Thursday, October 28, 2004

Assault on (Higher) Education - a Lakoffian Perspective

Eric at Total Information Awareness wrote two excellent posts on something that touches me personally, yet has much broader consequences on the country as a whole: the well-organized and well-funded assault of the Right on the University.

Academic Freedom Fighters, Parts I and II (check some links in the comments section, too):

There were a couple of other articles on the same topic, e.g., :

The Right's Kind of Campus

Thought Control for Middle East Studies

University of Fear

In Lakoffian perspective, the ultimate goal of Strict Father ideology is the defense and spread of Strict Father ideology, with no tricks and tactics entirely deemed a 'no-no'.

As I keep repeating, inculcation into an ideology is a developmental process starting at birth. Strict Father parents will, without much effort (or perhaps using Dobson's childrearing books they buy at christian bookstores), produce little Strict Fathers of the future. Unfortunately for them, the "childrearing" shelves in bookstores are packed with Benjamin Spock, Penelope Leach, T.Berry Brazelton and the like - an extremely Nurturant Parent bunch of advisors.

But once the kids leave home to go to school, there is interference, as the teachers are generally Nurturant Parents, thus negating the influence of home. For this reason, many conservatives home-school. For the same reason, conservatives push vouchers, pass and underfund NCLB, and generally try to undermine the public schools in order to usher as many kids, especially "their" kids, into parochial schools that continue the Strict Father indoctrination (including corporal punsihment etc.).

In a previous post (, I used the village and the university as examples of environments in which Strict Father and Nurturant Parent models, respectivelly, are easily reproduced. I meant that quite literally. James at the "The Left End of the Dial" understood these to be metaphors, and he may be right:

The metaphor of The Village aptly describes a small, intimate, closed, and a bit paranoid community, in which everyone knows everyone else, keeping the traditions is one of the most important aspects of life, everyone knows one's place, and you can envision the local schoolteacher in a small village school pulling ears and using his ruler to punish every inkling of a kiddo questioning his authority. The outside world is strange and uncomprehensible, thus scary.

The University as a metaphor, on the other hand, evokes a large bustling community of strangers, each bringing in a different set of traditions and beliefs, all questioning authority, all dependent on each other for learning and personal growth. This is an example of a network of intertwined and inter-dependent destinies, each coming in, contributing something, taking away something, and leaving more appreciative of the world as a whole. Students learn from professors, professors learn from students, students learn from students, old barriers fall, old prejudices are erased. It is no coincidence that The University is a metaphor for a Nurturant Parent model of a community.

It is also no coincidence that The University is the seeding place for progress of the society, a place where new ideas first arise before they are disseminated, by departing graduates, into the big world. Of course most of the faculty are liberal. Of course this is a place where young conservatives see the light and become liberals - their own experience in college forces them to abandon the outdated beliefs and traditions they brought from the Villages they grew up in. Liberal Enlightement is slowly and steadily replacing the medieval conservativism, and The University is the way station where this conversion takes place.

So, of course, The University, being the main nexus for turning young Strict Fathers into adult Nurturant Parents, is the logical next target for the remaining rabid conservative groups. If they are to survive, and they can feel the time is working against them, they have to stem the flow of kids leaving them and joining the modernity. Their attempt at imposing conservative faculty on colleges is the most logical thing for them to do. They are pretty smart with the tactics and the use of language, but they are fighting an uphill battle as their enemies are the smartest, best educated, most liberal, and most political people in the country, people who can read right through the fog of words, and have such a majority voice at the University, they will not find it too difficult to defend themselves and their students from the assault of the Right. We'll wait and see if I am correct to feel this optimistic.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 1:40 AM | permalink | (5 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink