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  #1  
Old 09-20-2008, 11:32 PM
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Default The Academic-Industrial Complex

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  #2  
Old 09-21-2008, 12:39 AM
grits-n-gravy grits-n-gravy is offline
 
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Default Re: The Academic-Industrial Complex

Fascinating discussion!

Especially William's take on the notion of leader versus thinker. Something to ponder in the current election cycle.
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  #3  
Old 09-21-2008, 03:21 AM
Morningsider Morningsider is offline
 
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Default Re: The Academic-Industrial Complex

In response to Mr. Deresiewicz's question here: I submit that Columbia College's Core Curriculum is a pretty good place to start (St. John's College goes further in this direction). The students are forced to spend a HUGE amount of time reading great texts and discussing them in small groups (John McWhorter teaches one such class!). I would also submit that this curriculum is part of the reason that Columbia has historically produced 'public intellectuals' (e.g. Trilling, Del Banco) along the lines these Bloggingheads prefer.
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  #4  
Old 09-21-2008, 07:04 AM
Baltimoron Baltimoron is offline
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Default Re: The Academic-Industrial Complex

I would appreciate it if these two professors could speak with more focus on Deresiewicz's argument about the structural progression from a 19th Century university with a research mission to the current vocational mission.

I would add, that this model has metastasized from Europe to BRICs, like ROK where I work. The cancer is morphing into a hundred different forms, and none may work.
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  #5  
Old 09-21-2008, 07:46 AM
ledocs ledocs is offline
 
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Default Re: The Academic-Industrial Complex

This was a good bookend to the diavlog of a few weeks ago with the two theoretical physicists, one of whom was a younger German woman. One needs to become a specialist in order to succeed within the context of a Western research university, and it matters not the discipline.

My own sense is that the problem is somewhat worse than any of the four diavloggers mentioned would have one believe, but no one wants to enter into the really dark places. It is also true that once people get tenure they can go on to write more generalist, more philosophical things, things not crafted narrowly to advance their academic careers. It is not that there are no real intellectuals or genuinely philosophical people in universities: there just aren’t that many, and they don’t have a great deal of influence. Certainly, from the point of view of inputs and outputs of the educational system, looking at the Great Machine from the outside, they have the collective force of a few minor parts.

Thanks for having these two on.
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  #6  
Old 09-21-2008, 01:59 PM
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Default Re: The Academic-Industrial Complex

Just finished listening to the diavlog!

Certainly one of the most thought provoking dialogues I've listened to in recent months. Mark and Bill go right to some of the most central issues that define our decadent culture. Higher education has been abandoning one of its most sacred tenets which is to produce people that can both lead and think. The distinction made by the diavloggers about leaders and thinkers is flawed. There is a huge difference between pseudo-leaders, the high achievers, or "heros" of American culture and thinkers. But the difference is based on a misconception of leadership.

More to follow. Hungry offspring are calling...
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  #7  
Old 09-21-2008, 04:59 PM
grits-n-gravy grits-n-gravy is offline
 
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Default Re: The Academic-Industrial Complex

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ocean View Post
Just finished listening to the diavlog!

The distinction made by the diavloggers about leaders and thinkers is flawed. There is a huge difference between pseudo-leaders, the high achievers, or "heros" of American culture and thinkers. But the difference is based on a misconception of leadership.

More to follow.

I look forward to hearing your definition of "leadership" because, to my knowledge, there isn't unanimity around what exactly leadership is.
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  #8  
Old 09-21-2008, 06:20 PM
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Default Re: The Academic-Industrial Complex

Quote:
Originally Posted by grits-n-gravy View Post
I look forward to hearing your definition of "leadership" because, to my knowledge, there isn't unanimity around what exactly leadership is.
No, there isn't. A lot of the definitions you will find are coming from business or at best organizational frameworks which describe leadership styles as applicable to that kind of structure.

My comment was a more general one. I'm trying to address leadership in a very broad sense, and also as applied to academic leadership.

The contention according to the diavloggers, is that "rising" to the top in the academic ladder, somewhat precludes or bypasses what they define as the role of a "thinker". They present the predicament, that in order to attain promotions in the academic ranks, there's a prescribed path that involves complying with a set of requirements. In general the steps to be followed require high specialization, a certain kind of publication, funding, research, etc. These activities are most commonly incompatible with the kind of perspective that a "thinker" would have. I actually agree with that. On a personal note, it is exactly that predicament that made me re-think my academic career and has lead me, at least temporarily, to suspend the "race" to the top.

