At The American Conservative, Thomas Barlow outlines the damage being done to America’s knowledge base by the culture war on the nation’s college campuses. While competing nations’ students are learning logic and math, American students are being distracted by political battles. Can America’s colleges ever recover from the culture wars they’ve been fighting since the 1960s? It’s hard to see a path forward. Barlow explains what has happened:
Americans used to be proud of their universities. The reasons were simple. Universities taught students how to think, and showed them how to communicate complex ideas. They gave many young people an expertise, a vocation, and a useful purpose in life
Today, however, radicalized faculties and belligerent students are debasing the old model, causing some Americans to have second thoughts….
Software may well be revolutionising the global economy, a trend that will only accelerate as machine learning and artificial intelligence become embedded into our daily lives. But American higher education doesn’t care: It is preoccupied with an alternative vision of the future.
Unfazed by the machine age, American institutions have been squandering capital pursuing hysterical but unverifiable scholarship in a host of faddish and politically contentious disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. At the same time, judging by the bracing culture of outrage on U.S. campuses, they have ramped up production of a new version of an old product: The graduate who is energized not by knowledge but by ideology
Thus, while their counterparts in Asia have been discovering how to control the world through mathematics and software, a good portion of the present generation of American students have wasted their energies on arguments about gendered restrooms, male privilege, and whether controversial conservatives should be allowed to speak or not….
Americans should be worried. History shows that changes in the intellectual wealth of nations matter, and that a divergence in the priorities of higher education systems of different countries can have serious consequences. …
A campus culture that prioritizes political agitation over the disciplined search for truth will tend to produce citizens who rank feelings over reason, and whose lives are increasingly burdened with perceptions of past injustice. By contrast, a university system focused upon technological achievement is more likely to teach its citizens to prize rationality, objectivity, and value creation….
America leads the world in innovation because American know-how and optimism has consistently sought to create a better future through ingenuity and discovery. In their pursuit of rigorous knowledge and technical excellence, American universities have long helped to supercharge their own country and the world’s imagination. But a surge of Chinese capability in computing and artificial intelligence hints at a very different fate—one in which the U.S. may eventually regret its giddy campus radicals and the slow fading of its universities’ standing in technological fields.
Read more here.
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