Friday, June 2, 2017

Will the Bullshitization Going On at US Universities End Up Destroying the Hard Sciences?

By Robert Higgs

For a century or so, U.S. universities have been an adornment of American culture, and indeed of world culture, but, with notable exceptions, only in the sciences. Bright people have flocked to the USA from all parts of the world to study, research, and teach in physics, chemistry, biology, other physical and life sciences, and related fields such as medicine, mathematics, and engineering. The products are all around us, from life-saving drugs to the Internet, smart phones, GPS guidance systems, and countless other marvels.

But in the humanities and social sciences, the story has been different, especially during the past forty years, as Marxist-spawned doctrines such as Critical Theory and Multicultural This and That have proliferated, destroying disciplines such as English, history, sociology, anthropology, and even in large part economics and replacing them with tendentious dogmas cum jihads such as black studies, gender studies, and LGBT studies.

Moreover, aggressive administrators and zealous faculty adherents of these doctrines have now begun to extend their gaze toward and their interventions in the STEM fields, threatening to destroy the last bastions of what was glorious and truly progressive in the universities. For a long time the faculty in the substantive fields tended to ignore the crazies in the humanities and social sciences, being satisfied to be left alone to do real work. But whether they will be able to continue in this strategy seems now to be in serious question. Pusillanimous administrators have been easily swayed, if they did not in fact lead the way, in favor of the bullshitization of the U.S. universities, turning institutions away from understanding and scholarship toward ideological crusades and identity politics.

If the worthwhile parts of the U.S. universities are to continue to thrive, or even to survive as serious endeavors, it would seem that a parting of the ways must come. The STEM fields must separate themselves from the bullshit parts of the universities. The latter can then go their own way to fester in their nonsense until the general public awakens to the need to cease supporting such activities altogether. This divorce cannot come too soon. Scientific and technical progress is too important to mankind to allow it be be taken hostage by practitioners of anti-rational, mumbo-jumbo-talking, ideological zealots.

The above originally appeared at the Independent Institute.


  1. The k-12 and university systems are antiquated, and have been for at least 2 decades. Even in the 1980s, it was clear to me that private business performed education dramatically more efficiently than colleges. When learning a fairly complex subject, it's not uncommon to take a 3-5 business-day course that would easily encompass a semester in college, and the business-related course is generally something you actually need to learn.

    Now, the things one can learn in online courses are staggering, and often the costs range from inexpensive to free. Much like college, the student of an online course gets a benefit based on the effort put into learning the course material.

    I wouldn't be surprised to see free-market labs pop up that provide basic equipment allowing students to do some of the hands-on work that can't be done online, but the government is destroying universities and making them both too expensive and too irrelevant for students. it's probably good riddance.

    1. Free market education and government schools are not comparable because they don't have the same goals.

      The educational system in the USA functions as it was designed to. It's not designed to produce educated and thinking adults, it is designed to created obedient and dependent fungible human resources. People who believe what they are told to believe. Yes that design is based on what the so-called elite wanted about a century ago but it's still what they want today.

      The entire point of the voucher system for private schools is to make them take on the goals of the government schools.

  2. There is a U of Cincinnati advert at the bottom of my page now! They are funding their own demise, and supporting a deep thinking entrepreneur to boot! How rich.