February 15, 2004

Peter Pan Syndrome?

In the comments to "Intellectual Diversity Debate", "flu in san diego" [note to "flu": shouldn't you be over that flu by now?] makes an interesting observation that I want to bring upfront:

The common denominator linking Horowitz's conservative warrior epic and much of the 'left-consensus' approach is, to my mind, the disturbing assumption that students (most of whom are at least 18) are intellectually and morally unformed creatures whose delicately vibrating innocence could be damaged forever if exposed to a real substantial argument in the classroom

I have to confess my odd positionality here: coming from Europe, I am continually shocked -- even after seven years in the U.S. -- by the blind assumption of juvenile innocence and the increasing infantilization of American citizens in general. This is a spectrum that begins with 'if you look under 30 the clerk will request ID' at the liquor store checkout and ends somewhere in a fantasy educational universe of ethereally vulnerable beings who (according to Horowitz) will be damaged by being forced to think for five minutes about race and gender, or who (according to the campus left) will be traumatized by being asked to take a brief look at the world from outside the warm certainties of some ethnic or other (e.g. GLBT) community identity.

My own experience is that students are in fact adults who often appreciate being regarded as such. I try to encourage them to drop the 'we're just college kids' identity that some of them have internalized. This creeping infantilization is an eerie reversal of the real campus revolution of the 1960s -- the one in which the students said to the faculty and the administration 'we're not "kids," by the way, so get off our backs!'

I'm reminded of Frank Furedi's essay on Peterpandemonium, which term was coined by two US advertisers to describe a trend whereby "'People in their twenties and thirties are clamouring for comfort in purchases and products, and sensory experiences that remind them of a happier, more innocent time - childhood.'" It's a cranky piece, and more polemical than fair. Still, I think Furedi is right to note that retro nostalgia now begins at an earlier and earlier age: what was once "the prerogative of elderly grandparents" is now experienced by "people barely out of their teens." We've never lived longer; we've never placed a higher premium on youth.

To return to the point made by "flu:"

Yes, college students are adults. Most of them have reached the voting age, if not the legal drinking age (Canada-US comparison: there's much more concern about underage drinking here in the States, I suspect it has to do with much higher rates of access to automobiles by those in their teens). And if college students weren't in college, presumably they'd be out in the world doing adult things.

This is why I'm genuinely puzzled by the concern over "indoctrination." I absolutely agree that the college classroom should not be an indoctrination camp. But I don't believe students are in any real danger on this score. Let's see: the college instructor meets with a group of students for 2-4 hours a week, for a 12 to 14-week period. It would be difficult to indoctrinate a group of toddlers under such conditions, never mind a group of 18-year olds. And then there are the student evaluations to keep the instructors in line.

On the other hand, I do think that college students are still relatively unformed (I know I was, at any rate). There may be something about college that keeps people in a somewhat younger state than they would be if they moved directly into the workplace. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, and might even be seen as a good thing: college as a privileged in-between stage that gives very young adults the time and space to become young adults.

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at February 15, 2004 09:56 AM

I have found it very, very easy to inform or direct student conclusions at times. Take a bunch of frat guys and teach them that beer is bad -- not on your life.

Take a bunch of freshmen and convince them that arresting drug pushers is really a violation of their free speech rights -- a cakewalk.

Heck, you ought to watch a good prof with a group of second or third year law students. I still remember Rex Lee (he was one of the Republican solicitor generals) speaking at BYU. Took him half a lecture period and he had the entire class convinced of the moral necessity and rightness of busing to correct segregation and racial inequity.

That's a class of 150+ law students, none of them first year, all of them who had gone in believing busing was a very bad thing (though virtually none of them had experienced it, with the exception of those in Washington, D.C. whose parents had not pulled them out of the public schools and who became the property of gangs once busing started, a completely different topic).

I've seen a lot of that.

Most people miss it because they don't see the students coming to any conclusions other than "reasonable" ones ... but when the kids get back home and start telling their parents things, the taxpayers notice.

I also saw people who just failed at it. Some because they tried for balance (I was a TA for an open liberal in the Econ department. He couldn't figure out why so many of his students became conservatives after reading the counterpoint book he assigned, Capitalism and Freedom, vs. his lectures), others because they were so subtle the students weren't smart enough to catch the higher level conclusions the profs wanted.

But there are really two completely different issues.

First is students who come back with sophomoritis in an area that is open to debate and with a set of conclusions with a specific bent.

Second is students who are angry at being pressured or assaulted because they and the prof disagreed on a point. I remember being transferred from one english class to another after politly refuting my professor's positions. (I was a competitive debater, but better, a state level orator and expositive speaker, she was just a PhD in English with ill-formed ideas. She did not mind disagreement, but she really did not like losing, no matter how polite or respectful).

Those students get angry when they face a prof, such as Lieter (of blogging fame) who believes that certain viewpoints, such as being a Republican, are so faulty that the holders of them are not entitled to participate in civil discourse but should be merely mocked and ignored in the discussion of issues (read his blog on that point). I don't know if that attitude carries through in his classes, but I've known profs where it did, on both sides.

Not that there are not lots of good profs who allow balance, who don't rely on mockery and hostility, but many people don't have good verbal skills, good speaking skills and good discourse skills in areas where they have passion, moral imperative and a sense of entitlement.

Do college students need perspective? Heck yes.

Lets get real.

Is there a time to indoctrinate students, probably not, but. Sigh, I've given into it myself, teaching post graduates who had all decided, from watching affirmative action, that members of certain minorities were defective and inadequate as a group. I didn't have time to fully inform them, so I merely reframed them and got them over an excess of what they thought were dispositive esperiences (these were students at a university with full affirmative action, domestic partner benefits, etc. and a strong liberal commitment).

Given that their knowledge base did not change and the process was sudden, it differed from indoctrination only in that I was right (how is that for the typical arrogance of a teacher) and my reframing skills worked very quickly. Oh, and no one was offended, it being perfectly ok in America to teach that racial groups are equal and that many issues are systamatic, not genetic (though Kenyans are just not cut out for making good soccer players, too much slow twitch muscle fiber, but they make great engineers, just like any other group).

Anyway, I think people miss the point, partially because they conflate two seperate issues (someone who is offended is obviously not indoctrinated) and because they see some of the process as completely rational and the only way things should go (e.g. Chun who feels that everyone signing up to be a Democrat is meaningless normality without significance, but who probably would not have the same feelings about a campus where 90% were registered libertarian, though who knows what he would think if they all registered Green).

