Academia is becoming, if it is not already, bullshit

Updates

  1. Originally published under the title, “Academia is becoming, if is not already, bullshit,” on January 11, 10:38 am.
  2. January 11, 4:51 pm:
    • The New Yorker has a sort of an odd piece in defense of #MeToo from a really odd piece that was apparently published in Le Monde criticizing it.[1]
    • Oh, my. I left a word out of the title. Revised to, “Academia is becoming, if it is not already, bullshit.”
  3. January 11, 5:33 pm:
    • Go ahead, groan. Get it out of your system. Bill Cosby and #MeToo.[2] Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
    • The comment I made on Rod Dreher’s article pointing to Christian Smith’s article[3] has been approved.

Academia

From my teaching philosophy page:

Unfortunately, under neoliberalism, higher education has largely gone the other way: We layer quantitative metrics on top of quantitative metrics in the name of “accountability;” we see the word “entrepreneurship,” a word that should never be used in the context of education, emblazoned across Ivy League university web sites as they promote their job training programs; academic departments retreat from funding cuts by reinforcing the high walls around their intellectual silos; positivism (or post-positivism, if you insist) ascends not on its own merit but in an emphasis on a naïve view of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); all while low-paid adjuncts enable ever richer university administrations. As Christian Smith puts it, “[t]he manure has piled up so deep in the hallways, classrooms, and administration buildings . . . that,” he writes, “I am not sure how much longer I can wade through it and retain my sanity and integrity.” Smith and I share an ideal of what the university is supposed to be. He laments “our crisis of faith in truth, reality, reason, evidence, argument, civility, and our common humanity.”[4] But given a choice he has and I seem not to, (I’m pretty sure he and) I would be nowhere else.[5]

Rod Dreher, in the American Conservative, points to this piece and adds little beyond a forum to discuss it. My comment:

I’m still thinking about this piece, which I found before you pointed to it. In general, I agree: Academia indeed suffers the maladies he claims and more (a list that’s surely too long to cite here). And I agree that the maladies are tangled.

I also share what I hope I correctly perceive as Christian Smith’s love for the university. He laments “our crisis of faith in truth, reality, reason, evidence, argument, civility, and our common humanity.” (I’ll not delve into problems of epistemology or, more bluntly, the question of “what is truth?” here.) Because when he points to that crisis, he points to a crisis of those very things that I most value in The University as an archetype that dates back thousands of years.

But he is baffled as to how to resurrect those values which are too often at odds with a neoliberal emphasis on “job training.”

He wonders “how much longer I can wade through it [the BS] and retain my sanity and integrity” and I think, sadly, that this might be the key. Academia is becoming, in far too many ways, all that it is supposed to despise. It is corrupt.

But there is no institution disposed to clearing out that corruption. So, it seems, academia, in its present form, must be abandoned.

But to abandon the form is not to abandon the virtue. I am beginning to wonder if it is possible to start again, to create a new academia that resurrects these values. How would it be supported? Who could (and how do we decide who should) attend)? How would they be supported in attending?

Christian Smith, “Higher Education Is Drowning in BS,” Chronicle of Higher Education, January 9, 2018, https://www.chronicle.com/article/Higher-Education-Is-Drowning/242195


Unauthorized migrants

Heather Caygle and Seung Min Kim, “Democratic leaders face internal mutiny over Dreamers deal,” Politico, January 11, 2018, https://www.politico.com/story/2018/01/11/democrats-daca-dreamers-immigration-mutiny-334454


Golden Showers

Twitter has raised its post length limit to 280 characters, which is, I think, generally a good thing, but this also enables Donald Trump to pack more bullshit in each tweet. The Congressional Quarterly Roll Call article usefully rebuts the talking point that the dossier has in any way been refuted. It hasn’t,[6] and:

[W]hile he was not under oath, Patrick Davis, the deputy chief investigative counsel for panel Chairman Charles E. Grassley, informed [Glenn] Simpson at the start of the session that the U.S. Code “makes it a crime to make any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation in the course of a congressional investigation. That statute applies to your statements in this interview. Do you understand that?” Simpson replied: “Yes, I do.”[7]

