by FJ Rocca 7/6/15
A Celebration of Unqualified Discourse • It is a fact that most people do not possess doctorates. This is probably a good thing for America, because today there appears to be a corollary between high levels of academic education and disastrously poor thinking. A degree from a well-known university still may be a fast way to get into certain professions; but the possession of a degree no longer means what it once did, that its possessor is truly educated. Many people, including employers, no longer trust university degrees as they once did, equating the diploma with useful knowledge. This depends of course on what major is taken. But the degree itself no longer guarantees that the holder is truly educated.[pullquote]We appear to be living in a time when, to become truly educated, one has to rely on educating oneself by reading and analyzing, and learning through discussion with others for whom enlightenment is equally important…[/pullquote]
Tradition over a thousand or more years holds that the purpose of a university education is to develop the discipline of learning itself. This was the model for the Liberal Arts, having nothing to do with Liberal ideology. In the classical model of the university education, one was trained to think critically by analyzing the meaning of events and great ideas through careful study. This was guided by teachers who possessed wisdom and experience, who were respected not for their allegiance to a set of dogma, but for their ability to invite debate and discussion, once considered vital to discourse on a university campus. Freedom of thought and the challenge provided by disagreement and honest argument were the fertile ground in which generations of wise human beings developed, thrashing out the pros and cons of contrasting ideas and world views. Each subsequent generation was expected to contribute to the spread of ideas with their own innovative and original contributions.
But that no longer proves to be the case. Nowadays, free thought is locked out and conformity is locked in. No longer the bastion of Liberal Arts, many of today’s once great universities have traded Liberal Arts for Leftist dogma, Liberal Indoctrination instead of Liberal Arts. Common sense is evaporating at an alarming rate from the campuses of US universities, where Political Correctness has replaced justice and doctrinaire lies have replaced truth. Cries of “Check your privilege!” replace learning based in actual historical context.
Even the subject matter being taught has descended in value. Is “gender studies” a legitimate discipline with a large body of scholarly work to be added to by way of dissertations based on serious research? What about Feminism and Gay Studies? Is there a thousand-year history from which to draw conclusions about the field and to contribute to it materially? The daughter of a friend of mine majored in Environmental Art at Harvard. When I asked what that was exactly, he shrugged. “Who knows?” he said. “It’s from Harvard, so who cares?” Are these even disciplines or merely very small—dare I say insignificant— parts of the study of history or criticism? Can in depth study of gender even be worth $30,000 or $40,000 tuition per year? I may be wrong, but to me these seem like little more than exercises in egotistical laziness, and the only profession in which it can be considered of any value is that of academe. So can we look at this as a kind of intellectual incest, in which one generation of professors propagate nonsense in their successor, all of whom will be locked in the confines of a university Ivory Tower? What is the study of Feminism compared, say, to philosophy or history, art or music, literature or drama?
We appear to be living in a time when, to become truly educated, one has to rely on educating oneself by reading and analyzing, and learning through discussion with others for whom enlightenment is equally important, but ad hoc, not on a controlled college campus. There are opportunities outside the university campus for debate, with questions and answers carefully ruminated and understood without the need for sitting in the stifling bubble among the captive audience of an expensive university cauldron. Maybe there will even be a time when a university degree is completely disregarded in favor of a demonstration of real knowledge, perhaps some kind of a test, an interview in which one is put upon to discuss in detail what one knows about the subject matter on which he will work.
For myself, I have always favored the intelligent amateur, the intellectual whose learning has been the result of a hunger to know, rather than the rigid requirements of some syllabus that includes as much useless pap as it does useful data. Our Founding Fathers were largely self-educated men, which is to say that their love of learning was what they learned and learned early.
A university education is supposed to teach one how to go on learning. But how can one nurture a love of learning when there is so much indoctrination on college and university campuses these days, and so much Political Correctness to stifle open thought and dialog, that the love of learning is lost through fear and pressure? The value of a degree comes with dubious distinction that it is not the result of a love of learning, but of a procession of educational rituals one is put through by doctrinaire eggheads with no more to give than dusty paradigms long proven unworkable!
Citizen journalism is rapidly replacing the collective chant of an atrophied mainstream media. Perhaps it is time for people to think for themselves, to weigh the pros and cons, the worth and disvalue of certain ideas being thrust at us by an academic class whose value is nearing an end because its ideas are dead and their preaching scolds no longer respected by people of common sense. Especially with the power of the internet, self-education is eminently possible and in this regard self-educated Citizen Intellectuals may be the future. An educated common man may very well restore sanity and common sense to our culture.
FJ Rocca was born the day after Pearl Harbor in the same hometown as Johnny Appleseed. He is a trained classical musician, a published illustrator and a prolific writer of fiction and non-fiction. His website is candiddiscourse.com. • (2850 views)