‘Higher’ education keeps plumbing new lows
Universities trample genius and terrorise dissenters – here's my suggestion for prospective students
I used to have a neighbour who was a university professor. Every year, she was tasked with having to prove her value to her employer – not by the students she inspired or the ideas she contributed, or the discoveries she made, or even by her sheer hard graft, but by the number of publications in ‘high-impact’ journals and the money she brought in. Her entire tenure depended on it, which is why, every year, she would almost buckle under the pressure.
It was very illuminating to me at the time: I’ve never worked within an academic institution. In fact, it turns out that I’m a bit of an anomaly: I’m an independent academic, do not accept funding from private industry, conduct research for non-profit organisations only, and I hold no patents related to the work I produce. This made me naïve about how universities operate – I didn’t realise the depth and breadth of dysfunction until relatively recently because despite my research work, I never came into direct contact with it.
The episode with Dr Andrew Hill, then, was a rude awakening. Since then, the reality has become crystal clear and it is the same tale of corporate greed and nefarious private influence that we have all become so familiar with.
I think many people recognise that universities depend on private contracts to survive, and that this inevitably shapes research. But few perhaps understand the extent to which this is true, and the damage done.
Here in the UK and I suspect in the US and other countries, we tend to have a romanticised view of universities as the seeding ground of ideas, political movements, scientific invention and exploration. We may think of ivory towers, of students and academics exploring new intellectual avenues or pushing the boundaries of what we already know and can achieve.
Perhaps this deeply ingrained cultural idea of universities as hallowed halls of human endeavour prevents us from seeing the ugly truth: that these institutions are systemically designed to quash genius and terrorise those who do not fall in line with the ideologies held by the universities’ funders.
Thankfully, there are those who are shedding light on what is really going on, and offering constructive ideas about alternatives. I recently interviewed Adrian Price for this Sunday’s Tess Talks: besides being a software engineer, Adrian is a member of the Hardwick Alliance for Real Ecology (HARE), which, amongst other things, has been converting Hardwick House in the UK into a farming cooperative as a model for community food production. Adrian also happens to be the copy editor and proof-reader for a new book called The Dark Side of Academia: How Truth is Suppressed.
Why did I interview the book’s editor and not the author? Because the author has chosen to remain anonymous and thus is only known as The Secret Professor. Her decision is understandable: this is not a book that would help her retain her own university tenure.
I was honoured to be invited to write the Afterword to the book – and I’d like to share an excerpt of this with you here:
Thanks to the Covid-19 crisis we have some insights into the ubiquitous behind the scenes dealings that have corrupted science and scientists. Revelations that outwardly respectable senior academics and their prestigious institutions were hired as lackeys to unscrupulous billionaires and corporations, receiving millions in unlimited research grants to develop and endorse inadequate, unsafe and experimental drugs, carry the winds of change.
The spiritual void that is materialism has left followers addicted to ‘The Science’ bewildered. As the official Covid-19 narrative unravelled, it became increasingly apparent that much of what we have been led to believe as true, both in science and history, may be false.
We have witnessed the re-writing of recent events: definitions changed, nomenclature invented, and web pages deleted or revised. How much of history has been re-written in the last ten years, or twenty years, or fifty years, hundred years and even further back, I now wonder. Is it possible that none of what we have been taught has a shred of truth to it?
After reading The Dark Side of Academia, I have come to the conclusion that critical thinking and genius has been long banished by these legacy institutions that are rotted to the core and now in need of dismantling before they do any further damage to young minds.
To this, I would add that it’s not just damage to young minds we need to be concerned about, it is also damage to their prospects.
In the UK, US, Canada and many other nations, young people are leaving higher education burdened with debt that will follow them for years and even decades after. We have a system whereby the young are heavily in the red before they even start their working lives: on average over £45,000 in the UK, $37,693 in the US, and AUD23,280 in Australia. Debt puts enormous pressure on people and compromises their freedom and choices, contrary to what one is told about university expanding one’s options.
How is this healthy?
We need to tear down the illusion that university is worth impoverishing oneself for, and empower the young to make different choices that allow them to retain their financial freedom. We need to break out of the reductive notion that our value depends on the material wealth we generate, and that university-endorsed science is the be-all and end-all of how the universe works, and reintroduce the spiritual dimension to learning: that deep mystery and wonder at the nature of life and living.
One of my favourite writers, the scientist and mystic Terence McKenna, expressed this beautifully, saying:
“Science is really the plumbing level of reality. The evolution of fairy-tale, the dynamics of love affairs, the quintessence of genius, these are the things that, as human beings, structure and constellate and guide and inform our world, and science has nothing to say about these things. Mathematics on the other hand is like the bedrock celebration of these things, it empowers intuition – it discovers intuition to be the most powerful epistemic tool that we have.”
I suggest that young people really tap into their intuition when considering university courses at this time, and consider the full array of life’s options. If one chooses to go to university, consider boycotting those institutions with entrenched ideology, old boys’ clubs and secret societies; look critically at their allegiances, funding entities and influences, and choose subjects that excite you, rather than obligate you to a boring career for the sake of money.
Adrian and I speak about this and much more in our conversation. Our Tess Talks will be posted here on Sunday morning – please do join us if you can.