The social sciences and humanities have not produced much of intellectual value for 25 years or so, but they have been enormously productive in generating “isms”—widely held allegedly toxic beliefs that are said to undermine a professor-defined “good society.” The notable classics—“racism,” “sexism,” classism, and nativism—once sufficed, but unexpected bursts of faculty creativity have given us ableism (privileging of the so-called physically “able”), Eurocentrism, ethnocentrism, elitism, masculinism, fatism (disdaining the differently sized), phallocentrism, and scentism (imposing the odor of one’s perfume or cologne on others), but not yet phalloscentism—the belief that men smell bad.
Ageism, lookism (judging people by physical appearances),
heterosexualism (privileging heterosexuals) and credentialism
(emphasizing paper credentials) are approaching classic status. So is
speciesism, the faulty belief that humans are somehow more important
than deer ticks.
Continue reading The Next Toxic Ism: Realism
New Pew Research Center data show that a large majority of Americans think U.S. colleges and universities offer only fair or poor value for the financial cost -but college presidents strikingly disagree, with a majority of them thinking college offers at least a good value (though college presidents are overwhelmingly pessimistic about the quality of American higher education compared to the world ten years from now). Similarly, a majority of Americans question whether college is truly affordable any more, a view that most college presidents do not share. More generally, people in the academy have views widely divergent from the mainstream of the American population.
Turning to college presidents, I think a lot of this attitudinal divide relates to the non-market environment in which colleges operate. How do you become a successful college president? You raise lots of money, which you then use to bribe the various constituents in the university community to keep them happy. The faculty you bribe with low teaching loads, good fringe benefits, and perhaps a nearby parking place. Your fellow top administrators whose support is vital you bribe with not only good salaries, but also lots of assistants who do much of the heavy lifting associated with the job. You bribe the students by giving them nice recreational and dorm facilities, and reach an implicit bargain with them to not demand much academically (hence grade inflation) and to largely ignore their hedonistic bouts of alcoholic and sexual excesses. You bribe the alumni with decent football and basketball teams and a nice campus facility where they can hang out. You bribe the trustees with whatever idiosyncratic whim they want. In short, you spend money to keep a narrow group of people associated with the Ivory Tower happy.
Contrast that with business leaders. They are motivated by profits, maximizing the gap between revenue and costs. To increase revenues, they must please vast numbers of persons with new or improved products. They also enhance profits by reducing costs, raising productivity so they can do more with less. They reward subordinates who further these goals with bonuses, stock options, etc.
Continue reading Why University Presidents Are Clueless About the Real World