I've rambled, but it isn't that the undergraduates are less malable in the hands of a skilled advocate, it is just that there is a sense that they aren't fair game (by those on the other side of issues, often their parents) and that they ought not to be badgered or mocked (much like a local teacher lost a job for mocking someone on the issue of race, some feel that others should lose their jobs if they mock people for being Republicans).

Think of it in terms of hostile sexual environments (well, that's how I'd explain it to another attorney) vs. sexually predatory environments. In the one, they are making you uncomfortable as heck, while claiming that they are entitled and you should grow up, in the other they are trying to change your mind about how you think of a specific topic. Both count as sexual harassment, both come from similar mindsets, both are opposed by the same group of people, but the issues are completely different in many ways.

Posted by: Steve at February 15, 2004 10:40 AM

I finally got my BS in 1980 at age 34. By that time a close friend of mine was already adjuncting, and there were a number of faculty who were trying to continue their left politics of 1970. By and large the students took it with a grain of salt. They all had other sources of information and their own prejudices and assumptions, and many were older like me.

And Portland is a place where the 60's-70's lifestyle and politics survived, perhaps more so than any other city its size in the country (Californians always have to find the next new thing).

A lot of the right-wing animus against the left goes far deeper than the immediate issues they raise. They really want a retrospective purge of anyone anywhere who seems Jane Fonda-ish to them, and a lot of them think that Bill Clinton was a crypto-Communist and (Grover Norquist) that the graduated income tax is like the Holocaust. Horowitz himself is a nasty, vengeful piece of work, and during the sixties he was nasty too. He just switched.

Posted by: zizka / emerson at February 15, 2004 11:04 AM

B.A. I mean. Typing error.

Posted by: zizka / emerson at February 15, 2004 11:08 AM

"I have found it very, very easy to inform or direct student conclusions at times"

But the important question is how long does those conclusions last? A great speaker can bring a horrors of say how exploited labor in third world countries are used to make the goods we buy and make everyone in the room feel the injustice of it all. The important test is when these same people walk to the mall, how many of them will change their spending patterns? More often than not, ads by famous celebs or the lower price wins out. Gee look at the number of people who continue to shop at the mega-stores despite reports about how they treat their workers.

Unfortunately Steve, the reality is that more often than not, we dont think with our hearts but with our wallets. Money rules. About drug pushers and their free speech rights? Goes out the window when the drug pushers are working across your street and lowering the resale value of your house. Busing to correct segregation and racial inequity? Great, until you see your local taxes paying for stuff that your kids dont get to use so that others do.

Self-interests trumps in the end.

Posted by: Passing_through at February 15, 2004 12:16 PM

I don't know what Horowitz' et al "real" motivations are; perhaps if I were more diligent in applying a hermeneutic of suspicion to Frontpage I'd arrive at the same conclusion as Zizka. But whatever the origins of Horowitz' personal animus, I suspect his campaign is finding sympathetic listeners among people who do not equate the graduated income tax with the Holocaust (wow, Zizka--the Holocaust? Nice hyperbole.). These are people who, like me, are distressed by the academic humanities' persistent exclusion of political viewpoints that fall even slightly to the right of Michael Moore.

(I should issue a disclaimer here: I am NOT in favor of the "Academic Bill of Rights," (nor of other attempts to legislate pluralism), but I sympathize with the frustration that drives people to support it. I think a better solution to the problem can be found in the concerns of this very blog. The oversupply of humanities PhDs contributes to the fellow-travelerishness of, say, English departments--if you've got twenty candidates for a T-T position, all superbly qualified in terms of experience, field fit, and scholarly output, you're going to start looking at second-order issues to help you make a decision, whether consciously or not. Some of those second-order issues may be things like what kinds of stamps the applicant used on her initial mailing (someone brought that up a while in an old thread; don't remember who), but it seems likely that ideological issues will weigh more--"Will she laugh when we make Bush-as-chimp jokes?" and so on.)

Anyway, that's not why I started babbling. Here's the real point of this comment: I'm distressed by the exclusion of conservative viewpoints not because I think tender minds are being indoctrinated (doubtless some are, but some people are swayed by TV ads too; whatcha gonna do?), but because the intellectual mission of the university, and of humanities education within it, suffers from that exclusion. I know that's a sentimental and old-fashioned notion of the university, but it's the one I arrived in graduate school with (at age 39, no less). I'm distressed by the hermetic insularity of some of my professors and the way their isolation from other viewpoints keeps them from thinking thoroughly and deeply about their chosen fields of inquiry.

For example, I've got a professor (in English lit) who claims in lectures and in print that the USSR did not militarily expand its territory, that Soviet expansionism was a myth dreamed up by the neurotically macho US. Having most of my family roots in the former East Germany, and having visited there extensively before the Wall came down, and having personal ties to Polish refugees who were once members of the Solidarity movement, and having Lithuanian friends (and so on...you get the picture), I was shocked into silence by her claim. How can her scholarship be anything but ridiculous when she ignores this huge part of Soviet history? Go ahead and indict America for overreacting to Soviet expansionism, but do it with reference to reality, fercryinoutloud (of course, you'll have to work harder to make that case when you actually acknowledge the expansionism). In my short time in graduate school, I've encountered dozens of these kinds of shoddily-supported, ideologically-driven claims.

Sorry to ramble on so, but it does seem to me that more is at stake here than impressionable juvenile minds. But while I agree with "flu" that Americans coddle young people, I must reply that it would be great if they actually were "exposed to a real substantial argument in the classroom." I'm beginning to speak up in my seminars and provide some of that argument, but believe me, I'm getting some very hard looks and some strong avoidance in the hallway for it.

Posted by: Rose at February 15, 2004 12:43 PM

Just to add to Passing Through's remarks, I think many of todays students approach their various classes as a series of perspectival environments through which they are surfing or clicking as if viewing a television or computer screen. Or, to utilize a different metaphorical interpellation, classes and their various subjects/materials are experienced like stores in a mall, each of which offers a range of saleable goods which the student can purchase or not at their whim and discretion.

I don't think students are clueless or unaware of this. On the contrary, they accept it as a "natural" state of affairs, and wonder aloud at our (faculty) incredulity. But some faculties are getting wise to this. The History Dept. at Villanova University includes the following unit in their pedagogy workshop for faculty: "Since our students will do a cost-benefit analysis of the time that they need to prepare, we need to instruct and to demonstrate to them what it means to be a responsible college student."

p.s.: IA, I didn't find Ferudi's article cranky or unfair at all. I thought here he was tremendously insightful: "The present-day obsession with childish things may seem like a trivial detail - but the all-pervasive nostalgia for childhood among young adults is symptomatic of a profound insecurity towards the future. Hesitations about embracing adulthood reflect a diminished aspiration for independence, commitment and experimentation."

