The Nudnik File

Nudnik - n. U.S. colloq. Esp. in Jewish usage: a pestering, nagging, or irritating person

Monday, February 07, 2005


              Rigid and Flaccid
A thriving and diverse intellectual community is essential for a functioning democracy to thrive. Unfortunately, the intellectual community in the form of the Universities in the US is anything but diverse.

Nudnikette's take on that issue:
The excellent blog of the New Criterion, Armavirumque, has been posting on the subject of the Left-leaning infestation of academia, personified as of late by the twin peaks of Ward Churchill and the stars of the Columbia University documentary "Columbia Unbecoming" Joseph Massad, Hamid Dabashi, and others. So here is my own little addendum: the atmosphere of complete political uniformity in elite American universities is very real. Expression of dissenting ideas is received with deep perplexity from even the friendliest circles. This party control breeds fear, chiefly among graduate students whose future careers and livelihoods are dependent on the regard of their benefactors (read: academic advisors, i.e. professors). The result is a subtle yet constant ripple of anxiety, an awareness that calls for a graduate student to be always on guard, wittily parrying off any comments that might lead to a political discussion and basically hiding the true nature of one's - horror - real opinion even amongst peers. If this smacks of Soviet Russia you are right on the money, with one major difference - it is not your life, only your future employment that is at stake. The source of intimidation, however, is the same: Leftist enlightened intelligentsia. But the fear, mendacity and evasiveness that are necessary for a right wing graduate student to survive in the Humanities of today are the opposite of intellectual honesty, integrity and diversity. Where have all the intellectuals gone?

Richard Posner, on his blog, makes some more comments about the state of academia.
But no one who has spent much time around universities thinks they've ever "encourage[d] uncircumscribed intellectual explorations." The degree of self-censorship in universities, as in all institutions, is considerable. Today in the United States, most of the leading research universities are dominated by persons well to the left of Larry Summers, and they don't take kindly to having their ideology challenged, as Summers has now learned to his grief. There is nothing to be done about this, and thoughtful conservatives should actually be pleased. As John Stuart Mill pointed out in On Liberty, when one's ideas are not challenged, one's ability to defend them weakens. Not being pressed to come up with arguments or evidence to support them, one forgets the arguments and fails to obtain the evidence. One's position becomes increasingly flaccid, producing the paradox of thought that is at once rigid and flabby. And thus the academic left today.
|| Nudnik 4:31 PM
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