Jonathan Haidt has argued that a university can seek truth, or it can pursue justice, but not both. He’s right about the dichotomy, but I’m not sure he’s best identified the two choices. Getting the truth is far above anyone’s pay grade. It’s enough to know that it’s right to tighten, left to loosen. And justice is a philosophical concept, well beyond the ken of those who’ve learned that that’s not funny and neither is anything else. So I’d prefer to describe the split as between useful and feckless.

With the possible exception of the University of Chicago – and even they’re beginning to cave – the humanities and social sciences departments in universities in the U.S., Canada, the UK and the Antipodes have all gone woke. As a result they’re turning out graduates who can’t get a job, or if they do, they can’t do the job. And employers are beginning to notice. In the global economy they’re beginning to lose out to polities that remain relatively unwoke. But what can they do? These feckless graduates are all they can get.

Not so. Not if some Bill Gates or Elon Musk, or maybe just a gofundme campaign, will give me a paltry hundred million dollars or so. Then I and a few of my buddies could start up Unwoke U. Because it wouldn’t file an EDI report it wouldn’t get accredited. But accredited by whom? Certainly those desperate employers wouldn’t care. And because our graduates would out-perform their feckless competition, soon enough all the woke U’s would go back to proper education, God would be in His heaven, and all would once again be well in the world.

So what would Unwoke U look like? Much as I’d like it to convey the wisdom of the entire globe, that couldn’t be done in four decades let alone four years. And a little knowledge is just another word for ignorant. Fine, you might say. But then why choose the colonialist’s wisdom? Well, because that’s the wisdom nine tenths of the world has chosen.

Chosen? Or chosen for them. And as often as not by force of arms. But does that matter? Every one of us is the product of rape. Does that mean we should all just kill ourselves? We could try to resurrect the wisdom of the subaltern. But to what end? To place it along side the wisdom of the coloniser? Fine. But resurrect it over there. Unwoke U has only a limited number of classrooms. Is this elitism? That’s for the market to decide.

In no particular order, let’s start with the classics. Then philosophy, from Plato and Aristotle to Hobbes and Locke, and then from Hume to Wittgenstein and Dennett. And history, so students know what worked and what didn’t. Some social science, but make it science, not activism. Speaking of which – science, that is – start with what we know for certain – that would take a nano-second – and then what we suspect about the world and how we might confirm or falsify these suspicions. Would that we could, but we can’t afford a medicine or engineering or a law faculty. But we can send our graduates to these schools.

Would our students match the profile of the community from which they’re drawn? Probably. Would our faculty match the profile of the students they serve? Probably not. We’re the colonisers, remember! So would students be made to feel inferior to their instructors? I should hope so! Would I bring back the cane? Let me think about that one.

None of this is going to happen, at least not in my lifetime. But it has happened. Critical Race Theorists tell us western prosperity was built on the backs of Black slaves. Yes, but in equal measure on the minds of white tutors in Ancient Greece and Rome, many of whom were also slaves. Shame is not a very productive sentiment. But gratitude is.

Categories: Everything You Wanted to Know About What's Going On in the World But Were Afraid to Ask, Social and Political Philosophy, Why My Colleagues Are Idiots

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1 reply

  1. Dear Professor, I look forward to your periodic musings and enjoy them without exception. Even though I find many of them abstruse, they are all thought provoking, which I suspect is their main objective anyway. I am writing now because this particular missive of yours is refreshingly practical and straightforward, especially coming from a professional philosopher. And also because it contains a generous slice of Truth. And because I agree with it, of course.   Thank you, and carry on, grumpy old professor. Oh, and yes, the market will decide. Skip BrockGrumpy Old Capitalist

    Liked by 1 person

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