There are many things for a traditionalist to dislike in the postmodern university. Its bigotry and persecution of traditionalists, for instance. But too many traditionalists have allowed this dislike to darken their reason and betray them into placing their hope in two dangerous nostrums.
The first nostrum is that a university education should be restricted to STEM fields, with all professors of the humanities set to work in rice paddies and coal mines. This is a terrible idea, and not only because rice and coal production would collapse. While it is true that most humanities departments pullulate with subversive weirdos, that their standards are low where not arbitrary, and that their graduates are mostly penniless malcontents, civilization still requires humanistic education.
Remember, tradition is “handed down” (the word is related to trade, which means to “hand over”), and handing down cannot occur if there are no teachers to do the handing.
It is to the revolutionary thinkers of the eighteenth century that we owe the idea that boys and girls will grow into fine young men and women if society will only leave them alone. Deistical writers laid the groundwork for this idea when they said that there is in every man an intuition of “natural religion,” and that this natural religion will flourish if religious teachers will only leave men alone. The same writers made much of what they called Virtue, by which they meant an innate capacity for goodness that would, they assured us, flourish and prosper if the authorities would only leave men alone.
A traditionalist recognizes that boys and girls have the potential to grow into fine young men and women, but he also knows that this potential will not be actualized in the absence of suitable social institutions. We must educate the potential for piety, virtue and taste, and this means we must “lead” or “draw” it out. You will remember that Socrates described himself as a “midwife,” so he evidently did not believe that young men would give birth to great thoughts if their teachers would only leave them alone.
There is a great deal to admire in the STEM fields, and many scientists and engineers are highly cultured, but the culture of these scientists and engineers was not handed down in their STEM classes. Their potential for piety, virtue and taste was actualized somewhere else. For those fortunate enough to come of good family, the family was one of these places. But they also required other institutions that, in a healthy society, hand tradition down. They required churches, museums, concert halls, libraries and schools. They may even have derived some benefit from the humanities departments in the universities.
If we were to nuke these departments from space, as some on the right propose, the result would not be a New Jerusalem. It would be a philistine society of high-tech barbarians. We must sluce the Augean stables, not demolish them.
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The second deadly nostrum is that we starve the rats in the ivied halls by shifting all higher education to MOOKs, or massive open online courses. I have read literally hundreds of comments from disgruntled men of the right who ask why we don’t simply record the lectures of the best professors and let students everywhere partake of their eloquent wisdom. Here’s the answer.
Because it is absolutely certain that the man holding the microphone in a MOOK will be the best the Left has to offer.
There are, today, non-leftist professors skulking about the ivied halls. They are not numerous and they are not powerful, but they do exist. That means there is a chance that your son or daughter may take a class from some funny old guy who is not a febrile race-class-gender neo-Marxist. In the humanities, the odds of this are, perhaps, around 1:20; but however bleak these odds are, they are a whole lot better than 0:20. And 0:20 would be the odds of some funny old guy who is not a febrile race-class-gender neo-Marxist getting hold of a microphone in a MOOK.
The man with the microphone in the MOOK will naturally be chosen through “peer review,” and since peer-review is mostly butt-sniffing, the vote for the professor who is the best the Left has to offer will be a landslide at nineteen to one.