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If this is a vision of the future of academia, I'm sorry to say that it's extremely troubling.

Stripped of its excess verbiage, Mr. Alexander's call for academic activism precipitates higher education directly into partisan politics. Thus it embodies a demand for the imposition of ideological conformity. One could say, I suppose, that he's merely proposing to formalize the de facto situation. Our institutions of higher learning have travelled a long way down that road already—and we can see that campus activism, whether on climate, race, gender, social justice and economic issues has already narrowed the range of campus thought. Semester by semester, more and more thoughts become unthinkable—thought crimes, as Mr. Orwell called them.

If I understand him correctly, Mr. Alexander's argument is that higher education's core mission is, or should be, to summon the future. It's a mission supposedly justified by the fact that "Colleges and universities are, among other things, precious nodes for humanity’s intelligence and imagination." Well, this may have been true in the past. And in certain areas of inquiry, mostly in the hard sciences, it may remain true today. But in the humanities and the so-called social sciences, radical relativism holds sway—and inevitably, it will come to infect the hard sciences as well. Already we hear claims that mathematics, physics, etc. are artifacts of the "White patriarchy," and that "other ways of knowing" are equally valid. Indeed, the incontrovertible fact that science, as such, is the creation of Western culture and civilization comes under attack from scientists themselves. All this strikes me as the opposite of "intelligence and imagination."

Finally, there's the problem of intellectual vanity, a vice that permeates Mr. Alexander's view of the university's role. Intellectuals, scientists included, have always been prone to this vice, e.g. Bertrand Russell gassing about nuclear disarmament and world peace. Intelligent people who have mastered some branch of knowledge remain fallible human beings. All too often they imagine that their understanding extends to subjects and issues of which they have no more knowledge than many ordinary citizens. A good example is Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, the well-known healthcare expert. How far his expertise really extends is a good question. How much does he really know about hospital administration, medical billing, pharmaceutical research and development, the manufacturing of medical instruments and devices? No, upon examination his knowledge extends over a mere sliver of a complex field, many of whose interconnections neither he nor anybody else understands or perhaps even suspects. Pick any university. Add up the knowlege and expertise of its faculty, administration, support staff and student body. The sum total would not be enough to produce so much as a single bedpan.

To summarize, postmodern progressive ideology is fundamentally opposed to the principle of intellectual freedom that is the one and only justification for the existence of higher education. But that principle is today reviled as a thought crime by the very people charged with its preservation.

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