My contention is that the concept of "leader" as someone who follows the prescribed path in order to get to the top, is flawed. It isn't true leadership. It's another form of being a follower. Of course, it doesn't mean that you have to challenge every aspect of the prescribed "formula". But, at some point, it isn't hard to figure out that the prescribed path is restrictive at best, nonsensical quite often, and corrupt at times. The conformist high achiever, accepts these restrictions, and continues in this path, motivated by the reward of success or public recognition. These, success and public recognition as well as an increase in wealth, are prime values in American culture. But, I question, is this leadership? Of course, I don't think it is. I think it's skill to conform. Mark and Bill point out how universities are becoming vocational schools. The cult of the high achiever that conforms to the plan, is creating this culture. There is no thinking, no dissenting, no divergence tolerated. So the conformers that rise to the top, are going to foster the production of more conformers.

So what is true leadership? Well, simply someone who has the capacity to lead. Lead where? Lead away from the wrong destination. Lead towards a better, more productive and creative path. It involves questioning, challenging , and dissenting. And this process of questioning and challenging, and gaining perspective outside the "academic ladder" box, is what the diavloggers are defining as thinkers.

In sum, in my opinion, the current university establishment has created a structure of achievement that favors high specialization and requires to rigidly conform to a prescribed path. A true academic leader wouldn't fit this model. A true leader would be a thinker that questions and challenges the current dogma and delineates a new path or direction which allows dissent and divergence as an integral part of the process.


A second issue, unrelated to the above, but which I found really interesting is the topic of students engaging in so many extracurricular activities. I put that together with the topics about the rapid pace in which students seem to engage ( the "coffee" references), and the inability to be "present". I do wonder whether this phenomenon could be a consequence of the current trends in parenting that include having children doing all kinds of activities after school, to the point that every minute of their time is filled with some planned activity. When are these kids processing what they learn? When are they allowed to sort out, integrate and summarize? Have these kids been conditioned into fast processing machines incapable of depth? And incapable of experiencing the moment because they have to rush to the next activity?
It would be interesting to have some more data on this.
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  #9  
Old 09-21-2008, 06:51 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: The Academic-Industrial Complex

Ocean:

Good thoughts on what makes a good leader.

This is an interesting thought, too:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ocean View Post
A second issue, unrelated to the above, but which I found really interesting is the topic of students engaging in so many extracurricular activities. I put that together with the topics about the rapid pace in which students seem to engage ( the "coffee" references), and the inability to be "present". I do wonder whether this phenomenon could be a consequence of the current trends in parenting that include having children doing all kinds of activities after school, to the point that every minute of their time is filled with some planned activity. When are these kids processing what they learn? When are they allowed to sort out, integrate and summarize? Have these kids been conditioned into fast processing machines incapable of depth? And incapable of experiencing the moment because they have to rush to the next activity?
It would be interesting to have some more data on this.
Add to that the current fashion for favoring people who claim to be good at multitasking.

In some ways, this makes me think that having a bunch of people who focus very narrowly on their chosen fields might not be such a bad thing, at least as an offset to all the rest of us scatterbrains.
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  #10  
Old 09-21-2008, 07:10 PM
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Default Re: The Academic-Industrial Complex

Quote:
Originally Posted by bjkeefe View Post
Ocean:
Add to that the current fashion for favoring people who claim to be good at multitasking.

In some ways, this makes me think that having a bunch of people who focus very narrowly on their chosen fields might not be such a bad thing, at least as an offset to all the rest of us scatterbrains.
Here is my view on this: it isn't about either-or. There are times when multitasking is the skill required, and there are times when the ability to focus on one thing is appropriate. Multitasking is much more closely related to action, perhaps quick, executive decisions. Focusing on one narrow topic, allows analysis in depth. Then there is a process of putting everything together, in context, in balance, and integrating different aspects. It would be like multiprocessing. Ideally people should be able to master all these different skills. Or be able to work in a groups where different people contribute their respective expertise. Universities are fostering the narrow focus type among academicians, and multitasking among administrators. The processing and integration, the synthesis, are neglected. A lot of knowledge is being lost because of that. There is a lot of re-inventing the wheel because different aspects of the same remain separate.

I can go on and on. I'll stop here. For now...
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  #11  
Old 09-21-2008, 08:17 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: The Academic-Industrial Complex

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ocean View Post
[...]
Agreed.
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  #12  
Old 09-21-2008, 08:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bjkeefe View Post
Agreed.
Boy! I must be getting very good at this or you have learned a thing or two about how to relate to women...
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  #13  
Old 09-22-2008, 02:09 AM
grits-n-gravy grits-n-gravy is offline
 
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Default Re: The Academic-Industrial Complex

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ocean View Post
My contention is that the concept of "leader" as someone who follows the prescribed path in order to get to the top, is flawed. It isn't true leadership. It's another form of being a follower.
I read the exchange a little differently. William put it even more succinctly and cogently in the American Scholar: leaders are "holders of power"; that is, institutional power. Understanding the role elite education plays in producing "leaders" is one way of skinning the cat. Another way might be to examine theories and histories of social movements to see how 'organic intellectuals' get co-opted into becoming holders of institutional power, and hence "leaders".