Posted by: Chris at February 15, 2004 12:48 PM

The problem that concerns me is not so much indoctrination per se, but the danger that many students will never have their ideas and prejudices challenged, because so many of the professors *share* those ideas and prejudices.

Many faculty members seem to believe that kids come from an environment where Dad is a small businessman and Mom is a housewife, and they are challenging the kid's received ideas with their leftist and/or postmodernist views. But, in fact, Dad is probably a psychiatrist and Mom is a public defender. And the "bold new ideas" that the prof thinks he is delivering are merely a reinforcement of the things the kid has heard all his life. So he may go through his entire college experience without ever having the ideas he has learned from mom & dad (capitalism is evil, right & wrong are always relative to a culture) challenged or even analyzed in any meaningful way.

Posted by: David Foster at February 15, 2004 01:23 PM


"Some of those second-order issues may be things like what kinds of stamps the applicant used on her initial mailing."

I remember when I was applying for academic jobs, I had a bunch of stamps with the U.S. flag on them. After putting them on the first two envelopes, I thought it might be a mistake. I made new envelopes for those two, and went to the post office to get another batch of stamps with flowers or some such theme. Probably paranoid in retrospect, but the paranoia is symptomatic of the relationship between the academic job system and political conformity.

Back to the topic at hand (sorry, had to vent).

Posted by: Safer anonymous at February 15, 2004 01:27 PM

David Foster seems to think that Amherst and Georgetown are somehow reflective of the rest of the nation's universities. The vast majority of college students are not of the lawyerly classes.

Posted by: Chun the Unavoidable at February 15, 2004 01:39 PM

Chun, there are plenty of people "not of the lawyerly class" who have been brought up with the same sort of belief structure. How about we change the analogy: Dad is assistant principal at a public school; Mom is a social worker?

My broader point is that many of that ideas that professors think are new & radical are in fact anything but...they are deeply embedded in popular culture.

Posted by: David Foster at February 15, 2004 01:53 PM

"My broader point is that many of that ideas that professors think are new & radical are in fact anything but...they are deeply embedded in popular culture."

If this is the case, it surely offers a decisive rejoinder to the common conservative complaint that left-liberal academics are out of touch with the rest of the culture.

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at February 15, 2004 02:02 PM

IA...very, very good...I bet you would make an excellent lawyer.

The culture, of course, is not monolithic. I would say that liberal-left academics tend to be very much in touch with certain aspects of the culture and very much out of touch with others, but would like to think more about this and comment later...

Posted by: David Foster at February 15, 2004 02:25 PM

It's worth pointing out that sometimes, attempts at "indoctrination" have the opposite effect.

Two years ago, I asked one of my top students--a sharp-minded but generally apolitical young woman--how her women's literature course was going.

"It's terrible!" she told me. "Every week, no matter what we read, the professor interprets it the same way: 'Women were oppressed.' Mary Shelley? Virginia Woolf? 'Women were oppressed.' It's never anything else. Duh. I already know that. There's more going on in the books we're reading, but she doesn't want to talk about it. 'Women were oppressed.' I've written the same paper for her eight times. Boring!"

This student is now attending a fairly conservative graduate program with a version of the typical "great books" curriculum.

Some recent press coverage suggests that students are getting more conservative. Is anyone really surprised? Their baby-boomer teachers hold double standards for certain kinds of speech and behavior in the interest of "sensitivity." School administrators ban "guns" even when the gun is half an inch long and belongs in the hand of an action figure. Their parents continue to idealize their experiences during the 1960s. And later, the kids get to college and find that most administrators and professors have internalized leftist dogma to the point at which many matters aren't even open for debate, lest they make someone "uncomfortable."

Is it any wonder students are beginning to lean to the right? The vast majority of their authority figures, especially in their schools, lean to the left. Seems obvious to me: Like their parents, they're rebelling.

All of which is to say that I don't think most students are easily "indoctrinated." Whatever their political beliefs, kids these days (and yes, unfortunately, they're still kids) have extremely powerful B.S. detectors. The real issue is whether they feel comfortable challenging their professors--and whether their professors can be honest moderators of discussions that include other equally reasonable points of view. I think the majority of us can, but a significant and rather virulent minority of professors who use their classrooms to advance their own political agendas make us all look really, really bad.

Posted by: J.V.C. at February 15, 2004 02:46 PM

I think IA and David are both slightly of the mark. What reigns, in my experience, is a consumer oriented individualism, which crystalizes itself around the belief that one can be apolitical and non-ideological. And, again from my experience, this outlook (read: ideology) tends to cut across the traditional divisions of class, gender, race, and ethnicity. Whether one is the child of a lawyer and an architect from Connecticuit, or the son/daughter of a high school assistant principal and a real estate agent from Brockton, the unifying belief is that as consunmers we are free. It's an uncritically accepted feature of the romantic unconscious of our consumer age. The shock registers on the students' faces, however, when the unanticipated idelogical underpinnings of this neo-romantic consumer-individualism is pointed out.

Posted by: Chris at February 15, 2004 02:51 PM

I think it depends a lot on the region. I taught in a prestigious Midwestern university where many students were Christians and Republicans. But all were familiar with a certain watered-down form of sunshiny egalitarian liberalism (probably from high-school curricula) and would pay lip service to it when they felt it was appropriate.

Or did they actually believe it? I don't know if it matters. In my experience, students' actual backgrounds and political allegiances are less important than whether they've armed themselves against all forms of indoctrination (including advertising) with cynicism. I think most students have already watched enough partisan debating on cable news networks to believe that everyone has a strong political bias. All you have to do is suss it out, and you can curry favor with that person.

I was one of those over-subtle teachers who made an effort to balance the syllabus and not bring a political agenda into the classroom. I'm sure that any reasonably sharp conservative ideologue would have been able to peg me as a liberal, but students were often confused and wanted to know "what I was." (One asked, "Are you a deconstructionist?" though the course had nothing to do with literary theory. Another asked about my religion. I hadn't found it necessary to tell the class I was an atheist while giving my reading of St. Augustine.) In short, I don't think it's just teachers who politicize education. I think the students themselves often do it, because, far from being naive, they are convinced that your "positioning" (e.g., educated, liberal, atheist) has to not just influence but actually determine your reading of a particular book-- and perhaps your grading of their paper as well.

