Economist Douglass North in passing posits a theory of demand for government funding of education in his book The Economic Growth of the United States, 1790-1860. Investment in knowledge represents a deliberate decision by a society to divert resources from more immediately productive pursuits. Implicitly or explicitly, a society makes assumptions about the returns on such investment which affect the level of expenditure of tax monies. The amount of capital diverted into investment in knowledge will depend upon the structure of political power and the attitudes of that group in society which is in a position to enact legislation regarding taxes…
Anyone who takes higher education seriously attends to the words of legendary teachers. They are likely to be undisciplined, witty, and unfashionable; about great books; ironic about the careerism of their colleagues, students, and administrative bosses; self-indulgent; and insistently erotic, without being creepy.
In our Books section this week, Alan Tarr, master scholar of state supreme courts, reviews James Gibson's book Electing Judges. An excerpt: Many of those concerned about the effects of campaign activity on judicial legitimacy have assumed that citizens share the legal profession’s view that politics undermines judicial independence and hence judicial legitimacy. Gibson’s research suggests, however, that public attitudes are more diverse and more complex. While some respondents shared the legal profession’s strong concern about judicial independence, many others favored judicial independence from the executive but were skeptical of judicial independence from the community and its values. . . . …
Robert C. Koons, a philosophy professor at the University of Texas at Austin, has written a piece titled “Dark Satanic Mills of Mis-Education: Some Proposals for Reform” in Humanitas. The problems at Behemoth State University (here Koons self-consciously borrows from Russell Kirk) did not begin, Koons writes, “with Sputnik or the G. I. Bill.”
Instead, Koons—with help from Irving Babbitt and C. S. Lewis—identifies two principal foes, neither one a twentieth century progressive: Francis Bacon and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. He writes,
We can best understand the modern university by seeing it as built on the synthesis of these two tendencies, Baconian and Rousseauan. We now justify the hard sciences almost entirely in pragmatic and utilitarian terms, as the incubators of technology, not as observatories from which to behold and contemplate the music of the spheres. In contrast, many in the humanities, as well as most in the new fields of “communications” and “education,” have abandoned the hard road of fact to become the playgrounds of “values.” Since all value is the arbitrary projection and construction of liberated egos, there is no true hierarchy of value to be learned and internalized and to structure the course of learning into a true curriculum.
This work is a continuing development of Koons’s earlier reflections on what he calls the uncurriculum that dominates the landscape of research—and many would-be research—universities. Basically, an uncurriculum is the system of distributive requirements that universities demand from students, for the benefit of the professors, under the guise of giving students choices. The result: Professors get to teach whatever they want to teach that furthers their research interests, and students are required to take those classes, independent from their interests or how such classes could help or develop them.