Quote:
So what is true leadership? Well, simply someone who has the capacity to lead. Lead where? Lead away from the wrong destination. Lead towards a better, more productive and creative path. It involves questioning, challenging , and dissenting. And this process of questioning and challenging, and gaining perspective outside the "academic ladder" box, is what the diavloggers are defining as thinkers.
So, in other words, a "true leader" is a thinker? Well then, what is a true thinker? Is he/she a leader who operates outside of institutional constraints as critic? Or, is he a leader of an institution whose mission it is to critique other institutions? At the end of the day I don't find the distinction between 'good' and 'bad' leaders (my inference) very useful to understanding the nature of leadership. I certainly think Stalin was on the wrong side of history. But does that make him any less of a leader than ___________ (fill in your favorite leader)?


I'll close with the observation that William's concept of leader v.s. thinker appealed to me because his piece in the American Scholar, while not explicitly addressing it, alludes to a fundamental aspect of leaders and leadership that is not usually associated with thinkers. Charisma. Elite education, in my view, has become a process by which aspiring leaders attempt to acquire charisma, on the wager that there are enough people in society who will be sufficiently deferential to them on account of their credentials. It's not charisma in the true sense of the word but it performs a similar function.
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  #14  
Old 09-22-2008, 07:56 AM
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Default Re: The Academic-Industrial Complex

I'll start with the paragraph that seems more straightforward to agree with:

Quote:
Originally Posted by grits-n-gravy View Post
I'll close with the observation that William's concept of leader v.s. thinker appealed to me because his piece in the American Scholar, while not explicitly addressing it, alludes to a fundamental aspect of leaders and leadership that is not usually associated with thinkers. Charisma. Elite education, in my view, has become a process by which aspiring leaders attempt to acquire charisma, on the wager that there are enough people in society who will be sufficiently deferential to them on account of their credentials. It's not charisma in the true sense of the word but it performs a similar function.
You also said:

Quote:
I read the exchange a little differently. William put it even more succinctly and cogently in the American Scholar: leaders are "holders of power"; that is, institutional power.
Yes, leaders can be holders of power within an institution, or outside institutions.

Quote:
Understanding the role elite education plays in producing "leaders" is one way of skinning the cat. Another way might be to examine theories and histories of social movements to see how 'organic intellectuals' get co-opted into becoming holders of institutional power, and hence "leaders".
I will interpret the above, as saying that an institutional leader may have become so (in theory), by training and following a prescribed path, or by being a "natural" leader who was incorporated into the institution. This is in theory correct. Mark and Will seemed to be discussing the fact that institutions have lost the flexibility of the past, and now, they only accept the prescribed path to leadership, while rejecting any alternate path, such as that of a natural leader entering the institution,. And this is certainly my view of what's common in many academic institutions. There is a rigidity, a narrow mindedness about the steps to be followed for academic success. Anyone who doesn't follow that path is doomed to be stalled (at best), even when one can find some of the brightest, most creative people among those ranks, who additionally often display well defined natural leadership attributes. At best these individuals will be relegated to a secondary role, where their voice serves a function of keeping pressure on the rigid establishment to slow down the road to dogma and stagnation.

Quote:
So, in other words, a "true leader" is a thinker? Well then, what is a true thinker? Is he/she a leader who operates outside of institutional constraints as critic? Or, is he a leader of an institution whose mission it is to critique other institutions?
So, this part has to be analyzed a bit more. A thinker may or may not be a natural leader. Some "thinkers" lack some attribute that would make them a good leader, like charisma, or ability to compromise and negotiate, be a role model, etc. But, my contention is that in order to be a true leader, one of the attributes is to be a "thinker". And by definition, being a true leader and a thinker involves some dissonance with the institution, if we take into account that we're talking about institutions that have a rigid prescribed path for academic success. An important part of academic leadership is to be able to create a flexible system that can engage in self critique. Such system doesn't just "tolerate" a dissenting voice but encourages it. That's why Mark and Will said during their dialogue that perhaps, universities should adopt a more classic "Liberal Arts" model in order to capture that important function.

Quote:
At the end of the day I don't find the distinction between 'good' and 'bad' leaders (my inference) very useful to understanding the nature of leadership.
The problem with this statement is that somehow implies that there is one kind of leadership, when in fact, if you think of leadership as the ability to lead, there are multiple contexts in which leadership can emerge. I am restricting the discussion to academic leadership.

Political leadership, military leadership, religious leadership, corporation leadership, etc, may require somewhat different attributes, which are also context dependent.

I'm copying a fragment of definition of leadership which I find very interesting. It's taken from wikipedia. I couldn't find the original article.

Quote:
Leadership "styles" (per House and Podsakoff)

1. Vision. Outstanding leaders articulate an ideological vision congruent with the deeply-held values of followers, a vision that describes a better future to which the followers have an alleged moral right.
2. Passion and self-sacrifice. Leaders display a passion for, and have a strong conviction of, what they regard as the moral correctness of their vision. They engage in outstanding or extraordinary behavior and make extraordinary self-sacrifices in the interest of their vision and mission.
3. Confidence, determination, and persistence. Outstanding leaders display a high degree of faith in themselves and in the attainment of the vision they articulate. Theoretically, such leaders need to have a very high degree of self-confidence and moral conviction because their mission usually challenges the status quo and, therefore, may offend those who have a stake in preserving the established order.
4. Image-building. House and Podsakoff regard outstanding leaders as self-conscious about their own image. They recognize the desirability of followers perceiving them as competent, credible, and trustworthy.
5. Role-modeling. Leader-image-building sets the stage for effective role-modeling because followers identify with the values of role models whom they perceived in positive terms.
6. External representation. Outstanding leaders act as spokespersons for their respective organizations and symbolically represent those organizations to external constituencies.
7. Expectations of and confidence in followers. Outstanding leaders communicate expectations of high performance from their followers and strong confidence in their followers’ ability to meet such expectations.
8. Selective motive-arousal. Outstanding leaders selectively arouse those motives of followers that the outstanding leaders see as of special relevance to the successful accomplishment of the vision and mission.
9. Frame alignment. To persuade followers to accept and implement change, outstanding leaders engage in "frame alignment". This refers to the linkage of individual and leader interpretive orientations such that some set of followers’ interests, values, and beliefs, as well as the leader’s activities, goals, and ideology, becomes congruent and complementary.
10. Inspirational communication. Outstanding leaders often, but not always, communicate their message in an inspirational manner using vivid stories, slogans, symbols, and ceremonies.

(Adopted from: Robert House and Philip M. Podsakoff, "Leadership Effectiveness: Past Perspectives and Future Directions for Research" in Greenberg, Jerald ed.),pp. 45-82 Organizational Behavior: The State of the Science, Hillsdale, NJ, England: Erlbaum Associates, Inc, 1994. x, 312 pp. .)
I find number 3., particularly applicable to our discussion since it contains the element of challenging the status quo.
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  #15  
Old 09-21-2008, 02:59 PM
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Why education can be a wonderful thing.
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  #16  
Old 09-21-2008, 04:22 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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A great diavlog. Some of the worries expressed sounded a little precious, as did the view that this is the first time people have ever been worried about what kids are getting out of a college education, but overall, I heard lots of useful observations and ideas.

One point especially resonated with me: the complaint that students do not often seem to take advantage of what professors have to offer. After a first try at college right out high school, from which I was quickly excused by the dean, I went back years later. I could not believe how much more I felt like I was getting out of every day there. I must have thought a thousand times of that old saying, that education is wasted on the young.
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  #17  
Old 09-21-2008, 10:08 PM
BeachFrontView BeachFrontView is offline
 
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Great diavlog you should have these guys on again
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  #18  
Old 09-22-2008, 08:43 AM
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Default Re: The Academic-Industrial Complex

A teacher's goal.


A writer's promise.

It's interesting that students need to be taught or reminded that it's all about them. And DFW's goal is a necessary challenge for more than writers.

Last edited by graz; 09-22-2008 at 09:08 AM..
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  #19  
Old 09-22-2008, 09:38 PM
uncle ebeneezer uncle ebeneezer is offline
 
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Default Re: The Academic-Industrial Complex

Click on the youtube window for an interesting animated excerpt from Consider the Lobster:

http://www.prospect.org/csnc/blogs/e...d_foster_walla

I have yet to read any DFW, but someday hope to tackle "Infinite Jest."
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  #20  
Old 09-23-2008, 01:29 AM
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http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/145...9:13&out=63:36

I fail to see the value in dissent for dissent's sake. Surely one should say "no" only when one has reasoned points of disagreement with "yes." Moreover, Mr. Deresiewicz and Mr. Edmundson assume that the only reasonable position that their students can take on economics is one which involves the rejection of capitalism and the embrace of some form of socialism, inferring from their failure to take such a position that there is a broader failure of dissent in university culture. Is it so unreasonable to believe that many students might *like* capitalism and not feel the need to express dissent in that sphere? As a recent graduate, I can attest to the frustration that some undergraduate students feel when their professors take the righteousness of their own ideologies for granted. There are many students who weigh socialism and find it wanting, whereas their professors see no need to weigh it at all, convinced as they are of its intrinsic value.

