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« Sinnickal critique | Main | Lewis on radiocarbon »
Friday
Apr182014

The hand that feeds bites back

From time to time I make the observation that many university lecturers are little more than public-funded left-wing political activists, their teaching time devoted to making left-wing activists out of their students, their research devoted to finding ever more dubious reasons for state intervention in the economy and the lives of the people who pay their salaries.

It's the same everywhere of course, and in the USA the Republicans seem to have decided to do something about it.

The Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology Act would cut National Science Foundation funding for research in the social, behavioral and economic sciences by roughly 22 percent.

The measure was introduced by House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.) in March.

I struggle to think of any other way in which you could prevent the political corruption of universities. I'm not even sure that a wholly privatised university sector that raised its funding solely from the private sector would be entirely immune.

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Reader Comments (22)

Well they say the opposite of diversity in the USA is University.

Apr 18, 2014 at 9:34 AM | Registered Commenterretireddave

"I struggle to think of any other way in which you could prevent the political corruption of universities"

I believe that a code of conduct for university research that was independently monitored would be a step in the right direction. Furthermore, all publically funded research should be completely transparent and made available, with no IPR given to the university or individual. The IPR should be held by the UK government.

Apr 18, 2014 at 9:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterCharmingQuark

American Universities are lefty fiefdoms, bloated with tax payer and donor money in endowments. Cumulatively the endowments are in the hundreds of billions of dollars. They are allegedly not for profit, yet operate as businesses. Their leadership level employee salaries are equal to that of private profit industry. Yet they do not pay taxes. They are deeply engaged in politics. As we saw in Virginia, demanding (and too often receiving) special treatment under the law. American Universities enforce their own version of the US Constitution on students and employees, have their own police force. University tuition costs rise much faster than inflation. The Federal government subsidizes high tuition by indenturing our students with huge personal debt, which goes straight to University bottom lines. Yet the quality of education delivered by American Universities is not increasing. By many measures it is decreasing.
This reduction in money towards one the minor ways in which tax payers are forced to subsidize Universities is a nice start.

Apr 18, 2014 at 9:58 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

There are probably some useful subjects for research in economics, sociology and social psychology.

Just not very many.

If you cut the funding, one might hope that a greater percentage of the useful subjects might rise to the top.....? Or do we think that they would be the first to go...?

Apr 18, 2014 at 10:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

"I'm not even sure that a wholly privatised university sector that raised its funding solely from the private sector would be entirely immune."

You and me both.

Let me see, green research promulgation facilities @ LSE, Leeds Uni, Imperial - who could it be?

Apr 18, 2014 at 10:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

The word 'elite' is today almost a dirty word, but there was a logic in reserving the best education for the nation's brightest and best regardless of background. The proportion of young people getting degrees today has shot up, as if enacting that classic Garrison Keillor witticism: "Lake Wobegon... where all the children are above average".

An article in The Economist 5 years ago explained that the payback period for a Masters (i.e., the time required for the individual to recoup his delayed entry to the jobs market) had shot up: a mark of the inflation (or devaluation - the same thing) degrees. With so many academics producing so much 'output', quality has suffered, and in the discipline of Climatism integrity is a major casualty, corrupted by the need to keep the gravy train on the rails.

I do hope that the next UK government will de-fund the corrupt pseudoscience of Climatography. (Note: they don't deserve the 'ology'.)

Apr 18, 2014 at 10:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrent Hargreaves

> If you cut the funding, one might hope that a greater percentage of the useful subjects might rise to the top.....? Or do we think that they would be the first to go...?

They would be first to go. Furnishing and maintaining a physics lab costs a lot of money.

Economics, sociology and social psychology on the other hand are cheap to run.

Apr 18, 2014 at 10:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

"I struggle to think of any other way in which you could prevent the political corruption of universities."

Dissolution of the monasteries.

