Archive for academic freedom

Robert S Griffin of the University of Vermont

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on June 17, 2009 by spinoza1111

Professor Robert S. Griffin, an education professor at the University of Vermont, supports racist “white identity” viewpoints and integrates those viewpoints with his teaching of education, favoring “traditional” education and the inculcation of “pride” in white students.

Some oh so liberal commentators say sagely that they won’t “call” Griffin a “Nazi”; see below: you can tell an American liberal by his closet or theoretic liberalism: as in the case below of Alex Beam of the Boston Globe, who loves Dick Cheney, these “liberals” have taken so many powerful antibodies to their putative liberalism that their Bantustans are taken over by Nazis as they retreat not with a bang but a whimper.

No, I’ll call this clown, this charlatan Griffin a Nazi.

And a jerk, and a racist, and scum. He doesn’t belong to the teaching profession, because racism as a metaphysic and epistemology is as out dated as Creationism. Period.

The very ability to do university work has preconditions, and one of them is free and open discourse, collegial entry to which is controlled EXCLUSIVELY by the conversation of the would-be entrant, and whether it has enough of a sensible relationship to the pre-existing conversation for the discussants to get anywhere at all.

This is my understanding of Habermas’ notion of civil discourse. It’s all very abstract, and it needs to get down to cases.

Exhibit A: if this foul little man believes that whites are superior and or entitled to rule, he is a walking Title IX discrimination case for the Univ of Vermont and a stick of shitfire with a wick on it. How on earth could a Black student succeed in one of his goddamn little classes? What if she needs it to graduate?

It is a bonehead misunderstanding of epistemology to believe that there is some sort of absolute right inside a university community to “question” “conventional thinking”.

Does this right exist inside the hard sciences? It doesn’t. Being able to do “hard” science means staying as close as possible to the existing paradigm: the role of Thomas Kuhn’s Oedipal paradigm smashers has been, I think, exagerrated, and they are statistically unimportant relative to 99% of scientific work. Furthermore, top scientists (like Einstein vis a vis Copenhagen quantum theory) would disagree with Kuhn: Einstein never went gentle into that good night as he’s supposed to in the Kuhnian playbook, but insisted that Copenhagen must be reconciled with what we know. In fact, scientists who strongly agree with Kuhn are usually thug careerists who like Griffin think the university gives them sugar tit to do what they want.

No scientist frivolously, or as here emotionally based on his hatred of black people, exits such broad areas of agreement, broad areas of agreement which make possible the modern university as opposed to Ole Miss (pre-integration) or Bob Jones.

This clown believes in an academic right to “challenge conventional thinking”. This right exists for a reason, not as an end point: academics, more than ordinary employees, have this right because it’s a road to truth and inclusion of more and more conversants in civil conversation. If most people, affiliated in a professional capacity with a university, feel that racism is like Creationism, “questioning ” Shakespeare’s authorship of the First Folio corpus, and the odious ravings of Ayn Rand (and most people so affiliated feel this way) this means that Griffin’s road leads in the wrong direction.

Hard scientists don’t have their time wasted in this way; why should educationists? Hard scientists are in fact able, within their departmental confines, to be very intolerant of flat earthers, circle squarers and other purveyors of bunkum, and it to me indicates the contempt in which humanists, and here educationists, are held in relative to hard scientists that they don’t have the right to boot right wing lunatics out of the university community.

This clown Griffin, like many redneck fools, believes that “left wing” profs make up their positions as frivolously as he has because neither he nor his redneck friends can do the homework. They haven’t read outside their little disciplines, they are uncultured men, and they aren’t familiar with most of the literature which advances our notion of human freedom, since part of that corpus includes men who are regarded by these creep’s mentors as monstra horrenda.

Thus, having not read Hegel, Kant, Freud, Marx or any number of texts, these redneck clowns hear only paradox and frivolity and conclude that they should be allowed to make their mess, in Griffin’s case on the public dime.

The article mentions one Arthur Butz, a professor of electrical engineering at Northwestern, who has long denied the Holocaust, but his case is different. It is unlikely that Butz’s Holocaust denial would create static or interference in his electrical engineering laboratory, and as long as Butz isn’t an anti-Semite who discriminates against Jewish students (and there is no indication that he is), he probably deserves his tenure. Whereas Griffin explicitly allows his racism to be a part of what he teaches.

This professor needs to be fired.

Stanley Fish: Platonist?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on March 22, 2009 by spinoza1111

More on Stanley Fish’s column “To Boycott or Not … ” (the Shakespearean tag is utterly banal: I cannot bring myself to type it in full):

But the effort to detach Israel from South Africa by claiming that the sins of the latter were much greater than the sins of the former has not been successful, in part because those who make it are trying too hard. (You can almost see the sweat on their foreheads.) The American Association of University Professors ties itself up in knots explaining that while its own history includes ‘support for divestiture during the anti-apartheid campaigns in South Africa,’ it nevertheless opposes this boycott. The rationale seems to be that South Africa was a special, one time case — ‘South Africa is the only instance in which the organization endorsed some form of boycott’ — but that is hardly going to satisfy those who are prosecuting the ‘if-you-protested-injustice-then–you-should-protest-it-now’ argument.

The better course would be for the AAUP and other boycott opponents to accept the equivalence of the two situations, and repudiate what they did in the past. Not ‘what we did then is different from what we decline to do now,’ but ‘we won’t boycott now and we were wrong to boycott then.’

