Friday, December 5, 2008

Atlas Shrugs Again

If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject.

Money is the barometer of a society's virtue.

There are two sides to every issue: one side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil.

-Ayn Rand


I've received several questions about a posting on Western Carolina University's receipt of a $1 million payment from BB&T, conditioned on giving Ayn Rand a more prominent place in the business school. To the extent that newspapers are relying solely on a WCU press release to report this big event, readers are missing out on the context and the background that explain why this is a troubling story.
First, the link to the original post, Atlas Shrugged:
Here’s the WCU news release announcing the gift:
http://www.wcu.edu/11588.asp
Here’s a 2006 story on Meredith College’s rejection of the BB&T deal, in the interest of academic freedom:
http://www.indyweek.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A30315
More context on how BB&T has pushed for Ayn Rand at numerous colleges:
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601109&sid=as6BR0QV4KE8&refer=home
And despite their proclaimed enthusiasm for sink-or-swim free market capitalism, BB&T won’t turn down a government bailout. Of course not:
http://philanthropyjournal.blogspot.com/search?q=BB%26T
Though it doesn't address the BB&T matter specifically, this commentary from Cary Nelson, president of the American Association of University Professors, is an eye-opening piece on the trend toward the "corporate university":

6 comments:

kanugalihi said...

thanks for following up on this. i am somewhat torn.

my naive side whispers "Everyone should read those books, because they are self evidently garbage".

This voice is countered by the observation that many indeed have unquestioningly accepted the idyllic description of capitalism, one the simplistic Rand was barely able to coherently express in those weighty tomes.

Academic Freedom is a buzz word these days. Were it a true ideal of this corporate-academy hybridization then the mythological narrative of Rand might be countered by more serious thinkers like John Bellamy Foster or John O'Connor. I am not holding my breath.

Another malevolent gang of ignorance peddlers has already co-opted and ruined the maxim "Teach The Controversy" so I'll refrain from adding it here. But clearly the weight of the intelligent, educated segment of the culture has found Rand's ideas singularly without merit and as empty of any insight (save a fascination with promethean narcissism) as coal slag.

The fallacy of individual initiative as a mechanism to improve the quality of life (whatever that is) of the unwashed masses is toxic to what I imagine many of us would agree truly makes life worth living.

I don't see this going anywhere good. I am thankful that you are watching.

GULAHIYI said...

Aha, interesting reflections. Thanks for reading. Thanks for the comments and thanks for being where you are and doing what you do!

Western North Carolina Writer's Underground said...

Direct, controlling ties between academia and corporations should not be encouraged. Let the faculty, any faculty, with input from inspired thoughtful citizens, choose the curriculum.

This is simply more evidence of Bardolini's megalomania pushing WCU, Cullowhee and Jackson County towards the brink of fascist control rather than leading the faculty and students by positive example up the mountain of intellectual inquiry and freedom.
Sic semper tyrannis

kanugalihi said...

who is the agent at WCU that would be responsible for directing this 'curriculum'? i understand the business school in general, but what does that translate to in terms of making it happen? is that funding a faculty position to advocate for ahem..abjectivism... erm... objectivism in those silly postmodern departments like religious studies psychology biology anthropology and sculpture?

i guess what i am getting at is how this could have many potential effects, most of which probably would be less likely given a more detailed explanation. "Conferring with household name industrial corporations about directing other curricula" is s-k-e-t-c-h-y talk for some scary sounding stuff.

Ignorance is Bliss, Greed is Good, War is Peace, Government is here to Help said...

We certainly do not have a true free-market here in the U.S. (even though we are told we do). Ayn Rand's works are worth reading, discussing and debating. While I don't agree with much of what she writes, it's a good alternate view to how an economy could function.

I believe it's important that many opposing views be studied and discussed in our schools. I also believe education is the responsibility of each individual, and should not be left to the State (or Corporations) alone to provide knowledge and opinion. Personal responsibility goes a long way here.

"The question is not whether Ayn Rand should be required reading, it’s whether any university should take a check which is conditioned on the school teaching a particular book." - a valuable comment from a reader of the Wall Street Journal blog below:

http://blogs.wsj.com/deals/2008/04/11/capitalism-shrugged-should-ayn-rand-be-required-reading/?mod=WSJBlog

GULAHIYI said...

Worthwhile link, Ignorance is Bliss, thanks!

That quote expresses my position on it perfectly. Has WCU established a price list so that we'll all know how much you have to pay in order to buy a place on the curriculum? Maybe it's one of those "if you have to ask, you can't afford it" deals.

I am understanding more and more why GOOD PEOPLE who've worked at WCU for decades are aghast at Bardo's maniacal vision for the University. Moe's Southwestern Grill? Stick it up there next to the Body Farm, why don't you.

By the way:
If Ignorance is Bliss, Why Aren't More People Happy?