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The Modest University
To all this one could legitimately reply that my account is itself a product of a comprehensive moral vision. By arguing that the moral limitations of the university necessarily restrict the kinds of claims and activities that universities can legitimately sustain, I assume but never articulate a moral vision of my own. To such a rebuttal I would simply reply that my account presumes not a comprehensive moral vision but rather a more cultural and sociological account of the conditions in which public universities currently find themselves—those of pluralism. As someone trained in a public university (UC Berkeley) and who now teaches in another (UVA), I have never been able, nor have I wanted, to assume that either my colleagues or my students shared a common moral vision, whether that means a set of particular doctrines or shared practices tied to a faith tradition, a particular philosophical anthropology, or even a vision of what it means to live well. This is the world I have always found myself in, and I remain committed to living in it and learning from it. One benefit of my vision is that it understands the moral limitations of universities not as a failure of conviction or a capitulation to the levelling forces of modernity but rather as a strength to be defended. Universities that reflect on these limitations have real social goods to share.
university  academe  from instapaper
11 days ago by ayjay
There Is No Case for the Humanities - American Affairs Journal
Vulgar conservative critiques of the humanities are usually given the greatest exposure, and yet at the same time, it is often political (and religious) conservatives who have labored the most mightily to foster traditional humanistic disciplines in schools. Left defenders of the humanities have defended their value in the face of an increasingly corporate and crudely economic world, and yet they have also worked to gut some of the core areas of humanistic enquiry—“Western civ and all that”—as indelibly tainted by patriarchy, racism, and colonialism. So the humanities have both Left and Right defenders, Left and Right critics. The Left defenders of the humanities are notoriously bad at coming up with a coherent defense which might actually have some effective purchase, but they have been far more consistent in defending the “useless” disciplines against politically (and economically) charged attacks. The Right defenders of the humanities have sometimes put forward a strong and cogent defense of their value, but they have had very little sway when it comes to confronting actual attacks on the humanities by Republican and conservative politicians. The sad truth is that instead of forging some kind of trans-ideological apology for humanistic pursuits, this ambiguity has led to the disciplines being squeezed on both sides.

Indeed, both sides enable the humanities’ adversaries. Conservatives who seek to use the coercive and financial power of the state to correct what they see as ideological abuses within the professoriate are complicit in the destruction of the old-fashioned and timeless scholarship they supposedly are defending. It is self-defeating to make common cause with corporate interests looking to co-opt the university and its public subsidy to outsource their job training and research, just for the sake of punishing the political sins of liberal professors. Progressives who want to turn the humanities into a laboratory for social change, a catalyst for cultural revolution, a training camp for activists, are guilty of the same instrumentalization. When they impose de facto ideological litmus tests for scholars working in every field, they betray their conviction that the humanities exist only to serve a contemporary political and social end.
humanities  academe  education  via:ayjay 
7 weeks ago by isaacsmith
Scholars, Teachers, and Servants | James Grimmelmann
A modern academic has three jobs: scholarship, teaching, and service. To say this is not just to say that all three are worth doing, not just to say that all three are worth doing by the same institution, but to say further that all three are worth doing by the same people. To put it this way is to emphasize that scholarship, teaching, and service really are a trinity: a single essence with three forms.
This unity is under attack. Critics of the academy argue that scholarship and service are distractions, and that teaching would be better off without them. For many academics, it is teaching and service that are the distractions from the re- wards of scholarship. And those who focus on society’s many problems some- times see scholarship and teaching as impractical distractions. But to sunder them is to give up something essential, because the autonomy of the academic can be justified to society only when all three are united. Teachers who are scholars are something more than mere servants.
8 weeks ago by ayjay
The University is Dead, Long Live the Academy! Reflections on the Future of Knowledge – Opinion – ABC Religion & Ethics (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
I think it is increasingly important to distinguish The University from The Academy because contemporary universities, especially those in the United States, are better understood as "multi-versities" - a term coined by the president of the University of California, Clark Kerr, in 1963 to make sense of his own post-war institution.

Consider the University of Virginia (UVA) where I teach. It is an entertainment and production company (UVA's concerts and events), a healthcare provider, a start-up incubator, a federally-financed research unit, a philanthropic behemoth, a sports franchise and, perhaps incidentally, a community devoted to education and the creation and transmission of knowledge. And these multifarious activities correspond to a range of distinct purposes. Contemporary universities are expected to educate, democratize, credentialize and socialize. Over the past century, universities have become all-purpose institutions bound together, as Kerr put it, by little more than "a common governing board" that manages disparate interests and oftentimes competing purposes.

At this point it might be tempting to turn critique into elegy, to indulge a desire for a time that was otherwise. But that would be irresponsible and delusional. The university as a fully coherent, autonomous institution guided by a singular and shared purpose never existed. In a way, universities have always been "multi-versities" - institutions serving multiple and sometimes competing ends.
academe  university 
november 2017 by ayjay
Letter to 
a Campus Activist by Vincent Lloyd | Articles | First Things
We live in a world that is deeply flawed. We must struggle to see this without forgetting that each one of us is no less flawed. Those whom the world captures with the language of race have it especially hard, but we also have a special privilege. Rebellion that involves beer and debauchery rings hollow when one bears the bruises of racist violence. Our rebellion tends in loftier directions than that of your peers, but the risk of self-satisfaction is also greater.

You, my campus activist, have the misfortune to live in a secular age, an age when rebellion against the world means embrace of the self—which really means embrace of the worst that the world has on offer. Be careful. Seek out communities and relationships that orient you beyond yourself, toward others and toward the God who promises peace and justice. There is no single roadmap to rebelling rightly, or to living rightly, and we all inevitably fall short. I pray that you fail better than I did.
october 2017 by ayjay
Peer review: the end of an error?
Why does any of this matter? Defenders of formal peer review usually admit that it is flawed, but go on to say, as though it were obvious, that any other system would be worse. But it is not obvious at all. If academics put their writings directly online and systems were developed for commenting on them, one immediate advantage would be a huge amount of money saved. Another would be that we would actually get to find out what other people thought about a paper, rather than merely knowing that somebody had judged it to be above a certain not very precise threshold (or not knowing anything at all if it had been rejected). We would be pooling our efforts in useful ways: for instance, if a paper had an error that could be corrected, this would not have to be rediscovered by every single reader.

An alternative system would almost certainly not be perfect, but to insist on perfection, given the imperfections of the current system, is nothing but status quo bias. To guard against this, imagine that an alternative system were fully established and see whether you can mount a convincing argument for switching to what we have now, where all the valuable commentary would be hidden away and we would have to pay large sums of money to read each other’s writings. You would be laughed out of court.
academe  scholarship 
october 2017 by ayjay

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