A Warning Academia Failed To Heed

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

More than a quarter of a century ago, the late great sage Russell Kirk made a stunningly prescient analysis of the woes of academe in the United States that university presidents would be well advised to revisit.

“The American university suffers from doctrinaire democratism: It endeavors to admit nearly anyone who might think of enrolling—nay, it tries to lure him in by seductive brochures,” Dr. Kirk wrote. “This willingness, combining with the affluence of our time and the neo-Pelagian heresy that all men are saved by academic degrees, results in a vast overcrowding of campuses by young people of indifferent talents and worse preparation, whom the impersonal academic apparatus promptly reduces to business-machine numbers. That the same process has been at work in France, Britain, Sweden, and elsewhere, does not justify it.”

“At the very time of this indiscriminate expansion, the American university (ever since 1945) has gone over to the worship of applied science and technology, in considerable part because the federal government subsidizes such efforts. Increasingly, then, the university becomes the servant of the public desires of the hour, and correspondingly neglects its old duty of waking the moral imagination and disciplining the liberal intellect.”

“As universities are converted into degree-mills, the professors devote themselves to research, and actual teaching is left to graduate assistants. This may be lucrative for the professors; it is ruinous for the higher learning. The ill-taught undergraduate is left lonely and confused and often angered; the underpaid and overworked graduate assistant, whether teacher or researcher, becomes a victim of the system—even his doctoral degree being postponed, at vast expense of his time and money, to suit the convenience of the professors whose serf he becomes.”

“The university administration grows increasingly bureaucratic and aloof, attracting little loyalty from faculty or students.”