28 April 2012

Are Academics Smarter Than The Rest Of Us?

They constantly suggest that they are. They love to remind us all that their approach to history and society is more "sophisticated" and that their "credentials" make them "experts." Too bad they're always having head on collisions with reality.

A number of academic historians (and bloggers) got all giggly over Barack Obama's campaign in 2008 - to the point of silliness. Now they stare in silent bewilderment that their big government utopia has escaped them and, along with their savior, let them down yet again. Reality trumps all the social and economic theories they've discussed in the faculty lounge - sounding so convincing to each other and so idiotic to to the rest of us. Case in point (among scores):

Government has become its own worst enemy when it comes to the economy, with public spending putting a damper on growth that otherwise continues at a steady if unspectacular pace . . . "Contrary to what passes as conventional wisdom, the main drag is coming from the government itself."
More here.

Historian Paul Johnson said it best:

I think I detect today a certain public skepticism when intellectuals stand up to preach to us, a growing tendency among ordinary people to dispute the right of academics, writers and philosophers, eminent though they may be, to tell us how to behave and conduct our affairs. The belief seems to be spreading that intellectuals are no wiser as mentors, or worthier as exemplars, than the witch doctors or priests of old. I share that skepticism. A dozen people picked at random on the street are at least as likely to offer sensible views on moral and political matters as a cross-section of the intelligentsia. But I would go further. One of the principal lessons of our tragic century, which has seen so many millions of innocent lives sacrificed in schemes to improve the lot of humanity, is – beware of intellectuals. Nor merely should they be kept well away from the levers of power, they should also be objects of particular suspicion when they seek to offer collective advice. Beware committees, conferences and leagues of intellectuals. Distrust public statements issued from their serried ranks. Discount their verdicts on political leaders and important events. For intellectuals, far from being highly individualistic and non-conformist people, follow certain regular patterns of behavior.  Taken as a group, they are often ultra-conformist within the circles formed by those whose approval they seek and value. That is what makes them, en masse, so dangerous, for it enables them to create climates of opinion and prevailing orthodoxies, which themselves often generate irrational and destructive courses of action.

And one should look at their analysis of history with the same skepticism to which Johnson refers. It's often as flawed as their juvenile-like view of politics, ideology, and human nature. If they can't even get recent history analyzed and applied correctly, why should one trust them on things which happened over 100 years ago? 

So much of what Johnson notes is so obvious and demonstrated on a daily basis on so many Civil War and history related blogs. They are, for the most part, simple-minded conformists seeking the approval of their masters while promoting left-wing ideology through their interpretation and analysis of history - "canting ideologues" as Eugene Genovese has so aptly dubbed them. But that's ok. The profession they pervert will one day judge them for what they are and what they've done. 

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