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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Debating Kate On Academic Accountability

Cactus Kate posted an interesting piece on Auckland Uni law lecturer, Jane Kelsey.

Acknowledging Kelsey's undoubted intelligence and ability, I then asked...

why should taxpayers pay to have their children indoctrinated, intimidated or browbeaten by the likes of Jane Kelsey?".

Kate then replied in a comment.

Because it is excellent training for the "real world" that's why. If these highly educated and privileged students can't stand up and have an opinion and deal with Kelsey in a mature adult fashion, then how are they ever going to make it in a cut throat aggressive professional like law?

Will they run to Mummy and Daddy and say their boss or the opposing counsel is picking on them?

If you are studying law and can't handle Kelsey then you don't deserve to be there.


Here is my reply to Kate.

While it is true Kate, that the ability to argue your case is essential in law and Jane Kelsey may help you improve that ability, that is not my main point. I concede the value of people like Kelsey to play a "devil's advocate" role, however that is not the first role of a teacher, especially at a junior level.

When one studies Geography one does not pay good money to be told the earth is flat. Chemistry lecturers should not be telling you that with the right incantations you can lead into gold.

The hard sciences strive for objective truth. I see no reason why law, economics, political science, sociology, history, psychology etc lecturers, should not strive for the same standard and be held accountable if they cannot deliver it.

Currently lecturers can get away with "junk science" in all those fields. For example some economics lecturers still teach Keynesianism as though it were true, rather than the bullshit it is.

I believe lecturers have an obligation to teach demonstrable facts and principles rather than falsehoods such as Marxism, Keynesianism, Skinnerism etc.

If I pay money for education, I want truth, or at least the best possible approximation.

Students, especially junior students, like any apprentice, should first be taught the basics of their trade. You don't teach a young mechanic, the Marxist theory of motor vehicle production and its relevance to the law of "surplus value"

You teach how to set a spark plug correctly and how to drain a sump.

Sorry Kate, but I wouldn't pay to send my 18 year old to listen to Jane Kelsey's theories on Te Tiriti, Critical Theory and the legal implications of globalisation.

I'd want my son or daughter to learn classical legal principles and their application in creating a free and stable liberal society.

But unfortunately, NZ universities are taxpayer funded entities that the taxpayer has little control over. Unfortunately they are riddled with Marxist academics, many of whom have tenure. Even more unfortunately, some of these warped little tenured tyrants, abuse their powers to attempt to indoctrinate the weak and penalise more independent thinkers.

Would many of the Socialist Sociologists, leftie law lecturers, Keynesian "economists" or Marxist historians survive in the "real world"?

Kate, if you ran a private university, depending on fee paying students and endowments to survive, would you hire Jane Kelsey to teach junior students? Who would you hire to teach economics? Rodney Hide or Tim Hazeldine?

8 Comments:

Anonymous Tim said...

So Trev it's OK for lecturers to advocate for free-market capitalism, but not for any alternative model? To suggest that students should only be exposed "correct" (i.e. neo-liberal) ideas is hardly very libertarian, and scarily reminiscent the Stalinist regimes that you claim to so violently oppose.

Really you're no better than the neo-con Horiwtiz and the McCarthyist "Campus Watch" outfit in the US, who actively campaign for all academics who raise a dissenting voice to the Bush administration's policies to be sacked (and if they happen to be Muslim, deported as well!).

11:22 PM  
Blogger Trevor Loudon said...

What I am saying Tim is that all ideas and the academics who espouse them, shoud be exposed to the rigours of the market.

If universities were all private, you could, if you were silly enough, set up a school that employed mainly Marxist, or Nazi, or Vegan lectuurers. People could then pay to attend and be schooled in your wonderful ideas.

Other people would set up universities, employing staff who taught more rational views. I would send my kids there.

Surely this is fair Tim? Surely if your ideas are sound you will have no fear of selling them on the open market?

