Is academia really disintegrating?

February 10, 2023 • 11:15 am

This article, from Quillette, caught my attention because of the title. Is academia really disintegrating? It’s one thing to say it’s being infested by Critical Theory, or infused with postmodernism, but what is the “disintegration”? It turns out that author Mark Goldblatt really does think that academia, which to him means higher education, is going to fall apart—to experience a schism that will make much of it worthless. Goldblatt’s background, as limned in the article is this:

Mark Goldblatt teaches at SUNY’s Fashion Institute of Technology. His latest book is I Feel, Therefore I Am: The Triumph of Woke Subjectivism.

But I think his overall thesis is wrong. He maintains that much of academia, infested with postmodern ideas, holds there is no such thing as objective truth. This view is said to be pervasive in the humanities and social sciences which will, eventually, “cease to be higher education in the Enlightenment sense”. And there he may well be right. But he sees STEM fields as holding fast to the ideas that there is objective truth, and that will preserve them and their value in education—and cause a fatal schism in academia. It’s this last bit I disagree with.

Goldblatt is right that most science is still predicated on the idea of there being an objective reality that we can approach through our endeavors. But what he gets wrong is the idea that science is immune to attack because its endeavors are nearly free from ideological taint.  There’s no way, he implies, that it could become postmodernist, or shirk its mission to find objective truth. .

That view is exaggerated. As amply documented, even on this site, many aspects of science (especially in biology) are being attacked because they contradict what people want to believe based on their adherence to a tribal ieology.  Science is getting very woke very fast, and that, combined with the denigration of merit and elevation of identity and identity politics, and the scrutiny of all projects to see if they can cause “harm” or even violence, is curbing academic freedom in science, just as it is in non-science fields. Increasingly, grants are given for ideological reasons rather than scientific merit, and scientists can be fired, canceled, or denigrated for seeking truth.  So I see academia as a whole eroding in quality and purpose—a trend that I fervently hope will reverse itself—but I don’t see it disintegrating through a schism of humanities and social sciences vs. the natural sciences, all involved in their willingness to embrace.

Click on the screenshot to read

I guess this idea started when Goldblatt, while approving a SUNY course on sociology from an LGBT perspective, nevertheless objected to the idea that students were expected in the course to develop a “greater acceptance of LGBTQ+ perspectives and rights.”  He’s sympathetic to those perspectives and rights, but said that a course should not have the aim of ideologically indoctrinating its students. If they change their minds by learning the material, that’s fine, but accepting a certain perspective should not be required. This led to a fracas in a faculty meeting:

After expressing my general admiration for the course, I raised my misgiving in the following way (and this is nearly an exact quote): “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!”

And that got Goldblatt thinking about how the jettisoning of “objectivity” is permeating all of humanities and social sciences, thanks largely to postmodernist philosophers like Jacques Derrida (shown above). He also sees the rejection of objectivity as self-nullifying, for saying that “there is no such thing as objective truth” is itself an objective statement about the impossibility of objectivity.

But Goldblatt was heartened by seeing that STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) retains its belief in objective truth and reject postmodern views:

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.

Ergo the schism:

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.

Increasingly, that is the state of the humanities and social sciences at public universities in the US. Whatever you think of that development, it signals an existential crisis for higher education because instruction in the STEM fields at American universities remains traditional, objectively focused, and globally competitive. 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.

And so, as science clings to objectivity while other departments happily deny it, the university will fracture (I’m not sure what form this fracture is supposed to take). And no, nothing has to give, for science itself is eroding away—granted, not as fast as are the humanities.  As I said, scientific merit is rather quickly being placed below below ideology and identitarian politics, so that the quality of research and researchers now often rests largely on political criteria (yes, deriving from postmodernism) rather than scientific merit. Because the whole of scientific progress depends on valuing science by its importance and innovative quality, and valuing researchers by how well they can do science, this will erode the field.