I tried to convince them that it's a bit more complicated than that. Because I truly think it is-- why can't an atheist discover some common ground with St. Augustine as a student of human nature, for instance? But I know that some of my leftist professors and fellow students would disagree with me on this point.

Posted by: Fantomina at February 15, 2004 03:14 PM

My main concern isn't about "indoctrinating students". I just don't want students to think they will be penalized in grading for political views they think are opposed to those taught in the course and therefore may pretend they hold other views or dislike the subject because they feel it is an attempt at indoctrination.

Posted by: moom at February 15, 2004 03:25 PM

the unifying belief is that as consunmers we are free. It's an uncritically accepted feature of the romantic unconscious of our consumer age. The shock registers on the students' faces, however, when the unanticipated idelogical underpinnings of this neo-romantic consumer-individualism is pointed out.

This assertion is one of a family of unprovable claims made in Theory-saturated humanities disciplines. The "unconscious of an age"? Where's that unconscious located? We can't even locate the unconscious in an individual, empirically speaking; how does one find it across millions of people? Similarly, how does one prove the existence of a "unifying belief" that is so vaguely defined? With their withering cynicism these kinds of claims sound authoritative, yet they dissolve under hard, reality-based questioning.

In fact, lots of people opt out of consumer culture (I live in Oregon, where off-the-grid type communities abound), and the majority who don't opt out are certainly free to, given desire and sufficient effort. Yes, of course it's been explained to me that opting out is a "construction" deployed by Culturally Hegemonic Power to define and thereby control dissidence. Resistance is part of the system, Change is an illusion, Power never sleeps and so on. Trust me, the shock on my face, at any rate, was not at the exposure of the "ideological underpinnings" of my naivete, but at the exposure of my professor's adherance to a nihilistic and agency-disabling defeatism. (Also, folks who don't realize that consumers drive markets at least as much as markets drive consumers have never been in business for themselves.)

Sorry to pounce on your comment, Chris--I like a lot of your commentary on IA, but I'm disheartened by the helpless pessimism that pervades so much Theory. If I were worried about the indoctrination of young minds, this would be my first target: The constant drumming into students the notion that they're doomed to be tools of Power no matter what they do (they're not really acting, they're only en-acting an identity pre-written by Hegemonic Cultural Power, the postmodern Satan.

Posted by: Rose at February 15, 2004 03:30 PM

"One asked, "Are you a deconstructionist?" though the course had nothing to do with literary theory"

Did you explain that there is no such thing as a "deconstructionist," and that the term is an oxymoron?

Posted by: Chris at February 15, 2004 03:31 PM

Mountain Dew gurgled up through my nose and all over my parents' basement when I read that line about consumers driving markets, I confess.

The only way that moom's fear will come true (as there are, except statistical aberrations, no cases such as what she describes presently existing) if is Horowitz has his way.

Posted by: Chun the Unavoidable at February 15, 2004 03:41 PM

"Sorry to pounce on your comment, Chris--I like a lot of your commentary on IA, but I'm disheartened by the helpless pessimism that pervades so much Theory."

I'm not sure that "pessimism" is the right word. I'd opt for the phrase a "ceaseless critical vigilence," one which actively resists conclusion and closure. And this said, I don't think said crirical vigilence is helpless in the least.

As to the phrase the "neo-romantic unsconscious of our consumer age," I could have, nad maybe should have, said "neo-romantic underpinnings." But, on the other hand, can we agree that individual actions often act-out any number of complex, and even contradictory unconscious desires and longings? And, can we agree that as consumers we often purchase non-essential goods to placate or fulfill unmet needs and desires as well? If yes, then to add a little specificity by way of the phrase the "neo-romantic unsconscious of our consumer age" doesn't seem to me to be all that much of a stretch.

And the qualifying prefix, "neo," simply refers to the fact that traditional romanticism, however disparate a group they may have been, would have balked at this: "Pepsi: The Choice of a New Gernation" or the Capital One's slogan "The Freedom to Buy." (or was that Amex?)

Posted by: Chris at February 15, 2004 03:50 PM

Well, I don't know about your students, but most of mine have parents who are working in retail, construction, maintenance, agriculture: the vast majority of my students are first generation collegiates who are working nearly full-time themselves. These are people who have a pretty good idea how the world really is, and what they have to do to get ahead, and also would like to pick up a bit about how the world works along the way.

Most of my "indoctrination" came from my fellow students, the diversity of opinions and experiences from which I drew what I felt valuable and to which I contributed. But my students are mostly "commuters" with pretty full lives outside of the classroom. Indoctrination? Not bloody likely. Unless you have an entire department (like business/economics) pushing an agenda, it's nearly impossible to sustain the kind of effort necessary to make ideas contrary to their own experience and politics stick.

Posted by: Jonathan Dresner at February 15, 2004 04:31 PM

I'd opt for the phrase a "ceaseless critical vigilence," one which actively resists conclusion and closure. And this said, I don't think said crirical vigilence is helpless in the least.


can we agree that as consumers we often purchase non-essential goods to placate or fulfill unmet needs and desires as well?

If in the category "non-essential goods" we agree to include "piles of (used) books which I may never get around to reading," then yes, I will cop to buying them to fulfill unmet needs and desires. Shit! The will-to-knowledge inscribed on my body is consum(-er-)mating its erotic impulsion in simulacra-of-knowledge! Now I'll never win this argument...

Okay, I'll agree to replace "pessimism" with "unceasing vigilance" (warily; I think lots of Theory is precisely agency-disabling, even though you might not subscribe to that version). Vigilance against Power is not in itself a bad thing, but the "unceasing" species of it reminds me of the constant self-patrolling of the poor souls who believe they're drenched in and doomed by Sin. That said:

1. I'll agree that people "act-out any number of complex, and even contradictory unconscious desires and longings," but I don't buy that all of those desires are culturally constructed. People like me who still go for empirical evidence find compelling arguments in the nature-via-nurture model--see Matt Ridley's book of that name for a recent exposition of that viewpoint. (This doesn't necessarily render people "free," of course. Biological constraints are as forbidding to contemplate as cultural ones; hence, it would seem, many academics' rejection of them.)

2. Even without benefit of Theory's "unceasing vigilance" people manage to resist cultural indoctrination of various kinds, including the pressure to buy stuff. My budget, for example, restrains my admittedly weak urge to buy Hello Kitty paraphernalia. My father, a Depression-era Catholic, found all sorts of reasons--religious, financial, familial--to resist consumerism.