This is because Stanley can’t rid himself of the view that Truth is Timeless and Unchangeable. The AAUP can’t learn, from the effectiveness of South African activists, nor from East German intellectuals who on Nov 9 1989 called for an end to “business as usual” to save their country, because this would mean that Truth changed. It must not repeat its divesture stunt above all, and must (consistently) disclaim any interest, as the American Association of University Professors, hup-ho, in getting involved in politics. It must in fact retroactively support Colonel Lindbergh’s desire that America stay out of Europe, despite Hitler.

The view that Truth changes is thought to lead to a slippery slope, wherein Truth becomes the whim of Rebel Angels such as the monstrum horrendum Denis Rancourt.


Give them an inch, in other words, and they will surely take a mile, boys: the song of the Regents.

However, it’s true that true is always true (this is a tautology) no matter what.

What’s false is that the specific content of truth never changes. A system with a memory that can learn can take note of the effectiveness of anti-apartheid Aktions on university campuses, such as the demonstration against the ambassador of the apartheid government that I attended, on my lunch hour as a Princeton employee, in 1988, and change its systemic behavior.

Unless it is a frozen addictive system without a memory or a capacity for change, members of which have learned sclerosis in graduate skewl.

Social theorist Anne Wilson Schaef has stated, “the addictive system has no memory”. Mirroring the truly foul behavior of students on the campuses, where for example the formerly prelapsarian Princeton nude olympics had to be canceled because of drunken rapine, we find the administration using a learned Platonism more and more to stop Time itself.

Stanley Fish’s concluding paragraph in the same essay bears requoting:

Whether or not divestiture and other actions taken by academics were decisive in, or even strongly contributory to, ending the apartheid regime is in dispute. What should not be in dispute is that those actions, however salutary and productive of good results, were and are antithetical to the academic enterprise, which while it may provide the tools (of argument, fact and historical research) that enable good and righteous deeds, should never presume to perform them.

This is nonsense. In the 19th century, academics as the clerisy were expected to stay, in the negative register, within a very narrow band of righteousness. Women teachers in what corresponded to K..12 were expected to leave the profession on marriage and all were to be sober and industrious. Professors were at least in public expected to comport themselves well. In the positive register, professors were encouraged to be active in the right sort of eleemosynary activities, and in the classroom to advance a muscular Christianity.

Post-Darwin and in the 20th century, this became tricky, whence Daniel Bell’s post-ideology hope that there could remain a large band of “things we do around here” and an equally well-defined set of “things we don’t do around here”: well-defined not apriori (that would be too French), but on a case by case basis: Fish’s references to law are appropriate to his views.

But the postwar boundaries of those sets were never well-defined. Their name was “liberalism”, where the word comes from the Spanish, and originally referred to reformist tendencies in post-Napoleonic Spain that were brutally and quite silently (even in the historical record outside specialist records) suppressed by Britain and a restored Bourbon monarchy in France in the 1820s, in favor of a new stability…and a general European peace which, it must be pointed out (because true objectivity generates complexity, Mister Fish) had not been experienced since the outbreak of the Seven Years War about fifty years prior.

In 20th century America, liberalism turned out to include the overthrow of democratically elected leaders with “Communist” tendencies in Iran, Guatamela, Chile and elsewhere, and the continuation of the general Asian war, which had started in 1933, until 1975.

It also included Clark Kerr’s refusal, in the University of California system of the 1960s, to recognize the students as an estate, participating at all in the governance of the university…which stonewalling produced a self-caricaturing reaction, and the election of Ronald Reagan to the governorship based on Reagan’s marshaling of anti-intellectual demagoguery against supposedly privileged students…who were attending a public university nearly for free, because they weren’t, after all, spoiled brats.

[That would be the Princeton students who made a mess out of the Nude Olympics, and this set of students is disjoint from the Israel boycotters, I’d guess completely.]

Ideas rush in to vacuums where angels, rebel or otherwise, fear to tread. Liberalism was less a plenum than a partial vacuum and by the 1960s the political air supply was changing to today’s toxic brew, because unlike 19th century Americanism, liberalism could not precisely define that inch which if we give said inch unto “them”, “they” might surely take a mile.


The students of the 1960s, and today’s radicals which Fish does his damnednest to make sure stay untenured (he would have to agree that “tenured radicals” is a faery story), and who in my direct experience work their butts off chairing departments at universities such as DeVry, where in my adjunct experience the students, like Elwood Blues, “know all about exploitation” because they been exploited all their lives, were in fact evolving a new model superego.


Feminism became its sexual morality in a few short months in 1971: feminism’s sexual morality of taking-responsibility was why I came to China with seventy-five dollars to my name in 2004, since I’d gone broke making sure my children and their mother could live in a university community.

Just as 19th century American Christian morality incorporated Abolitionism, and just as by 1890 American Christian professors were able to accept the proposition that “slavery is wrong”, the students of the 1960s were evolving super-ego mechanisms.

However, as Charles de Gaulle saw in 1968, functionaries of an information-based society might disruptively use their super-ego on the job, and ask, to what ends are their journalism, their teaching, their computer programming being put? Since De Gaulle, knowing his French people, feared that this would result in a permanent shouting match and bun-fight, DeGaulle screwed the students and paid off the workers.


Likewise, Fish’s underlying fear has always been of the Other with which we might converse, in which his interlocutor says:


(Jenny Holzer, Inflammatory Essays, 1979-1982)

The refusal is the refusal to acknowledge that there is a killing sort of rage at injustice, which might cause people to fire rockets, or (cf. Mamet’s Oleanna) get your tenure denied.

Some people, and many over-socialised men, are able to live in a world where all there is, is killing rage. Others think of Cordelia, non-banally:

O my deere Father, restauratian hang
Thy medicine on my lippes, and let this kisse
Repaire those violent harmes, that my two Sisters
Haue in thy Reuerence made.


