Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A very meandering post:

I have been reading and re-reading for the critique of 4GW which has impacted my blogging time somewhat and this process is likely to result in lighter, shorter, postings this week. I had hoped to finish everything by Sunday but I was hit by a nasty cold on Friday, aggravated by an extended bout of snowman building and snowball fighting with The Firstborn and the Son of Zenpundit on Saturday. The virus impacted my general energy level for writing and much of that which remained was consumed by designing a powerpoint presentation for work as well as a frank and very interesting exchange with John Robb over the "Lind Review " of Dr. Barnett's ideas. A discussion picked up by others as well.

Dan of tdaxp is off on a controversial tangent about liberal education, which at this point, I think still requires further clarification and expansion. Liberal education can be subversive of established orders that rest on static assumptions. Dynamic societies require liberal education - or some other process that approximates the same cognitive result in a plurality of the population - in order to retain their dynamism and creativity. As Dr. Chet Richards suggested to Dan:

"You raise an interesting point, and you are right that there are states that would be weakened by liberal education. But for us - the US and the democracies - what's the alternative? Illiberal education?

If exposing people to a wide range of ideas and teaching them to think for themselves is causing us to be vulnerable to 4GW, then we have problems much deeper than even Bill Lind's fertile imagination can conjure.

Any state that is vulnerable to a liberal educational system deserves to disappear (take a glance around the Middle East ...) After all, a state is just a human construct - it serves us, not the other way around, or at least that's the way it's supposed to work."

A fair question would be how liberal is American education these days ? A liberal education is certainly available in the sense of being possible for those students who take some intiative, if you accept a broad definition of the term, but even so there has been, at all levels of education, a retreat from that ideal in the public sphere. There we see movement toward required indoctrination of multicultural-leftist attitudes or rote mastery of facts without a concomitant critical analysis ( in some schools, both at once). And of course some private institutions of education have always explicitly rejected that model in favor of indoctrinating rival, usually authoritarian, philosophical values. Students receiving this kind of education represent a tiny fringe of the population, even amongst those educated privately or homeschooled.

Ninety percent of all Americans are educated in the public schools. What happens there matters a great deal.
There is nothing wrong with a liberal education; however, it is the left leaning subversive professors that disturb me. I have had more than my fair share of unfair retrobution just for being a white, male, christian, heterosexual, servicemember and having my own opinion.

Thanks for the link, and the discussion. I began writing the series after a Chinese student in the political science department complained about some cognitivie difficulties she has faced in American education. Specifically, she said that Chinese students face a terrible time with induction, because their educational background focuses on deductive logic. The series doesn't directly address that, but it got me thinking of what effects education-style has on a society.

The series also draws from adolescent psychology, as well as the distinction between liberal and Left education that you mentioned.

PS: Part II, Liberation and Rulesets is now up.
I'm amused by the whinging on in the US about the higher education system.


Primo, having been in Uni systems at under and graduate in the US, Europe and MENA in the 80s, let me assert that the US system generally is excellent at liberal higher education. Excellent.

Real liberal education means tolerating some illiberal professors with either Right or Left illiberalism under their belt. Obviously the Rightists whinging on here and there notice the sins of the Left in this case.

Certainly I am sure humanities remains full of left oriented wooliness. Other fields, as economic and finance, are opposite.

That anonymous has encountered left leaning "subversives" suggests to me he needed to. A good classic liberal (which does not mean left) experience I am sure whatever retrobution [sic] experienced was/is an annoying, irritating but adult making experience.

American students have not encountered real intolerance. Whinging crybabies. (And yes, the Left 'subversives' -the use of subversive shows one does not understand the point of real liberalism [again not US leftism]- are bloody annoying tedious ignorant gits who tend to pimp ignorance as information, like the rotted idiot anti-globalisation fools)

Regarding the quoted comment "Any state that is vulnerable to a liberal educational system deserves to disappear (take a glance around the Middle East ...) After all, a state is just a human construct - it serves us, not the other way around, or at least that's the way it's supposed to work." - this merely betrays a profound ignorance of the MENA region.

Liberal education is a luxury in MENA (which the elite already accesses). More efficient educational systems at their base, something responding remotely to the market is far, far more important. Bloody ignorant baseless parochial navel gazing foolishness as comments.
Hi Dan,

I will check out your new post as i am not sure where you are headed with this one.

hi Col -

"this merely betrays a profound ignorance of the MENA region"

Too quick to judge this time my friend.

LOL ! Actually Dr. Richards has had some extensive time in the ME in a responsible USG position but it was exclusive to KSA.

