Americans Used to be Proud of their Universities

Americans Used to be Proud of their Universities, by Thomas Barlow.

Universities taught students how to think, and showed them how to communicate complex ideas. They gave many young people an expertise, a vocation, and a useful purpose in life. They nurtured an understanding of the finest aspects of human cultural flourishing. In their pursuit of athletic excellence, they promoted pride across local communities. And on top of all this, through research and discovery, they added unceasingly to our understanding of the world and our place within it.

Today, however, radicalized faculties and belligerent students are debasing the old model, causing some Americans to have second thoughts. …

But what’s happening in American higher education is much worse for American universities — and much worse for America as well — than a mere PR disaster.

Last year, Tsinghua University in Beijing published more computer science papers than MIT and Stanford combined. More broadly, China now accounts for more than 20 percent of the world’s academic literature in computer science, up from just five percent at the turn of the century. …

Software may well be revolutionising the global economy, a trend that will only accelerate as machine learning and artificial intelligence become embedded into our daily lives. But American higher education doesn’t care: It is preoccupied with an alternative vision of the future. …

Unfazed by the machine age, American institutions have been squandering capital pursuing hysterical but unverifiable scholarship in a host of faddish and politically contentious disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. At the same time, judging by the bracing culture of outrage on U.S. campuses, they have ramped up production of a new version of an old product: The graduate who is energized not by knowledge but by ideology.

Thus, while their counterparts in Asia have been discovering how to control the world through mathematics and software, a good portion of the present generation of American students have wasted their energies on arguments about gendered restrooms, male privilege, and whether controversial conservatives should be allowed to speak or not. …

History — Britain vs Germany:

Throughout most of the 19th century, Germany lagged behind Britain economically and technologically. Then, in the 1880s, inspired by the ideas of Wilhelm von Humboldt, and implemented through the efforts of the Prussian bureaucrat, Friedrich Althoff, the Germans pioneered a new model of the university that was research-intensive and focused on scientific and technological inquiry.

German universities experienced rapid growth in enrollment numbers and research funding in technical fields, and they quickly gained global leadership in a range of areas, including chemistry, physics, and engineering. By the outbreak of the First World War, the number of engineering students in German tertiary education was 10 times greater than the number in Britain.

This had far-reaching consequences. Over much of the preceding century, patents registered in the U.S. Patent Office were twice as likely to be British as German. Yet with deeper knowledge, and a more systematic approach to discovery, Germany’s university-trained inventors eventually out-stripped their British counterparts. By 1913, Germans were named on roughly 50 percent more U.S. patents than the British—a reversal from which the British never recovered.

The impact was especially marked in chemicals and pharmaceuticals—the emerging, knowledge-intensive industries of the era. In the early 19th century, German graduates routinely found work in Britain, much as Chinese engineers and scientists do now in the U.S. But over time, Germany’s university-trained scientists began creating more opportunities at home. By the early 20th century, Germany was the world’s top pharmaceutical exporter, and it was producing 90 percent of the world’s synthetic dye exports.

Could something similar be happening with the U.S. and China today?

Universities are now trashed by the leftist march through the  institutions. This is much worse than the 1960s, because now the leftists are firmly entrenched among the staff — majorities even in many faculties.

When an institution is sufficiently infiltrated by leftists it is doomed — because ideological people only hire people with the same views. The institution is beyond reform, short of sacking nearly all the people. So it must be killed off and replaced. Perhaps on-line education will arise to fill some of the gap, but something pretty major needs to happen.