But: conceptual artist Jenny Holzer, who I met in 1989, makes it clear through her art that for the moment, anyway, these are just words, and words of the “othered” with whom we can identify by thinking of specific moments in our own lives in which we have been discommoded…”othered”.

Looking for a job, awaiting the tenure decision, getting the old credit card declined, or left in a house with negative equity by a fleeing spouse, we have moments which are not acknowledged in the Platonist discourse, which assumes of necessity that the best life floats at all times above the sordid material basis of time and change…in which people and organizations learn from experience…in my case to pony up for the needs of my kids over twenty long years.

In the movie Good Will Hunting Matt Damon’s Will takes over from his clueless big brother, played by Ben Affleck, in a Harvard bar when a graduate student bullies his brother about “history”. The scene is on YouTube. Because “Will Hunting” has an eidetic memory, he quickly proves that the graduate student is plagiarising an author word for word. Will/Damon graciously concedes that despite his knowledge, obtained “at da public libraahry foah a few dollahs in late chahges”, he won’t get the meal ticket of the Harvard MA or PHD, but nonetheless reveals that the grad student, like so many, defrauds the university (in a far deeper way than a boycott) by essentially parroting received ideas…learning only how to rephrase them so as to avoid the charge (chahge) of plagiarism.

Which gets the girl, in this case Minnie Driver, but that’s not the point.

The point is that Truth, like wisdom in Proverbs 8, and Falstaff’s Lord Chief Justice, crieth out in the market place but no man gives her any mind. Fish’s irresponsible defense of a Platonic truth reduces truth to banal ideas which can’t change.

South Africa was not what Israel is today. In Israel, politicians whose goal is to hold on to power have decided, unlike Woodrow Wilson as regards Pancho Villa in 1916, to generalize police matters (low tech rockets) to a military matter.

This usually doesn’t work from a strategy viewpoint, as witness Woodrow Wilson’s success in eliminating Villa’s threat, and the failure of the Iraq war. But from this generalization it is like Hamlet’s flute to proceed, for “it is as easy as lying” to generalize the military matter to an existential threat by means of which the Israeli people can be held hostage in a failed state.

[Yeah, Mister Fish, we read Shakespeare too, and we ain’t banal, neither. And today, based on my reading the corpus for shits and giggles in 1962 (I was sick of TV already), I can pull quotes out of the Internet: “‘Tis as easie as lying: gouerne these Ventiges with your finger and thumbe, giue it breath with your mouth, and it will discourse most excellent Musicke.”]

In the film, even after being discovered to be a math genius and given a John Nash-like post, Will insists on the university’s material basis. He reminds the grad student in the bar that they are, in addition to students, men, and can always “step outside”: most academics try most of their lives to forget being bullied as children, often by bullying underlings when it’s utterly safe. Will had, as he admitted, lost on the point of the distinction between “an education” and “a diploma” and was willing to “step outside” to settle the original matter, which was that the graduate student was being rude.

Later on, Will (who has his own set of serious personal problems as pointed out by a community college professor played by Robin Williams) asks an interviewer to what use his mathematics might be put, breaking the Platonic block.

Platonism, almost as soon as it appeared, was found wanting because it generated paradox to Parmenides and to Zeno. Nonetheless, it is what’s operating when an adjunct is told to save the world on his own time.

American Platonism, although that sounds like an oxymoron, is the belief that “while we are not able to legislate for all cases the boundaries of what is right, we can legislate in all cases, and whatever we legislate is good for all times and places when we legislate, because Truth is timeless, or something”.

This doesn’t quite make sense: that’s my point: there is a philosophical pathology, both in the sense that bullshit walks the earth on stilts, and it’s the philosopher’s task to point that out as a pathologist. Fish, over-enamored of stare decisis (“let the [older] decision stand, and let it control”), wants the AAUP to be above all consistent: to not only refuse to boycott Israel but to say it was wrong in its support for South African divestiture. And, by implication, that it was right not to speak out as a professional body against Hitler, which I don’t believe it did.

We must be consistent, my darlings, for we are little minds and we like our hobgoblins.

This decay of liberalism of which Fish is a symptom is an isomorph of the map of Israel, not for any mystical nor any anti-Semitic reason, but because the thinking of Israel’s politicians necessarily tracks American thinking. They are averse to Constitution writing: Americans revise their Constitution only with difficulty, and, the American Constitution is the oldest written constitution in the world.

My original, and pre-Vatican II, Catholicism was clear on boundaries, which allowed believers to save the world on their own time. But the thing liberalism has become, like the thing Israel has become, is a sort of Jabba the Hut unable itself to set boundaries but which is all too ready to define others’ boundaries (“this is what I think of your stinking election, Hamas”) as it sits in the bar of the world, expanding its waistline. It can judge, but must not be judged.


Stare decisis, like Fortune to Fluellen, is an excellent moral. It drives the law and our sense of fairness, and Fish learned much more than the usual English prof about the world from his legal studies.

But when Ancient Pistol asks Fluellen in Henry V for mercy for Bardolph, Pistol is not so much appealing for a universal license as for a specific act of intercession. That’s because Shakespeare, like the ordinary slob, knew that the good is a nested concept, where to enforce a good (in the old play, no looting) we, from Pistol up through Fluellen to the King, make choices one at a time.

The truth of South Africa, it is now conceded except perhaps by a few stalwarts in a pub somewhere, is that it was an unjust state and that activism worked even as dissidence worked in East Germany and Russia. It was not expected that activism would work but it did. While retaining a commitment to an abstract conception of truth, goodness, true goodness, and good truth, we can, indeed we must, make hard choices based not on ego mechanisms (which is what we do when we act as employees) but on a superego that is ready, as part of being a super duper ego, to learn, and to admit error.