Last edited by AED; 09-24-2008 at 10:30 AM.. Reason: grammar
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  #21  
Old 09-23-2008, 04:28 AM
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When I was in graduate school, shortly after the fall of communism, I remember hearing a dissident from Eastern Europe (I forget his name) saying that soon the only socialists left in the world would be teaching at "élite" American institutions of higher learning.

So true, so true! Where else can you have all the luxuries of capitalism with the freedom to advocate a defunct and completely discredited system of thought?
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  #22  
Old 09-23-2008, 07:28 AM
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When I was in graduate school, shortly after the fall of communism, I remember hearing a dissident from Eastern Europe (I forget his name) saying that soon the only socialists left in the world would be teaching at "élite" American institutions of higher learning.

So true, so true! Where else can you have all the luxuries of capitalism with the freedom to advocate a defunct and completely discredited system of thought?
Are you arguing against the "advocacy" of socialism, or dismissing the importance of learning about socialism? I mean, how can you understand capitalism without understanding socialism?

By the way, I wouldn't consider socialism as defunct or discredited. A political ideology may fail in its application in a particular historical context, but may succeed under different circumstances. Considering the monstrosities that can derive from capitalism, I wouldn't be so fast to dismiss any alternative system.

But the central topic, had to do with a comprehensive education that leads people to think and understand the full dimension of human potential rather than producing human machines skilled at investment. It's about great minds with a vision.
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Old 09-23-2008, 09:56 AM
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As a young no nothing (20) the best experience in my life was spending time as an infanntryman in the U.S. Army in the late 60's. My few years in college were beneficial but as a life learning curve fell short of the military.

The army exposed me to people I never would have been living in sunny Southern California. There were several benchmarks that had to be met sometimes on a daily basis in basic and advanced infantry training that were difficult and exhaustive but in the end worthwhile. I as able to be stationed in foreign countries for long periods of time which was an education in itself. Granted, being a "ground pounder" in wartime is a scary proposition but one I found benenficial.

John
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  #24  
Old 09-23-2008, 08:00 PM
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Originally Posted by bkjazfan View Post
As a young no nothing (20) the best experience in my life was spending time as an infanntryman in the U.S. Army in the late 60's. My few years in college were beneficial but as a life learning curve fell short of the military.

The army exposed me to people I never would have been living in sunny Southern California. There were several benchmarks that had to be met sometimes on a daily basis in basic and advanced infantry training that were difficult and exhaustive but in the end worthwhile. I as able to be stationed in foreign countries for long periods of time which was an education in itself. Granted, being a "ground pounder" in wartime is a scary proposition but one I found benenficial.

John
I'll interpret your comment as an attempt to draw attention to other sources of knowledge, in this case through direct experience.

I don't think that we can compare both sources. Academic knowledge and life experience at best supplement each other. You've said in the past that you are an avid reader, and that you are now somehow trying to refine your knowledge, since you may not have been able to do it in the past for a variety of reasons. Could I ask you to comment on how your expanded knowledge through reading over the years has changed your thinking regarding those same experiences that you found life-changing?

When you are very young, unexposed to higher education and having grown in a protected environment, the brutal exposure to military life is certainly life changing. The meaning you gave to your experience was shaped by what you knew at the time and your level of maturity. But now, when you re-examine the same experiences, haven't they acquired a different meaning?

Here is my point: It is now that you can fully appreciate the integration of both kinds of knowledge. It invites reflection and challenge of previous beliefs. That's how we all grow, isn't it?
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  #25  
Old 09-23-2008, 12:05 PM
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In the humanities and even in the social sciences the line between advocacy and disinterested scholarly inquiry is very fine. In any case, I found my "humanist" colleagues surprisingly quick to cross the line into advocacy even though most of them knew nothing about economics and even less about the history of socialism.

By the way I consider Marx to be a great mind and well worth studying.
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  #26  
Old 09-23-2008, 03:28 PM
nikkibong nikkibong is offline
 
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Default Re: The Academic-Industrial Complex

Socialism is the most important moral/ethical critique of capitalism that has emerged; on those grounds alone, it's worth studying, reacting to, arguing about, arguing against.

I worry, however, about the explicitly political path some disciplines in the Academy have taken. Sociology, in particular; what was once a dispassionate analysis of the workings of society has now become field dedicated to promoting change (that leftists can believe in.)

