Phi Beta Cons

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Michael Filozof, an adjunct professor at Niagara County Community College, sends the following comments:

Having read your post about the encouragement of sexual perversion on various campuses, I think it is necessary to take the analysis one step further.
These outrages have been well publicized, and colleges always oblige by providing more examples of sheer lunacy — from bondage to affirmative action to multicultural indoctrination and so forth.
The real question, however, is why they do it and what can be done about it.
As to why, very simply, colleges are at the forefront of postmodern life. Now, what do we mean by “postmodern?”
“Modernity” was the attempt to apply the scientific method, and the ruthlessness of dialectical inquiry, to the task of understanding Nature and conquering it for the benefit of man. Historically Nature has been very harsh, with the vast majority of humans only one step ahead of starvation, with very little leisure time, and subject to innumerable diseases and natural catastrophes seemingly beyond the control of man. 

Modernity has been so successful it literally changed man’s relationship with Nature — we’ve cured polio and smallpox, built the Hoover Dam, sent a man to the moon, etc.
And just what is “postmodernity?” Well, literally, “postmodernity” is “after modernity.” The great question of postmodernity is this: what to we do with ourselves when the bridges have been built, the rivers damned, the diseases cured, and man on the moon? What do we do with all the time on our hands that we’re not spending doing research, doing engineering without computers, and so on? Well, the answer has proven to be that we smoke dope, have sex, and entertain ourselves with music, movies, and video games.
The fundamental point is this: whereas once colleges and universities were dedicated to the pursuit of truth in the service of modernity, they no longer are. For instance, a hundred years ago, it would have been ludicrous to imagine a university advocating gay marriage, the hiring of unqualified minorities, or advocating sexual bondage, because they were too busy trying to figure out if Max Planck, Newton, or Einstein were correct in their understanding of physics. It would have been insane for an engineering department at any major university to worry about how many women or other preferred minorities were on its faculty; they were too busy making sure all the students could do the calculus necessary to make sure that bridges didn’t collapse when the students went out in to the real world and built them. (These programs were quite rigorous and objective, and if you didn’t make the cut, you were unceremoniously booted.)
Colleges and universities do not really concern themselves with these problems today, largely because they’ve already been solved. The most lunacy in colleges today exists in the social sciences, languages, administrations, and law, whereas the most sanity still resides in physics, math, and engineering. In the social sciences and administrative staffs, postmodernity allows complete subjectivity because there’s no obvious need for truth – these parties are not building a bridge that will fall into the river if they’re wrong. (Ultimately, in a large, macro-social sense, there are in fact dire consequences to being wrong in these fields, but the consequences are not immediately obvious.)
In sum, we’re victims of our own success — we’ve seen the future, and it’s totally irrational, because we can afford irrationality.
Now, what is to be done? Ultimately, colleges get this “free ride” from reality on the taxpayers’ dime. This is true even of the heavily-subsidized private schools. These institutions will not reform themselves. At the end of the day, it is absolutely necessary to use political pressure to restrict what colleges and universities may or may not teach or advocate.
The rationale for free and total inquiry in the past was that the fruits of intellectual freedom would apply to the pursuit of modernity, which would advance the greater good of the whole. Today, intellectual freedom is merely a pretext for leather-clad bondage fetishists, anti-democratic social engineers on racial, sexual, and economic issues, and anti-American frauds like Ward Churchill to live very well at the public expense.

Candace de Russy is a nationally recognized expert on education and cultural issues.

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