June 16, 2006

For Weekend Pondering

I didn't get to this yesterday, what with my astonishment at the Slate message boards, so I will post it today: a discussion on what effect, exactly, Ward Churchill, ACTA and all the factions involved in the "Humanities are a roiling cess-pit of (pick one) a) communists, b) brave dissenters, c) ignorant hacks, d) pseudo-intellectuals, e) race-baiters and permanent victims" war are having on the academy and the public perception of same.

This particular set of arguments only takes a backseat to the mommy wars for me because, well, the mommy wars have a larger margin of carnage, and a smaller tendency to use words like "hegemony" in the arguments.

But I digress. Read and enjoy.

My super-short opinion? I think it's valid, given the Churchill case's exposure of sloppy hiring and self-policing on the part of the academy, to ask how many more frauds there may be out there exploiting the uber-PC campus culture for their own benefit. I also agree with many of the commenters who believe that the real crime against the humanities here isn't so much the political nonsense that professors may or may not spout in the classroom, but in the degeneration of real critical thinking in the classrooms. My grad school experience was illustrative of exactly this point: when you can memorize the basic tenets of a particular "flavor" of theory and slot them into any piece of literature as though you're constructing an Ikea bookshelf, then I've gotta say that something's a bit awry. At the very least it certainly sucks the fun out of the humanities.

Posted by Big Arm Woman at June 16, 2006 02:35 PM

"pick one"? Now that's just cruel.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at June 16, 2006 03:52 PM

Wm. Kerrigan starting a review of Paglia's _Sexual Personae_ on the state of the English Department in 1991 http://home.att.net/~rhhardin2/kerrigan.depress.txt

It leads into wondering what got into Yale University Press to publish the thing (eg. that the reason there's no female Mozart is that there's no female Jack the Ripper, struck him as something not normally coming out of academia those days)

So I was unsurprised by Churchill, there having been a 15 year gap to drift around in.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at June 16, 2006 05:54 PM

A couple of my acquaintance are "Johnnies," that is, they went through the course of study at St. John's University in Annapolis (and if you think I am green with envy, you are correct) and, as the gentleman of the pair has been wont to note, compared to the modern humanities-educated fellow they are as sighted men in the kingdom of the blind.

Ah well. At least I know how much I don't know. It's a start.

Posted by: Carbonelle at June 17, 2006 12:01 AM

In engineering we have new, truly new, things to work on all the time. I've always wondered if part of the problem in humanities is they continue to torture the same old material for new meaning. Maybe all this is because they're bored. Devil's playground and all that.

Posted by: Locomotive Breath at June 18, 2006 07:17 AM