Books: Tenured Radicals – How Politics Has Corrupted Our Higher Education by Roger Kimball

by | Jan 16, 2002

In spite of minor flaws, Kimball reveals the monstrous Irrationality of those who shape academia today.

It is not news that many professors in the humanities departments of today’s universities hold and teach ideas that are anti-reason and pro-collectivism. But the depth, the extent, the many forms and the openness with which these ideas are held and spread may come as a shock even to those who have had first-hand contact with academia. Roger Kimball provides a clear, comprehensive, integrated examination of what he refers to as today’s “tenured radicals,” i.e., the professors and deans who dominate today’s academic establishment. It is his aim in this book, he tells us, “to expose these recent developments in the academic study of humanities for what they are: ideologically motivated assaults on the intellectual and moral substance of our culture.” Kimball shows us the radical feminists, who want to transform the curriculum to treat “gender as a fundamental category of literary analysis”; the deconstructionists, who abandon the idea that a literary work has any objective meaning; the “serious” academic researchers who study (and teach about) MTV-style rock videos.

We learn how Stanford University altered its Western-culture requirements in the name of “diversity” (a favorite “codeword,” as Kimball points out) and pluralism.” Now instead of an introduction to the masterpieces, students at Stanford are being offered classes like “Our Bodies, Our Sheep, Our Cosmos, Ourselves.” He shows us how the free expression of ideas on college campuses is being suppressed in order to avoid racial or sexual “insensitivity.” He quotes a Harvard professor who says “the pain that racial insensitivity can create is more Important than a professor’s academic freedom.” But Kimball goes beyond presenting concrete Instances of the tenured radicals and their misdeeds. He presents the motives and the aims of the tenured radicals.

These academics, in spite of their many differences, together present a concerted attack on man’s mind, on objectivity, on individualism, on capitalism, on the fundamental values of Western civilization—and on a rational system of education in the humanities that would uphold those values. “Their object,” Kimball tells us, ‘Sis nothing less than the destruction of the values, methods and goals of traditional humanistic study.” And unlike the people he criticizes in the book, Kimball takes ideas seriously.

For instance, in discussing a professor’s academic denials that there are any independent criteria by which we can evaluate our beliefs and actions, Kimball concretizes that view by showing how it is expressed in the real-world actions of those who brutally assaulted and raped the “Central Park jogger” because—they said—’fit was fun,” Kimball does stumble in places. Perhaps the most significant shortcoming of his analysis is his “primacy of politics,” i.e., his view that achieving their left-wing political agenda is the ultimate goal of the tenured radicals, to which their perversion of the humanities is merely a means. This view IS particularly unfortunate in light of how close he comes to grasping the nihilism implicit (and sometimes explicit) in the statements of the professorial brigade. He fails to see that their left- wing ideas are not ideas in favor of anything, that these ideas are a means of expressing their hatred of knowledge, of achievement, of happiness, of man—i.e., their political views are an expression of their more fundamental nihilism.

Secondly, though he sees the role of Western culture as the foundation of “the democratic institutions and social life of the West,” Kimball seems to treat “tradition,” rather than objectively validated criteria, as the standard by which intellectual works are to be judged.

But in spite of minor flaws, Kimball reveals the monstrous Irrationality of those who shape academia today. In exposing and denouncing this evil, Tenured Radicals provides a much-needed defense of a rational, Western-oriented education and, by implication, of pro-reason ideas throughout our culture.

This review is made available by the Ayn Rand Bookstore (formerly Second Renaissance Books)

The Ayn Rand Bookstore (formerly Second Renaissance Books) is your source for books and lectures for those interested in Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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