Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Wacademia and Peer Pressure

I posted this originally over at Muslihoon's blog, as a comment in response to a post about the Left and Right in academia.


This is what makes the academic Left who they are:

As S. Weasel said, they'd rather be dead than uncool. Academics think they score extremely high on the cool scale, and in some ways they do. They tend to like high-falutin' music (jazz, classical), they are into the arts, theatre, and languages, they are capable of engaging in extremely interesting conversations. And they can be quite clever, too. For this reason, I tend to prefer friends who are academically inclined.

However, academics are universally plagued by the overwhelming fear of being thought foolish by their peers, of not being good enough to be in the Cool Smart People Club. Remember, academics were usually the shy, unpopular kids in elementary through high school. They spent their time with their noses buried in books and encyclopedias, soaking up as much knowledge as possible. Their academic skills earned them the praise of their teachers but the scorn of their classmates.

So when they get to college, suddenly they are the only ones on campus. All of the "cool" kids from high school took other paths. Maybe they're in the sciences or they went to trade school or they got jobs straight out of high school.

At any rate, all of the formerly uncool kids find each other in college, and they are more than happy to dump on all of the "bourgeoisie" who tormented them as children. All of the stuff that interested the uncool kids becomes cool, and they can easily justify their tastes as "better" than those of the masses because the tastes are not as easily cultivated, and they are not as widespread.

If you want to humiliate an academic, accuse him or her of being bourgeois. Or in other words, "common." Unenlightened, like the rest of those rotters who didn't have the brains to go into academia.

So of course, the Left makes a point of seeking out those values that are held by Middle America and deliberately embracing their opposite. They do not in any way make an honest evaluation of traditional or common values to decide which to keep and which to discard; instead, they hold it as a truism that common values are a priori wrong and must be destroyed. They hold up the sacred triumvirate of racism, sexism, and homophobia as societal wrongs that prove that they are in the right.

That's why they call themselves "progresssives": they believe that human society naturally evolves toward perfection, and that conservatives object to the changes they propose out of old-fashioned bigotry and the desire to maintain social status. Again, they point to racism, especially, as an example of how everybody in a society can believe something that is totally wrong and how it takes the actions of brave "radicals" to change society for the better. Because no one today can argue with the fallacy of racial superiority, they claim the high moral ground.

But like I said, they don't differentiate between traditional values that are good and those that should go. They are enamored of the idea that they are at the avant garde of social progress because they, and they alone, are smart enough to see injustice. They, after all, are educated. And education makes you moral.

That's how they see themselves. What they don't see is the degree to which peer pressure informs their opinions. While I was in academia, I heard the siren song of conformity, but I didn't heed it because I knew that the only reason for dropping my old beliefs and conforming to theirs would be to escape ridicule. And no one, especially an academic, likes to be thought a fool.


Muslihoon said...

Thank you for such an excellent comment.

geoff said...

Good points, all.

R.A.H. said...

so if jocks were marxists, then academics would be capitalists? once again meat-heads ruin it for everyone. i think we all know what we have to do now.

S. Weasel said...

Yes, that rings true, though I didn't see it play out, myself. My high school wasn't as Darwinian as some; it essentially operated under nerd rule. And though nerds in ascendency can be as exclusionary as jocks, I took advantantage of the Funny Kid exemption. Funny Kid has diplomatic immunity.

What few teams we had always came in last in the state. Surprise, surprise.