Thou shalt not be righteous on my time, saith Stanley Fish

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 20, 2009 by spinoza1111


From this week’s Stanley Fish blog

“What should not be in dispute is that those actions, however salutary and productive of good results, were and are antithetical to the academic enterprise, which while it may provide the tools (of argument, fact and historical research) that enable good and righteous deeds, should never presume to perform them.”

Antithetical? Strong words. Is the value-neutral academic enterprise the thesis? And is Loretta Capeheart’s academic activism the antithesis?

Was there a value-neutral academic enterprise when men were men, the women were glad of it, the sheep were nervous, and all departments, even English, happily sawed away like unfall’n angels at building the palace of objective truth?

Only to meet the old Serpent at the crossroads of the 1960s?

Thus Satan, talking to his nearest mate,
With head uplift above the wave, and eyes
That sparkling blazed; his other parts besides
Prone on the flood, extended long and large,
Lay floating many a rood, in bulk as huge
As whom the fables name of monstrous size,
Titanian or Earth-born, that warred on Jove,
Briareos or Typhon, whom the den
By ancient Tarsus held, or that sea-beast
Leviathan, which God of all his works
Created hugest that swim th’ ocean-stream.

I find this myth hard to credit, although there is indeed a myth left over from the Sixties, of the attractive, intelligent, charismatic and rebellious male who made women go weak at the knees, and led the Rebel Angels. Because feminism picked up on this myth, one never finds any attractive, intelligent, charismatic or rebellious males. Martha Nussbaum is the first three, and of necessity as a woman a rebel angel: but Richard A Posner is as far as I can see (having seen him emerge snarling from the Chicago Club: having read his stuff) a nasty piece of work. Women complain about meeting nasty or clueless blokes: the destruction of male self esteem by a misunderstood feminism is the reason.

Like so many men who, whether they like it are not, are children of the Sixties which allowed them to be Bad Boys in the first place, and to fright the ladies with at first left-wing opinions, and then when they tired of that game, with conservative views, Fish don’t seem to know much about history.

Don’t know much about history
Don’t know much biology
Don’t know much about a science book
Don’t know much about the french I took

But I do know that I love you
And I know that if you love me too
What a wonderful world this would be

(Sam Cooke)

This is because his strange conclusion hasn’t been tested against the time before the dreamtime.

In the 1950s, the issue wasn’t whether to boycott Israel. It was signing a loyalty oath to keep your academic job…or staying silent so that your department chair didn’t get a hair up his ass about having his faculty sign a loyalty oath.

The faculty member, importuned to sign, might well demur on the basis of “objectivity”: that his loyalty had “naught to do with Mistress Shore”, that he was a New Critic, exclusively concerned with determining the meaning of the Poet.

Would Fish defend him? Certainly, he’s designed his strange theory in part to keep the university safe from right-wing takeover in addition to a putsch by some putz of the left like Rancourt in the unlikely event that that professor is ever in a position to mount one. But Fish is strangely silent on universities in the heartland which enforce Christianity such as “Bob” Jones.

No, I’m afraid that in the 1950s, Fish would counsel the academic, bullyragged in turn to sign a loyalty oath, to sign it, zip up, and go along to get along: for objectivity in the real world is overdetermined by schlamperei. Furthermore, under Fish’s employment model of academic work, the state legislature or board of directors has the final say.

I therefore see Fish, in the 1950s, counseling Arthur Miller, like Elia Kazan, to be “sensible”, to be “objective”.

Going back further, I am seeing something else.

Horatio: Where, my lord?
Hamlet: In my mind’s eye, Horatio

I see a 1930s Fish writing even-handed columns about you guessed it…Hitler. Mike Godwin, whom I’ve encountered and bantered with electronically, most notably on a Princeton University Press forum moderated by Cass Sunstein in 2000, may feel that I “converge to Hitler” to rapidly. But if Hitler’s miserable existence is to have any meaning at all, it must be as a negative touchstone of righteousness.

Mister Fish, the university community has to presuppose enough righteousness to allow people of different views to gather, and discuss their views. The “gathering” must not be Heideggerian, one of silent Nordic men who agree on so much they need not say a word as the clutch their pitchforks and torches. The staff members in a joint like Princeton have not only to be smart enough to work with students, they also have to be righteous enough not to want to whore themselves out to Wall Street (at such a time when Wall Street returns from its current degringolade) and work for peanuts.

Try teaching a survey class for a change, Mister Fish. See how much righteousness is needed to be patient with boneheads.

I find no model in Torah or Scripture for the man who is neutral even when paid. I find only the righteous and the wicked.

This just in: Avigdor Lieberman, expected to be named Israeli Foreign Minister by Benjamin Netanyahu, “campaigned on the need for a loyalty oath in Israel so that those who do not support a Jewish democratic state would lose their citizenship” (Ethan Bronner, “After war in Gaza, Israel reaches out to fight widening isolation”, International Herald Tribune 20 March 2009).

What is this objectivity, Mister Fish? Is it so easy to bring about this parousia you seek? And might it not be a bit of distraction from tikkun?


Response to Stanley Fish “To boycott or not to boycott”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on March 16, 2009 by spinoza1111

Response to Stanley Fish’s latest column awaiting moderation at this site.

If I understand this correctly, we may not boycott Israel, South Africa, or even the Third Reich as academics but must do so as part of the Crowd: we may not borrow the prestige of the university which exists apart from our affairs.

This is Platonism, because the prestige is created by the efforts of the faculty in large measure, along with that of the janitorial and food service staff. It asserts a property right in the Idea of the University, in its prestige, and declares that the University should not be associated with transient political causes.