3. Relating this to the discussion on IA(remember that?), J.V.C. and Fantomina both make sharp points about student cynicism about indoctrination, both consumerist and professorial. As academics we misidentify and inflate our mission when we think we're saving them from their uncritical naivete about the culture in which they're (according to us) incarcerated.

(My, what a retro, Depression-era, capital-C Conservative I'm discovering myself to be!)

Posted by: Rose at February 15, 2004 04:36 PM

"I bet you would make an excellent lawyer."

You are aiding and and abetting my husband's campaign to send me to law school :-)

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at February 15, 2004 04:45 PM

"Did you explain that there is no such thing as a "deconstructionist," and that the term is an oxymoron?"

I made an effort to explain that deconstruction is an analytical method and not a belief system. Which was of no concern to him-- he just wanted to know if it was a good term to name-drop on his paper, which contained precious little analysis of any kind. I've seen many students pepper their papers with barely-understood theoretical terminology, but I don't see this as indoctrination at work... merely an attempt to get a good grade by doing what they feel is expected.

There is one belief I wish I could indoctrinate students with... namely, that internet plagiarism is a shameful, inexcusable, lamebrained act and not just a slightly shady one.

Posted by: Fantomina at February 15, 2004 05:11 PM

Passing Through asks:

But the important question is how long does those conclusions last? A great speaker can bring a horrors of say how exploited labor in third world countries are used to make the goods we buy and make everyone in the room feel the injustice of it all. The important test is when these same people walk to the mall, how many of them will change their spending patterns?

Well, they won't change their spending habits, but they will go home and tell Mom and Dad that they should change ....

Sophomoritis in a bad way, really. But it irritates Mom and Dad who call up their local politician.

On the other hand, the busing lecture took. Most of the people I know of who were informed by the Rexer (one of his nicknames) still believe that bussing and some other steps are necessary, even if costs them money.

I still do, twenty years later. Of course, it probably helps that (I think) he was right. Who knows.

Posted by: Steve at February 15, 2004 05:36 PM

IA: I got a shock when I opened up the site today and discovered my little contribution had been dragged squealing from its corner into the middle of the floodlit arena, but thanks for your comments (I explain the silly "flu" name below in a footnote).

To clarify a couple of points: I am also like Rose in that I entered grad school at a similar age, she 39, me 40. This obviously has consequences even in the grad study situation itself. The reality of life experience means that one is inevitably armed with material that makes much of the ideological filigree-work of literature departments look pretty shoddy. You just know stuff that others don't, or don't want to (sometimes a bittersweet privilege).

To that extent, I guess, one can also appear as a dubious job applicant who is not going to fit the bright-and-ideologically-with-the-program junior faculty model. As it happens, I consider myself pretty much on the left, but I am also very curious about conservatism in culture and writing, and I have to admit I'm nervous about communicating that in application letters because of the danger of it being misunderstood, or even "misunderstood."

JVC's comment seems to replicate the point I made without answering it, if one leaves out the folksy finger-wagging rhetoric of the "and yes . . ." approach. What evidence is there for the assertion that students are "kids," whether fortunately or unfortunately? At 18 they can join the armed forces, get married without permission, and vote. If "kids" means children, then by social practice and legal definition these are things not permitted to kids.

I am not claiming that students are "formed" -- that would make the whole argument in re freedom and indoctrination irrelevant. The need is, as I see it, to treat students as adults EVEN IF they give some evidence that they are still confused, searching, and all that good stuff. One plays to their emerging intelligence and maturity, their sense of themselves as testing the world to see what pushes back and what doesn't, not to some fantasy of innocence and vulnerability -- again, what seems to be the covert link between Horowitz and his enemies. Horowitz wants a "safe space" for young Republicans, the other camp wants a "safe space" for anyone belonging to a racial, ethnic, gender, or sexual-orientation minority (roughly speaking). But critical thinking means self-critical thinking also, and for everyone.


ps the name from a dumb fantasy I had a couple of months ago about the flu scare keeping people away from the MLA and thus suddenly opening up the interview market -- anyhow, it didn't happen.

Posted by: flu (or flo?) in san diego at February 15, 2004 06:15 PM

IA says..."You are aiding and and abetting my husband's campaign to send me to law school :-)"...What a hideous thing I have done here....

Posted by: David Foster at February 15, 2004 06:44 PM

Take a room full of smart humanists. Give them a few texts to read and ask them to come in armed with all the questions they can muster. Then methodically ridicule, intimidate, and badger them into forgetting their varied, interesting, nuanced points-of-view and considering only the handful of questions which will be determinative in the adversarial arena of the court of law: law school.

But then. Open a small settlement business and take home $500.00 a pop doing real estate closings for a few minutes a week and spend a lot of your spare time reading.

I'm sometimes sorry I dropped out.

Posted by: Chaucer's Clerk at February 15, 2004 07:25 PM

For the record, the "graduated income tax = holocaust" hyperbole was Norquist's, not mine.

Posted by: zizka / emerson at February 15, 2004 10:15 PM

My apologies, Zizka. I still say "wow," just not at you.

Posted by: Rose at February 16, 2004 02:03 AM

One of the last classes of my undergraduate degree was a botany class. It had a reputation for being an extremely hard class that took a lot of time out of class. Towards the end of the class, we discussed the course with the professor as many students were discouraged with their marks (I think the class average was a B-). What he noted was that students, particularly in the last 5 years, were less mature in their study habits. He noted students until recently (last 5 years) would spend time after class consolidating notes, take out books from the library for background information, and generally took more responsibility for their learning. By the end of the discussion, we had concluded that the change in study habitat had occurred because more and more professors were telling students exactly what they needed to know to get the grade (sample midterms questions, previous exams), and that students were not willing to take on any additional learning. What I noticed is that in his class is that because I had to do my own background reading, I got more perspectives, and consequently got more out of (and retained more from) the class than I have from any other class including two graduate level seminars. It is much harder to "indoctrinate" students when they get their information form many sources (and different sources from each other), but fairly easy when they only learn what is given in lecture.

Posted by: Ben at February 16, 2004 12:14 PM

I think the larger problem with the overwhelmingly leftist nature of most humanities faculty is that, despite its claims to "critical vigilence," it is actually quite un-critical with regards to its own ideology. Conservative viewpoints, whether among students or (less frequently) graduate students are faculty, are just genuinely not respected or considered with any seriousness. I was more liberal when I was teaching freshman composition than I am now, but even then I wondered why affmirmative action was never considered wrong, why no argument against abortion was ever considered valid, why no idea of the United States as anything but an oppressive racist superpower was ever entertained. A couple of genuinely conservative graduate students (fundamentalist Christians) felt far more marginalized and silenced than I did.

