The Fracturing of the Academic Mind

Smith College has become some unwanted attention. For the rest of us, it’s a fantastic test case for what is happening in American colleges and universities.
A worker has publicly stopped her job in reaction to the mandatory critical race theory training that she has described, quite rightly, as developing a”racially hostile office ” Smith’s endowment now stands just shy of $2 billion. If this weren’t sufficient, the New York Times came back and researched a two-year old episode where a black student was offended by cafeteria employees who told her she couldn’t sit in an area reserved for visiting high school pupils (where most men required CORI background checks). The end result was a campus-wide protest against racism and the eventual removal of 2 employees whose combined salaries only barely equaled the price of attending Smith for one year. Other employees were endangered at their houses. Lives were destroyed. But then, after an evaluation, it was decided no wrong was completed. However no apology or recompense was created to people who actually suffered, with the president of this school still insisting”implicit bias” might have been at work in this case. What is happening?
There’s no single explanation for this decrease in American higher education. We can look back to Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind (1987) or into Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff’s more recent Coddling of the American Mind (2018). Standards have shrunk, comforts have a tendency, and learning appears to have fallen apart. I saw a comment on the internet to the result which a century ago we taught Latin and Greek into high school pupils, and teach remedial English in school. Something has gone wrong.
Nor has the overwhelming partisanship of those universities escaped its own critics. The unexpected embrace of critical race theory was unsettling, however. This isn’t only one more step in the ever leftward lurch that is placing higher education beyond the prospect of parody (but watch Scott Johnson’s Campusland, that I reviewed here). It appears to be completely new, breaking up the precepts of even the radicals we have become accustomed to. What happened to free speech, free inquiry, or the unsettling of comfortable ideas? Whatever happened to old-fashioned liberalism and a minimum regard for free discussion and inquiry?
The left championing of free speech, as sincere as it could have been at a time, always existed side-by-side with the development of the C.P. Snow described as”two cultures” At a 1956 article of that name, expanded upon several occasions, the accomplished all-natural scientist and novelist argued that there’s developed such a divide between people who study the sciences and people who pursue humanities and the arts they have been two separate cultures. He suggested that knowledge of this second law of thermodynamics is as fundamental to the one civilization as a knowledge of Shakespeare is the other. (Would that were so now.) However, exactly how many English professors can describe fundamental principles of mathematics, for instance? Regrettably, it now appears that few can share their particular field without recourse into arcane governmental language.
Snow’s purpose was that the 2 cultures no longer speak to one another. No longer can one mind contain the amount of human knowledge. Especially with the mathematization of these sciences, big areas of knowledge have become inaccessible to even the well-educated. At a 2002 review of this novel, Orin Judd included a more glowing explanation. Whereas improvements in the sciences necessarily made access to these more and more difficult, the arts needed to make a concerted attempt to achieve the Identical outcome:
The response of their peers in the arts, or people who had been their own peers, would be to make their particular areas of expertise as vague as you can. If Picasso could not understand particle physics, he sure as hell was not going to paint anything comprehensible, and if Joyce could not pickup a scientific journal and read that, then nobody was going to be able to read his novels either.
Certainly Judd goes too far, but just how far is too much? They will tell us we only wish to”put at the job.”¬† (Sound familiar?)
From this place that only members of this technical field can speak on it, it isn’t a huge step to say that members of a specific race may speak on topics associated with them.As the procedure for specialization lasted and both cultures held into this principle of free speech and inquiry, something peculiar happened. Not only did each side find it impossible to understand the other, each abandoned land to the other. English professors could increase the physicists about issues of mathematics, and physicists would take anything coming out of the English departments. Not unlike the medieval Egyptian philosopher Averro√ęs’ concept of 2 truths–only for philosophy and also one for theology–each section has come to define its own area and all that could pertain to it.
Each area is supposed to get its own perspective on the world and works exclusively from inside it. Such is what Heidegger described as”the perspective of this standpoint.” With the advent of the various”studies” branches that divide the intellectual universe by race, sex, and gender, we’ve got the makings of even more technical and ceded land. The Women’s Research section gets the last word on women, as the African American research department does on the black experience, etc.
From this place that simply members of this technical area can speak with it, it isn’t a huge step to say that members of a specific race may speak on topics associated with them. Keep that going, and you have a passage like the following from that New York Times article concerning the debacle in Smith College:”The narrative highlights the tensions between a student’s deeply felt awareness of personal truth and facts which are at odds with this ” There was not anything ironic in that sentence. What can facts say to a”personal reality”? No more than just a computer scientist can say about religion.
The multiversity, to utilize Clark Kerr’s expression, was ready to take a number of the tenets of critical race theory by both habit and construction. There’s no coherence to the instruction or even the structure of these associations. Critical race theorythat the product of this multiversity (as well as multiculturalism), fit perfectly well. Plus it allows for ethical preening on the portion of people who believe in the demanding search for the truth.
Our associations can influence our habits, as Aristotle taught. And this is true of the habits of thought as far as any other. The academy was, consequently, structurally due to embrace critical race theory and its implications, such as we visit in Smith College. Ideology is also at play, however the habits that resulted from the specialty and obscuritanism of their multiversity resulted in the habits of critical race theory. The great thing is that habits can be brokeninto Nevertheless, the long trail back to sanity has not yet been travelled.