The problem is that the university is already embedded within political causes. In America, it’s part of a structure of power, and no-one objects when, for example, the computer science professor uses his university affiliation to whore himself and his graduate students out to corporations.

As I point out elsewhere, science faculty are said to be politically quiescent and this is true. But as I point out elsewhere, there are exceptions.

A notable exception is Noam Chomsky insofar as linguistics is a science. A less well-known exception was the late Edsger Wybe Dijkstra of the Univ of Texas at Austin.

A winner of the 1972 Turing award for figuring out a way of developing reliable software. Dijkstra was throughout his career concerned about the carelessness with which software was being developed…a lack of due diligence which I believe has helped to cause the “credit crisis”, based as it is on overly complex and little-understood financial software.

Late in life (he died in 2002) Dijkstra linked his scientific concerns with a criticism of the university’s built in bias, NOT to liberal causes, but to the needs of corporations.

In an address to matriculating students at UT in 2000, Dijkstra recommended an heresy as regards neoliberalism: an interest in knowledge and in software craftsmanship for its own sake.

I do not know Dijkstra’s broader, political outlook. In fact, he did not make pronouncements on politics and may well have opposed efforts on behalf of boycotting Israel.

But in advocating a boycott, no matter the strength of their language, anti-Israel academics don’t seek to silence their opponents across the board. They are asking for a share in discourse to say what Dijkstra called in a different context “truths that may hurt”.

In his unusual set of views, which prized computing reliability over “wrong answers at high speed”, Dijkstra found himself upsetting people and endangering the corporate position he’d held before becoming an academic, because the corporate world is a network in which what goes around, comes around.

It appears that Dijkstra decided to become an academic in order to be able to write and act with more freedom.

The freedom he sought was a negative freedom. He didn’t want to whore himself out, lending academic authority to unreliable corporate software.

But it was the same kind of freedom Douglas Giles of Roosevelt Univ sought to touch upon “Zionism” in a world religion class, and Loretta Capeheart of Northeastern Illinois uni sought to do participant-observer social field work as a union member.

In all three cases, the Platonic idea of “objectivity” was used against the academic in question. Dijkstra’s views about the necessity of software to be reliable as a matter of lexical priority were called “subjective opinion” merely because they were in a statistical minority at the time, although in the long term he was proven right.

As a lowly adjunct, Giles was considered “subjective” in direct proportion, not to the content of his view but his status, and because participant-observer seems less “scientific” than number crunching, Capeheart was considered highly “subjective”.

But at the zenith, when academics shuttle between teaching and serving a variety of political administrations, this is uniformly regarded as lending prestige to the Idea of the University. Albert Gonzalez, the former Attorney General under President Bush, is engaged in an academic job search and considers his experience as a qualification.

Larry Summers’ presidency of Harvard, although a disaster, is accounted a *Mitzvot* on his resume as he commences a position in Washington.

Sauce for the gander: the Platonic Idea finds itself embed within society: the university, because it lies outside of but is connected to the neoliberal market, finds itself certifying students and faculty for positions inside the market and the market-friendly government. In the market, the Idea finds itself whored out whether we like it or not.

“He’s from Princeton” “ooooohhh”: I have found since leaving Princeton’s employ as a computer programmer that I must always be very precisely describe my relationship to Princeton lest some headhunter dress me in borrowed robes, lest I be promoted from Glamis to Cawdor. I’m prouder of having been an adjunct at Roosevelt and DeVry: but “Princeton”, although a Platonic Ideal, has street cred.

The Platonic ideal is in fact associated with the grubbiest sort of struggle that is unremarked. Princeton’s faculty, especially in the sciences, trade on its Idea and enrich themselves thereby without this being thought unseemly: but woe indeed to the associate faculty who calls for divestiture. What’s wrong with this picture?

Whether we like it or not, the university lends its prestige. It should not do so to “intelligent design”, lousy computer software, anti-Shakespeare authorship zanies, Holocaust denial, the Third Reich, apartheid, or the thing that Israel has become.

Mister Fish, there is a connection which you cannot break between thought and action. Plato tried to break it but his star student Aristotle seemed to have changed his mind.

Let us now praise famous men: Stanley Fish (no) and Edsger Dijkstra (yes)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on March 15, 2009 by spinoza1111

Here’s Yet Another post to Stanley Fish’s blog on academic neoliberalism and how great it sort of is

Let us now praise famous men.

The caricature is that only airy-fairy academics in English or humanities are critics of globalization, while the boys over at the sciences building can be trusted to go along.

But: Edsger Wybe Dijkstra, Turing award winner in 1972 who revolutionised programming as a computer scientist was at the end of a distinguished academic career a critic of neoliberalism.

This was unusual in hard science faculties but not unheard of (Chomsky comes to mind).

Dijkstra saw as a working computer programmer what neoliberalism does to mere craftsmanship. It destroys it.

Dijsktra found major flaws in the hardware of early computers that were being sold by IBM as machines that would make our lives easier, but which were programmed so poorly by untrained programmers, working for managers with a neoliberal anti-intellectualism, that they caused thousands of errors daily, and constructed today’s world of rumor and widespread ignorance, miscalled “skepticism”.

In an address in 2000 to matriculating freshmen at the Univ of Texas (Austin), Dijkstra implored students to love learning, even about mere programming, as an end in itself.

But: I live on an island off Hong Kong. On it are employed “writers” who can neitther parse nor read a complex sentence beyond a low level of complexity, “artists” who cannot draw figuratively, and fat pub bores who can’t make it to the liquor store but who will tell you you’re lying when you say you climbed a mountain.

In the past, I’ve worked for software managers who prided themselves on their ignorance of math, of the sort who pushed programmers to write the code for collateralised debt obligations without understanding the implications of CDOs.