The best example I can offer of this was how flummoxed leftist faculty became when discussing 9/11, because 9/11 just *did not compute.* The standard critique began with the premise that *of course* we deserved to be attacked because of the way we oppress Muslims throughout the world. But then leftists were confronted with the issue of defending the Taliban, which was one of the most oppressive regimes in the world, especially with regards to women. I don't know how individual leftists resolved thsi dilemma, but it arose as an inevitable conclusion of their logical premises.

We don't need to gerrymander faculty, but it would be helpful for leftist faculty to remember that theirs is not the only viewpoint worthy of respect. It's that smug self-satisfaction, I think, that attracts conservative counterattacks from people like Horowitz.

Posted by: Kevin Walzer at February 16, 2004 01:27 PM

"What will be in the test?" That question was one of the things which discouraged me from taking a shot at teaching.

Posted by: zizka / emerson at February 16, 2004 01:30 PM

Geez, Ben students complaining about a class average of B- (and by average I assume you mean median)? Good thing I don't teach at that school, some of College Prep classes are running C+ medians at the moment, although the midterm has shocked some students into upping their game and a bunch have been working on study skills with positive results. The easiest way to kill the indoctriniation of students problem is to announce that the criteria for a B is an extremely well-reproduced version of what we have done in class. Anything higher will require actual original thinking using actual history skills. Of course, this means keeping up your part of the bargain and not dismissing bad knee-jerk arguments without explanation and/or pointing out how they could have made their arguments better. Genuinely well-thought out conservative thought contributes mightily to public discourse as well as genuinely well thought out liberal/leftist thought. The problems arise when the vast majority of your students are in the sloppy center throwing out campaign slogans as opposed to thinking. Some of hte most popular undergraduate professors at Michigan were nicknamed "attack dogs" because they shot holes in everybody's thinking in the class. Although, this was mostly from boys that I heard the raves.

Posted by: David Salmanson at February 16, 2004 02:14 PM

Of course, it's not like conservatives would give liberal views anymore credance. We'd merely have a group of students that didn't know that legacy admissions and extra points for going to a 'competitive'high school was wrong, that a woman's life is subordinate to a fetus' life, and that punishment for one's entire life is in order for any mistake, and that America is one big happy kumbaya fest. Hey, that's the prevailing state of ideas anyway, except for maybe the 2nd point. That's why I don't worry so much about 'liberalism' in colleges- there's plenty of conservatism around for everyone everywhere else. I mean, they get indoctrinated with the conservative view every single day of their lives, so one would think a few weeks in a college class room wouldn't really make a difference. (Note: geography probably plays a part. I'm a southerner)

Posted by: Shannon at February 16, 2004 02:51 PM

Botany. I taught my first botany class last semester, and many of my students seemed stunned at my suggestion that they should take on much of the responsibility for their own learning. The main issue for them wasn't the amount of outside work but the uncertainty regarding what would be asked of them on exams. They wanted me to tell them exactly what I wanted them to know, so they would know what to memorize. When I told them that the exam questions would ask them to reason through unfamiliar problems rather than recite familiar facts, they were angry and scared. I found their attitude to be very discouraging and surprising -- my college is supposedly very selective. Anyway, I stuck it out (I did my best not to answer their direct questions at all directly) and haven't yet had the nerve to read my teaching evaluations.

Posted by: Bob at February 16, 2004 04:57 PM

An even deeper and ultimately more confusing problem resides in the conservative/liberal structure. I'll try to sketch it out this way:

The original meaning of "liberal" was a political philosophy that emphasized free market economics, equality before the law, property rights, and (relative) freedom in terms of intellectual inquiry, moral standards, and public discourse (including the arts).
The original meaning of "conservative" was a political philosophy that emphasized economic control, adjusted equality before the law, rights of inherited status/position, and (relative) constraint in terms of intellectual inquiry, moral standards, and public discourse.

The current meaning of "conservative" is a political philosophy that emphasizes free market economics, equality before the law (e.g. no affirmative action), property rights, and (relative) constraint in terms of intellectual inquiry, moral standards, and public discourse.
The current meaning of "liberal" is a political philosophy that emphasizes economic controls, adjusted equality before the law (e.g. affirmative action), adjusted property rights (e.g. taxation as a moral as well as a functional tool), and (relative) constraint in terms of intellectual inquiry, moral standards, and public discourse.

What is missing, of course, is the Left as it appeared in modern social forms in the industrialized world. In fact, "the Left" would be the more appropriate rubric for the last entry. Although one could throw in "libertarian," what is missing is the grouping that would combine the free market and property rights paradigm with the commitment to freedom in intellectual inquiry, moral standards, and public discourse.

The problem seems to lie in the uncanny American usage of "liberal." This is a term
a) used by the Left to designate those forces in American society who invoke tolerance as an ethic, dislike the politics of ethnic and other community identities, and generally support slow reform in preference to radical change; and
b) used by the Right to designate the Left.

So, a professor at a state school who
a) is committed to discussing and criticizing all points of view in his/her classroom, including those touching on ethnic or other sensitivities (e.g. thinks that human rights should take some precedence over local values and practices),
b) is committed to academic freedom and keeping parents and state legislators from interfering in curriculum, teaching, and hiring,
c) supports the rights of a new GLBT group to organize on campus,
d) is a member of an academic teachers union and supports levying a charge on non-union members to pay for costs incurred by the union having to represent them, and
d) didn't support the war in Iraq but thinks that we can't just up and leave now,
would be regarded by the Right as a liberal, by the Left as a conservative, by real liberals as a leftie (union membership) and would generally find his/her number of dinner invitations dropping.

Arising -- this is my theory -- from the fear of the European social democratic tradition infecting the American body (and language) politic, the signifier "liberal" is now double-freighted, being asked to do duty for both the middle-grounders and the Left, with (as an extra twist) nobody noticing that almost all of the classic "liberal" characteristics are now held by "conservatives" and many of the traditionally "conservative" markers (including in particular the dislike of universalist values, the reification of "community," and the desire to steer expression and thinking according to pre-determined moral and intellectual criteria, are found on the "liberal" side.

flo in san diego

Posted by: flo in san diego at February 16, 2004 06:48 PM

"if I only had a brain"-this line from a well known movie of past came up in a discussion about educ.that I was having the other day. Basically, people have what I call "scarecrow syndrom"-they dont go to school to get an education, they want a JOB! Hence, they need a diploma to make them legit in certain employers eyes.

