Saturday, May 27, 2006

Inside Higher Ed :: Churchill Fallout : It's About Academic Freedom

Via Pirate Ballerina, a response written by Dennis Baron to Anne Neal's response to critics of ACTA's "How Many Ward Churchills" report.

Baron seems convinced that despite having found reprehensible scholarship, the Churchill committee findings and ACTA's report are attempts to silence the noble academic.

As noted at Pirate Ballerina, the very first comment sums up why Baron's arguments themselves are somewhat wide of the truth:

You're right [referring to Baron]: Honesty and facts mean nothing in the contemporary academy anymore. We have long since known this, but some of the public may yet not have grasped this basic fact. Let's be very forthright about it and celebrate Churchill. He stands for everything the colleges and universities in this country have made themselves over the last few decades. Make him president of the university and be done with it.

Let everyone know just how absolutely degraded the universities have become: Fashionable lies, theft, and wholesale facribation suffice to guarantee hiring and tenure, and no questions may ever be asked about them, not ever. Let no one be confused about what goes on in university classrooms, and about why scholars and teachers have been replaced by open and celebrated frauds. The purge of responsible scholars and dedicated teachers in favor of ideological frauds is almost complete: Congratulations on the damage done to what was once an honored profession.

The comments devolve into an argument between people with common sense and people with tenure. The most outrageous comment was this, from a Baron supporter:
The reason that there are so many more left-leaning people in academia is not because they've been chosen for those views by other left-leaning academics, nor because they've been indoctrinated into their views by academic experience.

The avoided elephant in the room here is the fact that clearminded thought, research, and work into the complexities of human experience leads one toward left-leaning views. That's because left-leaning views acknowledge the context-bound complexity of social experience much more fully than do views from the right. The right offers simple interpretations and answers, while the left offers much more complex ones, again because it acknowledges more fully the complexity of human experience.

Conservatives have suffered this argument for decades, and the price of considering oneself part of the conservative movement includes hearing such piffle from insufferable snobs like Dennis Baron.

The argument made by the commenter can be disproved, but this is not the problem with it. It is that he can make it with a straight face and know that many others will nod their heads sagely in agreement, despite it's overt untruthfulness.

Many years ago, when I was an undergraduate, I was listening to a sports talk radio show. The host made the claim that "no team ever won a World Series without power and speed at 1st and 3rd base." Within seconds callers phoned in with obvious examples that disproved the point. The host very embarrassingly backed down.

The trouble with academics is they don't have enough callers.

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