The Destruction of the Academy in the United Stateson July 7, 2008 at 9:51 am
The American Academy is under unreletening assault. It will not survive.
American Politics Aren’t ‘Post-Racial’ – WSJ.com
Still, what happened at IUPUI is a pungent reminder of all that’s possible now in the rarefied ideological atmosphere on our college campuses – and in this presidential election year, not perhaps only on our campuses.
The story began prosaically enough. Keith Sampson, a student employee on the janitorial staff earning his way toward a degree, was in the habit of reading during work breaks. Last October he was immersed in “Notre Dame Vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan.”
Mr. Sampson was in short order visited by his union representative, who informed him he must not bring this book to the break room, and that he could be fired. Taking the book to the campus, Mr. Sampson says he was told, was “like bringing pornography to work.” That it was a history of the battle students waged against the Klan in the 1920s in no way impressed the union rep.
The assistant affirmative action officer who next summoned the student was similarly unimpressed. Indeed she was, Mr. Sampson says, irate at his explanation that he was, after all, reading a scholarly book. “The Klan still rules Indiana,” Marguerite Watkins told him – didn’t he know that? Mr. Sampson, by now dazed, pointed out that this book was carried in the university library. Yes, she retorted, you can get Klan propaganda in the library.
Of course, the universities will be successful. Higher (in the sense of graduate and post-graduate) learning will be successful. Science will be successful.
But the intellectualism that only barely existed for a century in the United States is a goner.
Its most visible enemies have been the Leftists and their fellow-travelers, who beginning with the rising generation of the 1960s and 1970s overthrew traditional fields of study like geography, history, archaeology, and literature in the service of Leftist ideals.
Both the old Academy and the Leftists, however, are under even more heartless attack from the Quantitative Revolution, the measurement-and-control movement that subjects everything to test-and-reject, measure-and-fund, quantitative certainties.
The romantic academia that lives in our heart is dying or dead. Given a future between the Tyranny of Leftists and the Tyranny of the Quantitative Revolutions, my sympathies go to the quantitativists. They save what can be saved, submitting the universities to Research, Application, and funded Goals.
A colder but more efficient academy is being born. One that has as much room for Leftism, or the joy of learning, as IBM Global Services.