These are many of the students that sit in these classes. Really tho I cant blame them-even at our universities theyre crammed liked sardines into entry level history,economics and science classes and given scantron exams. Not exactly quality. In the end they all want to know what the prof wants (to hear) come exam time.

Many students I know fear voicing their opinions only for one reason-that it might affect their grade. And that would affect their getting a diploma.

So combine students who just want a job,plus left leaning profs (some of whom DO punish their students for "errant thought", and many who are now adjuncts....),plus the lowered quality of education in many public schools and you end up with one big mess.

Posted by: Geographyboi at February 16, 2004 06:49 PM

I'm wondering how people define "liberal" and "leftist" in the academy.

Posted by: Anna at February 16, 2004 10:28 PM

hmmm maybe some students should stop trying to memorize. I can tell a student "there will be a utility maximization problem (consumer choice in microeconomics) on the exam - a lot like the homework we did" and on the exam is the same problem as the homework with just the numbers and the names of the goods changed and they write half a line and give up on trying to solve the math problem...

Posted by: moom at February 16, 2004 11:42 PM

I think J.V.C. got it right. To push it farther, remember, if it isn't going to be on the final, they are going to tune it out.

I doubt very seriously that any college student is much influenced by the political, or other, opinions of his professors. This is especially true of the aging tenured faculty who are as old and remote to the current generation of students as their grandparents. My best guess, based on some experience, is that they will not remember your name in ten years.

What does fry me is the way that the professorate has trashed the curriculum. And I have to pay $90,000 a year for the privilege. That is upsetting. Cures? Hang a few. Pour l’encourage les autres

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at February 17, 2004 12:02 AM

Ten years? Try one semester, or at most two. I know. I've asked.

Posted by: Chris at February 17, 2004 12:11 AM

"Pour l’encourage les autres."

That ain't all they won't remember.

Posted by: chun the unavoidable at February 17, 2004 12:28 AM

Robert Schwartz:

"What does fry me is the way that the professorate has trashed the curriculum. And I have to pay $90,000 a year for the privilege. That is upsetting."

Robert, why are you paying for the privilege?
Community colleges and third-tier institutions are far cheaper (unless you have several children in at a time, of course).

If it's due to your children whining, then that's not an issue with academia. If it's because you believe that having a degree from a prestigious university will make their lives better, then that is the Will of Market, and those who complain *must* be Evul Libruls. Like Osama :)

"Cures? Hang a few. Pour l’encourage les autres"

Oh, I see. Your post was a satire.
Sorry. For a minute there, I was going to ask if your real name was David Horowitz.

Posted by: Barry at February 17, 2004 09:04 AM

"If it's due to your children whining,"

I am an indulgent father. My beautiful daughters do not whine. They smile as say "Daddy, I love you."

"Oh, I see. Your post was a satire.
Sorry. For a minute there, I was going to ask if your real name was David Horowitz."

No. I am not Horowitz. Although, I can see that he has yanked your chain.

I am just another old guy who has found that my generation has been a miserable custodian of the academic treasure handed to us. Anthony Grafton of Princeton, who was my contemporary as an undergraduate, wrote in a review last year:

"I came, as an undergraduate, to the University of Chicago. Students there regularly had the opportunity to see and hear famous emigres such as Hannah Arendt, Leo Strauss, and Hans Morgenthau, all of whom taught at the university. Others, such as Peter Gay and Arnaldo Momigliano, came as guest speakers (Momigliano later joined the faculty). But we also learned directly from others, unknown to fame but marked by the same historical experience--such as Christian Mackauer, the extraordinary teacher whose legendary course on the history of Western civilization came as a revelation to me, as it did to so many others. In our age of politically correct gentility, when we call our students by their first names and fear to challenge their beliefs and their tastes, it is hard to convey what an inspiration it could be when a brusque man who called you "Mr. Smith" or "Miss Jones" slapped you down without hesitation or mercy for misinterpreting a line of Homer or Plato. Even then, it seemed hard to connect these individuals and their experiences with the university world we lived in--and in those days the giants still walked among us."

When we, at 53 went to look at colleges we were appalled, my wife ranted at the counsellor for a half hour. I said "The old guys who taught us are all dead now. The sad truth is that their places were taken by posures, frauds, clowns and time servers."

I guess hanging them is not a useful solution. They are not worth wasting rope on. Burn their city, plow it under, sow it with salt.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at February 17, 2004 06:22 PM

I wonder how all of those frauds and imposters got through the tough old Chicago elites? This is something that the proponents of the 'liberals got into the system in the 1960's, and took over' theory never seem to discuss. After all, if there *were* these tough, no-nonsense scholars, how did the flaccid po-mo leftists get their Ph.D.'s, let alone tenured professorships?

I guess that, in the 1960's, all of the non-leftists must have been off fighting in Vietnam (like Cheney, Wolfowitz, Perle, Gingrich, DeLay, Gramm, Scalia, Thomas, etc.).

However, I must admit that it *is* amusing to hear somebody denigrate U of Chicago as not being worth their money. You might want to drop by the good folks at 1126 E. 59th St, and let them know that, in your opinion, the education that your child(ren) get at Chicago is not worth the money that you are spending. The grad students there, at least, could probably use the laugh.

Posted by: Barry at February 17, 2004 06:47 PM

Almost every time I ask a student who taught a course they took - and some times even one they are taking now (!), they can't remember the professor. And when I ask students what textbook did you use for that class (to try to gauge what that class was) they don't know...

Posted by: moom at February 17, 2004 09:59 PM

#45 So often when I ask students their names I have to say "please also give me your family name". That seems to be a weird idea to them... I'm 39...

Posted by: moom at February 17, 2004 10:04 PM

#46 Barry

"I wonder how all of those frauds and imposters got through the tough old Chicago elites?"

Not to mention the posures, clowns and time servers found there and Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, Northwestern and other institutions of so called higher-learning across the United States. Good question. I was practicing law and raising a family. I was not on the academic scene. The hypothesis in your next paragraph seems inapt as there is a 10 to 15 year gap between the passing of one generation (the emigres) and the rise of another (the boomer clowns). As for your third paragraph, I shall consider it carefully when arranging dinner tables at our next party.

"However, I must admit that it *is* amusing to hear somebody denigrate U of Chicago as not being worth their money."

Actually, my informant was a senior faculty member there. Of course the same could be said of a degree in the humanities or social sciences (ex econ) at every other private college in the country if you are paying full boat at current rates.

"You might want to drop by the good folks at 1126 E. 59th St, and let them know that, in your opinion, the education that your child(ren) get at Chicago is not worth the money that you are spending."