In any event, superb diavlog. Nice to see one that has to do with the "business" I find myself in.
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  #27  
Old 09-23-2008, 08:29 PM
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Originally Posted by nikkibong View Post
I worry, however, about the explicitly political path some disciplines in the Academy have taken. Sociology, in particular; what was once a dispassionate analysis of the workings of society has now become field dedicated to promoting change (that leftists can believe in.)
I'm not sure what you are referring to, but trying to put together some of what filters through different posts in this thread, I will offer a hypothesis that explains the alleged movement to the left in academia.

During the cold war, throughout the world there was a tension and a balance between capitalism and socialism. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the "socialist" side of that balance crumbled down. Capitalism emerged victorious and unchallenged. The self serving principles of capitalism became the new accepted way of understanding our social obligations (or lack of), the way we relate to others and the prevailing moral values. Younger generations that were not exposed to the previous balance, experienced this shift to capitalism as the only possibility there is. However, for the rest of us, the disappearance of socialism was a great loss. And that was true not only for people who favored socialism, but also for those who appreciated the importance of the balance. For a number of years, there was a movement to the right that demonized the ideas of socialism and liberalism. A lot of people were so taken by surprise that initially didn't react to this. It's only more recently that we can see an attempt to restore that lost balance. So it's not surprising that from the somewhat skewed perspective of a system that embraced capitalism as the only possible option, any movement away from it may appear to be excessive. Perhaps there should be a more explicit message about the need to get out of capitalism's navel gazing position and remind people that no system is perfect and they are all fallible.

Do we need any more proof than our current financial debacle?
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  #28  
Old 09-23-2008, 11:47 PM
nikkibong nikkibong is offline
 
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Default Re: The Academic-Industrial Complex

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During the cold war, throughout the world there was a tension and a balance between capitalism and socialism. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the "socialist" side of that balance crumbled down. Capitalism emerged victorious and unchallenged. The self serving principles of capitalism became the new accepted way of understanding our social obligations (or lack of), the way we relate to others and the prevailing moral values. Younger generations that were not exposed to the previous balance, experienced this shift to capitalism as the only possibility there is. However, for the rest of us, the disappearance of socialism was a great loss.
Wow: where to begin? Yes: as I stated in my earlier post, Marxism provides the most compelling moral critique of capitalism there is; but I meant that on a purely theoretical level. With all due respect, Ocean, it's absolutely abhorrent for you to mourn the demise of a totalitarian system that you never had to live under. The millions of people that were smashed under the Marxist/Leninist boot - they were not there simply there to provide an "alternative" to capitalism. These were real lives; lives that were never lived fully because of the oppressive system in which they were kept captive. Frankly, it's repellent of you to mourn the loss of the systems that kept these people down.

Of course, I deal with these kind of seniments every day. (I'm atReed College.) But that doesn't mean I won't fight "useful idiocy" where I see it.
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  #29  
Old 09-24-2008, 12:10 AM
Ocean Ocean is offline
 
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Default Re: The Academic-Industrial Complex

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Wow: where to begin? Yes: as I stated in my earlier post, Marxism provides the most compelling moral critique of capitalism there is; but I meant that on a purely theoretical level. With all due respect, Ocean, it's absolutely abhorrent for you to mourn the demise of a totalitarian system that you never had to live under. The millions of people that were smashed under the Marxist/Leninist boot - they were not there simply there to provide an "alternative" to capitalism. These were real lives; lives that were never lived fully because of the oppressive system in which they were kept captive. Frankly, it's repellent of you to mourn the loss of the systems that kept these people down.

Of course, I deal with these kind of seniments every day. (I'm atReed College.) But that doesn't mean I won't fight "useful idiocy" where I see it.
Hey! Save your outrage for someone else! First, I was talking about the ideology not about the Soviet Union per se.

Second, although I agree with much of what you mention as the dark aspects of the soviet regime, let me remind you that during the years of the cold war, outside the U.S. there was a romanticized view of what the the USSR was like. Much of that fantasy was proven wrong after the dissolution.

But, again, I was talking about the loss of the ideology of socialism. It's living symbol (although certainly a non-deserving one) was the USSR and when it failed, the perception was that socialism had failed.
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  #30  
Old 09-24-2008, 12:29 AM
nikkibong nikkibong is offline
 
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Default Re: The Academic-Industrial Complex

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Hey! Save your outrage for someone else! First, I was talking about the ideology not about the Soviet Union per se.

Second, although I agree with much of what you mention as the dark aspects of the soviet regime, let me remind you that during the years of the cold war, outside the U.S. there was a romanticized view of what the the USSR was like. Much of that fantasy was proven wrong after the dissolution.
fair enough, ocean, and i stand corrected.
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  #31  
Old 09-24-2008, 12:32 AM
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Default Re: The Academic-Industrial Complex

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fair enough, ocean, and i stand corrected.
I'm glad to hear.
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  #32  
Old 09-24-2008, 12:19 AM
Baltimoron Baltimoron is offline
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Default Re: The Academic-Industrial Complex

Without getting into the weeds, I would agree with francoamerican about Marx. But, I would characterize him, especially after the political fall of Marxism (which is not necessarily what Marx espoused), as the culmination liberal economics begun by Smith, Ricardo, and Malthus.