Fusion GPS, a political intelligence firm,[8] was hired by people in both parties[9] who likely know the political landscape. We can reasonably assume that Simpson knows the landscape and could be relied upon. Calling the dossier that Christopher Steele, an ex-MI6 agent, produced under contract to Fusion GPS[10] “dodgy” is likely overstating the case. Republicans question it, and the Roll Call article thus allows that “it would be accurate to brand the Steele dossier as ‘questioned.’ But,” the article continues, “the document has not been ‘disproven’”[11] and, in releasing the transcript of Simpson’s testimony,[12] Dianne Feinstein and her fellow Democrats probably see it as credible. Jennifer Rubin notes that two Republican senators also supported the release,[13] at least after the fact:

Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.) said: “I think that’s a good idea. I’m glad that it was done.” He added, “I respect Chairman Grassley, and I don’t really understand how this happened, but I do think more transparency is important.” Likewise, Sen. John Kennedy (La.) said, “It doesn’t bother me to have the American people know the facts or at least the alleged facts.”[14]

The Roll Call article concludes that “Trump’s Thursday morning tweet was high on the defensive meter but registers pretty low on the accuracy scale,”[15] which is a way of saying he doth protest too much.

John T. Bennett, “Fact Check: Trump’s Dossier Tweet Full of Dubious Claims,” Congressional Quarterly Roll Call, January 11, 2018, https://www.rollcall.com/news/politics/fact-check-trumps-dossier-tweet-full-of-dubious-claims/


Jerusalem

Geoffrey Aronson, “How Trump Gave a Green Light to Israel’s ‘One State Solution,’” American Conservative, January 11, 2018, http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/how-trump-gave-a-green-light-to-israels-one-state-solution/


#MeToo

I hadn’t thought about it [a sexual assault the author experienced] again until I saw, yesterday, that a hundred Frenchwomen, including the actress Catherine Deneuve and the writer Catherine Millet, had signed an opinion piece in Le Monde, defending “a freedom to bother, indispensable to sexual freedom.” . . .

There are reasonable criticisms to be made of the reckoning, as it’s come to be called, but Deneuve and Millet and their co-signers distort them. Bothering women in an unwanted way isn’t an expression of artistic temperament, without which the world would lose its magic. It’s often a by-product of a man’s (possibly very good) work making him think that he is invincible and owed. The hundred women’s admiration for a certain kind of man inhibits their empathy for his victims. Their stance is all the sadder in that it reveals a diminution of the same human quality that kindles the sexual energy they’re so keen not to see snuffed out. The failure to grasp that a woman—another woman with a different history, different values, a different set of likes and dislikes, attractions and repulsions—could grieve a trespass upon her body is really a failure of the imagination.[16]

My concern is that Lauren Collins does not share with us her “reasonable criticisms to be made of the reckoning, as it’s come to be called.”[17] What does she think, for example, of Cathy Young’s argument that #MeToo has gone too far?[18]

[T]he #MeToo movement, which tends to lump together a wide range of male wrongdoing from rape to “creepy” or boorish behavior, raises a basic question about human relations in the working world: Can work and sexuality or romance ever mix? For many supporters of this campaign, the answer seems to be no.

Concerns that the post-Weinstein climate may lead to witch hunts against any man who flirts with a female colleague have been met with angry comments along the lines of “flirting in the workplace IS HARASSMENT.” A tweet by singer/songwriter Marian Call that got more than 2,000 retweets and nearly 6,500 “likes” asked, “dudes are you aware how happy women would be if strangers & coworkers never ‘flirted’ with us again … this is the world we want.”

But is it? It’s certainly not the world I want: Except in college, nearly every man I have ever dated was either a co-worker or, once I switched entirely to free-lancing, someone I met through work. This is not unusual, even in the age of dating websites and apps. An informal 2015 survey for the online magazine Mic found that men and women under 35 were almost twice as likely to have met their current significant other through work (17.9%) as through online dating (9.4%). Similar findings have emerged from other such surveys.[19]

What does Collins think of my own sense that the pace of revelations, attended by downfalls of prominent men that were as stunning as they were swift, amounted to a sex panic?

I certainly don’t want to endorse a “a freedom to bother” (or as one woman put it to me personally, “let men be men,” because, she claimed, women can deal with it) as “indispensable to sexual freedom”[20] and indeed, given the notion of affirmative consent,[21] which surely at least one of those French women who signed the article that Collins responds to should have known about, I see no reason I should.

