The University of Austin: ‘Liberal educators’ might sneer but they’re very worried

2021 Nov 23, 10:30am   251 views  12 comments

by Patrick   ➕follow (49)   💰tip ($1.87 in tips)   ignore  


Americans are beginning to seek alternatives to our established menu of colleges and universities. In fact, not just Americans. Students from other countries are also choosing alternatives to studying in the U.S. The combined effect has been a sharp drop in American college enrollment, which is down overall by about 8 percent over the last two years, and more than 14 percent at community colleges. International student enrollment is down a total of 15 percent, but that masks an even more serious problem: enrollment of new foreign students fell last year by 46 percent.

Some of this, of course, is due to COVID. And some of it is due to a demographic shift: fewer babies born 17 to 20 years ago means fewer young people to fill the seats in lecture halls. But other contributing factors are more mysterious. Why has there been a precipitous drop in the number of males who choose to go to college? (The male/female ratio among students is now 4:6.) Why have so many colleges declared themselves “systemically racist”? Why have colleges turned campus life into a pressure cooker of ideological conformity? Why do those who run colleges and universities think their path to success is to copy what all the other colleges and universities are doing?

The recent announcement of the formation of a new institution, the University of Austin (UATX), which intends to break with the herd mentality, was met with met with high praise in many quarters, and with extreme disdain by many supporters of the legacy institutions. Let’s stick with the disdain for the moment. Hank Reichman, professor emeritus of history at California State University and former American Association of University Professors (AAUP) vice-president, is about as close as one could get to the perfected voice of higher education’s leftist establishment. The day after UATX sent out its birth announcement, Reichman happily noted in a post titled “Welcome to Rogues’ Gallery University” that the announcement had “garnered widespread ridicule on academic social media.”

What was it that prompted the ridicule? Reichman focuses on the members of UATX’s board of advisors, and borrows the sneer of the progressive law professor Paul Campos who characterizes these advisors as “our most ludicrously self-regarding and mawkishly preening intellectuals.” The rest of Reichman’s essay is a long string of ad hominem attacks against individual UATX advisors.

The disdain didn’t stop with Reichman. It fills pages of the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed, and reverberates across the AAUP’s “Academe Blog.” Those who have praised the creation of UATX, such as New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, have been subjected to public shaming as well, as when Ohio State emeritus professor of English Harvey Graff schooled Douthat for his “ideologically biased and historically ignorant opinions” in favor of the new enterprise.

I happen to be among those who think UATX is a good idea — at least one worth trying — and my organization, the National Association of Scholars, has cheered UATX’s declaration of purpose. But my interest at the moment is not to praise or defend UATX. I am rather marveling at the avidity with which the academic establishment has denounced the mere idea of a new university that breaks ranks with the current model. UATX doesn’t yet have a campus, a single faculty member, or a student. But it appears to threaten higher education as though it were a Chicxulub-sized meteor headed towards Harvard Yard.

The alarm is excellent news. For the first time in decades, the higher education establishment actually feels threatened. I should know. I preside over an organization, the National Association of Scholars, which formed in the early 1980s for the express purpose of convincing colleges and universities to pull back from the brink. It set out with the motto “For Reasoned Scholarship in a Free Society.” Most of its founders were liberal academics who recognized the rise of hard-edged radicalism among the younger faculty. They imagined — vainly as we now know — that once alerted to the dangers, colleges and universities would draw some lines. The rise of new authoritarian orthodoxies jeopardized the essential foundations of higher education: the pursuit of truth, free inquiry, disciplined critique, academic standards, disinterested scholarship, genuine intellectual authority, and cultural depth. The NAS founders valued openness to new ideas.

They worried, however, that some energetic newcomers saw openness as the opportunity to make sure their new ideas would be final. Liberal tolerance of disagreement could be put to rest in favor of the brilliant certainties of a new era.

