disinterested science

Brett Knowlton brettk at unica-usa.com
Thu Jul 30 10:26:10 PDT 1998


At 11:38 AM 7/30/98 -0400, you wrote:
>Brett Knowlton:
>> ...
>> On a related topic, I would also like to see more of a balance between
>> "hard" subjects like math, science and economics and "soft" subjects like
>> English and philosophy and humanities in general. All of the prestige in
>> universities these days are in the "hard" departments - all the research
>> dollars flow into these depts., creating higher salaries, better
>> facilities, and the humanities get starved. This focus on "practical"
>> subjects (ones that make it easy to get a job after graduation) is going to
>> impoverish our society intellectually and make people even more docile in
>> the face of economic exploitation.
>> ...
>Given that the academic system serves the bourgeoisie as a
>means of observation and control, any extension of their
>interests in the humanities would not be something I would
>Gordon gcf at panix.com

I don't think its this simple. The humanities departments at universities may still be part of the system, but by and large they are not tools of the system in the sense that they expose students to a wide range of ideas. At Harvard, for example, the government majors read a lot of John Stuart Mill, John Locke, the Federalist papers, etc., and learn about the political debates that have shaped the form of government we now have and other options which were also discussed. Philosophy forces students to confront some subversive ideas and thinkers as well. Reading literature and poetry at least opens you up to the notion that there is more to life than getting a bigger paycheck.

I think the weakening of the humanities is a problem because it is one of the few places that the dominant neo-liberal (or whatever the right buzz word is) ideology isn't rammed down you throat - other alternatives are presented for students to chew on, and to this extent it is a good thing. I don't know if the powers that be are necessarily trying to get the humanities to wither on the vine on purpose, but it is a fact that this is taking place, to the detriment of us all (although I admit strengthening humanities departments comes in second behind a socialist revolution when you look at the big picture).

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