February 16, 2004

Vicious volleys on the academic left

If we're going to read an article as savage as this attack on leftist academy bias, we may as well consider the source. Ah, there it is: "Edward Feser is Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles." Would it be cheap to suppose him petty and bitter? Maybe. But then, ad hominem seems to be Feser's line of work-- in the course of a single essay we hear that university professors are either "sucker[s]" or "lacking in common sense" or "delusion[al]" or "professional sycophants." All this, of course, explains why so many professors are leftists. It's good clean schadenfreude for the first five minutes, but after a while, it gets tired. Take, for instance, item one:

He is typically the sort of person who, in school, did well academically and not so well socially. That is, he was rewarded for his exemplary compliance with the directives of a central authority (the teacher) who implemented a comprehensive plan (the curriculum) within a regimented social setting (the classroom); he was not rewarded for any contributions he tried to make to the decentralized, unplanned sphere of voluntary interactions that constitutes the life of a young person outside the classroom (the playground, parties, dating situations, and so forth). He thus naturally tends to think the first sort of setting more reasonable and just than the latter, and in generalizing (perhaps unconsciously) to the level of society as a whole, will accordingly tend to favor policies that involve centralized planning by governmental authorities rather than the unplanned results of free interaction by citizens in the marketplace.
Why, our favorite old scapegoat, the classroom automaton, has come back to play! When in doubt, blame all academic ills on the kid who 'knows how to do well in school.' Never mind that these kids, in all likelihood, don't actually exist in such throngs-- Feser's on a roll! But honestly, put this issue to rest. Students who do well in graduate school are faced with a great deal of unplanned difficulties and decentralized madness. Yes, it is a vastly different experience from swilling martinis at parties and rocking the playground fisticuffs, but academic life does not produce the sort of robotic, fascist minds described here. On the other hand, students who can't hack it as academics usually flounder because they don't have the rigor of mind and self-discipline, not because they are overflowing with a surfeit of spontaneous imagination. Plenty of students like to spout off about how they could never succeed in graduate school because they're too rebellious, because they can't just 'regurgitate what the teacher wants,' because their ideas are 'too bold,' and so on. Bullshit! Independence of mind is too often a pisspoor coverup for stupidity, or dullness. Feser should know that.
-- Brad Plumer 12:44 AM || ||