Monday, May 03, 2010
Academics stuck in Left Field
1. The following was posted by me today to the chat list of Israeli social science professors:
So let us sum up the learned discussion on the list regarding syllabi and related matters to date. The predominant opinion seems to be that course syllabi should be filled with "criticism," but that no one should ever be permitted to criticize academic "critics," because criticizing academic "critics" is McCarthyism and harms academic freedom. Better yet, why not expand the number of courses at Israeli universities that consist entirely of "criticism," and in which "criticism" is mandatory and enforced? Meanwhile, people like the Im Tirtzu students, the Knesset education committee members, or the watchdog groups like NGO Monitor and Isracampus should have no right to criticize "critics." After all, such people are threats to academic freedom and accordingly should be made to wear special stars on their clothing, if not banished outright to critical re-education camps in the Arava with names like Newmangrad.
Now one way of dealing with university courses that contain "criticism," including Marxist critique, anti-Zionism and Israel bashing, is to label them with warning labels. That way students will know what they are signing up to get. After all, cigarette packets contain warning labels. So why can't we just have warning labels along the lines such as, "This course contains Marxist indoctrination," or "This course contains postmodernist content that interferes with brain activity" ??
More generally, it should be clear to all that the term "criticism" is commonly misused in academia to refer to Marxist "analysis" and to the "posts." The Marxist component includes things like Foucault, Hobsbawn, Shenhav, Peled, and so on. The "posts" include postmodernism, post-structuralism, post-colonialism, deconstruction, and other things that apparently get their "post" names because they are invented by bored clerks in post offices waiting for people to come in to pick up packages.
Curiously, the Social Science list recently carried numerous postings denouncing pornography. But pornography merely demeans the human body. Marxism destroys the human body (the biggest cause of mass starvation in the 20th century was Marxism) as well as the human mind and soul. So just like we would all want a warning label for a university course in which porn is shown to students in massively overflowing lecture halls, should not a course filled with Marxist mandatory criticism also carry a warning label?
And speaking of post-colonialist thought and starvation, should not critical Israeli political science courses contain the critical analysis of the great post-colonialist thinker Robert Mugabe? A few years back he seriously proposed putting the absence of food in Zimbabwe to advantage by developing weight-loss tourism. Fat people from the capitalist world would be invited to tour Zimbabwe and not eat.
There are so many imaginative ways that the money of the Israeli taxpayer can be put to use in manufacturing criticism!
2. Academia, Stuck To the Left
By George F. Will
Sunday, November 28, 2004; Page B07
Republicans Outnumbered In Academia, Studies Find
-- The New York Times, Nov. 18
Oh, well, if studies say so. The great secret is out: Liberals dominate campuses. Coming soon: "Moon Implicated in Tides, Studies Find."
One study of 1,000 professors finds that Democrats outnumber Republicans at least seven to one in the humanities and social sciences. That imbalance, more than double what it was three decades ago, is intensifying because younger professors are more uniformly liberal than the older cohort that is retiring.
Another study, of voter registration records, including those of professors in engineering and the hard sciences, found nine Democrats for every Republican at Berkeley and Stanford. Among younger professors, there were 183 Democrats, six Republicans.
But we essentially knew this even before the American Enterprise magazine reported in 2002 on examinations of voting records in various college communities. Some findings about professors registered with the two major parties or with liberal or conservative minor parties:
Cornell: 166 liberals, 6 conservatives.
Stanford: 151 liberals, 17 conservatives.
Colorado: 116 liberals, 5 conservatives.
UCLA: 141 liberals, 9 conservatives.
The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics reports that in 2004, of the top five institutions in terms of employee per capita contributions to presidential candidates, the third, fourth and fifth were Time Warner, Goldman Sachs and Microsoft. The top two were the University of California system and Harvard, both of which gave about 19 times more money to John Kerry than to George W. Bush.
But George Lakoff, a linguistics professor at Berkeley, denies that academic institutions are biased against conservatives. The disparity in hiring, he explains, occurs because conservatives are not as interested as liberals in academic careers. Why does he think liberals are like that? "Unlike conservatives, they believe in working for the public good and social justice." That clears that up.
A filtering process, from graduate school admissions through tenure decisions, tends to exclude conservatives from what Mark Bauerlein calls academia's "sheltered habitat." In a dazzling essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Bauerlein, professor of English at Emory University and director of research and analysis at the National Endowment for the Arts, notes that the "first protocol" of academic society is the "common assumption" -- that, at professional gatherings, all the strangers in the room are liberals.
