Friday, April 23, 2004

The Professoriate and The Truth

Excellent essay at TechCentralStation from John Kekes. It's long, but it systematically examines and refutes what many professors practice.
The justification for the funding universities and colleges receive is that they make an indispensable contribution to the well-being of their society. For coping with the multitude of problems that beset society requires policies, policies are likely to succeed if they are based on the truth, and universities and colleges are supposed to be guardians of the beliefs that a society has most reason to recognize as true. If institutions of higher education do through teaching and research what they are meant to do, they deserve support and respect; if they do not, they deserve the opposite. North American higher education is in danger of losing that support and respect because many professors have abandoned their obligation and use universities and colleges as tools for the political transformation of our society....

Matters, however, are even worse. It would be one thing to declare forthrightly that universities and colleges no longer regard the upholding of truth through teaching and research as their basic obligation. It may, then, be said that henceforth institutions of higher education are to be in the vanguard of the transformation of society to reflect a political ideal. But not only is this not said, it is denied with hypocritical indignation. For defenders of preferential treatment realize that if they told the truth about the political ideal they are aiming at, they would have to justify it to politicians who allocate resources for teaching and research, not for political activism; to parents who pay for students' expenses on the assumption that they will get an education rather than be conscripted as foot soldiers into the army of political activists; to those professors who continue to uphold the truth and refuse to subordinate it to political considerations; and to citizens who do not wish to pay taxes to finance self-appointed activists bent on changing their society. Their justification would have to reveal what qualification entitles professors of literature, sociology, or anthropology, for instance, to take advantage of their students' willingness to learn and harangue them with a political view about how society should be transformed. It is because no convincing justification could be given that instead of telling the truth, these professors spread falsehoods....

Most relativists, however, are not consistent. Their actions are at odds with what they claim to believe because no sane person could seriously hold the pernicious and absurd beliefs to which relativists are committed. This is shown every time relativists consult a physician, not a faith healer; call a plumber to unclog a sink, not a magician; want rapists prosecuted, not held up as role-models; and send their children to school, not to a shopping mall. But this does not stop many professors from using relativism to further their political ideal. For they appeal to it to justify using the classroom as a political forum, making political speeches instead of teaching, belittling the great achievements of the past, and hypocritically claiming that they are merely doing knowingly what the vast majority of humanity is doing in ignorance. The net effect is the betrayal of truth, the gross violation of professional obligations, the corruption of students, and the subversion of higher education. All of which is made even more egregious by the knowing cynicism with which it is usually done.
Lots, lots more.

No comments: