Sunday, May 22, 2016


Educational Reform

Camille Paglia, "Junk Bonds and Corporate Raiders: Academe in the Hour of the Wolf," Arion, 3rd ser., 1.2 (Spring, 1991) 139-212 (at 201):
Attendance at conferences must cease to be defined as professional activity. It should be seen for what it is: prestige-hunting and long-range job-seeking junkets, meat-rack mini-vacations. The phrase "He or she is just a conference-hopper" (cf. "just a gigolo") must enter the academic vocabulary. I look for the day when conference-hopping leads to denial of employment or promotion on the grounds that it is a neglect of professional duties to scholarship and one's institution. Energies have to be reinvested at home. The reform of education will be achieved when we all stay put and cultivate our own garden, instead of gallivanting around the globe like migrating grackles. Furthermore, excessive contact with other academics is toxic to scholarship. Reading and writing academic books and seeing academics every day at work are more than enough exposure to academe. The best thing for scholars is contact with nonacademics, with other ways of thinking and seeing the world. Most of the absurdities of women's studies and French theory would have been prevented by close observation of ordinary life outside the university.
Id. (at 202):
Rushing people into print right after grad school just leads to portentous fakery, which no one reads anyhow. Maynard Mack was already saying in 1969 to our graduate seminar that "95% of what is published in any given year should be ritually burned at the end of that year." The pressure on shaky novices to sound important and authoritative makes for guano mountains of dull rubbish. Good writing and teaching require a creative sense of play. In American academe, as opposed to Great Britain, playfulness and humor, as well I know, are suspect, suggesting you aren't "serious" enough. But comedy is a sign of balanced perspective on life and thought. Humorlessness should be grounds for dismissal. Eccentric individualism, in the style of the old German scholars, must be tolerated.
Id. (at 205-206):
The spiritual vacuum of recent academe is responsible for the popularity of false teachers like the mushy Joseph Campbell, who gives people the long view of traditional mythology, and for the spread of New Age mysticism, whose hoaxer channelers satisfy the craving for ancestral voices. We need back-to-basics reform on every level of education. Old German philology was culture criticism at its learned, comprehensive best.

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