Wednesday, October 7, 2015

David Brooks Calls for Kinder, Gentler University

The job of David Brooks, and it is an important one, is to gently nudge the gentry liberal elite that reads the New York Times and watches PBS and gently suggest that liberals maybe could fix a few things at the office.

Now, in "The Big University," he blandly talks up a reform movement in university America.
[F]or the past many decades colleges narrowed down to focus on professional academic disciplines, but now there are a series of forces leading them to widen out so that they leave a mark on the full human being.
But, he continues, universities need to "find a way to talk about moral and spiritual things while respecting diversity." And he comes up with four ways to do this: "reveal moral options... foster transcendent experiences... teach new things to love... apply the humanities."

The problem is, of course, that in reality the universities are merely implementing mandatory study of their secular religion, as in the American Spectator's "Professor Raccoon Brings Home the Bacon." The Deans and the administrators know that critical thinking and "departments of ethnic, gender, identity, and grievance studies are suddenly no sale." But instead of Brooks' proposed high concept they are implementing "Engaged Scholarship and Learning."
 Curricula promise “collaborative and interdisciplinary solutions to local and global challenges” and “deep and transformative experiences.” They vow to promote civic responsibility, democratic values, and public leadership through personal involvement and growth.
What they are really doing is pouring the old wine of political correctness and liberal activism into new wineskins, as in conducting "research and activism related to the experiences of Latina housecleaners."

So you can see that Brooks' high-minded call for transcendence is already churning out more of the same-old-same-old liberal political activism.

Brooks begins his article noting that most universities were "founded as religious institutions, explicitly designed to cultivate their students’ spiritual and moral natures" and then branched out into "career training." But the truth is that the religion has been there all along. Only today the universities are teaching the secular religion of liberal activism, rather than the Christianity or Deism of their founders.

Brooks is a good guy, but the current university model cannot reform itself: big bureaucratic institutions seldom do. If you want moral options, transcendence and something to love you won't get it in any big institution.

Today's universities are the secular seminaries of the big government state. They are funded by the state and they serve the state. They are great big bureaucratic systems and system is domination. If you want moral options and transcendence and love then you are going to have to get away from system and disentangle yourself from bureaucracy.

The reality is that today's university is a very unfriendly place for anyone that treasures moral options and transcendence and it's not going to change any time soon. And it's going to get worse, if Professor Raccoon has anything to do with it.

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