Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Education and the Will to Power

A few words from Jonathan Haidt, spoken before the Manhattan Institute on November 15. Via AEI and Maggie’s Farm.

Many students are given just one lens—power. Here’s your lens, kid. Look at everything through this lens. Everything is about power. Every situation is analyzed in terms of the bad people acting to preserve their power and privilege over the good people. This is not an education. This is induction into a cult. It’s a fundamentalist religion. It’s a paranoid worldview that separates people from each other and sends them down the road to alienation, anxiety and intellectual impotence. . . .

Let’s return to Jefferson’s vision: “For here we are not afraid to follow the truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error as long as reason is left free to combat it.” Well if Jefferson were to return today and tour our nation’s top universities, he would be shocked at the culture of fear, the tolerance of error, and the shackles placed on reason. . . .

If education is now all about power, we can credit Nietzsche. We see his concept of the “will-to-power” at work in Humanities and some Social Science departments… where the professoriat has decided to use grade-power to impose its will on a hapless and defenseless student body.


David Foster said...

Post and extensive discussion of this at Chicago Boyz:

Professors and the Pornography of Power


Ares Olympus said...

A "powerful" quote. I'm not sure I'd say power as the lens. At least when I hear the word power I first think of all the vast affluence most of us have in this world, living above kings from even 100 years ago, with minimal responsibility, largely unearned, just because we've found a way to change 100 million years of ancient stored sunlight into one-time energy source to do whatever we want.

I found his hour speech on video here, looks worth a listen.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qe6-QSnQTdg The Age of Outrage: What It's Doing to Our Universities, and Our Country | Manhattan Institute
Jonathan Haidt is a social psychologist who specializes in morality and the moral emotions. He is the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business. Haidt is also the co-founder of EthicalSystems.org (a collaboration that promotes behavioral approaches to business ethics) and HeterodoxAcademy.org (a collaboration among scholars trying to increase viewpoint diversity and improve the quality of research in the academy).

Ares Olympus said...

p.s. I listened to Haidt's lecture. I see the power quote is from around 42 minutes.

In the same minute, he mentioned an essay from a queer person describing the activism group he left. Here it is. It makes sense that reform can only comes from true believers who have lost their faith and can then see their own excesses directly, and help others not fall as deeply into the same traps.
...There is something dark and vaguely cultish about this particular brand of politics. I’ve thought a lot about what exactly that is. I’ve pinned down four core features that make it so disturbing: dogmatism, groupthink, a crusader mentality, and anti-intellectualism. ... The following is as much a confession as it is an admonishment. I will not mention a single sin that I have not been fully and damnably guilty of in my time.
So, let me give a few pieces of constructive advice to anyone interested in anti-oppressive and/or leftist activism: embrace humility, treat people as individuals, learn to be diplomatic, and take a systems approach.