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Many on the right believe that most professors of humanities and social science are hostile to the essentially conservative enterprise of preserving and transmitting the Western tradition.
That's not true? Particularly among younger professors of humanities and social science, I would think that the phrase "the Western tradition" would be an epithet, to be thrown at your political enemies.
It helps explain why enrollments in the humanities are collapsing - to an increasing extent, humanities are now just another branch of "oppression studies".
When the English Department at the University of Chicago (the University of Chicago!) announces that they won't admit graduate students who are unwilling to focus on “working in and with Black studies”, the rot has gone pretty far - focusing on Beowulf and Old English is no longer acceptable.
The custom-made bumper sticker on my car states "Colleges Murder Viewpoint Diversity."
Here is page one from the leftist playbook:
#1 Declare you support free speech as long as it isn't hate speech.
#2 Declare any statement that undermines the dominant liberal narrative to be hate speech.
#3 if #2 doesn't work to get someone fired then claim you feel physically threatened by a person's written or oral statement and a failure to fire the offender means supporting systemic <insert some="" "ism"="" here.="">
I enrolled in my four-year liberal arts college in '64 and graduated in '68. It cost $1,900 per year and included tuition, room and three squares. I tell people today that back, then my school was cheap and the education was good whereas nowadays it's expensive and the education was pure junk. As far as sexual harassment goes, the girls had to be in the dorm by 9:00 pm on weekdays and 10:00 on Fridays and Saturdays. The doors were locked then and so the the latecomers had to ring the door bell and explain things to the unsmiling dorm mother. The girls were also forbidden to smoke and had to wear a dress or a skirt to classes. There was no sexual harassment. Feminism brought on sexual harrassment just like smoking too much brings on lung cancer.
Wow, college in 1968 sounds like an orthodox religious community. Thankfully we have come to understand that preventing certain groups of students from having full access to a college campus - for their own good - is immoral.
Actually, what I describe was pretty much the norm in all but a few private colleges back then. Yes, it was restrictive but the girls were respected and everyone had time to study -- and they had to study because the curriculum was demanding.
Just go to Hillsdale. Get a solid classical education free from federal strings and social justice idiocy.
Brilliant analysis with profound implications: thank you for ruining my day.
Don't take it personally: my day, every day, roughly for the past 33 years, has been ruined by such reflections.
Is it as bad as all that?
Yes: it's as bad as all that -- and worse.
The trajectory this country takes is pretty clear - from screwed up schools to screwed up colleges, and - to screwed up nation. Learn Marxism and Mandarin - you'll be glad you did.
This is an important piece of writing. It describes well the destination outlined by Adorno and Horkheimer in their book 'The Dialectic of Enlightenment'. This is not a coincidence. Adorno and Horkheimer were wrong about the causes and 'machinery' of history but just as Newton didn't understand the cause of gravity we can ignore that and make use of an accurate description of society, in particular Howland's description of the commodification of young people as human-resource units in preparation for a life of work. This wholly corporatist world is redolent of Adorno and Horkheimer's description. What this suggests to me is that like so many other political projects the Critical Theory movement, in its alliance, with the corporate world (which includes universities and schools) is bringing about the dystopia their intellectual progenitors warned us about.
Orwell must be spinning in his grave. When I was a university student, the claim that the university would prepare us for "lifelong learning" meant that it was hoped that we would develop the tools to be independent students our entire lives, learning about new things and cogitating on them in the decades to come as we grew older. Apparently now this term is used to mean "paying for a certificate in the latest course in the latest fad so you can show that you've been properly indoctrinated".
I cannot fathom why any parents would fork over hundreds of thousands of dollars to have their child brainwashed in this way. Are there any institutions besides Hillsdale and St. John's that will stay the course?
The parents who pay either do not know that colleges and universities have long ago become progressive Left indoctrination centers or they think that a piece of paper from an Ivy League institution will insure advancement in spite of the lack of actually knowledge.
On YouTube, I found a Glenn Beck TV episode featuring the author Edwin Black, in which Black expressed fear that human worth would be assessed according to one's ability to serve the needs of big corporations.
Serving the needs of the corporation has been the prime objective of public education since it was first inflicted on the body politic. It is called committing cultural suicide.
That's true, but in the past the ideological indoctrination wasn't part of it. It really was transmitting skills and knowledge, and not trying force politically correct thought. It did make people more useful to business, whether large or small.
When aptitude tests were outlawed in job application processes, businesses started to increase their academic requirements to find out who was trainable and who might not be. A college degree no longer insures that but it does indicate who is compliant to externally imposed groupthink.
