May 08

Anthropologist: modern universities breed conformity rather than intellectual curiosity

Many have wondered why most college professors conform to stereotype: hopelessly closed-minded worshippers of elitist, ‘leftist’ ideology.

David Graeber, a professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics and Political Science, suggests in a recent book that the structure and norms of university life breed conformity.

Something about the experience of grad school, the job market, and pre-tenure trials ends up rendering 99 percent of even the most secure academics utterly incapable of meaningful rebellion. It’s a matter that surely deserves sociological analysis. The tenure system is ostensibly there to give professors the security to experiment with potentially dangerous ideas. Yet somehow the process of obtaining it reduces a good proportion of the most perceptive and sophisticated human beings our society produces to a state in which they can’t imagine what a dangerous idea would even look like.

A summary of these points in the Chronicle of Higher Education can be found here.