Increasingly, we see scientific journals like Nature and Science, as well as popular science journalism (Scientific American comes to mind) devoting their pages to “Social Justice” (capitalized à la Pluckrose and Lindsay to mean the authoritarian rather than the liberal and empathic brand), to word policing, and to promoting “progressive” ideology.  Scientific ideas themselves are being attacked on ideological grounds. We’ve pretty much squelched the creationists and antivaxers, but even scientists themselves are making ideological arguments about there being more than two sexes in humans, about men and women being biologically identical in behavior and preference, that evolutionary psychology is bunk, that there are no genetic differences between human populations, that it’s unacceptable to dig up human remains because they belong to whatever indigenous people inhabit the land now, and so on. The NIH withholds data on ethnic groups from researchers because its use could cause harm. All of this, by chilling scientific practice, impedes science itself as well as the public’s knowledge about it.

I could go on and on about how science has been and is being held back by ideology, but I’ve just helped write two huge papers on that and can’t say more. Suffice it to say that science and the social sciences/humanities are not diverging, but converging, though science will never be as intellectually depauperate as aspects of those other fields known as “Studies”.

So although Goldblatt has a point about the decline of academia caused by infiltration of ideology, I don’t see the schism he foresees:

The disintegration of academia is coming. Whichever side precipitates the break, it will be a necessary development. Higher education is a serious intellectual endeavor, and nothing is less intellectually serious in contemporary academia than the suggestion that the pursuit of objectivity has been discredited. Empirical observation, mathematical inquiry, inductive and deductive reasoning, and falsifiability are the sine qua nons of higher education. As courses of study in the humanities and social sciences depart from such things, they cease to be higher education in the Enlightenment sense.

There will be a decline, but there will be no break, for ideology is pushing STEM closer to Studies.  As I said, I hope that this tilting ship will eventually right itself, and if you’re an optimist you can find reasons to hope that it will.

But I tend to take the position of the Jewish optimist in the following classic definitions:

Jewish pessimist: “Things can’t get any worse.”

Jewish optimist: “Sure they can!!”

39 thoughts on “Is academia really disintegrating?

  1. I wonder what it would be like to play chess with the person who said “Queer theory has deconstructed objectivity”.

    Or any other game – prophecies, tic tac toe, rock paper scissors…

    Might be interesting!

    1. Well, in Rock Paper Scissors, palaeolithic Rock would win every time, so as not to privilege and centre white-adjacent paper-making technology, while still exerting justice over iron-age attempts at scissor hegemony..

      And I do hope Jerry will let us know when his papers come out!

    2. Watch out chess has a lot of white priviledge. Moves first, white to play and win in problems etc.Draughts might be preferable as black goes first.

  2. The purported result assumes that “academia” has in some sense been “integrated” in the past. That is very much open to question. It is also intimately related to what you mean by “academia”.
    If you accept the definition of the author that (paraphrasing) “academia is what university staff do”, then there may indeed be a disintegration. IF you accept that definition. If you don’t, then the topic is very much moot.
    Is “higher education” or “academia” integrated? I certainly haven’t seen any evidence to that point in my life, except at the grossest physical layout. I’m fairly sure that there were English, languages and social sciences departments at my alma mater, but apart from meeting students of those departments in the Union bar, I never had any intellectual interaction with them. Physical sciences – sure (we all deal with matter, energy and their interactions) ; medical sciences – occasionally (some minerals are poisonous, after all) ; information sciences (computing, statistics) – sure, it’s all information ; but English, literature, languages, sociology … no interaction there what so ever. Hell, I know better where the Law department was than those departments. (Law has to deal with evidence, after all.) I’m not even entirely sure the departments actually existed. Oh, sorry, I had a friend who was an assistant to a philosophy professor, and since both got paid, I’m confident that there was a Philosophy department. No idea where it was though. Probably up in the clouds with the Divinity department.
    But the lack of interaction between the physical, evidence-based sciences and the other stuff … argues that academia has not ever been really integrated, so there is nothing to disintegrate.

