Academic Exile, Two Years On

From Quillette:

Two years ago, I was fired from my job as a professor at a small mid-western college. I was not fired because of poor teacher ratings, student complaints, data fraud, or any other job-related shortcomings. I was fired because I spoke and wrote openly about human psychological variation, and because I maintained that I would continue to speak and write candidly about that subject and about other potentially controversial topics.

At the time, this development left me shocked and bewildered. In retrospect, it was probably inevitable. Today, my overriding feeling is one of profound disappointment that my perception of an academia guided by evidence and argument instead of political ad hominem attacks proved to be illusory. Although I was quite naïve back then, I was never so foolish as to believe that scholarly debates are always cordial affairs between monocled gentleman who decorate their discourse with phrases like “my dear sir” and “I do beg your pardon.” But I did believe that academia encouraged open exploration and argument and discouraged character assassination and scientific censoriousness. I was wrong.

I encountered intimations of the problems that plague modern academia as soon as I began my college career, but I largely dismissed them because I was studying literature, not electrons, atoms, brains, birds, bears, or anything that could be pinned down. Nevertheless, as a sober-minded student, I was surprised by the popularity of implausible but fashionable ideological currents. So, like any curious scholar, I read the work that was celebrated by my professors and other eminent people in the field—Baudrillard, Barthes, Butler, Derrida, Freud, Jung, Kristeva, Foucault, and Lacan. Some of it was sensible and intelligible, but much of it was so obscure, involuted, or risibly unconvincing that I was left perplexed. For a while, I assumed that my brain simply could not apprehend the profundities of postmodern thought.

While wrestling unsuccessfully with poststructuralism, I also read Robert Wright’s The Moral Animal, and Richard Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene, both of which offered excellent overviews of Darwinian approaches to animal behavior. After many more books and articles and lively debates, I became persuaded of the general power and plausibility of evolutionary psychology. I was baffled by the persistence of literary criticism that remains uninformed by Darwinian analysis, and that even defies it (e.g., Freudianism). After all, why should we not use the best intellectual tools at our disposal to understand Shakespeare, Dickens, or Faulkner?

I was even more taken aback by the antipathy my professors (and other scholars) expressed toward evolutionary psychology. I had encountered many tendentious and hyperbolic denunciations of evolutionary psychology in the literature, but I figured these were the exaggerated attacks of sophisticated partisans, not manifestations of a widespread attitude. Yet, when I started to include evolutionary analyses in my papers, my arguments were vehemently attacked. Some professors even compared Darwinism to fascism and Nazism.

. . . .

My love for literature was propelled by a delight in language and a desire to explore the human condition. But many critics and influential professors seemed to be more interested in advancing avant-garde identity politics than in carefully reading texts and discussing the nuances of diction or symbolism. A popular textbook on literary criticism at the time, for example, included sections on Marxist criticism, feminist criticism, deconstruction, postcolonial and multicultural criticism, and eco-criticism. Man is a political animal, so I have no objection to thinking about the political motivations of authors or characters, but I do object to obsessing over these at the expense of other important features of literature. And I especially object to forcing texts onto a procrustean bed of progressive ideological concerns. (A popular critical activity was to search for what was not in the text to illustrate how that revealed the racism or sexism of the author or his society.)  

Link to the rest at Quillette and thanks to C for the tip.

From Educational Data:

The average debt for a 4-year Bachelor’s degree is $28,800.

  • The average 4-year Bachelor’s degree debt from a public college is $27,000.
  • 65% of students seeking  a Bachelor’s degree from a public 4 year college have student loan debt.
  • The average 4-year Bachelor’s degree debt from a private for-profit college is $39,900.
  • For private non-profit colleges, the average Bachelor’s degree debt is $33,700.

. . . .

Roughly 50% of Bachelor degree graduates who went to a private for-profit 4-year school owed over $40,000 in debt.

. . . .

Average 4-year Bachelor’s Degree Debt by State

The majority of the states with the highest levels of debt are located in the northeast. The low debt states are primarily concentrated in the west. In 26 states the average debt was over $30,000 – 5 of them in particular had an average over $35,000.

  • Over the past 17 years, the student debt load has grown by twice the rate of inflation in 18 states.
  • In 5 states, inflation outpaced the student debt load.
  • New Hampshire has the highest average debt for students with a 4-year Bachelor’s degree – $39,410.
  • Utah has the lowest average debt for students with a 4-year Bachelor’s degree – $17,935.
  • At 74%, New Hampshire and South Dakota are tied as the states with the most amount of students in debt.
  • At 40%, Utah is the state with the least amount of students in debt.

Table of Average Bachelor’s Degree Debt per State

StateAverage DebtPercent of Students with Debt
District of Columbia$32,03946%
New Hampshire$39,41074%
New Jersey$33,56664%
New Mexico$20,99145%
New York$31,15558%
North Carolina$26,58355%
North Dakota$32,74564%
Rhode Island$37,61459%
South Carolina$31,52460%
South Dakota$31,65374%
West Virginia$29,27267%

Link to the rest at Educational Data

PG notes that the average debt of graduates from Law School and Medical School are much higher.

According to the American Bar Association:

  • The average law school graduate owes approximately $165,000 in educational debt upon graduating.
  • More than 95 percent of students take out loans to attend law school.
  • More than 55 percent of students surveyed postponed buying a house, and nearly 30 percent postponed or decided not to get married.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, 70% of medical degree recipients in 2019 had used student loans to pay for medical school. The median amount of medical education debt for those graduates was $200,000.

US News and World Report

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