Saturday, December 27, 2014

Farewell, Academia. I hardly knew thee.

I have a new piece at the Pope Center on my decision to never seek employment at another university ever again. I am basically giving up on ever getting what I have for a long time now considered my dream job. Unfortunately, my dream of doing academic research and talking with young people about ideas and literature turned into a bureaucratic nightmare of endless adjuncting with no hope of making enough to survive or of getting health insurance.

My experience was psychologically destructive, soul-killing. What else could it be when you so desperately want to give and nobody wants your gift? That is my experience with teaching. There are some exceptions, of course, but the rule is rejection. The students reject your gift of knowledge; the administrators reject your gift of teaching and academic work. The institutional support for my academic work has never materialized. In fact, most of the support for my work has come from non-mainstream sources. Which is why I have ended up doing so much work in economics -- specifically, spontaneous order theory. I have yet to receive even a modicum of support from with in the humanities or literary studies.

I will thus concentrate on developing Camplin Creative Consulting. I will work on getting clients for my writing consulting and my workshops based on my academic publications. That way I can continue to work on my academic work. I can write papers and books and do my true work. I cannot do that while teaching.

Friday, December 05, 2014

On the Overwhelmingly Dominant Institution in our Culture

I have come to realize, due to some recent thoughts stimulated by some interesting pieces I read of late, that postmodern culture is, fundamentally, university/college culture. Postmodernism is preached at our universities; our postmodern writers and artists are all taught at university MFA programs. The speech codes, the political correctness, the elitist egalitarianism are all from our universities. Almost all our corporations are run by MBAs and Executive MBAs, meaning our corporate culture is that of the universities -- and, thus, postmodern in nature. The ethical wasteland we see within our largest corporations is a direct product of our postmodernist universities.

The university today is the Catholic church of the Medieval period in Europe. It is the place of the priest/mandarin class, and the local priests/adjuncts are kept around only so long as they abide by the the laws of God/political correctness. The Catholic Church presided over a guilt culture, while universities preside over a collective guilt culture.

Everything you love and everything you hate about our contemporary culture can be directly traced to the fact that our college/university system is the overwhelmingly dominant institution within it. That fact should be investigated more thoroughly.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Institutionalizing Everyone With College

Peter Thiel has an op-ed in the Washington Post about higher education, and I agree with every single sentence of it.

Thiel frames the issue of college in a variety of ways I am sure few people have thought about. For one, he points out that "college" isn't a homogeneous thing, but is heterogeneous in its products. "College is good" is a statement that generalizes college into nothing. College is good for what? To train you as a scientist? Yes. To train you as a poet? That's perhaps more controversial. To train you to become an entrepreneur? Absolutely not.

Thiel suggests that what college primarily does is institutionalize people, training them to be worker bees rather than innovators. If you take business classes, you will learn how to run someone else's business, but you won't learn how to start your own.

Where universities can give value added is in providing a broad liberal education, but that's precisely what they are moving away from. Universities can teach you the languages of certain fields of study, so that you can participate in them -- you can learn math, physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, the social sciences -- and perhaps gain something that will allow for a degree of insight for innovation, but the majority of innovation will come within those fields, from those who specialize.

To be an entrepreneur, you have to know enough about the issue, subject, topic, technology, situation in order to notice the opportunities present. While getting various degrees in molecular biology will certainly provide you with such opportunities within molecular biology, there is no major in college that will allow you to discover the opportunities available in eCommerce. And quite frankly, many could perhaps participate more in the scientific order if it were not for the institutional barriers to participation.

Of course, to be an entrepreneur, you not only have to be able to notice gaps, but have the ability to do something about it. I have noticed several gaps, but I don't have the computer programming skills to do anything about what I noticed. And I haven't found anyone as interested in these things to help me. Naturally, if I had the money, I could just hire someone, but entrepreneurs early in their careers rarely have the money to be hiring people. Colleges and trade schools could, at least in theory, provide people with such skills, but if we are honest, many who have such skills are self-taught. Universities are usually behind on the latest technology, including programming. And when you get into college, to always run the risk of becoming institutionalized, of having the innovation driven out of you.

It is for these reasons that Thiel is correct about his final observation:
A Reformation is coming, and its message will be the same as it was 500 years ago: Don’t outsource your future to a big institution. You need to figure it out for yourself.
Our university system is the contemporary Catholic Church. In the same way that the Catholic Church ruled over a medieval guilt culture, our universities rule over our postmodern collective guilt culture. They reinforce those values at every turn. If a Reformation is coming, that means there are further implications for our future culture. In the same way that Catholic guilt culture gave way to responsibility culture, university collective guilt culture will give way to another individualistic culture. New institutions will arise. And I have little doubt that that Reformation will be led by the majority adjuncts out there who are growing increasingly tired of being exploited by the current system. I look forward to that day, when the university system breaks up, its power is crushed, and it has to reform in the face of competition. That will happen when people realize they don't need universities to become educated human beings, and that will happen when they realize universities have ceased producing educated human beings in the first place.