On the Absurdity of Academia

I’m reading a discussion about university education in the United States on The Economist (a British publication that writes about the US a lot) and I just had to quote this comment. This person truly understands the absurdities one often encounters in academia.

The only worthwhile research is that done in the “hard” sciences and, perhaps, in psychology and sociology. For other disciplines, and I mean history, political science, gender studies, Lit, and languages, the “research” is just endless re-churning of the same data in hopes that this will earn the researcher tenure.

If another book about, for example, the Civil War is never written we will be just fine. It is, though, only a matter of time until an aspiring academic publishes her dissertation, “Pink Union Suits — Gays in the Army of the Potomac.” This will inspire someone to write “Johnny Deb: Coming Out of the Closet in Lee’s Army.” Shortly thereafter will come the first revisionist work, “Ramrod: Male Sexuality in Civil War Armies.” A scholarly conference will ensue with calls for papers and inevitably, a new academic association will emerge. Universities, now wasting taxpayer money with Black Studies, Asian Studies, Queer Studies, Gender Studies, etc., will request — and receive– state funds to establish a Department of Military Sexuality Studies. More conferences more papers . . . more tax money down the drain.

Naive liberal arts majors will emerge up to their kysters in debt assumed to obtain a B.A. in Military Sexuality Studies. They will starve.

Though I disagree a bit – not all humanities* research is useless (I’ve seen interesting political science work about the political system in Belarus, for example, and the 1990s in Russia have not yet been properly examined by historians, so the potential for good work exists there) – this person truly understands the weird, weird ways in which many academics like to analyze events. This comment was just too amazing not to post.

*By humanities, I mean legitimate fields like history, political science, and literature. That gender studies nonsense is not humanities. I don’t even recognize it as a proper academic field in which research should be conducted.

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5 thoughts on “On the Absurdity of Academia

  1. “Male Sexuality in Civil War Armies”… 🙂

    Hello,
    I couldn’t resist myself from leaving a comment. I agree 100%, this entry is really accurate, but myriads of professors have to write something, and history isn’t such prolific theme as for example biology or any kind of science. Naturally it’s fascinating, but it’s sometimes a waste of paper.

    And with gender studies… We’re living in times of political correctness, so we must endure such inventions. As Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn said once, and I agree fully with this man’s opinion, we’re living in times when higher education is accesible to everyone, but not everyone is so gifted to manage higher education. So we have gender studies, european studies (I’ve studied that for some times, I regret), asian studies, caraibian studies and many more…

    it’s “Education bubble”

    Michał,
    z Polski

    1. I’ve heard loads of people say there’s an education bubble and I think that’s probably right, unfortunately 😦 What I’ve never understood is what will happen when this bubble bursts, so to speak. With the housing bubble, no one was buying houses and loads of people lost their houses because they couldn’t make their payments. But this situation isn’t exactly analogous to education – a bank can repossess your education and resell it the way it can with a house! Whatever happens will probably have unpleasant economic effects, though, so I’m not looking forward to finding out what happens. 😦

  2. I did European Studies and did not personally find it a waste of time. Of course, I had the chance to study a lot of political science within it, so maybe that’s why. This has also been very useful for my understanding of the sociology of (European) law, which I feel is a promising field. It’s small, but it has the potential to study a lot of the interactions between law and other actors in society.

    Please enlighten the fool: what’s wrong with gender studies?

    1. Within certain subjects, I think there are classes that are valuable (like your poli sci classes) and those that are not, and whether a person finds that subject a waste of time depends on whether he or she takes the worthwhile classes or not, if that makes sense.

      I’m not keen on gender studies for the reason I mentioned above. Admittedly, some classes that are classified as gender studies are actually rigorous. At my university, there were some literature classes that focused on female writers in South America, for example, and in these classes one actually did serious reading and writing that is expected in a proper humanities class. But there were also classes, such as on called “Masculinities” in which all the students did was look at pictures of penises! (I did not take this class, but my good friend was doing a gender studies concentration and she did.) There were also the classes that analyzed life in general through the viewpoint of “men = bad; women = good” and I think that’s just silly. It’s way too black and white, because obviously there are good and bad men, and there are good and bad women. 🙂

  3. There is something with comment system i guess, it’s my third comment probe… Maybe this time…

    Result of educational bubble could be the only one (ok, two) – unemployment or reeducation in more practical direction .

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