The academy as ruthless market process


A student at Columbia defends the character of American academia as the outcome of a ruthless market process in which excellence prevails (link via Economist's View):

In reality, conservatives ought to appreciate academia, because it’s a
vicious market system. Professors have absurdly specific training in
tiny career fields. A guy who spends years writing a dissertation on
the importance of beads to indigenous tribes in Brazil really wants the
world’s other bead expert to fail. If he doesn’t get tenure, there’s a
good chance he won’t find a decent job anywhere else ever. He doesn’t
care whether bead-man number two is a Republican; he could be left of
Castro and the first guy would still spend days writing scathing
articles blasting his shoddy bead analysis.

Similarly, Columbia isn’t going to refuse to hire a conservative who
has done prominent work, because rich people like prominence, and we at
Columbia need rich people to send us their progeny. You could argue
that conservative professors have a more difficult time becoming
prominent, but if most professors are liberal, then a conservative
doing convincing research or writing influential journal articles would
probably just be more conspicuous. You might also argue that the
liberal environment at Columbia makes conservatives less inclined to
work here, but that just sounds like a way of saying that conservatives
are pansies who can’t handle disagreement, which seems unfair to me.

A counter-reading from Stuart Taylor:

Perhaps I should confess my biases. I do dislike extremism of the Left and of the Right. But I have never been conservative enough to vote for a Republican presidential nominee. And the academics whose growing power and abuses of power concern me are far to the left of almost all congressional Democrats.

They are also ruthless in blocking appointment of professors whose views they don't like; are eager to censor such views; and in many cases are determined to push their own political views on students, who have few reality checks in their course material and are often too innocent of the world to understand when they are being fed fatuous tripe.

Delaware students have been not only inculcated with the lunatic view that all white Americans are racists (and that "REVERSE RACISM" is a "term ... created and used by white people to deny their white privilege") but also:

* Told to confess their "privilege" or lament their "oppression";

* Informed that "white culture is a melting pot of greed, guys, guns, and god";

* Required to "recognize that systemic oppression exists in our society" and "recognize the benefits of dismantling systems of oppression" (whatever that means);

* Instructed to purge male residents' "resistance to educational efforts" and "concepts of traditional male identity";

* Challenged to "change their daily habits and consumer mentality" for the sake of "sustainability";

* Pushed to display on their dorm doors politically approved decorations proclaiming support for (e.g.) "social equity" (whatever that means);

* Subjected to other "treatments" designed to alter their beliefs and behaviors and inculcate university-approved views on politics, sexuality, moral philosophy, and more;

* Ordered to attend residence-hall training sessions and submit to one-on-one sessions with RAs, who filed reports to their superiors about individual students' "level of change or acceptance" of the thought-reform program.

One such report, for example, classified a young woman as one of the "worst" students in the residence life education program for saying that she was tired of having "diversity shoved down her throat" and responding "none of your damn business" when asked "when did you discover your sexual identity?"

I don't know if that's a market process, but it certainly sounds pretty ruthless.

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Clive Crook is a senior editor of The Atlantic and a columnist for Bloomberg View. He was the Washington columnist for the Financial Times, and before that worked at The Economist for more than 20 years, including 11 years as deputy editor. Crook writes about the intersection of politics and economics. More

Crook writes about the intersection of politics and economics.

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