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Tom Coburn is a Big Fat Jerk


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Sunday, December 12, 2004

The Academe

Earlier today, I threw out an ancient newspaper article my father had given me about the problems with academia --- in particular, how intellectuals were once an active, vital force which felt moved and able to protest when need be and even fought vigorously among themselves --- but how they have become lifeless, bound by the requirements of the university, including reviews, publish or perish, etc. Get along or get moving. That kind of thing.

Which is, sadly, true, at least in my experience. And which is why I quite willingly, happily and desperately bailed from academia a couple of years ago. Granted, it was a bit by accident --- I bought this place out here, which rendered me entirely incapable of the necessary commute :=D . But not really by accident. Not at all.

I have never felt so entirely stifled, beset upon and intellectually confined as I did in The Academe. Except on those miserable occasions when I've been forced to listen to anyone from the far right.

Which brings me to my current complaint ...

Now I love the hard sciences. And I love scientists. And my experiences in the sciences and with scientists have been overwhelmingly positive.

In fact, I am having to restrain myself from turning this into a I Heart Science Blogs blog.

But the social sciences? Gack. Talk about the pressures of conformity and the necessity of maintaining that aloof, distant, Post-Modernist gaze. Semiotics and whatnot. Reflexivity. Identity. Power relations and the political as the only driving forces of huMan.

In any case, this all came to the fore again this morning, when I went to read a certain blog which was once on my list of recommended blogs and which I felt certain might turn out to be a worthwhile pursuit. A bunch of academics, all soft science --- humanities, the ill-defined Gender Studies type, all that --- not my favorite subjects, but I thought this could very well turn out to be a Martha Moment, A Good Thing, for the debate between Right and Left.

I was wrong. They're thoroughly coopted by The Academe and unable to formulate a thought which might contradict the current reigning Conventional Wisdom. No, fear of tenure, Publish or Perish, all of it has worn them down into a bland mix bearing more similarity to cold, sticky oatmeal than Thoughtful Consideration and Open Debate.

Why can't the soft sciences really be like the sciences, that's what I'd like to know. Why can't they give up the New Agey feel-good stuff, the Post-Modernist Semiotic Reflexive Gaze From Above, the androgenous sexless emotionless myopic self-adulation, and just get down and dirty for once? Especially now when we need it so very badly.

So I read this morning and snarkily replied, then stomped back here in a fit of annoyance. Until I looked around --- the cowboy down the road riding a donkey out front --- a young deer hunter strolling back the other way to his home waving at me with his rifle --- my way too big dogs taking up the entire sofa ---- the cardinals who've wrecked the insulation on the roof of my front porch by nesting in it --- my home roasted coffee brewing --- and my ability to sit here and read whatever I want and think whatever I want and not be pressured to Think The Proper Post-Modernist Identity Politics Semiotic Reflexive Thoughts.

And I'm the lucky one, after all, perhaps. But what has been lost in the process? And why can they no longer --- why will they no longer --- do the rest of us any good? /end of rant

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