14 July 2015

The Problem with Academia, the Bubble Dwellers & the Real World

I've pointed out before how many in academia have been insulated from the real world (along with consequences and accountability) and it is why so many of their notions and ideas are, well, kinda wacky. What sounds oh so erudite and sophisticated in the classroom and faculty lounge often crashes and burns when it meets reality. I've seen it firsthand time and time again in business, government and in other parts of society. We are currently witnessing an excellent example of this as academics and other historians debate the presence of Confederate monuments, statues, flags, etc. Where has the impetus for much of the "TEAR IT DOWN!" mentality come from? Colleges, universities and their associated comrades and institutions. Pulitzer Prize winning Professor Gordon S. Wood gives a good summation of what's happened with the writing of American history since the bubble dwelling notions of academia have collided with reality:
College students and many historians have become obsessed with inequality . . . And this obsession has seriously affected the writing of American history. The  inequalities of race and gender now permeate much of academic history-writing, so much so that the general reading public that wants to learn about the whole of our nation’s past has had to turn to history books written by nonacademics who have no Ph.D.s and are not involved in the incestuous conversations of the academic scholars. . . . These historians see themselves as moral critics obligated to denounce the values of the past in order to somehow reform our present.
As Richard Weaver once wrote, "ideas have consequences." And we're seeing the consequences of academia's ideas played out all across the country when it comes to these public displays - and this is no longer confined to Confederate imagery. Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln are also recent targets. And the list will grow. As I've stated before, Confederate icons are simply the low-hanging fruit. The moral critics will continue their crusade against much of the rest of American history with even more vigor once the easy-pickin' fruit has been plucked.

So it was with great interest I read of another example of how this lack of real world "awareness" is often exasperated by a college or university setting:
A number of our members consistently tell us they’re seeing students come out of university or training programs and they might have the academic or theoretical skills, but no skills to work at all. It makes them really hard to employ . . .
While the above quote comes from a piece specifically addressing jobs unrelated to the field of history (and outside the U.S.), the basic criticism still applies to that field as well - in many cases.

And just today, Gordon Wood further drives home the point by doubling down on his prior criticism of academic historians and scholars stating:
The people who came out of the ‘60s are currently in control of the profession and it’s has become essentially race-class-gender issues. Now, a new generation will come along and they’ll want to contest that. . . . But you can’t do much else and still have a career. It’s very difficult for young people to want to work on more traditional subjects. . . . We are cutting ourselves off from the general public [reality] and that's lamentable.
Oh my.

I know this will likely upset some of the academics and professional historians who read this blog. Good. You need to be upset. Many of us in the general public believe you're making damned fools of yourselves. And, despite what you may think, our numbers are growing.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Throughout this whole sesquicentennial I have never heard anybody mention the part that Lincoln played in the War. It is like he never existed, even though hundreds of books have been written about him.

Slavery had existed for over 200 years when the war started, but "slavery was the cause of the war" because of a microsoft word count on official documents.

The election of Lincoln had nothing to do with secession. Buchanan had nothing to do with not taking back the forts and ports before Lincoln took office. Lincoln had nothing to do with ordering the southern governors to furnish troops to invade SC after he took office. Congress had nothing to do with voting to finance the war. Lincoln's Dec. 1863 speech to congress asking for more money to arm more colored troops, in order to save more Northern white men from getting shot, had nothing to do with prolonging the War. Lincoln's printing of unbacked greenbacks and calling it legal tender had nothing to do with financing the war.

The war was caused by slavery. Period.

Not the masters, not the southern politicians, not the press.

Why didn't slavery cause a war in the 1600's or the 1700's ?
No answer.

The President is commander and chief of the armed forces. Not the slaves, not the masters, not anybody else. The President. He orders the armies and navies into active duty. Only Congress can declare war, but never mind that.

The Sesquicentennial completely ignored basic 6th grade social studies, as far as I have heard.

Eddie said...

"so much so that the general reading public that wants to learn about the whole of our nation’s past has had to turn to history books written by nonacademics who have no Ph.D.s and are not involved in the incestuous conversations of the academic scholars."

Then, those academic "historians" denounce those books for not being reviewed and approved by them.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Right Eddie. And often refer to them as "celebratory" history. I guess anything seems like celebratory history that isn't a bash-fest, i.e., denouncing "the values of the past in order to somehow reform our present."