    1. I, too, am in the physical sciences, and the twain didn’t meet all that much as a student. But now all of my grant proposals include extensive DEI statements, broader impact statements about how this will affect the community stakeholders, and so on. How will I help diversity on my electrochemistry project? My students are a mixture of foreign and domestic, various colors, women and men. But that is who applied to the program, nothing I am doing specifically for the project, which could have some implications for batteries, but it’s fundamental science at this point. I’m not opposed to it having good effects outside science, and I could be convinced to look for them if need be. But so much of this leads to boilerplate bloat, and does nothing to help discern whether the idea has any scientific merit.

      1. I’d play up the “green transition” side of the consequences of better batteries, slap in some boilerplate about reducing the costs for developing countries by reducing the need to build a substantial electricity grid, as opposed to distributed power generation and usage.
        Could you … farm the production of DEI boilerplate out to your students. Something along the lines of an essay challenge? “Describe the implications of electrochemistry in future development” ; something like that.

  3. Goldblatt is also a talented novelist, although his satirical Africa Speaks (published two decades ago) did cause a certain amount of controversy.

  4. “Queer Theory has deconstructed objectivity!” What a perfect expression of the new
    zeitgeist in academia, Enthusiasm for this view, expressed in an applicant’s Diversity Statement, will naturally receive high marks from the DEI Committee that reviews
    these statements as part of the academic job application process.

    It is worth recalling that the enforcement of “Michurinism” and its associated scams lasted for less than two decades in the USSR. Nonetheless, the effects of this shortish period crippled Biology there for 35 years afterward, during which the DNA revolution occurred in that science everywhere else.

  5. It’s turning out that the harbinger of things to come in science in general may have been the chillingly successful integration of so-called Alternative Medicine into the health sciences. While postmodern theory was wheeled in to support it, the major impetus seemed to come from those who rejected the objective coldness of the judgmental, controlling modern world and fell into the presumably warmer, more caring, more open arms of the Naturalistic Fallacy, the Noble Savage Fallacy, the Fallacy of Magical Thinking, and the Fallacy of I Know What Works For Me So Give Me What I Want. I’ve read that at least 90% of medical schools now teach at least one form of alternative medicine.

    The arguments for their “inclusion” are eerily familiar. Feeling better is an important subjective component in what strives (or used to strive) to be an objective science. It was a wedge, a way in for pseudoscience and anti-science. I suspect once the field of medicine was breached, the other sciences were at increased risk.

    1. A recent experience made me aware of what you describe here. A few months ago I was rear-ended by an SUV while I was stopped at a red light on my motorcycle. EMTs evaluated me, recommended I let them take me to the ER, or at least go get checked out myself. Since I seemed to be intact and they hadn’t found anything that seemed to warrant an ambulance ride to the ER I elected to go get checked out myself. Big mistake.

      I called my primary care doctor, told them I’d been in an accident and needed to be evaluated. They said, “Sorry, we don’t do accident cases, but we have someone we recommend who specializes in that.” First eyebrow quirk.

      I called the number they gave me and they said, “Sure, we just bought a space and opened a new location near you. It’s so new it still says “_____ Chiropractic” on the door, but it’s actually us.” Second eyebrow quirk.

      I show up for the first appointment only to find that not only is it a chiropractic practice but it is still actually the _____ Chiropractic place it says on the door. The specialist accident care provider I was referred to doesn’t have their own facilities, they have agreements with existing providers, a network. Nothing wrong with that, but why lie to me? Only one reason.

      I looked into it and it turns out this is all legitimate. Our awesome, best in the world, medical system now sends people that have been in accidents to chiropractors for injury evaluation. It’s all bullshit. Medical doctors don’t like accident cases because of all the extra administrative headaches that come with lawyers and insurance companies playing pass the liability hot potato. So the specialist company specializes in dealing with that administrative crap, not in providing medical care for accident victims. They outsource the care to whatever kind of providers will take such cases. Including chiropractors. Even the insurance companies have no problem with that.