You missed. 1126 is Soc. The Dean of the College, to whom such complaints would be directed, is in Harper Library. The Street adress is 1159. Of course, the dean of the College would be very puzzled to hear from me as neither of my children attend his school. Both girls are in college at the other side of the metro area. One is in the arts, the other in the sciences.

"The grad students there, at least, could probably use the laugh."

Grad students anywhere could use a laugh, but they never get one because they live in fear.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at February 17, 2004 10:07 PM

In response to Robert Schwartz -

If you want to give the imperial Roman treatment to the academy, why did you support your children's decision to go to a 90,000 school that seems dominated by views you find appalling? Could you not have encouraged them to go to Hillsdale or another university where conservative ideas hold sway?

There's no sarcasm intended here. I'm actually curious, since it would seem that if large numbers of parents stopped paying for an education that they deem as terrible, then many universities would change their tune.

Posted by: better left nameless at February 18, 2004 11:13 AM


First as I said in #46 above. I am indulgent father.
Second the girls are not in the humanities or social sciences. One is in the arts, Theater and visual arts and the other is in Physics and Chemistry.

As I said above #41, I am not worried about indoctrination. They don't listen and they don't care. I am worried about curriculum. We work with them on that. Some of the courses they have taken have been good. a couple of have been disasterous. A couple of times we got to say I told you so.

"if large numbers of parents stopped paying for an education that they deem as terrible, then many universities would change their tune."

They are. You just don't notice it. There was a thread here a few months ago on the declining number of history majors.

IA Wrote:"Townsend reports that in 2000-01 "history accounted for 2 percent of all bachelor's degrees." In 1970-71, by way of contrast, "history comprised more than 5 percent of the bachelor's degrees conferred." This represents a decline not only in relative but also in absolute terms: in 1970-71, 44,663 history BAs were conferred, while in 2000-01 that number had shrunk to 25,070 history BAs."

I wrote:

#9 Is this different than say English or anthropology. I would be surprised if it were. A four year education at a private college now costs close to $150,000. Students and their parents want to know what the payoff is. There is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for history, english, philosophy or ____________ studies. Major in those and you can go to law school.

Now we can all get our nickers in a wad about this trend, and spout off ad nausium about the beauties of a liberal education (and for the record, I, an old U of Chicago grad, still believe) but the facts are the facts. Its all about the Benjamins. The colleges have set the bar where they wanted to and need to respond to the ordinary and reasonable consequences of their actions.


#32 The relentless focus on the intricacies of "Theory" and methodology by academics is guaranteed to send the average undergraduate to study something simple and comprehensible like quantum mechanics or neuro-anatomy.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at February 18, 2004 01:30 PM

In response to David Foster in post #7, I do share the concern about relativism, or that one idea is as good as the next, or that everything can be reduced to an "opinion." I think this is one of the key barriers to an education that moves us toward freedom, not to nihilism. However, the challenge becomes, how to critique this relativism without reducing the critique to Horowitzian lists of approved or rejected cultural artifacts or perspectives (or worse yet, whipping out the balance scales to make sure that we don't go over the time limit for "fair" representation, or that all ideas are granted "equal" time for evaluation, as if it's just a matter of interpretation?). I have grave concerns about the unquestioningly accepted notions of "neutrality", "fair-and-balanced", "personal responsibility" and "it's just an opinion," especially when these sentiments serve to stifle critique and social change. Here's another concern: can we assume that students come to us with the background to "decide on their own" so to speak? What if they choose a philosophy that resembles overt fascism? What is the role of the teacher, anyhow? I can't just sit back and let folks weigh the evidence, but I also can't indoctrinate. It's not an easy thing to figure out, but I do know that we need to continually struggle against injustice and that means sometimes not being "fair and balanced."
On the other hand, I don't think that capitalism is in any danger of being seen as "evil." I have yet to encounter a student who even dares to ask questions about our existing economic system in a way that approaches critique. Most students view free enterprise as a "natural" system that evolved on its own, free from any sort of human intervention. The going assumption is that any critique of capitalism means that you somehow automatically endorse communism or socialism. At least this has been my experience in the classroom...

Posted by: Cat at February 18, 2004 01:40 PM

There's big money in physics, though, as recent events in Pakistan have reminded us.

Posted by: chun the unavoidable at February 18, 2004 03:30 PM

A University of Chicago education is in fact well worth the money it costs, though *only* because of the doors it will open when its graduates enter the workforce. If a community college, or a 4-year state university opened the same doors, then it, too, would be worth the cost -- well worth it, I'd say, because I assume it would cost far less than U.Chicago.

A BA from Chicago trumps a BA from Univ. of Central Michigan every time, any time.

My experience has taught me that 99.9% of students are in college, even good colleges, in order to position themselves to enter the workforce at a higher level. As for that remaining .1%, they probably have a big trust fund and can afford to be there for an education.

Posted by: Chris at February 18, 2004 04:43 PM

"A University of Chicago education is in fact well worth the money it costs, though *only* because of the doors it will open when its graduates enter the workforce."

Sigh, this is only true if your potential employer is aware that U of Chicago is not a community college. Which is the reaction that I have typically gotten.

Robert Schwartz '70

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at February 18, 2004 07:39 PM

Well I was just appointed director of our dying graduate program. It was an offer I couldn't refuse. Which is about everything when you are on the tenure track.

Posted by: moom at February 18, 2004 09:08 PM

Robert, I wasn't referring to the Dean's office. The address (as far as I could tell from the U's web site) was of the building where the Econ department is housed. The joke, I hope, is now obvious.

Posted by: Barry at February 19, 2004 08:45 AM

#57 Barry:

I guess I just don't see the humor. Econ has not been devastated by the trends of the last generation, but then again neither has physics. Nor has the damage been the same everywhere. But, the dull reality remains that the core liberal arts programs have been taken over by boomers whose levity has turned those programs into a vast wasteland.

My thought, and the numbers suggest that it is happening, is that the liberal arts are dying out. What I am suggesting is that they cannot be revived and that we should shut the programs down and move on.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at February 19, 2004 11:04 AM

Is this news that the Liberal Arts are dying out?

Posted by: Chris at February 19, 2004 11:32 AM

Well, our Econ grad program is in trouble but that is because we are a low ranked, non-mainstream program at a School that wants to go up in the World.

Posted by: moom at February 19, 2004 05:57 PM

This entire Peter Pan syndrome is a little confusing to me... and I'm honestly growing extremely tired of people using this syndrome as an excuse for imaturity...

Posted by: tamika at February 29, 2004 10:17 PM