Academia will disintegrate under the assault on objective truth. By Mark Goldblatt.
“We need to keep in mind that we’re a state university. Our mission is to pursue, ascertain, and disseminate objective truth, and to equip our students to do the same. Given that mission, I don’t think we can list a learning outcome that requires students’ assent on a matter of personal morality. The other learning outcomes are fine. You don’t need that one, so I’d just cut it.”
My colleague was fresh out of graduate school and not yet tenured, which (theoretically) put her in a vulnerable position. Nevertheless, she became apoplectic; so angry, in fact, that she had difficulty getting out her first sentence. “I can’t believe people still think that way!” she spluttered. “Queer Theory has deconstructed objectivity!”
Her words hung in the air as I glanced around the room. Not a single faculty member, not even those in math or sciences, seemed fazed by her categorical statement. Since I was a tenured professor, I was reluctant to debate an untenured colleague during a school meeting. So, I let the matter drop. The course was approved without revision by the School of Liberal Arts, and went on to gain approval by the curriculum committee. And that is how my college got into the business of winning converts.
The claim that Queer Theory has “deconstructed objectivity” means only that a certain number of academic performance artists have doodled with a cluster of words related to the concept of objectivity in order to gain university employment, win friends, and influence a distressingly large number of gullible fans. But no epistemological breakthrough has come of their efforts: if it had, it would be self-refuting since it would consist of an objective truth about the impossibility of objectivity. …
STEM requires objective truth, but the arts-related faculties are only interested in churning out clergy for the woke religion:
My sense, based on hundreds of informal conversations I’ve had with STEM faculty, is that people working in the hard sciences tend to roll their eyes at the alleged insights of postmodernism. They inhabit a world in which truth is still gauged by correspondence between belief and reality, and in which reality exists independently of our beliefs about it. Generally speaking, they don’t give a rat’s ass about discourse communities and meta-narratives. They want to know if the equations balance, if the instruments work, and if their hypotheses match empirical outcomes. In other words, they are interested in discovering if what they believe to be true is objectively true. They are certainly not interested in the ethnicity, sexuality, or gender identity of the people making truth claims.
Put all of that together, and you’ve got the makings of a schism. The humanities and social sciences are undergoing a mission reversion — they’re returning to a pre-Enlightenment view of the purpose of higher education.
Prior to the Enlightenment, universities were sites of religious instruction that trained clergy. Harvard was founded in 1636, a mere six years after the settlement of Massachusetts Bay, to ensure that future generations of New England Puritans would be served by learned ministers. That goal is found among Harvard’s original “Rules and Precepts”:
Let every Student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the maine end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life (John 17:3) and therefore to lay Christ in the bottome [i.e., at the base of the boat, to keep it steady in the water], as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and Learning.
That’s a version of what we’re seeing with the rise of the subjectivist movement in the humanities and social sciences. It is a new secular faith, a version of The Way. Instruction in radical progressive curricula is baptism by accreditation. It’s witness and testing. You gather for three hours a week to dwell in the spirit, commit yourself to individual rituals and collective causes, despair the fallen state of humanity, call out and cast out demons, immerse yourself in sacred texts and memorize venerable chants, then venture forth to spread the gospel. The end is performative, sacramental. Let me tell you the many ways you’re oppressed so that you may be a river to the masses. …
The reversion of the humanities and social sciences to religious preparation cannot coexist indefinitely with the Enlightenment mission of STEM instruction. Something has to give. …
You cannot be told in your morning sociology seminar that the pursuit of objectivity is an instrument of white supremacist culture, which must therefore be deconstructed, and then be told in your afternoon biology class that identical twins are objectively always the same sex.
Universities go through a cycle. They start as finishing schools for the upper and upper middle classes. Then they expand by attracting geniuses, who find them a congenial place to work. The geniuses make important discoveries, create high standards, and raise the status of the universities. The raised status attracts hordes of midwits. But the midwits require the standards to be lowered, and they drive out the geniuses — who prefer to think for themselves rather than be told what to say by a mob of midwits. The status of the universities sinks again, so enrollments drop, and once again they become finishing schools for the upper class.
This cycle has already repeated a couple of times in the West over the centuries.
Now: midwits and their woke religion rule, driving out the geniuses