December 19, 2011

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE:

From the Chronicle of Higher Education comes a story that should make every mediocre academic in this country shudder in fear. Mark Bauerlein has looked under the hood of the “research” that professors in English literature conduct and he has documented what many of us know but few want to think about: nobody reads much of this stuff.

Nobody. Not even the other scholars in the field.

As Walter Russell Mead notes, this is not a good sign: “Our universities today look a lot like the monasteries in the time of Henry VIII: vulnerable targets for a hungry state. State legislators are going to be wrestling with questions like whether to cut the pensions of retired state workers, cut services for voters, or raise taxes. In this atmosphere, the research university model (in the humanities and, economics and management excepted, the social sciences) may not long survive, at least in the public sector. . . . In the humanities and most of the social “sciences”, the Ph.D and peer review machine as it now exists is a vastly expensive mediocrity factory. It makes education both more expensive and less effective than it needs to be. There are islands and even archipelagos of excellence in the sea of sludge but we needn’t subsidize the sea to preserve them.”

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