Apr 18, 2014 at 10:24 AM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

There was somewhere recently a university, I think in the US, that advertised a post for a conservative in a social science dept as a way to try to deal with this problem.
Perhaps this is "another way"?

Apr 18, 2014 at 10:24 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

I guess it's not just US Unis that act as businesses; it is well-known that Cambridge is a major player in industrial and electronic developments in this country. There is a paradox in so many left-wing staff inculcating their students with the beliefs of 'state' is good and capitalism is bad, while being part of a system that is trying to use free-enterprise to capitalise on their own R&D.

Apr 18, 2014 at 10:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

Found it -
http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/college_guide/blog/university_of_colorado_at_boul.php

Apr 18, 2014 at 11:35 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

The cessation of public funds to courses of study that are not deemed essential for society would go a long way in reforming the University system. How many 'experts' in the gender study field of Global Warming's impact on one-legged Inuit Lesbians do we really need to be subsiding?

Apr 18, 2014 at 11:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaul in Sweden

I agree with Terry S, the expensive, "hard" science departments would be the first to go in any university operating as a business. Only mandating by law would preserve what, I think we would all agree as, the core, essential subjects - but that regrettably is contrary to the original concept of a "university"

Apr 18, 2014 at 12:08 PM | Registered Commenterdavidchappell

Recognising the influence of the Left's takeover of our universities is certainly a starting point but the corruption isn't just wide - it is deep. That the likes of Millipede Snr, Hobsbawm and their kin were allowed to corrupt the minds of generations of students without serious opposition will turn out to have been one of this country's greatest post-war mistakes (and we made a few!). It's been much the same in the USA, of course, but you do get the sense that at least in America there is a robust opposition.

Even where the Far Left (that political position the BBC seems never to have heard of) doesn't produce legions of happy little class warriors, as it does to infest the law, teaching and the media, it sets the tone that influences and where it has combined with post-fascist nature worship to produce the 'Green' chimera, it has spread the influence into subjects it could never have hoped to reach, giving rise to nonsense like climate astrology.

Starving the beast is a start, but I'm quite taken with the 'dissolution of the monasteries' comment made earlier in this comments. The rot has gone so deep that starvation alone may not do the trick. Would we really miss most of them?

Apr 18, 2014 at 12:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterUncle Badger

Starving the beast is a start, but I'm quite taken with the 'dissolution of the monasteries' comment made earlier in this comments. The rot has gone so deep that starvation alone may not do the trick. Would we really miss most of them?

In my reverie...........perchance to think of different approaches.

Outside of Oxbridge - and even then with some reservations about those two - I'd have to agree. I've often come across the degree v experience argument and if only schools provided something like the education many received in the earlier part [1900-1960] of the last century. Here, in Britain there would be no real needs of a tertiary education sector. Rolls Royce etc could take able students and teach them what they needed to know about advanced engineering - 'in house' as it were and accountancy, law firms - the same idea.
There could still be individual advanced colleges specific and independent - devoted to further studies in, say a mathematics college - where only students interested in advanced maths need apply. In the pure sciences, Biol maybe, Medicine but connected to hospitals, history, languages, English Lit maybe - but as to the rest of it - who needs it, particularly socio-humanities, economics and anything therein associated. Keep them separate, keep them specific to one subject and branches of that sphere.

Just a thought - I'm not advocating - just speculating.

Apr 18, 2014 at 3:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

I don't see any reason to for this to be politicised. What I have read of social and behavioral studies seem largely bunkum. Economics beyond the basics that everyone agree on (supply and demand and the like) appears to depend so much on an individual's political opinions that it is of little help in forming policy and is only of use in justifying a policy that has been selected according to political bias. A 20% cut? Not enough I say!

Apr 18, 2014 at 3:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterChandra

CharmingQuark wrote:

I believe that a code of conduct for university research that was independently monitored would be a step in the right direction. Furthermore, all publically funded research should be completely transparent and made available, with no IPR given to the university or individual. The IPR should be held by the UK government.

