Academic Orthodoxy

April 27th, 2004

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Stephen H. Balch, president of the National Association of Scholars, has an interesting essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education. The essay is undoubtedly motivated by the efforts of David Horowitz to highlight an apparent lack of ideological diversity in the ranks of university professors. But Balch’s essay is much broader than this debate and worth a read. An excerpt:

“Although interesting and useful work continues to be done in the humanities and social sciences, advancing, in limited areas, knowledge of a typically descriptive character, broad theoretic syntheses commanding anything like a consensus have generally not emerged. Also unlike the natural sciences, sweeping applications of new knowledge have failed to flow from these fields into the larger world. Most disappointing, many have been shown to be highly susceptible to penetration by fads and sects, at times out of a desire to mimic the hard sciences in method and jargon, at times to replace a waning passion for inquiry with a zeal for causes. One crucial result has been a substantial contraction of serious academic discourse about the human condition, and the range of philosophical, cultural, and public-policy issues to which that condition gives rise.”

Balch raises some serious questions about the roles of universities, disciplines, and expertise in contributing knowledge to the broader society. Read the whole thing.

Comments are closed.