It is a reasonable assumption, given that in order to enter the profession, your work must be deemed, by the criteria of the prevailing culture, "relevant." Bauerlein says that various academic fields now have regnant premises that embed political orientations in their very definitions of scholarship:
"Schools of education, for instance, take constructivist theories of learning as definitive, excluding realists (in matters of knowledge) on principle, while the quasi-Marxist outlook of cultural studies rules out those who espouse capitalism. If you disapprove of affirmative action, forget pursuing a degree in African-American studies. If you think that the nuclear family proves the best unit of social well-being, stay away from women's studies."
This gives rise to what Bauerlein calls the "false consensus effect," which occurs when, because of institutional provincialism, "people think that the collective opinion of their own group matches that of the larger population." There also is what Cass Sunstein, professor of political science and jurisprudence at the University of Chicago, calls "the law of group polarization." Bauerlein explains: "When like-minded people deliberate as an organized group, the general opinion shifts toward extreme versions of their common beliefs." They become tone-deaf to the way they sound to others outside their closed circle of belief.
When John Kennedy brought to Washington such academics as Arthur Schlesinger Jr., John Kenneth Galbraith, McGeorge and William Bundy and Walt Rostow, it was said that the Charles River was flowing into the Potomac. Actually, Richard Nixon's administration had an even more distinguished academic cast -- Henry Kissinger, Pat Moynihan, Arthur Burns, James Schlesinger and others.
Academics such as the next secretary of state still decorate Washington, but academia is less listened to than it was. It has marginalized itself, partly by political shrillness and silliness that have something to do with the parochialism produced by what George Orwell called "smelly little orthodoxies."
Many campuses are intellectual versions of one-party nations -- except such nations usually have the merit, such as it is, of candor about their ideological monopolies. In contrast, American campuses have more insistently proclaimed their commitment to diversity as they have become more intellectually monochrome.
They do indeed cultivate diversity -- in race, skin color, ethnicity, sexual preference. In everything but thought.
3. J Street metastasizing: http://www.ynetnews.com/home/0,7340,L-3083,00.html
4. Jews and the Liberal Virus: http://www.jewishworldreview.com/0410/goldson_reasons_jews_are_liberal.php3
5. Important news story about the recycling of garbage: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/137337
Send a condolence note to Ilan Pappe, the anti-Zionist communist professor who frequently shared a podium with the Neturei Karta, at I.Pappe@exeter.ac.uk
Shin Bet admits watching left-wing activist in West Bank
Activist Bridgette Chappell who lived near Ramallah was arrested in February during West Bank protest and expelled.
The Shin Bet security service has admitted in an affidavit to the High Court of Justice that has been conducting surveillance of a left-wing Australian activist living in Israel.
Bridgette Chappell, an activist with the International Solidarity Movement, arrived in Israel in August 2009 and went to live in Bir Zeit, near Ramallah. She took part in protests and was arrested in Bir Zeit at the beginning of February together with another activist, a Spanish citizen.
Chappell's lawyer, Omer Shatz, petitioned the High Court, which had meanwhile issued a temporary order allowing Chappell to remain in Israeli territory. The petition argues that Israel has no jurisdiction in matters pertaining to population administration in Area A, which is under Palestinian civilian and military control, and therefore Chappell's arrest was illegal.
The state responded Thursday that Chappell had contravened a 1970 order against unauthorized people remaining in the West Bank for more than 48 hours, and an Israel Defense Forces ban from November 2000 on entry into Area A. The state also declared it has the right to operate in Area A due to the security situation, as the High Court has recognized in past rulings, and that Chappell violated a temporary injunction not to go to the West Bank and is now in Nablus, from which she should be expelled.
To bolster its arguments, the security service produced an affidavit from an agent, from which it can be deduced that Chappell has been under surveillance. The declaration from him states that "the facts detailed are known to me due to my examination," and that "from information in our possession, it appears that Ms. Chappell is at this time in Nablus."
"We are pleased that the state has finally admitted that it is the authority in Area A, as if the Oslo Accords have disappeared, and that the 'bantustan' known as the Palestinian Authority has no significance. This straightforward position will certainly interest the U.S. secretary of state, in light of the start of proximity talks," Shatz told Haaretz.
7. Hebrew University - Gabriel Sheffer (Dept of Political Science) insists that it is all Israel's Fault that Iran is building nukes