Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Lost Forever In The House Of Mirrors

Todd Gitlin has written a lament.

This Corner post is a good introduction:

Academic Life [Stanley Kurtz]

What's it like to be in today's academy? I don't think anything (inadvertently) conveys the experience more clearly than Todd Gitlin's, "The Self-Inflicted Wounds of the Academic Left."

At the beginning of this piece, Gitlin puts on a masterful show of bias and intolerance by equating liberalism with reason and conservatism with ignorance. Gitlin leaves no space for legitimate intellectual argument between liberals and conservatives. When it comes to conservatives, Gitlin sees it as strictly a matter of exposing their willfulness, malevolence, and stupidity. But that's just the first couple of paragraphs. In the rest of his article, Gitlin strikes a pose of moderation by taking on the unreconstructed academic communists to his left.

This was my experience in the academy. The faculty believed they were having real debates and deep exchanges of ideas, because one sort of leftist was always arguing with another. Conservative ideas were considered illegitimate on the face of it, and so belonged outside the academy. Ideas on the left, however radical, were to be taken seriously and vigorously debated. So this bizarre article, in which Gitlin poses as a fair-minded moderate liberal, is an all-too-accurate depiction of the state of the academy today. They think they're a serious debating society when in fact they're a squabbling political party of the left.
Posted at 9:37 AM

1 comment:

Michael Poole said...

Unfortunately, I think Gitlin has at least a slightly valid point. Perhaps this is due to reporting bias, but it seems to me that the most prominent conservatives in hard sciences are those who do let their agenda subvert their work. (Some liberals scientists make the same error, but they tend to be eclipsed by their more honest brethren.)

There are a lot of good conservative thinkers out there, but they tend to be in the arts and "softer" sciences like economics. On the bright side, that is probably where conservative academic thought is most needed. It is certainly where it is most relevant to the field.