Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Where Do I Even Start?


Well, Naturally We're Liberal - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education:


[One] reason that liberal-arts professors tend to be politically liberal is that they have very likely studied large-scale historical processes and complex cultural dynamics. Conservatives, who tend to evoke the need to preserve traditional connections with the past, have nonetheless contributed least to any detailed or thoughtful study of history. Most (although, of course, by no means all) prominent historians of politics, literature, the arts, religion, and even economics have tended, as conservatives claim, to be liberally biased. Fair enough. But if you actually take the time to look at history and culture, certain conclusions about human nature, society, and economics tend to force themselves on you. History has a trajectory, driven in large part by the desires of underprivileged or oppressed groups to attain parity with the privileged or the oppressor.


I hardly know where to begin --and this wasn't even the author's first reason. Let's start with 'they have very likely studied large-scale historical processes and complex cultural dynamics." Uh, no. The lack of cross-disciplinary study on the graduate level is shocking, once you get past the surface. Historians know next to nothing about macroeconomics, political scientists poo-poo anthropology, and don't even get me started on English. (I mention English because they are widely acknowledged as the most notorious offenders that undergraduates encounter on a regular basis, pace the library science folks.) What they more likely studied were the items their committee people recommended, thus reinforcing the echo chamber dynamics of academia. (Yes, I know the same charge can be made viz the Right; I'm merely asserting that the Left has no room to call the kettle "made of metal".)

Second, as one old cranky prof once pointed out to me, the definition of "conservative" tends to be both incomplete and inaccurate. Notice how the author subtly conflates "need to preserve traditional connections" with lack of significant scholarship ("[they] have contributed least to any detailed or thoughtful study of history"). I especially admire the use of "thoughtful" to make a pejorative statement. Well done, Sparky!

And then that last sentence: " History has a trajectory, driven in large part by the desires of underprivileged or oppressed groups to attain parity with the privileged or the oppressor." I love how the author disdains the "need to preserve traditional connections with the past" and then throws out one of the most time-honored Marxist interpretations in the entire academy. Indeed, the idea of "trajectory" goes all the way back to the Greeks --so much for the lameness of "traditional" connections!

I could go further but I have lecture in five minutes. But read the whole thing. It's a howler! And it's a good part of the reason why I'm probably never going back to finish that pesky doctorate --I'm simply Not One Of Them.

UPDATE:
Why Are Conservatives So Rare On College Campuses?



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