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  • snitzoid

Said like a true academic! Ergo someone who's FOS?

My favorite quote of his piece is, "This is what I have learned from my 61 years of teaching at Harvard, living myself in the Ivory Tower. As a political scientist, I can tell you that people often resist being improved, especially in a democracy."

Hey, thanks Eisenstein! I appreciate your efforts to "improve" your young with the "truth" whatever you deem that to be. How do you put it " living a life of honoring truth offers a peculiar satisfaction that does you no worldly good"

Dumbass...the point of college isn't for you to spoon-feed adolescents your luminescent view of humanity. It's to teach them how to think so they can thrive in the post-Ivy League jungle out there. They do that by socratically being exposed to differing points of view (left, right, up down) and being forced to debate those and god forbid think on their feet.

Guess what! You idiots are failing miserably at that. You discourage or outright punish any student or academic who goes against progressive herd and mire your students in exorbitant costs/debt for a product that's going the way of the didinosaur.

Some ententrepreneur somewhere is figuring out how to provide this product at a reasonable price (probably in 3 years, 4 is too long) with instructors whose opinions run the gamut and encourage enlightened debate. Folks who are evaluated on their "teaching" chops not their "grant writing or publishing" chops.

It's time to recite the prayer for the dead.

Who’s Holding Up the Ivory Tower?

Liberals want academia to reflect society, while conservatives know it has to rise above society.

By Harvey C. Mansfield, Prof of Government, Harvard Univ for the WSJ

Jan. 11, 2024

Claudine Gay herself best stated the issue of her brief presidency of Harvard. When her appointment was announced, she declared that “the idea of the Ivory Tower, that is the past, not the future, of academia.” We must be a “part” of society, not outside it. What is the difference she invokes?

The Ivory Tower is often used to dismiss academia, and the metaphor is rarely examined for its virtue. Ivory is a natural substance that is rare, precious and pure. It’s also fragile: An ivory tower probably wouldn’t stand without a mix of steel and concrete. It signifies a university that is indeed in society but towers above it because it seeks to find truth out of what society takes for granted. A university doesn’t possess truth as much as it honors it. Society’s interest above all is justice—the Declaration of Independence states “self-evident” truths that serve justice—and society surely wants its justice to be true, but it doesn’t honor truth as Harvard does by having “Veritas”as its motto.

Honoring anything implies inequality and isn’t very democratic. Honor can best be understood as doing good in a way that is against your interest. Honoring truth as a professor isn’t lucrative, though our prosperous society keeps academics out of penury. Nor is questioning popular belief the avenue to popularity. But living a life of honoring truth offers a peculiar satisfaction that does you no worldly good. You realize that you could have sought money or acclaim but doing so would have a cost that can be appreciated only from the Ivory Tower. Still, thanks to good-hearted Americans, you won’t have to suffer the fate of Socrates. They will honor you as a professor even though they wouldn’t vote for you as dogcatcher.

This is what I have learned from my 61 years of teaching at Harvard, living myself in the Ivory Tower. As a political scientist I can tell you that people often resist being improved, especially in a democracy. Harvard is woke, but half the country dislikes woke, and the university has suffered two severe blows to its reputation: the Supreme Court’s decision against affirmative action, and the resignation of its president after a weak performance at a congressional hearing and the discovery of her plagiarism. It turns out that the society of which Harvard wants to be “a part” contains Republicans, the very ones woke folk despise and ignore.

In practice, becoming part of society is a partisan act, and it led to something Harvard wasn’t ready for: doing battle with Republicans. After decades of favoring the left in admissions and appointments, after the past decade of intense devotion to “diversity,” and after holding year-end commencements that resembled Democratic Party conventions, Harvard has at last encountered opposition that is angry and alert.

The university’s political acumen was tested. It consulted lawyers, apparently all Democrats, who failed to grasp that their advice should be for the university not to sound like a lawyer. It failed to consult Republicans in Congress who are Harvard graduates—and there are more of them than you would think. It did nothing to propitiate New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, Harvard class of 2006, whom it ousted in January 2021 from an advisory committee of the Harvard Institute of Politics for having endorsed Donald Trump’s objection to the 2020 presidential election count. However mendacious Mr. Trump is, this is the sort of gratuitous insult politicians avoid. It isn’t likely Ms. Stefanik had forgotten about it when she addressed Ms. Gay in the congressional hearing.

Many at Harvard recoiled in indignation at this criticism, which they claim challenges Harvard’s independence. Two political maxims apply. One is French: “This animal is very wicked; when you attack it, it defends itself.” A second is Harry S. Truman’s gibe: “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” How can a functioning part of society claim independence from it? What would be the basis of Harvard’s independence if it isn’t some version of the Ivory Tower?

Those who lead the Ivory Tower in America today are unworthy of it because they don’t care for it. Woke progressives like Claudine Gay lead the way with identity politics; liberals, greater in number, follow with misgivings but without protest. Though both have suddenly lost a battle, they won’t be ousted by force alone.

Progressives can be opposed directly and have been by opinions of the Supreme Court. Liberals need to be convinced. They believe in inclusiveness, particularly of the vulnerable. Their morality is confined to compassion, and their liberalism is devoted to a lifelong search for people to feel sorry for. They don’t feel sorry for conservatives and see no need to appoint them as professors. They need to learn that morality has to do with admiration as well as compassion, and that the public’s admiration of the Ivory Tower rests on excellence one can admire, not on compassion and identity.

Conservatives can enjoy the present discomfort of those who exclude them, but it isn’t enough for them to play rough. They won’t get a foot in the door of a university with a doctrine that wants to expel those inside already. It is surprising but true that today conservatives, not the liberals who control universities, stand for academic excellence. Grade inflation by itself proves that liberals don’t know how to run universities.

Conservatives are best equipped to think about the Ivory Tower and what makes it excellent.

An essential ingredient is disagreement. The Ivory Tower is a place for the meeting of minds—even if they only argue. It’s an old idea, more workable than woke, with plenty of life left in it.

Mr. Mansfield is a professor of government at Harvard.

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