Posts Tagged ‘Universities’

Do Violence, Bias & Abuse Help Research?

January 16, 2016

Sexism is not humanly, ethologically, culturally, economically, civilizationally, emotionally, poetically, romantically and scientifically correct. Moreover it flows and then encourages, a general mood of violence, abuse, exploitation against all and any human being. It also rests on many a stupidity, thus foster stupidity. But, as we will see, there is worse.

Thanks to Sean Carrol for an  excellent essay condemning abusive harassment of women in science: “We Suck (but we can be better)”. A reminder: sexist research found, decades ago, that the brains of women and men were different. Many powers jumped on that result to claim the poor results of women in science, or the intellect in general, were thus justified.

However, upon closer examination, that was simply not true. Unsurprisingly, it was found female and male brains are not quite the same, except that one could not tell, and some of the differences are the opposite of what’s expected: most brains are a haphazard mosaic of female and male features.

Researchers have identified several structural differences between the brains of men and women, but they form changing mosaics from individual to individual, making it impossible to tell the sex of an individual based solely on MRI images of the brain like the one above.

Researchers have identified several structural differences between the brains of men and women, but they form changing mosaics from individual to individual, making it impossible to tell the sex of an individual based solely on MRI images of the brain like the one above.

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2015/11/brains-men-and-women-aren-t-really-different-study-finds

In the end, therefore, human beings are not just bisexual, but multisexual. To boot, the varying influence of some hormones rule, haphazardly, while having nothing to do with pure intellectual performance.

The reason for the intellectual equality between human sexes is obvious: prehistoric life required women to be pluripotent, because they had to replace men. When men were far away hunting big game, patrolling territory, or at war, women had to be able to replace them completely, even for defense and hunting. More recently, Roman legionnaires were very surprised when they discovered that German women wielding swords turned out be what prevented German men to retreat.

The reason for having a non-sexist society is that we double the number of brains, thus increase considerably the number of ideas. It was obvious all along that females could perform at the very highest mental level: Emilie du Chatelet, after all, discovered the concept of energy, ½ mv^2 (Newton confused energy and momentum, apparently). She also discovered a few other things, such as infrared radiation, although she died in childbirth.

https://patriceayme.wordpress.com/2014/12/28/non-locality/

So sexism is a form of abuse, and, ultimately, not just a form of abuse of particular individuals, but of society itself, as it deprives society of half of its best elements.

And that is the connection with the violence made to graduate students. The American fundamental research system depends upon 120 institutions. However, many of the most prestigious universities, in their most prestigious departments depend upon a system of exploitation, or even abuse, of their students.

It works this way, even in public universities: the graduate students make all the necessary work (be it basic research or basic undergraduate teaching, or both). However some of these university departments have ridiculously low rates of attribution of the PhD. Say 10%. This means they use to teach, or do research students who, statistically, have no probability to get what they are after.

I personally witness ultimate violence in some of the world’s most famous universities. All the way to murder (I may give more details in a further version of this essay).

In 1998, Jason Altom, a graduate student in chemistry at Harvard, took his own life. Renowned among his contemporaries as both an extraordinarily talented scientist and a meticulous personality, he left behind a pointed note:

“This event could have been avoided,” the note began. “Professors here have too much power over the lives of their grad students.” The letter recommended adoption of a three-member faculty committee to monitor each graduate student’s progress and “provide protection for graduate students from abusive research advisers. If I had such a committee now I know things would be different.” It was the first time, a columnist for The Crimson observed later, that a suicide note took the form of a policy memo.

It seems clear in the behavior of Harvard’s (Nobel Prize) Corey. By telling his star student who committed suicide that, after five years, he had made “no intellectual contribution”, Corey was actually committing a crime. OK, the law does not strike this sort of abuse yet for what they are: potentially lethal abuse. Why? Because this is so typical of what happen in so many graduate department in the USA. It’s a bit as when there were slaves everywhere in the USA: it was legal, and it felt normal.

It is important to remedy this. How? Notice science was not as cut-throat in the 1960s: young professors could afford to buy a house next to a prestigious university (it’s not the case anymore). Young professors were typically on tenure track, graduate student were treated decently, etc.

Then things changed: American man had landed on the moon, science was not needed anymore. Investment in science went down, culminating with Congress yanking out the super collider. Society decided to do science and intellect on the cheap. Cut-throat academia came into being.

Treating women students well enough to have as many of them as men will improve quality, it will also force society to realize that research cannot depend upon abuse and exploitation of people, but its exact opposite: the fragile blossoming of ideas rejects relations brimming with the grossest powers.

Rejecting violence, exploitation and abuse will force society to put more (relative) resources into (fundamental) research, the way it used to be, not so long ago. Instead of treating graduate students as modern slaves, universities will have to recognize their humanity, dignity, hence foster their responsibility and independent judgment, producing higher quality thinking. Ultimately thinking blossoms from the debate of many minds, and not just the celebrity cult. Cutting throats does not help.

However, a cut-throat establishment may want research to be in its image, abusive and exploitative, to justify its own mood. Hence the present plutocratic university system is not here by accident, engaging into satanic behavior, just because bad things happen. Far from it. To teach celebritism, oligarchism, and even abuse, exploitation, sadism, and inhuman behavior is entirely what the present educational system sees, secretly, as its mission.

Patrice Ayme’

American Versus European Universities

April 5, 2015

Thinking now depends upon thinking yesterday, and the institutions and traditions it established then and how. Thus, to understand the different philosophies of education in Europe and the USA, one has to unveil history.