That would be the worst thing possible. "Independent" monitoring of research would ensure that no independent (i.e. sceptical of the consensus) work would get published, or, if it were published, the authors would get into trouble. If you don't believe me look what happened to Bjørn Lomborg after he wrote the Skeptical Environmentalist. Complaints were made to the the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD), a body under Denmark's Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, and the DCSD found Lomborg guilty. Lomborg appealed to the Ministry which asked the DCSD to examine the case afresh but the DCSD refused to do so because they said that if the did so they would come to the same conclusions as they had the first time.

Apr 18, 2014 at 4:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

Universities have so infested government that if the universities were of a religious bent, we would be living in a theocracy.
I agree with Roy that the last thing we need is governments to intervene and make Uni's do anything. That would be putting the mullahs in the hen house.

Apr 19, 2014 at 3:17 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Paul Mathews linked to the University of Colorado at Boulder's privately funded Conservative Scholar in Political Thought and Policy post.

The first year's post went to Steven Hayward of AEI (a conservative think tank in Washington, DC currently helmed by a libertarian, Arthur Brooks). With a series of histories on President Reagan and an annual report on the Environment for AEI. He was my favorite choice for the first year, and I've attended most of the talks he's presented with visiting guests speakers.

Dr Hayward (PhD in American Studies from the Claremont Graduate School in SoCal), has taught the US constitution, conservative political thought, and currently, environmental economics.

Among the handful up for the next two year's annual appointments in the program include the prolific environmental economist Terry Anderson (Montana State university and Political Economy Research Center), and popular historian Arthur Herman.

About a dozen years ago, Herman (PhD, Johns Hopkins University) was rejected for tenure at George Mason University because his book on the McCarthy Era was too politically incorrect. Too "Right-wing."

But he has the last laugh, now! Herman's bestselling books since then have reached far, far more people than any single history department of Leftists could ever reach through corrupting young students over decades!

His book on "How the Scots Invented the Modern World," and the current philosophical romp through 2500 years of thought, "The Cave and The Light: Plato Versus Aristotle, and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization," are among my all-time faves. (But then I hope to get around to his history of British Navel Power soon enough to amend my list.)

Herman and Anderson are my two fave picks for the program - but any of the others will greatly enliven a university and the town of Boulder that's often compared to Berkeley, California in its devout Leftist pieties - a town I've lived in for about two decades.

Professor Hayward has not escaped the wrath or Leftist whiners and fascist nanny minders: a faculty member chimed in with a student politician to call Haywards blogged comments questioning his indoctrination in campus "sensitivity training," "borderline hate speech." MORE, HERE http://www.dailycamera.com/cu-news/ci_25489273/cu-boulder-faculty-members-support-student-criticism-steven

Real, dissenting political thinking will somehow be allowed at the University of Colorado, at Boulder.

Apr 19, 2014 at 10:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterOrson

The history of British navel power sounds like a real page-turner. :)

Seriously, the corruption of academia is a huge issue. When Lewandowsky's fifth rate papers are accepted for publication, and he is a Professor who has just been headhunted and given a pay rise, Houston, we have a problem.

Apr 19, 2014 at 11:14 AM | Registered Commenterjohanna

The willingness of many members of the academy to conform should never be underestimated. This is, after all, a group self-selected by its willingness and ability to regurgitate - elegantly - acceptable answers.

Anyone who is surprised by the malignity so routinely displayed should bear in mind that the Inquisition's brightest stars were recruited from the universities.

Apr 19, 2014 at 11:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterHamish McCallum

Coming from a country that relies mainly on farming and associated land-based industries for income from exports and being familiar with the notion of university and government-controlled research and training institutions enriching those industries in all sorts of ways gives me a different perspective than that of my cousins in the UK.
In my view, a university must be a pragmatic response to the real needs of the host society, not a training ground for radicals who have little point of contact with society.

Apr 20, 2014 at 12:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander Kendall

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