Disagreeing with nikkibong, I would argue that Nietzsche's/Heidegger's critique and the french left's interpretation is a stronger criticism. Fukuyama argues this himself in his commentaries to his celebrated book.
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  #33  
Old 09-23-2008, 08:07 PM
Ocean Ocean is offline
 
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Default Re: The Academic-Industrial Complex

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In the humanities and even in the social sciences the line between advocacy and disinterested scholarly inquiry is very fine. In any case, I found my "humanist" colleagues surprisingly quick to cross the line into advocacy even though most of them knew nothing about economics and even less about the history of socialism.
It looks like you weren't very lucky in being exposed to the right kind of scholars in those areas. I think you may have had a different opinion if you had contact with, perhaps, more knowledgeable people. That line between scholarly discussion and advocacy is very well defined. If someone crosses it, it can only be deliberate. I'm not personally opposed to advocating whatever you believe in as long as there is an upfront disclaimer about your preference.

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By the way I consider Marx to be a great mind and well worth studying.
Well, if you want to understand the world as it is, I think reading Marx is a must. Even if you don't agree with everything he says...
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  #34  
Old 09-24-2008, 06:08 AM
Francoamerican
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Default Re: The Academic-Industrial Complex

[QUOTE=Ocean;91971]It looks like you weren't very lucky in being exposed to the right kind of scholars in those areas. I think you may have had a different opinion if you had contact with, perhaps, more knowledgeable people. That line between scholarly discussion and advocacy is very well defined. If someone crosses it, it can only be deliberate. I'm not personally opposed to advocating whatever you believe in as long as there is an upfront disclaimer about your preference. [QUOTE=Ocean;91971]

Since the school I attended is considered one of the best I assume the people I knew were above average in intelligence and knowledge.

I disagree with you when you say that there is a very well defined line between advocacy and inquiry. In American academia there is a kind of cultural imperative to be EDIFYING, regardless of the facts. This is especially true when literary scholars and some historians venture into areas about which they know nothing. Besides, without a firm grounding in EUROPEAN history and culture, where all the important developments in socialism have occurred, I don't see how one can even talk about the subject.

Finally, I really do not understand what business English professors have talking about Marxism etc.. Surely they can put their time to better use explaining, e.g. why Shakespeare is better than a sitcom... Admittedly, that might force them to think a little. And thought is hard.
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  #35  
Old 09-23-2008, 03:12 AM
claymisher claymisher is offline
 
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Default Re: The Academic-Industrial Complex

I wish I'd majored in science in college, instead of econ. I've probably learned as much econ out of college as I did in it.

It seems like everything else you can learn on your own, but math, chemisty, etc, for that you need to sit in class and do your homework to really get it.
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  #36  
Old 09-23-2008, 06:58 AM
Ocean Ocean is offline
 
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Default Re: The Academic-Industrial Complex

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I wish I'd majored in science in college, instead of econ. I've probably learned as much econ out of college as I did in it.

It seems like everything else you can learn on your own, but math, chemisty, etc, for that you need to sit in class and do your homework to really get it.
There's many things that you can learn on your own. The opportunity to debate in depth, and receive the wisdom of those that have dedicated their lives to teaching a complex topic isn't found in books, but most likely in an academic institution. Factual information is always available, how to process complex topics may not.
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  #37  
Old 09-21-2008, 11:39 AM
ledocs ledocs is offline
 
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Default Re: In praise of specialization

"Specialization is a feature, the principal attraction of a particular intellectual, not a bug."

What is the specialization of Gary Wills? What is the specialization of Joshua Cohen, on bloggingheads? An "intellectual," as I use the term, is precisely someone who is not overly specialized. The point is, anyone who gets a Ph.D. at a major American university has to have specialized in something in order to write the dissertation. But what happens after that? More and more specialization. This does not have to be numbing, but it usually is. One makes an academic career by trying to become the world's expert in some small area. That whole enterprise is not conducive to being an intellectual. An intellectual is closely akin to a philosopher, it is someone who thinks deeply about what makes a good life and how human life should be organized in order to make the good life possible. There are people who think deeply about metaphysical or logico-mathematical issues and who have little or no interest in the social-political realm. They might be philosophers, but they are not intellectuals. An intellectual is someone who is interested in ideas about the social-political, perhaps not exclusively, but in some important way. One might say that Richard Dawkins became an intellectual after he was already a specialist in evolutionary biology, but he's not a very good intellectual.
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  #38  
Old 09-22-2008, 04:50 AM
ledocs ledocs is offline
 
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Default Re: Aspiring to Nobel work,

"I'm an admirer of Wills and not competent to judge the academic merits of Cohen's work."