But I remain in the dark about a whole tangled mess of questions about women’s relationships with their bodies and the choices they make in presenting those bodies; the power that some of those bodies confer over men, while at the same time increasing their vulnerability to men; all in a context where sex is routinely used to advance consumerism; all in a context where sexual oppression seems intended to ensure not only that women bear children, even at the expense of any other aspirations they may have, but that they bear the right children (to the right men); all in a context where women seem to cling to their role as what I call “sexual gatekeepers” at the same time that this role functions to deprive women of agency. And if women refuse the agency that affirmative consent offers them, then how are men and women supposed to get together without reinforcing all the horrid double-binds (“jerk” versus “nice guy” and “slut” versus “frigid”) and rape myths that affirmative consent is meant to eliminate?[22] When Marian Call, quoted in Cathy Young’s article, tweets, “dudes are you aware how happy women would be if strangers & coworkers never ‘flirted’ with us again … this is the world we want,”[23] but women refuse the practice of affirmative consent, are they really saying they are opposed to any heterosexual sex ever again?

Lauren Collins, “Why Did Catherine Deneuve and Other Prominent Frenchwomen Denounce #MeToo?” New Yorker, January 10, 2018, https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/why-did-catherine-deneuve-and-other-prominent-frenchwomen-denounce-metoo


Bill Cosby

Molly Redden, “Bill Cosby: ‘Please don’t put me on #MeToo,’” Guardian, January 11, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/11/bill-cosby-metoo-philadelphia


