in how history is taught. They have lost that battle in colleges, for the present, but they still try to influence what is taught in high schools and earlier. And if there is a backlash against the current lefty excesses, I fully expect it to go too far in the opposite direction.

Norman Finkelstein and Steven Salaita lost their jobs because of their rhetoric and/or positions on the Israel/Palestine issue. People on the right never mention them in their concern about suppression of speech on campus–it doesn’t fit the conservative narrative. The only narrative that does fit is that there are people on all parts of the political spectrum who try to win arguments with bullying tactics.

#30 Comment By Donald On December 5, 2015 @ 7:41 pm

As for the old interpretation of the Civil War and Reconstruction being correct, sure, if blacks are inherently inferior and needed to be kept in line by the KKK, you and Woodrow Wilson are exactly right.

But thanks for making my point for me better than I made it. As stupid and mindless and immature as campus lefties can be, one should never forget that until a few decades ago people were taught that it was somehow good that the wounds of the country were healed when Reconstruction was rolled back. I was still being taught that in the 70’s.

#31 Comment By Donald On December 5, 2015 @ 7:45 pm

My replies above were to M Young–should have said that. I’m actually a little stunned by the racism. A shooting is supposed to demonstrate that the old racist interpretation of the civil war and reconstruction were correct? Really?

#32 Comment By Gromaticus On December 6, 2015 @ 8:14 am

Somehow, we have to save the humanities from the colleges and universities, and keep the light alive until more rational times return.

Breath slowly and deeply into a paper bag until you calm down. There…isn’t that better.

For all the post-modern, deconstructionist, swill that’s been filling the troughs of the academy since the 1960’s you still stumbled upon Dante, little late in life I must say :), and he, according to the book, saved your life.

The humanities will exist and thrive without the academy. In fact the modern American university has had the relationship with the humanities that the medical examiner has with the human body for some time now. The “academic Benedict Option” has been around for ages. Russell Kirk realized this when he walked away from Michigan State, Wendell Berry from UK, Christopher Dawson was limited to being a visiting lecturer rather than a full professor until he had been publishing for more than thirty years.

You’ve mentioned in the past that your fear of the “mob” leads you to side with authority, and in recent post you seem to see “the academy” as an authority for the humanities. But it’s not. The authority that drives the the arts and humanities is the spark of the divine in the human soul.

#33 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On December 7, 2015 @ 12:27 pm

A web site is a paper tiger, if anyone has the backbone to say so. One could even quote Joseph Stalin on the subject: “Paper will put up with anything you print on it.” That statement would be squared when it comes to cyber space.

As for Michael Brown, no, he was not murdered. A detailed federal Justice Department investigation established that he was in fact acting in a manner that precluded any criminal charges against Officer Wilson. The investigation also turned up considerable evidence that the Ferguson Police Department was operating in a grossly improper manner, which explained why a lot of people believed that Michael Brown had been murdered.

I thought I might at least be able to salvage some time from my driving job to read a little Horace now and then, but in today’s America, we don’t like anyone to have any time at all that’s not devoted to earning your masters more money.

Another reason we need strong unions and a reaffirmation of the Eight Hour Day. (With some variations — I myself have found that four ten hour days is better than five eight hour days, and many in nursing appreciate the benefits of three twelve-hour shifts a week.) The original eight hour slogan was “eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, eight hours for what we will.” Geoff reading Horace, for instance.