Does this mean that you are competent to judge Wills's academic work and that you know what that work is, because I don't know what it is. I know he teaches something called "American Studies" at Northwestern, that he has written about America's founding documents and founding fathers, as well as several long books about 20th century presidents, and a biography of St. Augustine, and a book about John Wayne, and, and, and, but when did he last write anything that was "academic" in the narrow sense, and what was its subject? I have no idea.

And this brings us to Cohen. Why do you care about the merits of his academic work, narrowly defined? What difference does it make? He seems to get jobs at major universities. Can't you just listen to what he says and see if it seems to make sense, is insightful, is grounded in something other than the news of the day? You're saying that he might be OK as a "public intellectual" on bloggingheads, but what you really want to know is whether, had you been a student of his as an undergraduate, he had enough specialized knowledge to teach you anything? Or are you saying that unless someone has previously demonstrated excellence in academic scholarship, narrowly defined, he cannot be a good intellectual?

The point at issue is whether the modern university system conduces to producing intellectuals. I say that it does not, because it rewards specialization, to the exclusion of broad, nonspecialized learning (and teaching). But perhaps you think that America already has enough intellectuals, or that it already has too many. So here's a test. Name five American intellectuals. But now I'm going to redefine "intellectual," because I did not get it right the first time. An intellectual is a person with a very broad range of learning and interests, who also takes a major theoretical and practical interest in how the human enterprise is organized.

I get the impression that John McWhorter is on the path to becoming an intellectual, and that this is why he took the job teaching Great Books at Columbia. To be young, gifted, and black. But he had to get out of the university system and into the right-wing think tank gravy train to pursue his bliss.
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  #39  
Old 09-22-2008, 08:37 AM
ledocs ledocs is offline
 
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Default Re: Wills Work

"I've reread my own remarks and find them sufficiently clear.

I do not see America in any need of remedial tutelage, and certainly not from the sorts of giants you describe."

I did not say your remarks were unclear. I just don't agree with them. My remarks were somewhat bellicose. I didn't like what you said before, and I don't like what you're saying now - the sarcasm of "giants," for example. Hannah Arendt was an intellectual who worked and taught in America -- but she wasn't American. Another person I could mention in the same vein was her contemporary Hans Jonas, in whom I have taken a particular interest. Yes, America is a great country, its university system the envy of all, especially its technical graduate schools. (Too bad a lot of the people who attend those schools aren't American.) What I glean from you, though, is that you're just another anti-intellectual masquerading as an educated person. And my point was that it is, in fact, difficult to name five American intellectuals, as I have defined the term. There are many obscure ones, of course, maybe including this fellow in the diavlog who just retired.

The general point of the diavlog was that the university is now mainly a cog in the great economic machine, which is itself crumbling at the moment (a fact not averted to in the diavlog). The theoretical groundwork for what we see was laid out in Clark Kerr's book about the multiversity. I can see that you either do not accept the critical analysis of the existing system presented in the diavlog, or that, even if you think the analysis/diagnosis is correct, it doesn't bother you, since, essentially, all is right with the world and with America's place in it.

Either there is a problem, over-specialization in research universities, which leads to deficiencies in undergraduate and graduate education, both in theory and in practice, or there is no such problem, everything is fine. The machine is well-oiled and producing just the right outputs in response to society's expressed needs. I would like to point out to you, though, since you seem to be suffering from an insufferable complacency, that the young German woman, the theoretical physicist who was on “Science Saturday” a few weeks ago, seemed to be pretty exercised about the way in which over-specialization was affecting her ability to practice theoretical physics in the way she would like. And there is the related point made by Smolin and the guy who was talking to the German woman about the institutional dominance of string theory. In short, the knowledge-creation and dissemination business is inherently political. You seem to be using some other model, in which there is a beneficent division of labor within the university that guides us providentially to the best possible outcome. Your model is wrong, that’s the problem.
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  #40  
Old 09-22-2008, 08:33 PM
Ocean Ocean is offline
 
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Default Re: Wills Work

I just want to add another piece. Until now, the American system of Higher Education, although it has set its course towards the super specialization, has in its backbone academicians like Will and Mark. As people like them start to retire, will there be others stepping up to this function? Or will the vast majority of academicians be so specialized that few, if any, will have enough scope to be able to see the big picture and trace some directions? This may be one area where we haven't yet seen the worst, thanks to those that are left from previous generations when education was broader and more liberal.
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