Monday, December 8, 2008

First the press, now universities....the demonization continues

I think Mary Grabar's critique is an excellent example of what is wrong with American Higher Ed. The triumph of opinion over reason. Yup. that is right. All Ms. Grabar is doing is disgreeing with a study because, well, she disagrees with it. She doesn't examine the methdology, she doesn't examine the evidence, only the conclusions and since it is contrary with her views, then she dismisses it. That is exactly what I teach my students...ignore all evidence to the contrary. Actually, that pretty much defines 'stereotype'....a characterization of a people (or institution in this case) that ignores differences and persists despite contrary evidence.

I tried to get a look at "Closed Minds? Politics and Ideology in American Universities” but alas, I would have to purchase it or get it from my library. My library doesn't have it yet, and it is snowy out and I don't feel like running out to purchase. I do recall and earlier discussion of this, and there are some questions about the methodology, but more to the point, whether college should be more important to this issues than family, previous schooling, etc.

What does Mr. Grabar offer as evidence? Only her anecdotal examples. That is not systematic, it is not reproducible...all canons of science...which, by the way, conservatives have an issue with, too.

I'm not going to argue that there isn't alot of ideology in the classroom ,college or public or parochial school. Mostly what I find in my students is just ignorance...which is really the point of Closed Minds. It is entire areas that are no longer taught, like polical and military history. Why??????????????

I am a sociologist. My university just closed us down. It wasn't because we didn't have students, we did. The reason? We were politically weak. But now, there is no institutional examination of inequality, poverty, social class, the effect of religion on society and vice versa, no more examination of the importance of human values in society......One long term project I have been doing with my students is to calculate how much they "cost." Not how much they spend, but how much they cost. Because that class is likely to never be taught here again, that exercise is not likely to be taught again. It is a real mind opener, I promise you, regardless of political stripe.

When higher ed became just a processor of human capital, that spelled the end of the stuff that matters to folks who care about the ideology of college professors. Adam who? (Smith), Ayn who? (Rand), karl who? (marx?) Except for college professors, what is any of that going to help in the workplace? That is the watchword today, especially in public schools where academic freedom is praciced at its strongest.

Finally, since we are dealing in the anecdotal. My experience is that most faculty teach "theory" and "persepctive" that they don't connect to existing political ideological scales. I've heard those who teach evolutionary perspectives argue both: 1) it is liberal because it undermines ideas of morality; 2) it is conservative because it suggets biological basis for things like gender, achievement, etc. So, which is it? ahhhh...perhaps it isn't ideological until someone uses it that way. Of course to even recognize the difference between ideology and "science" is to suggest a finely tuned critical ability that is absent in Ms. Grabar's critique.

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