I’d say indoctrination has always been part of the curriculum. In the past we were more unified on what to indoctrinate. Now we have lost the willingness to propagate our kind; biologically and intellectually.
Access to higher education by masses of students, is bound to lead to "factory" conditions. Such conditions are probably necessary but not sufficient for the belief to develop "that universities exist to promote social justice and welcome changes that promise to help disadvantaged groups learn skills and find jobs."
Maybe Newman's idea of the aims of a liberal college education is utterly redundant now. Writing at a time when only men could aspire to study at a university, Newman said it should give “a man a clear and conscious view of his own opinions and judgments, a truth in developing them, an eloquence in expressing them, and a force in urging them. It teaches him to see things as they are, to go right to the point, to disentangle a skein of thought, to detect what is sophistical, and to discard what is irrelevant.“
You cannot increase enrollment to the degree that has happened and expect to graduate your students with out lowering your standards to nearly nothing. Students graduate now with the knowledge their grandparents had when graduating from high school.
More like middle school.
More means worse.
Even in the 1970s-80s, universities were undergoing a transformation, taking cues from the young Marxist faculty educated in the 1960s who were starting to take over. Now these idiots have taken over completely - deans, administrators, professors, and corporate sponsors. Little wonder the universities have taken a nosedive in everything but the price tag of admission, which has gone through the roof.
I have a high schooler faced with the prospect of $100K/year higher education, and she has already stated she would rather do something more practical like trade school or a job. We still want her to get a university education; the question is, where can you go to get a traditional education these days? Not the Ivies, not the Sisters, not the private liberal arts schools. Maybe a state school in Idaho or Wyoming or Arkansas.
This is not just a sad closing of the American academic mind. It's a catastrophe for the U.S. as a global center for learning and research. What family in their right mind is going to scrimp to send their best and brightest to the U.S. to study "diversity and equity" and similar nonsense?
I'm glad that Mr. Howland points out the shifty language used by philathro-capitalist education policy-makers and their ilk. While Orwell's Newspeak glorified military might and Educational Woke-speak glorifies social equity, their purposes are the same: to obscure the truth; to control the past; to establish and maintain power for the sake of power; to root out and re-shape unorthodox thought; to reject bourgeois or 'elitist' culture; and to make the individual irrelevant.
It's easy to get a read on any university's humanities or social science department. Simply see what they did to commemorate the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta in 2015. Nothing or very little, yeah, that's a sign.
Mr. Howland’s essay cuts two ways: First he condemns idea of a university as a collection of professional programs. Second he condemns woke propaganda masquerading as education.
We taught at private and public universities for 30 years, and our experience leaves a bit skeptical– even if we agree with many of his points.
First, the kind of liberal arts education Howland advocates doesn’t fit a whole lot of students– society is not lacking for ‘cultural leaders’. Most of our students came from working class backgrounds, and sought skills to enter a profession. But our faculty saw their public university as a class one research institution– a fundamental mismatch with student needs. The school would have been much better off to redefine itself as a polytechnic. (And we suspect most ‘universities’ should do this as well.) Second, the liberal arts devolved into propaganda years ago. While there are legitimate programs at quite a few universities, few high school students are discerning enough to identify them. There are enough spoilt apples that they might do well to regard the entire barrel as rotten.
What’s new in this essay? In the UofT Mr. Howland sees a seamless integration prof. ed. and propaganda. This is the kind of thing that Lenny Pier Ramos discusses in “Exploring ‘Other Ways of Knowing’: The New Religious Threat to Science Education” (Quilette.com June 20, 2020) We find this trend quite disturbing– it’s as if university administrations are trying to apply Calvin’s concept of total depravity to education.
At the same time, we have some reason for hope. Universities have been administratively incompetent for decades, and there is no reason to believe this new mission will change their modus operandi. Also as with the UofT, students just aren’t buying it. Why spend years paying off loans for a load of... apple sauce?
Online ed, anyone?
"Students just aren't buying it." You nailed it. I teach in a Chicago Public Schools H.S. - a regular school, not selective enrollment - and we've been awash in woke consultants and corporate thought partners since 2016. The pandemic has only made them more powerful! But most students could care less. High school students like learning facts and tangible skills. When orthodox teachers start orating about equity, dismantling systems and self-reflecting, students start furtively checking their phones.
Brave new world indeed. I urge you to watch again that great speech delivered by Ned Beatty in the 1976 film "Network." Pretty darn prescient.