The Dark Side of Academic Specialization

As I have progressed in my academic studies–I am now about half way through a Master’s program–I have become increasingly perturbed by scholarship that references a narrow circle of people and is answerable only to that narrow circle. Scholars too often lose sight of a wider world outside their reference group and the result is shoddy scholarship, irrationality that passes for critical thinking because no one within their reference group challenges it. Ironically, I now face this with a cabal of four professors who have taken over the program that I am enrolled in, professors who think it sufficient to be critical of empiricism, but fail to recognize a false dichotomy. Because the positivist-empiricist model has severe flaws, they accept post-positivism as immune from a requirement for proof and thus place post-positivism beyond critical examination. And they are enamored with a hodge-podge of theories–insights, rather–that are not nearly so compelling as they imagine. For them, context and interpretation do not exist before hermeneutics. Semiotics might fail entirely to account for manipulative interactions, such as propaganda, such as the games some lovers play, but for them, it is still a complete theory. For them, the realization that cognition precedes action is sufficient to rationalize an arcane approach to theory that redefines reality so as to insulate themselves from reality.

The program I am in is not the program I signed up for. It is no longer my scholarly “home.” Many professors I respected and admired have now left. My fellow students–on the whole, a better group than those who dominated the program when I entered–will share my alienation. Due to a timing that means I cannot enter a Ph.D. program before Fall 2009, I will be witness to much more trouble ahead.

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