This is by now a very old story. It caught the country’s attention in 1987 when Allan Bloom published The Closing of the American Mind. In 1990, Roger Kimball synthesized the catastrophe into a slim book titled Tenured Radicals. As I write these words, I am walled on two sides by rows of floor-to-ceiling bookcases filled with tomes written since by scholars who were not at all happy with the results of this academic revolution. Here sits The Breakdown of Higher Education. There lies The End of College. Not to be confused with Education’s End. What’s Happened to the University? cries one author. College Disrupted answers another. Some say we have Higher Expectations, but those expectations hit the brick wall of Minds Wide Shut.

A few despair and give The Case Against Education, but many others spin out a dream of redemption. They write of The University We Need; Alternative Universities; Better/Cheaper College; Learning Innovation and the Future of Higher Education.

I have read hundreds of these books. It is part of my job. A few of them flared into importance for a season. A great many of them are written in the tone of a heartbroken parent by the grave of a child. Some have the stoic urgency of a soldier headed into what he knows will be his last battle. And some are works of forced confidence, for what else is there to say?

I bring all this up because these pronouncements never disturbed the complacency of the higher ed establishment. The powers that be in faculty senates, provost offices, the presidential suites, and boardrooms took it in stride that nothing would really change. The last time there was a genuine uproar was all the way back in 1987 when Allan Bloom had the bad manners to point out that higher education had “failed democracy” and was “impoverishing the souls of today’s students.” Those post-democratic, soul-impoverished students have now grown up and some are now themselves professors and college presidents. And they haven’t the faintest idea what all the fuss over “liberal education” is about.

They are, after all, both the custodians of liberal education and its stoutest defenders. Liberal education is about teaching anti-racism, and the fight against climate change, and the need to protect the transgendered, and the importance of vaccinations and masks, and the urgency of stopping violence against women, and the compelling case for open borders, and the acute need to protect the vulnerable from hate speech, and the burning need for global outreach, and gender equity, and did I say anti-racism? Yes, anti-racism above all.

These are complicated goals that require a great many expensive interventions, and thus a lot of money and professional staff. Moreover, achieving these goals requires defeating the forces of hatred, bias, and ignorance that surround the college campus ...

Well, I exaggerate. Not every college president senses such peril. The peril that is more immediately on the minds of many is declining enrollment. American higher education for the most part is tuition-driven, and a substantial part of the tuition derives from students who are willing to borrow substantial sums from the federal government to pay the bills.

My colleagues and I at the NAS have been paying close attention to this. In a report titled Priced Out: What College Costs America, we looked at the link between student debt and what might be called “woke work.” In the early days of the pandemic, we published our own prescription for hard-hit higher ed, titled Critical Care, urging that the billions of dollars colleges and universities were demanding as bailouts be conditioned on serious reform.

To be sure, there was no reform at all, but many colleges and universities still find themselves in a precarious situation, or as we say in today’s parlance, in a state of “precarity.” And in their precarity, they are alarmed — yes, very alarmed — that someone has come along and proposed a new university that will have none of the hostages to the expensive, dysfunctional habits of the legacy institutions, and that proposes to compete for faculty and students by laying out a coherent curriculum and abiding by the old ideas of intellectual freedom.

The University of Austin is a long way from opening its doors, and it has to raise a lot of money to get there. But it is a serious proposal backed by serious people. And the very idea sends shivers down the spines of those whose lives are dedicated to “liberal education” as we know it.

Another article:


The University of Austin's web site did not turn up on any search engine I tried, but I found the url in the article above:


Comments 1 - 12 of 12   

1   Patrick   2021 Nov 23, 10:41am  

Universities devoted to the unfettered pursuit of truth are the cornerstone of a free and flourishing democratic society.

For universities to serve their purpose, they must be fully committed to freedom of inquiry, freedom of conscience, and civil discourse.

In order to maintain these principles, UATX will be fiercely independent—financially, intellectually, and politically.
3   Ceffer   2021 Nov 23, 12:08pm  

Time to deploy air drops of the Immense Hirsute Lesbian Paratroopers to obliterate this campus and stomp the administration before any truth gets out.
4   Bd6r   2021 Nov 23, 2:48pm  

University of Austin has Larry Summers as one of advisors. He is one of the architects of current monetary policies. This seems highly fishy.


