As attractive as these principles seem to be — diversity, choice, alternatives — what do they actually mean in the classroom? Must an astronomer teach astrology? The course on early Christianity include militant atheists? A class on the Holocaust, the Holocaust deniers? A lecture on 9/11, the conspiracy theorists? These "other viewpoints" all have a bevy of experts behind them. The few qualifiers tossed into the proposed Academic Bill of Rights, which specify that diverse views be aired only "where appropriate," do not undo the damage.New Atlantis senior editor Christine Rosen's "The Image Culture":
Under such proposals, the locus of academic freedom moves from teachers to students and parents. "Diversity" and "alternatives" and "choice" for students actually signal the eclipse of academic freedom for teachers, and the spread of bland, if not dishonest, courses. Teachers become purveyors of choice in a full-service cafeteria. Let the students decide between Darwin and Trofim Lysenko or "The Origin of Species" and Genesis. Mesmerized by the jargon of choice, we forget a basic principle: Truth itself is partisan.
Two things in particular are at stake in our contemporary confrontation with an image-based culture: First, technology has considerably undermined our ability to trust what we see, yet we have not adequately grappled with the effects of this on our notions of truth. Second, if we are indeed moving from the era of the printed word to an era dominated by the image, what impact will this have on culture, broadly speaking, and its institutions? What will art, literature, and music look like in the age of the image? And will we, in the age of the image, become too easily accustomed to verisimilar rather than true things, preferring appearance to reality and in the process rejecting the demands of discipline and patience that true things often require of us if we are to understand their meaning and describe it with precision? The potential costs of moving from the printed word to the image are immense. We may find ourselves in a world where our ability to communicate is stunted, our understanding and acceptance of what we see questionable, and our desire to transmit culture from one generation to the next seriously compromised.Franklin Schneider's hilarious essay, "My life among the cubes" in the Washington City Paper:
Read a human-resources manual today. Whereas the field used to be about health plans and 401(k)s, now all the talk is about the Myers-Briggs personality profile, Jungian archetypes, loyalty contracts, ways to interpret body language. The next frontier of loss reduction, of control and efficiency, is the individual.
At my present job, we have after-hours jamborees every Monday, and the weekly announcements end with a passive-aggressive disclaimer along these lines: “Participation is not required, but attendance will be taken.” Week after week, some grinning consultant prods us into reluctant, insincere camaraderie as the stony-faced VPs look on. Role-playing, song-and-dance routines, comedy improv—they do it at Harvard Business School, so it must work!
At one such outing, we had to write our own lyrics to the tune of a popular OutKast song—lyrics praising our company. When one group dared to write a song about how they were still at work at 8 o’clock at night, singing nonsense, when they should be at home living their lives—their performance brought down the house—the faces of upper management clouded over.