Reductionists, all of these people view any sort of enthusiasm for something other than instant gratification as suspect.

Therefore, I regard it as the height of pernicious absurdity to give up, as Fish pretends to give up, on evaluative judgements in favor of a terribly recreational committment to the mere potential of a neoliberal solution.

For it’s a fantasy that the possibility of arbitration based on costs of benefits erases injustice. It neglects opportunity costs incurred while the plaintiff cools his heels in a real court of law. It neglects transaction costs incurred when the plaintiff spends his last dime on a filing fee.

It pretends, as did the rather infamous Black-Scholes model for hedging in financial markets which caused the East Asian financial crisis of 1998, that there’s this continuous stuff called “money” and that we can all borrow this “money” freely, and use this stuff to settle all questions, like Leibniz proposed to settle all questions using algorithms.

Real money isn’t goop and real people cannot borrow money to sue polluters. Real money consists of nickels and dimes collected by homeless former adjunct professors driven batshit by the economy which cannot be used to pay for a meal at McDonald’s because it’s not our policy. Real money consists of bank accounts drained by Bernie Madoff, and house values destroyed in a heartbeat.

We’ve given the adjunct this goop, this stuff, and this allows us to buy, not his labor, but his labor power. That is, as the old monster Marx saw, the capitalist, or the capitalist university, doesn’t give the worker fair value for labor.

In Marx, the capitalist takes the power of the worker to work, leaving the adjunct in particular at the end of the day a shell of his former self, fleeing the parking lot with a stack of poorly-written term papers forgotten on the car’s roof.

It wastes his spirit in an expense of shame. It reduces the computer programmer who has left university actually interested in software to a drunk and a yob by the time he’s 29. It reduces the adjunct to the sort of professor who fails students for constructing what she’s pleased to consider overly complex sentences.

It takes labour power and it leaves Hollow Men behind.

Dijkstra left an industrial job rather than be transformed into the usual computer scientist whored out to industry or the military, a Hollow Man.

Let us now praise famous men. Mister Fish, you are not one of them.

Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers that begat us.
The Lord hath wrought great glory by them through his great power from the beginning.
Such as did bear rule in their kingdoms, men renowned for their power, giving counsel by their understanding, and declaring prophecies:
Leaders of the people by their counsels, and by their knowledge of learning meet for the people, wise and eloquent are their instructions:
Such as found out musical tunes, and recited verses in writing:
Rich men furnished with ability, living peaceably in their habitations:
All these were honoured in their generations, and were the glory of their times.
There be of them, that have left a name behind them, that their praises might be reported.
And some there be, which have no memorial; who are perished, as though they had never been; and are become as though they had never been born; and their children after them.
But these were merciful men, whose righteousness hath not been forgotten.
With their seed shall continually remain a good inheritance, and their children are within the covenant.
Their seed standeth fast, and their children for their sakes.
Their seed shall remain for ever, and their glory shall not be blotted out.
Their bodies are buried in peace; but their name liveth for evermore.
The people will tell of their wisdom, and the congregation will shew forth their praise.

In the matter of Loretta Capeheart

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on February 22, 2009 by spinoza1111

In my response to “Professor” Fish’s attack on his straw man Denis Rancourt, I mentioned a real-life encounter between Douglas Giles, who was fired by Roosevelt University (my undergraduate alma mater) for the “crime”…of allowing discussion of Zionism…in a class in World Religion, of all things.

For somewhat the same reason Fish refuses to speak to people, to my knowledge, about C. S. Lewis but gives them, to my knowledge, the electronic variant of the cold shoulder or pitying smirk, Fish has or displays no feel for the lifeworld of academia, especially its bottom-feeding depths, although he was perfectly willing to wet his tootsies at Chicago Circle for the big bucks.

Plunge with me into the depths then, a murky world of students majoring mostly in pre-wealth studies, faculty teaching the same crap for forty years, adjuncts fleeing the parking lot who’ve forgotten that they put fifty student essays on their car’s roof, poorly written essays all over Diversey or Touhy or the Dan Ryan, computer science, demands for relevance from people who spell it revelance, a place of wrath and tears and gnashing of teeth.

Loretta Capeheart teaches Justice Studies at Northeastern in Chicago, no not in Boston, Northeastern Illinois, a working-class school. She’s the only faculty member in that department to bother posting a resume on that department’s Web site.

The other members can’t be bothered, or, perhaps, they are part-time, or maybe they are afraid. This last because they voted Prof Capeheart in as chair by a super-majority…only to have their vote overridden by a university provost.

Click the link on “overridden” to read the news article. Yes it’s from the Socialist Worker. However, this Trotskyist journal, based in Chicago, has always shared Leon Trotsky’s belief in objective truth, a belief that Trotsky in fact died for. Trotsky has no chops with high class thugs today: they in a way prefer Stalin, he was one of them. Turd calls to turd: and if non-turd replies, turd is speechless, as Aldous Huxley wrote some time ago.

But, what gives? The department apparently followed a collegial and democratic procedure: Professor Capeheart was recognized by a 2/3 majority of her peers, and this means at least some were able to separate any disagreements over teaching style or politics from formal, academic qualifications.

Her qualifications are top-notch, objectively.

However, as in the case of both Chile in 1973, and Gaza today, elections can and will be overridden in case they displease the top people. Capeheart’s election has not only been placed on hold, the university’s administrators have made a wild and unprovable (but highly ligitable and most stickable toable in the sense of a destroyed reputation) charge that Capeheart’s a “stalker”…although statistically, women don’t “stalk”.

Stanley Fish’s crap about “save the world on your own time”, the title of his latest nonbook, is the source for this statement by NEIU, as reported:

“The university’s argument against Capeheart is that, as an employee of NEIU, she may not sue the university or its officials, contravene their positions, question their conduct or speak as a faculty member on matters of public concern–in other words, an attack on the right of workers to freedom of speech. ‘It’s very Middle Ages,’ said Capeheart, ‘like the lord vs. the serf.'”

No-one, in other words, expects the Spanish Inquisition. But it’s not only Middle Ages, it’s Fish’s highly inappropriate application of 19th century employment law to the college professor, since to the modernizer, exceptions to a general re-enserfment are unenlightened: it’s not in other words the middle ages of ancient liberties: it’s the “modernization” of Phillip II, Roi d’Espagne in the 16th century, who as a go-ahead modernizer wanted to purify Spain…and return it to the good old days, which were, for Phillip, the Dark Ages before those pesky Moors, when men were men, the sheep were nervous, and Christianised Visigoths kept a lid on things, more or less.

It’s a complicated dialectic. But: Fish insists that this is what NEIU can do to a person who paid dues to be recognized as a scholar. They can destroy her career.

Fish justifies this with a strange reified idea that universities should teach pure Theory: that, in his field of English studies, it’s “really” all about a self-referential world of theme, motif, iamb, and strophe, and that these things have “naught to do with Mistress Shore”:

With this, my lord, myself have nought to do.

Naught to do with mistress Shore! I tell thee, fellow,
He that doth naught with her, excepting one,
Were best he do it secretly, alone.

(Shakespeare, Richard III).

Since politics is conducted in language, Fish is I think hard put to maintain that English studies might not be used for good or ill in the political realm. He’s on in fact a razor’s edge: for if we’re not going to save the world on his dime with our little progressive program, then we must it seem go back to the mission of the American university circa 1890, which was to produce muscular Christian men who could quote the Chanson de Roland while whacking the paynim at a latter-day Roncesvalles such as San Juan Hill or Belleau Wood.

My own “academic discipline” was computer science. However, I found that coding software for digital computers had political meaning. Basically, a lot of it has served to make the rich richer and the poor, poorer; for example, IBM programmers at IBM’s Waterbury (CT) center for internal data processing had to modify IBM’s proprietary software to ensure that they themselves got screwed at retirement, as part of Lou Gerstner’s “reforms”.

Dr Capeheart’s discipline is sociology, which is kinda hard to do from other than a progressive, activist, non-theoretical standpoint. Doing sociology requires an ideological committment to an ontology which includes “society”.

But the mad woman Margaret Thatcher, who wasn’t stupid, said it best. From where she sat (to the right of most sensible people), “there is no such thing as society”:

“I think we’ve been through a period where too many people have been given to understand that if they have a problem, it’s the government’s job to cope with it. ‘I have a problem, I’ll get a grant.’ ‘I’m homeless, the government must house me.’ They’re casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It’s our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour. People have got the entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations. There’s no such thing as entitlement, unless someone has first met an obligation.”

Baroness Thatcher deserves some respect for putting things so well and so honestly: but her ontology clearly says that people are so different and so separate that to do sociology on them is immoral.

This is why “progressive politics” is to sociology as “evolution” is to biology: you cannot do sociology without being at least a little progressive and without trying to save the world on your employer’s dime. Certain anthropologists indeed “studied” tribes that were rife with disease and slaughter without doing anything about them, and the anthro/sociologist Stanley Milgram devised an experiment, that cannot be today repeated without violating professional ethics which seemed to reinforce conservative notions of innate authoritarianism; but Dr. Capeheart’s field work was necessarily and with decency about helping the least well off.

If you help Mexicana women unionize, you’re a sociologist in the College of Arts and Sciences. If you help a corporation destroy their union, you’re a business professor in the William E. McSwine Memorial Skewl of Biziness. You can’t make elephants speak French, and you might as well close sociology down. Its pure theory is called “statistics”, and the math boys do a fine job teaching “statistics”. Its practice is either figuring out how we can help the least well off, or figuring out how to control people short of busting heads. But: figuring out how to control people short of busting heads is taught in the Management and the Marketing departments of the William E. McPork Skewl of Bidness, and busting heads is taught at the community college as police science.

But surely, you say, coppers have to take sociology, and surely the rozzers get input from the nice ladies in the sociology department!

Yes they do: even Jeremy Bentham and Thomas Malthus were sociologists. But insofar as they were they were proto-progressives for their times, because short of Hitler’s twisted sociology, sociology has a moral committment to the preservation and flourishing of society and its members, and this is a progressive programme all the way down.

Now, it is true that my fat pal Theodore Adorno (yes, here he comes again, like Hamlet’s dad) separated his concerns as a musicologist, philosopher and sociologist from the demands of New Left students, and tried to teach a class in Baroque aesthetics which the students, Denis Rancourt’s forebears, disrupted famously: wouldn’t I sympathize with Fish’s philosophy because of Adorno’s experience, which may have caused his death?

Well, no. According to Stefan Muller-Doohm’s magisterial biography of Adorno, the disruptive students were madcaps, Stalinists and more like Denis Rancourt, Fish’s carefully selected monstrum horrendum, than a woman who, instead of disrupting her colleague’s work, instead of refusing to do anything her university asked, selectively and apparently with decency and dignity spoke truth to power.

There’s a big difference between criticising an administration on one issue, as did Professor Capeheart as regards the hiring of black and Latina faculty, and Rancourt’s infantile Bartlebyism, in which Rancourt prefers not to do anything asked of him.