      Took a month to even get MRIs, but my “doctor” agreed that I shouldn’t be “adjusted” until then. Good thing as it turns out. I’ve learned my lesson. Always take the ambulance ride.

      1. Interesting story. Glad you came out of that crash on your own two feet, Darelle. Chiros in Ontario cannot order MRI, only medical doctors. Some would say this is rent-seeking by physicians. Others would worry that chiros ordering MRI before every manipulation would complete the bankruptcy of our health welfare system. There is nowhere near enough MRI capacity to use it to “clear” patients for manipulation in any case. It would get put at the very bottom of an already long queue for medically necessary scans, really to identify patients who might benefit from some kind of surgery. Our docs are taught, based on evidence, that ordering MRI to “check out” an otherwise well crash victim with soft-tissue injury is a waste of tax resources, and self-pay is illegal.

        Edit: I’m not saying chiros don’t help some people, and they are reimbursed by single payer. I just don’t buy their evidence base that they can use MRI or other imaging rationally.

    2. I think that the alternative medicine example is a good analogy for what’s going on. It annoys the p*ss out of me that my insurance company—and therefore me—pays for all kinds of crackpot care. I suppose that such is the case with university tuition as well.

  6. Goldblatt’s article is an interesting one. I guess whether existing institutions disintegrate depends on a number of factors.

    First is how much of an ideological split there really is between the humanities and STEM. After all, if both are going woke, then universities will simply degrade along all axes (As Jerry seems to suggest).

    Second, is how effective university administrations are at keeping both factions functioning within the same institution even if they clash ideologically. Some will be more effective than others at keeping the peace. Departments are pretty independent, so simply ignoring each other is an option.

    And third is what the various factions would end up doing if there were in fact a split. I could imagine STEM disciplines forming their own institutes of science and technology, taking their funding with them and leaving universities as empty shells of deconstructionists. But if it’s the humanities that go, where in fact *would* they go? With little funding of their own, one would think that would want to remain in universities. (One nightmare scenario is that they would end up in government somewhere.)

    I don’t know which outcome is worse—STEM and the humanities clashing to the point of collapse (Goldblatt’s thesis) or universities degrading uniformly across all departments (Coyne’s thesis). The latter seems more likely, as there are too many incentives to keeping universities whole, and too many costs to splitting them up.

  7. Postmodernism is perfectly legit as a movement in the arts (though it may not be to everyone’s taste), including in literature and lit crit. After all, it’s given us a wealth of wonderful metafictional novels. But it jumped the shark when those French fellows pushed it into the social sciences starting in the Sixties, and it’s worse than useless in the hard sciences.

  8. It’s a bit soon to mourn the disintegration of academia. You at the University of Chicago can actually celebrate a wonderful book from the humanities, and in part about the humanities, Jonathan Lear’s Imagining the End: Mourning and Ethical Life. The humanities enable us to think about the vulnerability of our own life and of life itself on earth. So postmodernism can be a threat, but there is also good resistance to that threat on this website and elsewhere.

  9. Whether the universities can self-correct really comes down to a chicken-or-the-egg type of question: has the cult of feeling unmoored from reason, for subjectivity over objectivity, been driven by the universities, or are the universities reflecting larger trends in [elite] culture? There are, no doubt, feedback loops at work, particularly as the woke colleges of education have a near stranglehold on training and certification for K-12 teachers (As to the sciences, did the intellectually-grounded scientists wake up one day and simply lose their minds? Precisely how and through whom did this noxiousness find its way into their midst?) Respected academicians like Steven Pinker seem to think the rot can be arrested from within. One might ask: then why the long wait for action, why was the cancer not excised in an early stage? What is the average age of those either within or near academia who are opposing the decay? What is the average age of those who are advancing it? I am not certain that time is on the right side.

    1. I am feeling happy that I am approaching 75, and not 45 and having to deal with this nonsense – though I had left academia (chemistry) many years before that, not wishing to get on the hamster wheel of publish or perish.