He [Summers] was also influential in the Harvard Institute for International Development and American-advised privatization of the economies of the post-Soviet states, and in the deregulation of the U.S financial system, including the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act.

On the other hand, they have interesting faculty fellows who will likely not bend to ideologues. https://www.uaustin.org/faculty-fellows
5   AmericanKulak   2021 Nov 23, 3:06pm  

Summers also called out some bullshit. It wasn't for the money, but his blunt statements about IQ, Curriculum, etc. that got the Faculty to demand his ouster.
6   Bd6r   2021 Nov 23, 4:17pm  

CaptainHorsePaste says
Summers also called out some bullshit. It wasn't for the money, but his blunt statements about IQ, Curriculum, etc. that got the Faculty to demand his ouster.

That was about choices of womyn which are not the same as choices men make - he was ousted from Harvard presidency because of this observation.
7   cisTits   2021 Nov 23, 5:18pm  

The entire 4 year college system is going down the tubes anyway.
8   Bd6r   2021 Nov 23, 5:23pm  

HunterTits says
The entire 4 year college system is going down the tubes anyway.

All education system is going that way. Two-year community colleges are even worse with respect to lack of learning/teaching. Not clear what will replace all of it.
9   cisTits   2021 Nov 23, 5:26pm  

Bd6r says
Two-year community colleges are even worse with respect to lack of learning/teaching. Not clear what will replace all of it.

Associate Degrees, yes. Technical courses and programs, no. Community Colleges can easily transition to just being Vocational Schools On Steroids and many will.
10   EBGuy   2021 Nov 23, 7:29pm  

Krystal was losing her shit over Bari Weiss University.
11   Patrick   2022 Mar 11, 9:51am  


The prospect of my meeting with Peter Boghossian seemed to have angered the gods, so furious was the disruption to road and rail as I tried to make my way from Seattle to Portland. Torrential rain and flash floods summoned a ricochet of mudslides which abruptly terminated my Amtrak journey in Centralia, a middle-of-nowhere town in Washington State. There was no rail in either direction for at least forty-eight hours, no buses and seemingly just one Lyft — which I managed to slip into an hour later with a few other stranded passengers. ...

Or perhaps it was the anger of very particular gods that rule over the Pacific Northwest, that hotbed of wokeness so concentrated you can feel it like toxic humidity in the air.

Boghossian was a professor of philosophy at Portland State for a decade. He taught classes on critical thinking, science and pseudoscience, the philosophy of education, knowledge, values and education, and atheism — before 2021, when an incessant series of investigations finally caused him to resign. In his resignation letter, Boghossian accused Portland State and the wider educational establishment of having “transformed a bastion of free inquiry into a Social Justice factory whose only inputs were race, gender, and victimhood and whose only outputs [are] grievance and division.”

The beginning of Boghossian’s drawn-out end was his involvement in a “grievance studies” scam. In 2007, he and two collaborators, James Lindsay and the British writer Helen Pluckrose, placed clearly ridiculous but ideologically faddish papers in peer-reviewed journals, most famously “The conceptual penis as a social construct” in Cogent Social Sciences in May 2017. This showed, he says, how academic journals, once the “imprimatur” of rigor, had become nothing more than fronts for what he calls “idea laundering.”

Portland State went to war, displaying, Boghossian says, “a pathological hatred of me.” After a baseless Title IX investigation whose trigger and evidence were never disclosed to him, Boghossian was told he was no longer allowed to offer his opinion about “protected classes” (a long list that includes race, religion, sexual identity, age, disability and veteran status) or “teach in such a way that my opinion about protected classes could be known.”

Boghossian’s own longstanding fondness for raising a finger to orthodoxy has led him into some interesting waters. When we met, he was about to head to Hungary, to take up a visiting senior fellowship at the Mathias Corvinus Collegium (MCC), Viktor Orbán’s flagship institute, to teach critical thinking — “against the advice of literally everybody I know.” Was he worried about the appearance of snuggling up with an illiberal democrat at an institution funded, critics say, to promote ultranationalism through stolen public funds?

