(VIDEO) How Politics Has Corrupted Higher Education: College/University Humanities Programs
Roger Kimball (born 1953), a notable American art critic and social commentator, is the Editor and Publisher of The New Criterion and the Publisher of Encounter Books. He was educated at Cheverus High School, a Jesuit institution in South Portland, Maine, and then at Bennington College, where he received his B.A. in philosophy and classical Greek, and at Yale University. He first gained prominence in the early 1990s with the publication of his book, Tenured Radicals: How Politics Has Corrupted Higher Education. He currently serves on the board of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, the board of Transaction Publishers and as a Visitor of Ralston College, a start-up liberal arts college based in Savannah, Georgia. He also served on the Board of Visitors of St. John’s College (Annapolis and Santa Fe). His latest book, The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia, was published by St. Augustine’s Press in June of 2012.
Kimball lectures widely and is a frequent contributor to many newspapers and journals, including The Wall Street Journal, National Review, The Spectator, The New Criterion, The Times Literary Supplement, and The New York Sun. Kimball is also a regular contributor to The New Criterion’s weblog Armavirumque. In the autumn of 2007 he inaugurated Roger’s Rules, a regular column at the Pajamas Media weblog, which was launched in the spring of 2006.
Some of Kimball’s work as a writer is polemical, directed against what he sees as the politicization and “dumbing down” of Western culture and the arts. As Kimball wrote:
For us, the imperative of criticism has revolved primarily around two tasks. . . . The first is the negative task of forthright critical discrimination. To a large extent, that means the gritty job of intellectual and cultural trash collector. . . . [M]uch of what presents itself as art today can scarcely be distinguished from political sermonizing, on the one hand, or the pathetic recapitulation of Dadaist pathologies, on the other. Mastery of the artifice of art is mostly a forgotten, often an actively disparaged, goal. At such a time, simply telling the truth is bound to be regarded as an unwelcome provocation. . . . An equally important part of criticism revolves around the task of battling cultural amnesia. From our first issue, we have labored in the vast storehouse of cultural achievement to introduce, or reintroduce, readers to some of the salient figures whose works helped weave the great unfolding tapestry of our civilization. Writers and artists, philosophers and musicians, scientists, historians, controversialists, explorers, and politicians: The New Criterion has specialized in resuscitating important figures whose voices have been drowned out by the demotic inanities of pop culture or embalmed by the dead hand of the academy.
Many of Kimball’s essays in The New Criterion, and in books like Experiments Against Reality and Lives of the Mind, endeavor to reacquaint readers with important figures from the Western canon whose work he feels has been neglected or misunderstood. Kimball’s interests range from the work of literary figures such as G.C. Lichtenberg, Robert Musil, Walter Pater, Anthony Trollope, Milan Kundera, and P.G. Wodehouse, to philosophers and historians such as Plutarch, Hegel, Walter Bagehot, George Santayana, Raymond Aron, and Leszek Kołakowski. Kimball also writes regularly about art. He has devoted essays to artists from Delacroix and Vuillard to Robert Motherwell, Frank Stella, and Robert Rauschenberg; in recent years, he has been particularly interested in bringing attention to Classical Realism and other contemporary art movements that champion the traditional values and techniques of representational art. In addition, Kimball was instrumental in bringing the thought of the Australian philosopher David Stove (1927–1994) to a wider audience through his anthology of Stove’s writings, Against the Idols of the Age.
First published in 1990, Tenured Radicals: How Politics Has Corrupted Our Higher Education was updated in 1998 and again in 2008. The most recent third edition includes a new introduction by Kimball as well as the preface to the 1998 edition. The book critiques the ways in which humanities are currently taught and studied in American universities. The book takes the stance that modern humanities have become politicized while seeking to subvert “the tradition of high culture embodied in the classics of Western art and thought”. Kimball claims that yesterday’s radical thinker has become today’s tenured professor carrying out “ideologically motivated assaults on the intellectual and moral substance of our culture”. The book has been deemed controversial due to its specificity, with the New York Times Book Review’s Roger Rosenblatt noting, “Mr. Kimball names his enemies precisely…This book will breed fistfights.”