Our current socialist approach to higher education allows bad ideas to be promulgated with near zero accountability. How is this fair on the students who have to suffer this crap or the the tax payers who have to fund it?

Why should academics not be exposed to real competition just like the dairy owner, plumber or electrician?

3:12 AM  
Blogger Cactus Kate said...

Trevor, Okay....

"Who would you hire to teach economics? Rodney Hide or Tim Hazeldine?"

Easy. If I had the money, I would hire BOTH Hide and Hazeldine (you forgot Susan St John). Then I would trust in the intellect of the students to work it all out themselves. I would hire them to teach in tandem and compare and contrast the perspectives. That's quality learning.

The point is you have to learn the crap stuff to realise and to be able to argue it is crap. I hate to burst your bubble Trevor but some people think the classical liberal values and ideas we hold true are complete ballocks as well.

That is the beauty of law, most of it is all up in the air and interpretable. It is not precise, it is not a "trade" like plumbing. It is not geography and there is no "flat earth". There sometimes is no "right " and "wrong" answer, only argument.

That's why law is taught at University and not at a Polytechnic. Education is not necessarily about the absolute truth. It is about the promotion of ideas, many of which conflict.

There is no point in your child learning classical liberal legal principles if they cannot argue from all points of view. You cannot do that if you cannot see things from the other side. The learning cannot be in isolation.

"Would many of the Socialist Sociologists, leftie law lecturers, Keynesian "economists" or Marxist historians survive in the "real world"?

That's not really a question. Their purpose is in my view historical. They teach people like myself to believe more in what I believe. They teach us how to see the other side and how to rip it apart.

Sure they may be biased in their marking but if a student cannot hold up their GPA with other subjects then again - don't deserve to be there.

5:25 AM  
Anonymous J said...

Objective truth wins out in the end.Wasting money and time and my childs braincells on Kelsey and co serves no purpose.Should we train our doctors by having them study witchcraft as well Kate...?

9:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The reason that discredited ideas like Marxism continue to survive in the academy is that outside the hard sciences and practical professions, there is no price for being wrong.

If a tenured professor taught his Civil Engineering students that road bridges only needed 18 inch foundations, he'd soon find himself a new job barrowing up concrete to site, rather than designing the improvements to go on it.

If a tenured sociology professor teaches students that the only reason Marxism has failed everywhere it's been tried is because the right people haven't been in charge, everyone (of both sexes) in the faculty lounge wants to blow his dick.

Go figure.

10:30 AM  
Anonymous Cameron said...

Trev and Anon you don't seem to realise that the subjects in the Arts or Law field aren't about objective truth, as one might find in engineering or another hard science. These subjects are there to ensure students realise that there is no objective truth as to which is the best way to organise society - only many different often conflicting view points.

As a Law student I agree with Cactus Kate completely about how Law "is all up in the air and interpretable". Even top Judges all argue with one another all the time as to what the law should be or whether certain legal principles apply in certain situations.

The whole idea of a University is that it is a place where a rich tapestry of ideas can exist. If we were to just hire lefties, libertarians, monkeys or any other group it would be rather boring. I love the fact in my Law course that I can hear a wide range of opinion about issues.

Even in Kelsey's Law and Society class you get quite a sympathetic view of Locke's view on individual liberty and private property ownership, so don't worry about your sons and daughters being brainwashed. In fact I would sooner worry about children being brainwashed from a young age to like Mcdonalds and think promisicous sex is normal (from American mass marketed crap on tv). At least once they get to University they should be old enough to see through brainwashing.

4:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What Kate and Cameron appear to ignore - you cannot have a mouth frothing hard liner of any persuasion teaching existential methodology that does not have a grounding in fact. To say that law is not based on fact is complete hogwash - all criminal acts start with an act (there's a fact) and the law is there to punish the person that offends (another fact). Whethet they like it or not, the law is there to protect the ordinary citizen not some 'head in the clouds' intellectual who has not lived in the real worls. As for art.....

4:32 PM  
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