My Education
My Weekends
My Religion
My Information
My Guilty Pleasure
My Role Model
For Your Eyes
For Your Ears
For Your Palate
For Your Touch
For Your Gag Reflex
For The Love of God

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Why Academia Is Worthless

There's apparently a professor at Bryn Mawr College who has actually written academic papers on the fact that Babar the Elephant is subversive colonial propaganda which attempts to lionize British culture in India. The above article, written about the untimely demise of the apparent inspiration and creator of the aforementioned member of order proboscidea, portrays it as a children's story. Realize that this type of disparity betrays the fundimental, and justified, problem most people have with the academic view of the world.

Babar, in case anyone has not heard, is a story written about a talking elephant and his elephant friends, set in India during the first half of the 20th century. He is written about in a series of books published starting in 1940, and continuing on for fifty years, by Jean and Laurent De Brunhoff with such enthralling titles as Babar Visits Another Planet. The books are, naturally, written from the view of those living in Britan and who grew up during the decline of the empire. The point, then, being espoused by the academic in this case is this: When people write simple books for those who live in the same demographic as them, people who are just learning to read, they tend not to include a postmodernist analysis of cultural relativism, spurning such for maintaining the ethos in which they live.

Is this really a conclusion people need to waste paper on? That, when reading a four year old to sleep, a parent might want to just ignore the superfluous cultural issues and instead have a rich and interesting story about a foreign place? At some point, obfuscating the issue to the point of being utterly oblique is just an exercize in mental masturbation. The thesis advanced here is, literally, "people write from the perspective of their own culture."

This sort of institutionalized hyperintellectualism is damaging in scope beyond just wasting time and funding. It also translates to a fundimental inability of the ivory tower to communicate in a meaningful way with an increasingly fickle public. When policy decisions fail to be made by who has the most compelling reasoning, but rather by who has the most viscerally responsive, simple soundbyes you have problems. This is largely what we have seen happening today, which has existed in the past but to a far lesser degree. Instead of talking, for example, about whether the Bush tax plan is responsable financially or are philosophically justified, the grounds upon which it's been publically debated are whether or not it will get another $300 refund check. Likewise with the war - people are unwilling or unable to digest the theory behind having a liberal state with a government beholden to the people, largely becuase they've been taught a distrust of people using so-called "big words."

The purpose of language is to communicate. Some people need to learn that, paradigmatically, using "What if everyone did this?" in leiu of "Kantian ontology suggests a categorical imperitive in word and deed...." really can be beneficial, and really can get a message across in a more effective and lasting way.

cranked out at 4:45 PM | |

template © elementopia 2003
Chicken and/or Waffles
Be Objective
Be Qualitative
Be Mindless
Be Heartless
Be Confused
Be Aware
The Lounge
Appellate Blog