Day By Day

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Decline of the American Professoriat Revisited

I frequently find myself in disagreement with George Will, and his Olympian pronouncements, even when right, often rub me the wrong way. But this time he hit a homer -- a Grand Slam in fact -- and for once I find myself in total agreement with him.

I have often written about the irresponsibility and self-destructiveness of the American professoriat. Shielded behind the sinecure of tenure and a thoroughly corrupt peer review system, and wielding an absurdly expanded notion of "academic freedom" numerous academics have adopted a deteminedly, one might even say "mindlessly", adversarial stance toward the dominant institutions of American society and culture. In short, they bite the hand that feeds them.

The result of this obstinate perversity is obvious -- the progressive marginalization of those who hold academic positions. Will, noting that the Federal Government pumps about 35 billion dollars each year into institutions of higher learning, draws the implications of that fact in terms so stark and simple that even a professor of humanities can understand them. He writes:

A striking alteration of America's political landscape since 1960 has been the marginalization -- actually, the self-marginalization -- of the professoriate. An inhospitable campus climate has prompted the growth of public policy think tanks and publications that sustain a conservative intelligentsia that helps elect and staff conservative administrations. And faculties have adopted increasingly adversarial stances toward an increasingly conservative public and its institutions.

Today's schools bristle with moral principles that they urge upon the -- so they think -- benighted society beyond their gates. But as [Chief Justice John] Roberts blandly reminded the schools regarding their desire to bar military recruiters: "You are perfectly free to do that, if you don't take the money."

Precisely. The piper must eventually be paid, and as the bills come due, as they must, radical change will be forced upon the truculent and hypocritical adolescents who make up so much of today's academic establishment. Already the scenario is beginning to unfold, and it's not pretty.

Read Will's piece here.

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