Thursday, January 3, 2008

Yes, Megan

it isn't 1989 anymore in academia, and the old grudges you still nurse based, it sometimes seems, on how offended you were by an overly strident professor character on A Different World are still both misinformed and childish. Ward Churchill and Bernie Goldberg do not a reality make, and your experiences with fellow undergrads or postgrads, amazingly, doesn't necessarily speak to the entire body of academia, especially not professors. If I were to speak of academia based on only my own experience I would say Marxism is still quite strong, especially if you count the adherents of modern mutations on the theme crafted to slip past ideological firewalls, but, well.... I recognize limits to the relevance of personal experience and the effect of place and context.
In all, Megan added a grand total of 17 words of original content to this post and still managed to make a number of errors. To begin with, the post Megan links to isn't the post she quoted, or by Posner. Additionally, there's no breakdown of the younger age group by field, that I can find, in the study. I'm not a statistician, so I can't directly challenge the study, but, for the most part, I'd expect the youngest group here to be far and away the smallest, simply by the nature of academia. It takes a while to earn those extra letters after your name, and it can take even longer to translate them into employment as something more than a TA. Without more detailed numbers it's hard to know whether this is a legitimate trend or a quirk of the sampling. To say again, I'm not a statistician, so these are nothing more than amateur musings, but it's a legitimate question in the face of the conclusions Posner, and Megan, are advancing. Finally, at least for me in this post, there's the question of how relevant the political categories of 30-40 years ago are to young academics today. Bush has done a lot to collapse old divisions, especially in academia. Conservative or liberal, it's hard for an educated, intelligent person who isn't on wingnut welfare not to see that Bush and movement conservatism have failed, spectacularly and repeatedly. The animating divide today is not left/right, but realist/ideologue. Furthermore, any reasonably intelligent person, as most in academia tend to be, can recognize that a huge part of Bush's failures grow from his ideological inflexibility. He, and, more importantly, his people, are radical extremists, and I can't help but wonder if BushCo. has had the unexpected benefit of discrediting extremism in general. Perhaps the youth of academia aren't any less liberal, but are more realistic in what they hope to achieve, and more considered in how they hope to achieve it. I don't know, but I also don't know that the study in question provides detailed enough data to speak to such nuances.
Megan seems to simply see "fewer Marxists" as some sort of victory for her once victimized self, and shows a typical lack of interest in the finer details.
Also, the Fitzgerald quote doesn't fit. Maybe she meant it as a swipe at older Marxists, but I'd call that a swing and a miss. I suppose we should be glad she didn't use the spurious Churchill quote about the young being liberal and the old conservative.
(Yes, that quote would be even less relevant, but do you really think that'd stop her from using it?)

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