  10. Jerry.
    It seems that every New Zealand University and Government Department is now thrall to traditional knowledge and, of course, our national school curriculum is under revision to favor one ethnicity and embed traditional knowledge for all students, irrespective of background or ethnicity. Because of my own concern and the concern of others who cannot speak up, I have written a few articles on the curriculum; for example,

    and here is one confidential response from a reader:

    Dear David
    I’ve read your last 2 articles in NZCPR on the curriculum “reset”. My wife is a teacher and I’ve discussed with her your comments. Like you she and many teachers are appalled with what is proposed. At her request, I have passed your papers onto her. My concern is that apart from your media comments on the curriculum I have seen virtually no discussion in the main-stream media. And you are dead right this, if implemented, will be an enormous dis-service to thousands of future students. That is my wife’s concern. Apparently teachers are so appalled and feel so dominated by Ministry of Education bureaucrats they are opting to just get out of the profession if this reset goes ahead.
    Thanks for your efforts to shine a light on this educational train wreck.

    Read the Mission Statements of New Zealand universities. Beyond belief! Can anyone out there explain how and why this stuff is going on in every university and Government department – apart from having been ordered to go along with this rubbish by Government itself?

    Do all the Vice Chancellors, Department Heads and Human Resources staff really believe in traditional knowledge and the equality of traditional knowledge of AD 1750 with world science?

      1. You’re right, Colin. I have heard NZers say that many Maori expressions are commonly used in NZ and would be familiar to English-speakers who otherwise speak no Maori at all, which means the vast majority of people, including most Maori people. Used this way, it makes New Zealand English into a creole which would make NZers of European and Asian ancestry unable to communicate with English-speaking foreigners. The Maori don’t care about this because very few will ever emigrate—except to Australian prisons when they do gang business there—but it essentially will make paheka (“Whitey”) children captive to the islands. Maybe that is the goal, unless their parents make them learn the English words for every Maori word they bring home from school. This is distinct from the loss of competitiveness that will result from declining scholastic competence. So motivated parents will have to rectify both linguistic and academic handicaps being inflicted on their children.

        Because of the heavy use of Maori in the document, it can make it hard to determine if all NZers are meant to benefit from the supposed reforms, or only Maoris at the expense of everyone else. For example, “akonga” I think from context means children or students. So if a measure is being touted to benefit akonga — note the absence of italics in the original text that normally indicate a foreign word — does it mean all childrn/students or only Maori students? Even the English words appear to privilege Maoris. One can only imagine what the deeper meaning of the Maori words does. People who think they know what foreign words mean can find themselves surprised if they aren’t privy to the cultural shibboleths carried inside.

        We know a thing or two about language wars in Canada and I can tell you doing it the way NZ is would never fly here.

        It’s also interesting that Maori is an official language in NZ while English is described only as a language established by common use. This is playing with fire.

  11. As for the inherent inconsistency of postmodern politics:

    “Using contradictory discourses as a political strategy:
    In postmodern discourse, truth is rejected explicitly and consistency can be a rare phenomenon. Consider the following pairs of claims.

    *On the one hand, all truth is relative; on the other hand, postmodernism tells it like it really is.
    * On the one hand, all cultures are equally deserving of respect; on the other, Western culture is uniquely destructive and bad.
    * Values are subjective—but sexism and racism are really evil.
    * Technology is bad and destructive—and it is unfair that some people have more technology than others.
    *Tolerance is good and dominance is bad—but when postmodernists come to power, political correctness follows.

    There is a common pattern here: Subjectivism and relativism in one breath, dogmatic absolutism in the next. Postmodernists are well aware of the contradictions—especially since their opponents relish pointing them out at every opportunity. And of course a postmodernist can respond dismissingly by citing Hegel—“Those are merely Aristotelian logical contradictions”—but it is one thing to /say/ that and quite another to /sustain/ Hegelian contradictions psychologically.

    The pattern therefore raises the question of which side of the contradiction is deepest for postmodernism. Is it that postmodernists really are committed to relativism, but occasionally lapse into absolutism? Or are the absolutist commitments deepest and the relativism a rhetorical cover?

    In explaining the contradiction between the relativism and the absolutist politics, there are three possibilities.

    1. The first possibility is that the relativism is primary and the absolutist politics are secondary. /Qua/ philosophers, the postmodernists push relativism, but /qua/ particular individuals they happen to believe a particular version of absolutist politics.
    2. The second possibility is that the absolutist politics are primary, while the relativism is a rhetorical strategy that is used to advance that politics.
    3. The third possibility is that both the relativism and the absolutism coexist in postmodernism, but the contradictions between them simply do not matter psychologically to those who hold them.

    The first option can be ruled out as a possibility. Subjectivism and its consequent relativism cannot be primary to postmodernism because of the uniformity of the politics of postmodernism. If subjectivity and relativism were primary, then postmodernists would be adopting political positions across the spectrum, and that simply is not happening. Postmodernism is therefore first a political movement, and a brand of politics that has only lately come to relativism.”

    (Hicks, Stephen R. C. Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault. Tempe, AZ: Scholargy Publishing, 2004. pp. 184-6)

  12. “I feel therefore I am” is also the name of an upcoming radio series on BBC Radio 4:

    I’ve only heard the trails for the shows, but the premise seems to be exploring the fact that:

    Where once facts, evidence and rationality were the path to knowledge, now the logic of feeling, of ‘my truth’ and ‘lived experience’ offers an alternative. Do we know our world through objective facts, or through subjective feelings?

    1. “Do we know our world through objective facts, or through subjective feelings?”

      My wrong-question-O-meter and false dilemma alarm are both going off.

  13. I just downloaded a Hoopla copy of “I Feel, Therefore I Am”, which is rated 1/5 with 1 rating. Well, we’ll see if we can improve that to a 3!

    But I wanted to thank Jerry for his note a while back about the Pluckrose/Lindsay book. It was better than expected. I started reading it online, and then ordered a copy, and reverting to my old student days, ended up underlining and noting stuff.

    And also annoying my daughter who has other things to contend with than my Quixote/Windmill escapades….

    But that book also launched me into where I wish I’d never trod. Foucault, Derrida, and the rest. I’ve now downloaded maybe 50 of their books from Internet Archive, and I ACTUALLY TRY TO READ THEM!!!

    Someone, Please Help Me… I need a Safe Space. Make it stop. Not just for me, but for the world.

  14. Based on history, travel to absurd lands of hysteria will stop after enough people die, and the rest decide, it was not worth the trip.

      1. Poor man. But given that the reprise of his “Race and the Limits of the Law” seminar was going to in “Anti-Oppressive Studies”,post George Floyd, how could it have turned out any differently? And big chunks of ruling political parties in the Anglosphere pander to these people.

  15. I got out of academia decades ago and I was largely STEM focused, so I am a bit lost when I hear some of this. If someone said to me “Queer theory has deconstructed objectivity” I’d ask if they could explain that because while I think I understand the words, as a statement it makes no sense to me. At a guess, I would suspect that person puts unsupported beliefs ahead of objective reality, which isn’t something I can support, but fundamentally I don’t have any idea what thought process is behind that statement. They might as well be speaking a different language. It’s simply bizarre.

  16. Now here’s a thought – and it’s likely to sound elitist – in the USA and the UK the numbers of jobs that require a university education has increased and this has marched in step with the number of people going to university.

    How has this affected the quality of academia? If more and more people want a university education and universities wish to accommodate them then it is at least possible that the content and context of the education has been made more commonplace to suit the wider audience. More accessible perhaps?

    So if your definition of academia includes some ‘special high-mindedness or achievement’ then yes academia is disintegrating, or at least changing from what went before. Whether or not this is good thing remains to be seen. It could explain the current trend to discount merit, exams, and standards though.

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