The Decline and Fall of Clear Thinking by Butler Shaffer… (“The reality is that a PhD confers upon its recipient no greater capacity for wisdom and thoughtful reflection than is to be found off-campus”)
Few of us can easily surrender our belief that society must somehow make sense. The thought that the state has lost its mind and is punishing so many innocent people is intolerable. And so the evidence has to be internally denied.
One of the myths that helps to sustain our vertically-structured culture is that academia houses the clear-headed, rational thinking necessary for an intelligently run society. Since at least the days in which Plato created the blueprint for a world managed by “philosopher kings,” this premise has been embraced – particularly by academicians who fashion themselves such intellectual monarchs. FDR reinforced such thinking during the New Deal, as Ivy League “experts” constituted his “Brain Trust” to formulate state-imposed rules for bringing society to order.
The idea that academia is comprised of men and women who employ focused reason – rather than fear-driven reaction – in addressing social problems is an article of faith embraced by most people who have never spent much time on university campuses. The reality is that a PhD confers upon its recipient no greater capacity for wisdom and thoughtful reflection than is to be found off-campus. The truth of this observation was revealed in a newspaper story informing us that the Big Ten Conference – a group of twelve of some of the most prestigious universities in America – is considering a proposal that would give its commissioner the power to fire coaches at any of the conference’s schools. The proposition is being advanced, of course, as a knee-jerk response to the recent scandal at Penn State University. Some may object to coalescing athletics and scholarly pursuits; that sports programs are not synonymous with what goes on in academic departments. But the reality is that such extra-curricular activity – particularly the football team – brings far greater amounts of attention, money, and alumni support to the school than do research botanists or fine arts professors. The concern underlying all of this is, as the news story informs us, to punish schools whose behavior harms the conference’s reputation. In our institutionalized world of false-front affectation, the image of those who sit atop the pyramid must be protected at all costs.
Among other thoughts being considered by some Big Ten officials is that Penn State be kicked out of the conference. Should Penn State be prohibited from playing football games in this, or any subsequent season, is another idea that might help restore the desired shine to the Big Ten name. Should those who participated in the sexual abuse of boys be punished for their actions? Among decent and intelligent persons, such a question contains its own answer. The more telling inquiry, however, has to do with what kind of response is appropriate. In a world driven by dark-side forces and reptilian reactions to events, clear thinking is too often confused with trying to justify the wrongdoing. Once the reptilian-brain has been aroused, the response of “see, act!” is all that is allowed.
The idea that the sanctity of a contract between a university and one of its coaches should be disregarded and that one who is not a party to the agreement could terminate it, is so goofy that one would have to suspect its academic origins! Perhaps such power should be bestowed upon usurped by the President of the United States. But is this enough of a sanction? Why not go further, and require Penn State alums to tear up their diplomas and, perhaps, have the rest of the academic community in America shove Penn State down the memory hole? Another option to consider is to have Penn State retroactively forfeit all of its football victories going all the way back to its first season! Do you find such suggestions troubling? What’s the matter with you: are you in favor of molesting young boys?
- Ex-PSU board chair Garban resigns trustee post (espn.go.com)
- Big Ten eyes power to fire coaches, boot teams (tracking.si.com)
- Big Ten Commissioner seeks power to fire coaches, boot Penn State? (thegazette.com)
- Big Ten Football: If Kicking Out Penn State Is on the Table, Put It to a Vote (bleacherreport.com)
- Hoge: Why The Big Ten Should – But Likely Won’t – Kick Penn State Out (chicago.cbslocal.com)
- Report: Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany could get power to fire coaches … – SI.com (tracking.si.com)
- A 2012 Big Ten football schedule without Penn State? Iowa would move … lots (thegazette.com)
- Big Ten Football: 5 Schools That Could Replace Penn State (bleacherreport.com)
- Big Ten may give conference commissioner ability to fire coaches (columbiamissourian.com)
- MURPHY’S LAW: Penn State Shame (whotv.com)