johns hot take

JOHNS | What Three Decades of Academic Narcissism Have Wrought

Writing on his time as a professor at Cornell University in the 1960s, Allan Bloom noted that students at this university had discerned that “freedom of thought” simply wasn’t “a good and useful thing, that they suspected that all this was ideology protecting the injustices of our ‘system.’” An invitation: Eavesdrop on any political conversation in the Temple of Zeus to see just how universal that mentality has become today. In his groundbreaking and hugely influential 1987 work The Closing of the American Mind, Bloom attempts to dissect and identify precisely what he saw as pervasive problems in American academia. Although often appreciated as a historical work, we now live in its wake: The students Bloom wrote about have since entered academia themselves, educating an entire generation under that same ethos. Their students have then in turn educated their children — our classmates — under a twice-removed skepticism that lurches ever closer toward total rejection of the rigor and “freedom of thought” that inspired Bloom’s academic cohort in the 20th century. To its credit, Cornell University still maintains some modicum of commitment to these ideals.