No, Boghossian says, sipping the first of two salty, viscous Bloody Marys — I had encouraged him to switch from iced tea to soften the glares of the waitress; he tells me he’s trying to avoid sugar so won’t touch wine or beer. “I think as long as your North Star is the truth you’re fine. I don’t really give a shit about perceptions, I give a shit about what’s true. Even if it’s true that this is a horrible regime, isn’t that all the more reason to teach people how to think critically?” Boghossian always thinks it’s worth teaching people to think critically in all circumstances. As the title of his 2019 book How To Have Impossible Conversations implies, that includes fascists and their friends, who come in several flavors in Hungary, and Isis fighters. He hasn’t had the chance to meet them yet, but says “I’d love to!”

Boghossian has spent decades devoted to the Socratic method. Formalized by Plato in the late fifth century bc, this system coaxes out contradictions or irrationalities in belief through dialogue and questioning. It is “the most important thing man has ever discovered… Every intelligent spacefaring species anywhere in the universe would have to have it.” For his PhD, Boghossian worked with inmates at the Columbia River correctional institution in Portland. “I looked at various questions in the history of Western intellectual thought and I taught prison inmates how to think critically and reason morally. In other words, they used the Socratic method [not just] for how to ask questions of other people to figure out what’s morally true, but to ask questions of themselves. What does it mean to live a good life?” It worked. Tests suggested his students were less likely to respond violently to provocative stimuli after his lessons.

Boghossian is blisteringly blunt about the woke “capture” of institutions, which he calls the shift from Culture 1.0 to Culture 2.0. “In Culture 1.0 you had religious people in this country, you know, Christians and atheists, and they would fight over things like evolution, et cetera. But the first thing is they both agreed upon was the rules of engagement. The second thing they agreed was that there was a truth about the world and that it could be known.” Now, those norms of engagement have dissolved: civil debate and appeals to democratic, or even legal, channels, have been replaced by vandalizing, looting, ripping statues down, boycotting and sacking.

Boghossian calls this the Great Realignment, the arrival of a culture in which metaphysics (understanding the nature of being, knowing, time and space) is “just not important.” In this realigned worldview without an inner life, a staunch atheist like Boghossian has “more in common with the anti-woke Christian than I do with a woke atheist, because metaphysics just doesn’t play the same role. If someone believes Jesus walked on water that’s far less relevant than the fact that they want to do away with Miranda rights.” Now furiously sipping his Bloody Mary, Boghossian explains how the identitarian left has constructed an impenetrable system of logic. “It has sealed the epistemological bubble so their worldview is never challenged because even having a conversation with somebody [they disagree with] is platforming them. And so that pushes it further into delusion.”

Boghossian is a founding member of the highest-profile, most experimental response to these problems: the University of Austin (UATX). The university, an accredited, cancel-culture-free zone, was announced in early November. It cannonballed into the cultural ether, unleashing excitement and, from the establishment left, scathing mockery. Its president, Pano Kanelos (the former president of St. John’s College, Annapolis), said that UATX would be driven by the “fearless pursuit of truth.”

UATX starts teaching in summer 2022, with a series of “Forbidden Courses” covering debates on topics now verboten in traditional classrooms, from empire and race to gender. Boghossian tells me he’s contracted to be part of every single Forbidden Courses class, where he will expose students to his Socratic methods. ...

The seeds of woke ideology have been in place on campus since the late 1960s. Why have they bloomed so disastrously now? We are, Boghossian says, now in the watershed moment when a critical mass of those who were “brainwashed” by postmodernism and poststructuralism in the decades after 1970 have ascended to the top of the ivory tower. But it goes beyond higher ed, he says. “There’s a crisis of legitimacy in our institutions. I’ve been screaming about it for years,” Boghossian says. It includes the police, the “legacy media” and the medical establishment.
12   cisTits   2022 Mar 11, 10:10am  

EBGuy says
Krystal was losing her shit over Bari Weiss University.

She is a) one of the Credentialled herself and b) also believes in MMT, too.

She definitely has her faults. More than Sagar does, in my view.

But I still watch them. They are open about their stances and genuinely try to compensate for them. When did you @EBGuy last see some Yapping Head on the boobtube do that? Or how about 'fucking EVER'?

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