Nor is KC Johnson, the author of one of the links, on the political right. He's left-of-center as a historian but very much opposed to mindless cant and politicized antics substituting for education or due process

That being said, I agree that American universities are still the best by a good measure. Nor would I purge universities of leftists. Most of my profs were Marxists and I received a fine training in historical methodology from two of them.

The universities are however, certainly sliding in the Humanities where the politicization is out of control. As is the cult of esoteric jargon.

H-Diplo just FWD me some discussions on "Transnationalism" which appears to be less of a new interdisciplinary subfield than the revival of a mystery religion. A few paragraphs in some of the posts veered dangerously close to pure gibberish. What are the undergrads getting out of that kind of nonsense ?

I also agree that the whining is also out of control. I'm pretty far to the right on some issues yet I only had one or two run-ins with leftist wingnuts as a student. Most of them had no stomach for real conflict and their incipient troublemaking was easily quelled by my being upfront and assertive. It's when people flounder in confusion that they end up being bullied.
Too quick to judge this time my friend.

LOL ! Actually Dr. Richards has had some extensive time in the ME in a responsible USG position but it was exclusive to KSA.

Nor is KC Johnson, the author of one of the links, on the political right. He's left-of-center as a historian but very much opposed to mindless cant and politicized antics substituting for education or due process

Then Richards knows fuck all about MENA uni systems or MENA despite whatever time he's been in region (no bloody surprise there), or he's a bloody idiot. That remains profound ignorance and if the idiot wants to argue with me, he's bloody well welcome to, else his ignorance is not my problem, his. I don't give a bloody fuck if the other fellow is Left or Right, irrel to my obs as far as I can tell.
Well, my guess is that MENA university systems were less at the forefront of Richards mind than Dan's contention that liberal education and the inculcation of critical thinking has a negative effect on society, particular democratic ones

I found that H-Diplo message odd as well. I "decode it" as simply saying historical analysis is too wedded to treating the nation-state (or its ancestors) as the unit of analysis. If that's the case, this is a point that many historians have made for quite some time (e.g., William McNeil). That was my take, anyway. The style was well suited for a listserv on German history....
I tend to agree with Col about the whinging and the need to tolerate various types of odd opinions on the part of professors. There's actually a wide variation among institutions of higher learning as well as departments within those institutions.

Liberal education consists of learning to criticize and deconstruct argument. Judging from what the US government presents these days and the uncritical acceptance by the press, it hasn't done too well in the past.

It's possible to learn these skills from a professor with whom you profoundly disagree. In fact, that may make it even easier, unless you choose to focus on how unfair that person is to poor little you.

There are other issues...there never will be "equal time" allowed in science departments to intelligent design because it's not science. Some of what Horowitz and his ilk want to do is to shove propaganda into the curriculum.

I'm sure not keeping up with your posting activity, Mark, even as you are handicapped by the remnants of snow play.


Your blog is superb.

One book i have not seen you refer to is Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil. this deals with the moral trajectory of liberal democracy more profoundly than any other, specifically how renaissance / enlightenment rationalism morphs into relativism/historicism.

ALL traditions become subject to critique and this is socially destructive. of course, this is profoundly paradoxical - rationalism gives us space weapons, but it also make us incapable of fighting counter-insurgency warfare. UK empire rapidly collapsed after becoming democratic - the successful wars (eg. Malaysia) fought in near secrecy by remnants of old elites. impossible now.

so - rationalism = economic growth + better technology AND undermining of traditions including even rationalism - cf. Godel (serious), Derrida / Foucault et al (non-serious but deadly)...

sorry to post so randomly. my real point was that nietzsche's BGE is a crucial text in the NCW/4GW debate...

UK fan
Hi Dan,

I'm glad I'm not alone on that - perhaps the Listserv can be renamed
H-PomoGerman plus some others..

Congrats on your nomination BTW ! Whirledview deserves it.

And yes, the press is intellectually lazy. most of the MSM other than FOX is adversarial toward the administration but they've become a sorry collection of infotainers in the last 15 years.
Hi UK Fan

Excellent, as I am a fan of the UK. :o)

Interesting. Hadn't considered the Nietzsche angle to this subject at all. Of course the last time I read Nietzsche probably was 1989. I have his collected works on a shelf along with the Rudiger Safranski bio ( no relation). I'll take a look tonight, thank you !

Hey - if some of my professional philo guys are out there reading this - Matt, JB - weigh in here on UK's Nietzschean point if you can
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