Tuesday, December 13, 2005

From the academic wasteland...

...we find little of it discussed in the media to be proud of. Deutsche Welle’s English service hints to the existence of an admission on about how ‘elite’ Universities need to be established in Germany. By ‘elite’ they mean its’ new definition – having competitive enrollment. In my youth, university places in West Germany were made oddly noncompetitive, but hard to get. Choosing academia over a vocational pursuit had to occur at the 8th grade which reduced the pool of dedicated students. There was also grade-tracking that went as far back as age of 7 to enter certain fields. It’s a programmatic response to a ‘tragedy of the commons’ created first by micromanaging the whole mess, and then by rationing. By making it largely free it is abused, has to be rationed, and is nearly made worthless in some areas of study.

Unwilling to adapt to the fact that some students flower at different ages, the worst kind of social hierarchy develops which has little to do with performance or diligence, but of persistent test-taking, and the laziness developed after one passes a gate on that path.
It’s been found that one third of post-graduate study by Germans happen in the United States, precisely because of the open but competitive architecture of the free-market for education in the US, and the closed architecture at home.

In any even the DW-World radio piece reveals what troubles many in old Europe. The decision to permit new private Universities to grow into a Uni-like scale is needed to ‘get the crown back’ – I suppose from the only other nation discussed in the segment, the US which has been education as many as 100 000 German graduate students each year. The intent hardly seems academic, but motivated by envy. Sobeit. If that’s what it takes to create excellence there, I hope it succeeds. But the sentiment reveals a longstanding trend in the developed West: the dominance of gibberish in academia.

«It is one of the most depressing aspects of the brilliant French culture that opinions so fundamentally silly should command so much prestige.»
- John Bowle

Deconstruction in its’ own breeding ground and its’ penetration of fields other than Abstract Philosophy has been a plague on the inquisitive mind, and reducing the public regard of philosophy itself as well as academia. There are good reasons for people to call it nonsense, in spite of the fact that their critics will call them ‘peasants’ or ‘plucs.’ Especially when there is cover to be found in the imaginings and admiration of an MSM that can make neither heads or tails of what they admire when it’s plain to see to even the most detached observer.

How does this figure into the Uni? Simple – neither of the sentiments or motivations have anything to do with learning or the pursuit of knowledge in any field. They both seem to have at their base the notion that new ideas are impossible, and that our job now is to avoid any development in the interest of revising predating notions for the pursuit of glory.

In Intellectual Morons, author Daniel Flynn writes of Foucault who took the same star status as Derrida, he quotes Foucault in his criticism of deconstruction:

«One professor he hired, Judith Miller, gleefully confessed to awarding course credit to strangers on the bus. Echoing Foucault, she denounced the university as a product of ‘capitalist society’ and promised “I will do my best to make sure it [the university] functions worse and worse.” The monster came back to haunt him. A degree from Vincennes became meaningless, and the caliger of students who enrolled soon reflected this. Eventually students began disrupting his classes.»
In the interest and the same manner that he advocated. In 1969 he joined a philosophical sort of mob that want to do away with structure and hierarchy in his university, and make it a sort of Mao’s Army which would be nothing more than a proverbial ‘chinese fire drill’ in practice. Open enrollment, government direction in the absence of structures typical and specific to academia – it nearly describes the very thing that those who want to found ‘elite’ universities in Germany want to erase.

That anyone took that experiment in academic chaos seriously, only to have 35 years of mediocrity take its’ place is baffling, but true.

Foucault also wrote broadsides supporting Islamic revolution presumably for no other reason that it would induce revolutionary violence. The taste for unnecessary bloodshed is not rare among scholars who paint themselves as radicals. It fits his concept of a society which could only make us all dumber by erasing the point of departure that we develop knowledge from by confusing doubt for depth. It likely indulges their notion that their powerlessness of being nothing more that a scribbler doesn’t actually exist, that their ideas cause physical events and actions. It is a power trip.

It only had one purpose. Flynn quotes Foucault:
«“We are subject to the production of truth through power and we cannot exercise power except through the production of truth”
Since to him truth was arbitrary it wasn’t truth at all. Power, not justice or truth is what mattered.»

Both notions are intellectually suicidal since they are the inverse of what we know – that which is shown to us by evidence of occurrence. Following truth leads to the beneficial environment which allows for power. The exercise of ‘power’ as he understood it, is a moral choice, not related at all to whether one accepts anything specifically to be true.

«A simple criterion for science to qualify as postmodern is that it be free from any dependence on the concept of objective truth
wrote one postmodernist academic couple, as if to say that pretending that we all really know nothing makes whoever calls it that way the most precient, and proceeds to question nothing in response.

Even reaching the creative and improvisational arts, we find unbelievable leaps of deconstruction raising ire among the knoledgable:
«And then Susan McCleary, who’s like the Bessie Smith of this movement—writing about Beethoven’s Fifth, she says that “one of the most horrifying moments in music occurs” when “the carefully planned cadence is frustrated, damming up energy which finally explodes in the rattling, murderous rage of a rapist incapable of attaining release.” Anyway, I wanted to say to the bartender, “no more drinks for Prof. McCleary. And make sure she gets a ride home.”»
In one way, Foucault is right: Down with the University, at least as it is oftentimes when it actually functions at the disservice of humanity by thinking that it exists only for itself or by forcing individuals’ obsessions onto students whom they try to hold captive. Especially when the academic wants to tell you who dictates the power, and in doing so, takes it away from the individual student.

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