  1. [1]Lauren Collins, “Why Did Catherine Deneuve and Other Prominent Frenchwomen Denounce #MeToo?” New Yorker, January 10, 2018, https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/why-did-catherine-deneuve-and-other-prominent-frenchwomen-denounce-metoo
  2. [2]Molly Redden, “Bill Cosby: ‘Please don’t put me on #MeToo,’” Guardian, January 11, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/11/bill-cosby-metoo-philadelphia
  3. [3]Christian Smith, “Higher Education Is Drowning in BS,” Chronicle of Higher Education, January 9, 2018, https://www.chronicle.com/article/Higher-Education-Is-Drowning/242195
  4. [4]Christian Smith, “Higher Education Is Drowning in BS,” Chronicle of Higher Education, January 9, 2018, https://www.chronicle.com/article/Higher-Education-Is-Drowning/242195
  5. [5]David Benfell, “Teaching Philosophy,” n.d., https://parts-unknown.org/drupal7/content/teaching-philosophy
  6. [6]John T. Bennett, “Fact Check: Trump’s Dossier Tweet Full of Dubious Claims,” Congressional Quarterly Roll Call, January 11, 2018, https://www.rollcall.com/news/politics/fact-check-trumps-dossier-tweet-full-of-dubious-claims/
  7. [7]John T. Bennett, “Fact Check: Trump’s Dossier Tweet Full of Dubious Claims,” Congressional Quarterly Roll Call, January 11, 2018, https://www.rollcall.com/news/politics/fact-check-trumps-dossier-tweet-full-of-dubious-claims/
  8. [8]Rebecca Ballhaus, “Jared Kushner Details Russia Meetings, Denies Collusion,” Wall Street Journal, July 24, 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/jared-kushner-releases-details-on-previously-undisclosed-meeting-with-russian-ambassador-1500890433
  9. [9]Philip Ewing, “How The Fusion GPS Founder’s Testimony Fits In The Russia Saga,” National Public Radio, January 10, 2018, https://www.npr.org/2018/01/10/576899194/how-the-fusion-gps-founders-testimony-fits-in-the-russia-saga; Chris Megerian, “Sen. Dianne Feinstein releases Fusion GPS transcript, escalating dispute with Republicans over Russia probe,” Los Angeles Times, January 9, 2018, http://www.latimes.com/politics/washington/la-na-pol-essential-washington-updates-sen-dianne-feinstein-releases-fusion-1515522979-htmlstory.html
  10. [10]John T. Bennett, “Fact Check: Trump’s Dossier Tweet Full of Dubious Claims,” Congressional Quarterly Roll Call, January 11, 2018, https://www.rollcall.com/news/politics/fact-check-trumps-dossier-tweet-full-of-dubious-claims/
  11. [11]John T. Bennett, “Fact Check: Trump’s Dossier Tweet Full of Dubious Claims,” Congressional Quarterly Roll Call, January 11, 2018, https://www.rollcall.com/news/politics/fact-check-trumps-dossier-tweet-full-of-dubious-claims/
  12. [12]“Feinstein: American People Deserve Opportunity to Read Glenn Simpson, Fusion GPS Transcript,” United States Senate, January 9, 2018, https://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/press-releases?id=B708D3CB-A945-4436-8FB8-9D85978C5EEF; Chris Megerian, “Sen. Dianne Feinstein releases Fusion GPS transcript, escalating dispute with Republicans over Russia probe,” Los Angeles Times, January 9, 2018, http://www.latimes.com/politics/washington/la-na-pol-essential-washington-updates-sen-dianne-feinstein-releases-fusion-1515522979-htmlstory.html; Jacqueline Thomsen, “Feinstein posts testimony of Fusion GPS co-founder,” Hill, January 9, 2018, http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/368119-feinstein-posts-testimony-of-fusion-gps-co-founder
  13. [13]Jennifer Rubin, “Fusion GPS transcript undercuts GOP attack on Steele and FBI,” Washington Post, January 10, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2018/01/10/fusion-gps-transcript-undercuts-gop-attack-on-steele-and-fbi/
  14. [14]Jennifer Rubin, “Fusion GPS transcript undercuts GOP attack on Steele and FBI,” Washington Post, January 10, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2018/01/10/fusion-gps-transcript-undercuts-gop-attack-on-steele-and-fbi/
  15. [15]John T. Bennett, “Fact Check: Trump’s Dossier Tweet Full of Dubious Claims,” Congressional Quarterly Roll Call, January 11, 2018, https://www.rollcall.com/news/politics/fact-check-trumps-dossier-tweet-full-of-dubious-claims/
  16. [16]Lauren Collins, “Why Did Catherine Deneuve and Other Prominent Frenchwomen Denounce #MeToo?” New Yorker, January 10, 2018, https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/why-did-catherine-deneuve-and-other-prominent-frenchwomen-denounce-metoo
  17. [17]Lauren Collins, “Why Did Catherine Deneuve and Other Prominent Frenchwomen Denounce #MeToo?” New Yorker, January 10, 2018, https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/why-did-catherine-deneuve-and-other-prominent-frenchwomen-denounce-metoo
  18. [18]Cathy Young, “Is ‘Weinsteining’ getting out of hand?” Los Angeles Times, November 1, 2017, http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-young-weinsteining-goes-too-far-20171101-story.html
  19. [19]Cathy Young, “Is ‘Weinsteining’ getting out of hand?” Los Angeles Times, November 1, 2017, http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-young-weinsteining-goes-too-far-20171101-story.html
  20. [20]quoted in Lauren Collins, “Why Did Catherine Deneuve and Other Prominent Frenchwomen Denounce #MeToo?” New Yorker, January 10, 2018, https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/why-did-catherine-deneuve-and-other-prominent-frenchwomen-denounce-metoo
  21. [21]Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti. eds., Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape (Berkeley, CA: Seal, 2008).
  22. [22]David Benfell, “The Great Feminist Smackdown: Rape Allegations against Julian Assange,” Not Housebroken, December 21, 2010, https://disunitedstates.org/2010/12/21/the-great-feminist-smackdown-rape-allegations-against-julian-assange/; David Benfell, “Salon’s ‘sensitive’ Arthur Chu needs to learn about ‘Yes means Yes,’” Not Housebroken, January 12, 2015, https://disunitedstates.org/2015/01/12/salons-sensitive-arthur-chu-needs-to-learn-about-yes-means-yes/; David Benfell, “Affirmative consent is still a better idea,” Not Housebroken, November 12, 2017, https://disunitedstates.org/2017/11/12/affirmative-consent-is-still-a-better-idea/
  23. [23]Marian Call, quoted in Cathy Young, “Is ‘Weinsteining’ getting out of hand?” Los Angeles Times, November 1, 2017, http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-young-weinsteining-goes-too-far-20171101-story.html

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