Fish is part of an enormous Kulturkampf. Its goal is to create a divide between “real” universities such as Princeton, in which faculty will continue to enjoy a collegial environment, and ersatz-hochschules such as Northeastern Illinois and Roosevelt University. Graduates of the latter will be clearly marked as wogs, as westernized oriental gentlemen. They won’t be able to spell (I note at the Justice Studies web site at Northeastern, that they could not be bothered to use a Web master who could spel gude: cf. “Univerity”). They won’t know much about biology, they will think that Zionism is some sort of Christian sect, and they will not be able to speak truth to power, since they learned to save the world on their own time, and then realized that after working two jobs to pay to go to evening school, they have no time.

But the “credit crisis”, with its blind data processing (its pointers inside of pointers to pointers to loans) shows us what happens when you create a post-Enlightened class of Trogdolytes trained to see what you want them to see, to deny the existence of society, and to transform “justice studies” to a community college department of police science. Men seek to use other men as a blind force, men want Myrmidions to teach survey classes with no back talk. But let’s go out with a bang. Let’s go out with Lev Davidovitch Trotsky:

The historic ascent of humanity, taken as a whole, may be summarized as a succession of victories of consciousness over blind forces – in nature, in society, in man himself.

Northeastern University, in seeking to destroy Loretta Capeheart, seeks to transform Justice Studies to police science, and to deny us any power over society in the form of sociology as activism. Ultimately, we are to confront society as Adorno said the unemployed confront it: a second nature red in tooth in claw, ready in fact to destroy us in a heartbeat.

More in reply to Stanley Fish

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on February 16, 2009 by spinoza1111

How do you teach art history if you’re unable to show Greek sculpture of the human figure due to a rule created to control state employees accessing porn?

That problem is solved easily in Hong Kong. Art supply stores that provide plaster casts to art students simply do not provide nude plaster casts…ever since an art supply store got in trouble for having a plaster cast reproduction of Michelangelo’s David in its shop window. Since there’s no tradition of nudity in Chinese art, the statue was unacceptable and, by community standards, pornographic and offensive.

But here’s my problem with your view, Prof. Fish. A distinction is recognized in the West between “art” and “porn”. Even laypeople (such as jury members) will tell you that the Venus de Milo and David are “art”, whereas Playboy is (soft) porn.

In some famous decisions as regards Ulysses and Henry Miller’s works, the Supreme Court in the USA formulated the ideas of “community standards” and “redeeming social value”, but applying these standards is tricky.

For example, some of William Adolphe Bouguereau’s late 19th century academic nudes are so polished, and the models conventionally sexy enough, that they’d trouble the lay juror in a case (let us say) where a Web site displayed these nudes.

Who would have the chops to tell you that Bouguereau and his nudes have a recognized place in a community (of art historians and students) as Salon art and as a foil, an opposing trend, as regards the Post-Impressionists such as Cezanne?

I’m afraid a state administrator with a manual of rules, or a lawyer, would not know Bouguereau, whose reputation nosedived in the 20th century but which has improved recently. Without knowing that (say) La Source was meant by Bouguereau to have the “redeeming social value” of celebrating rural France, the administrator or the lawyer would have to consult an “expert”.

Houston, we have a problem, because the “expert”, to have chops in our hypothetical court of law, would need professional certification, and this would probably be provided by a university appointment, fulltime or adjunct, as an art historian.

That is: an art historian is judging another art historian or teacher of art history through an interface of lawyers, university administrators, jurors, and messenger boys, with all the loss of signal that implies.

Wouldn’t it be better to handle this problem *collegially*? What would be wrong with a departmental meeting and a discussion of what, in a specific university, in a specific term, with a specific student body, would be appropriate?

And ideally, would it not be best to try to hire and tenure, not childish overaged careerist bums like this Rancourt character appears to be, but honorable men and women who can even make these decisions for a specfic class, saving us all a lot of trouble, and the university a great deal of money?

Or is the race for tenure infantilizing?

What in other words on earth has become of the category of adult?

Why are mad buffoons considered adequate to represent the statistical mean, medium and mode, and not a man like John “A Beautiful Mind” Nash, who used the freedom he was given to teach and tutor math for free, and never bothered anyone?

And why must men like Nash, who suffer so many slings and arrows, and women faculty, who suffer the same and sexism to boot, live under rules that they could themselves devise and apply?

And, Prof. Fish, why at your age do you find it so amusing to tell your colleagues, who make one-tenth of what you’ve made, to save the world on their own time?

What’s so funny about peace, love, and understanding, and at that level, are there any discussable alternatives, given that a civil society, and a university, requires a modicum of peace, love and understanding?

Professor Fish, if there is no daylight between the corporate system and the university community, then to the extent that the corporation is a boot, “too big to fail”, too massive to be discarded, stamping on a human face, then the quiescent professoriat must be part of a boot stamping on a human face.

But if you ask the ordinary man on the street if a professor is “just like” a corporate sales trainer (“third prize is you’re fired”) or a drill instructor, he’d laugh at you. People make enormous sacrifices to get to a point where owing to a liberal education, they can internalize what Kant called the moral law within them, and what Kant compared to the starry skies above them.

Men in prison fight to get that degree which makes them men, because the degree assures the employer that the job candidate is prepared to make sensible decisions without consulting a rule book, and to participate in writing the rule book.

It appears to me that you haven’t ever had enough adversity in your life to teach and modify a syllabus sensibly while being constantly informed, by students and administrators, that you are a necessary adjunct evil and a marginal, dangerous supplement, a temporary employee and a temporary person who doesn’t make enough money to be anything more than a joke.

You don’t seem to realize that human dignity which is the origin of rule-making and even of rule-breaking in service of a neighboring higher rule, because last week you caricatured it from your perch.

You owe us all an apology.