History determines initial conditions. From them, through systems of differential equations, flow the evolution of sociological reality.

The public educational system in Europe is at least 19 centuries old. The Roman empire used it. Poor students received room and board from the state under Trajan: the alimenti.

The public education system per se did not survive the corruption of the Roman empire by terminal plutocratization. Yet, its spirit was transferred to most Christian monasteries. However, simultaneously, Catholic Fundamentalism destroyed Romanitas, and even knowledge (quite a bit as Muslim Fundamentalists in the Middle East now).

Europe-Wide Famous Philosopher & Singer Abelard Taught At Notre-Dame Predecessor

Europe-Wide Famous Philosopher & Singer Abelard Taught At Notre-Dame Predecessor

By the Sixth Century, the successor state of Rome, the Imperium Francorum, started a systematic counter-attack against Catholicism. The Franks promoted secular education, brushing off the (lethal) threats of the (impotent) Pope (Gregory The Great).

By the Eight Century, the Carolingians made secular education of the public a mandate for all religious establishment, including churches, monasteries, cathedrals.

All over Europe. Including England after 1066. This is why professors were cleric.

This is also why European universities have no police, to this day (they were within cathedral grounds, initially).

However, by the Twelfth Century, the faculty of art allowed some teachers to NOT be theologians (and marry without controversy; Buridan was an example of a non-cleric professor).

The power of universities was enormous then. Abelard used his pulpit at the Paris Cathedral School to oppose the Second Crusade and Saint Bernard. (Abelard’s arguments lost, short term, but won, within 2 centuries.)

When the University of Paris got its entire body out, it extended from one end of the capital to the other. A year long strike in 1200 CE forced the papacy to authorize the teaching of Aristotle.

By 1300 CE, supported by his English vassal, the king of France, crushed the Pope and his army, the Templars. Philippe IV Le Bel’s aides were commoners, highly educated youth without fortune or honorable pedigree who thought the church ought to pay taxes.

Clearly education has been associated to progress and revolution in Europe, for 15 centuries. This has long increased its sacred aura, and its divine mission of global study.

***

WEALTH CREATED AMERICAN UNIVERSITIES:

American universities have a very different origin. They were mainly founded by powerful men.

Stanford, for example, was founded by the charming plutocrat, governor, and senator, with the eponymous name. Stanford used Chinese workers (who had few rights), to build railways…. While campaigning against the Chinese race.

Same story all over: in 1876 the trustees of the estate of Johns Hopkins, a banker and railroad magnate, had founded the university named that way, and the model spread all over: wealthy people create a wealthy university and they and their descendants, and friends control it (if it sounds like the banking system, it’s no coincidence).

Sometimes there are disagreements: the founding president of Stanford disagreed with Ms. Stanford, who headed the board of the university. Nothing that some strychnine could not solve: as she died, Ms. Stanford declared that: “… to be poisoned by strychnine is a horrible death…” Her jaws were already locked. Stanford University wisely buried the story.

Thus American universities had always a “conservative” (namely pro-plutocratic) bias. They were created by power, by huge financial power. They are not an independent power, just a dog on leash, trained to bark after all true intellectual tendencies.

The European University system was already a power, nine centuries ago, at the time of the “Cathedral Schools”. And its power was not, never, about money, or the police, quite the opposite. It was about the absolute, religious respect of study.

In “Excellence V Equity”, The Economist opines that: “The American model of higher education is spreading. It is good at producing excellence, but needs to get better at providing access to decent education at a reasonable cost.”

The same article vastly exaggerates the profits the American Universities brought. For example, it attributes the discovery of the jet engines to American higher learning. In truth, it’s the Germans, distantly followed by the British, who developed jet engines. Americans captured German jets and scientists. Even years later, remaining Nazi jets outperformed the American copies.

***

AMERICAN EXCELLENCE IS SECOND RATE:

When one looks at history on the largest scale, one has to recognize the USA has been the world’s mightiest power for at least 150 years. On paper, the European colonial powers (Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal) because of their empires, looked more powerful. But that was just fluff, paper power. European empire depended upon fragile global mindsets… Which did not resist the concentrated punch of the American nation.

Mightiest economic power, that is.

However, not so intellectually. During those 150 years, the USA has remained a cultural dwarf. Probably the greatest American intellectuals were/are Nobel Laureate physicists, say Feynman or Weinberg. (And they are not of the order of the main discoverers of Relativity, say Lorentz and Poincare’ with their local time theory.

In sociology, philosophies, and more generally humanities, American universities produce, at best, parrots.

Even in science, tracking not publications, but fundamental breakthroughs, the USA come short. So far we are waiting for the first American thinker that will inflect history (as many European thinkers have).

However tremendous propaganda hides this. The best example is the transistor. Truly a Franco-German invention (in a French company employing also German scientists), it was attributed to Americans, who got the Nobel, for declaring they had invented the device, days before the French company started mass production.

So are American universities excellent? For the established order, yes. For civilization?

Only if the collapse into plutocracy is stopped. As it is, the principal notion American universities foster is money (and thus plutocracy). It does not matter how much lipstick one puts on that quadruped.

The first notion the universe teaches us is precisely the obverse. The universe teaches us that money, power on other people, does not matter. At all. On this intuition was founded the European University system, and it is exactly the notion which eludes the USA.

So the last thing the planet needs is to copy the American University model. It would pervert, it does pervert, the heart of the soul of mind.

Instead, it is the public, free European University, still found in leading European countries, which depicts the future we want. Or that we actually need, since a plutocratic future will soon crash.

Patrice Ayme’