It is clear the University system is broken and almost surely beyond repair. Even secular sources are saying so. Public ideological commitment to “Diversity” (strict enforced uniformity) is increasingly required; oaths are in some places mandatory. When diligent readers searched, we could find only a scant handful of universities that was not corrupted by offices of Diversity.
From this it does not follow that many good things are not found at some universities, and that some of the part of even the most cancerous institutions are not worthy of emulation. But it is to say that trying to reform the system from within is likely doomed.
We’ll take a granted that the modern university system should be replaced. The question is, by what? This article is expected to be first in a series discussing the problem.
How about this? A, for now, distributed system of elite scholars dedicated to Truth & Reality who are capable of passing on their knowledge to others.
Some word is necessary to distinguish this new creation, or rather re-creation, from the extant university. The only worthy alternative I can think of is realversity, which sounds stupid. I do not have talent for titles and names, and leave it to readers to devise a better term. To help us keep track, let’s use scholar for those populating the realversity and professor for those at universities.
Any realversity must have authority to teach, and that implies an organization empowered to grant that authority. The university has the State. The realversity used to have the Church, and still should. The Church has on the books a law called Ex Corde Ecclesiae, which directs professors to swear allegiance to Truth & Reality. When this document was promulgated the effect was monstrous derision and official scoffing. The so-called Land O’Lakes Statement directed professors at universities to swear fealty to the State over the Church. For this act, they were not punished, but indulged. The rest of the story is well known.
The problem now with seeking the Church as authority is that the Church is led by, to use C.S. Lewis’s apt phrase, men without chests. Give control of the realversity to the Church now and it will quickly devolve into a university.
Authority, then, at least temporarily, must come from within and from the trust that remnants of the manly Church would approve. (This would not preclude associating with prelates who recall their duty.)
Universities are accredited, a secular blessing which allows them to enter into certain relationships with the State. Accrediting organizations are like peer review at universities, acting to enforce conformity. There is nothing wrong with conformity per se; after all, the realversity swears to conform to Truth & Reality.
But it is clear accreditation with State-oriented agencies must be avoided. The realversity will then be hampered and harassed by all sorts of legal difficulties which have to be sorted out.
Who decides who is to be a scholar? This is the same problem as deciding the authority. By invitation only. That requires leadership and organization, and these both require time and, in the end, money. Methods of encouraging good scholars and of purging bad ones and entryists must come quickly. (The effort at first would be in English, but should spread.)
The university rewards professors for, in this order, (a) bringing in money, (b) quantity of work, (c) quality of work, (d) ability to teach. There are overlapping interests in all four, of course, but it is clear the order is inverted. Innovation for the sake of innovation and the requirement to produce for the sake of producing degrade scholarship to an astonishing degree. Scholars cannot be rewarded for “paper counts” in realversity publications, nor in grants secured from the State. Indeed, there can be, at this time anyway, no official ties of any kind with the State or with most other organizations. Seeking extension will force the realversity along the university path in short order.
The realversity does not need to be a place where “research” occurs; indeed, it would be more efficient if, for example, genetic medicine experimentation and the like were conducted at separate dedicated institutions.
Scholars will be charged with assigning students reading and then in assessing how well students have assimilated the material. The organization of this needs to be worked out. The scholars will decide on a list of minimum works students must know. This list will not be small. The realversity degree must be precious. The subjects themselves will be fixed and classical: e.g., theology, philosophy, history, arts & literature, mathematics, physics, biology. (We’ll tackle this in a future discussions.)
Since, at first, there will be no physical location, or rather many separate locations, one per scholar, students are free to live anywhere. There does not even have to be official enrollment, since there will be no regular lectures (except the on-line and rare in-person kinds). Any person who thinks he has mastered the requirements should be allowed to be tested. Only tutoring and testing would incur a fee. (The fees have to be transparent.) The result of the examination will be certification the student has mastered the stated material to the satisfaction of the scholars. This would be equivalent to a Baccalaureate. At first, invited scholars would perforce be granted the equivalent of a university PhD (note the order is reversed here too).
A hidden benefit of the lack of infrastructure is the realversity will not degrade into an entertainment complex with “learning centers” (what used to be called libraries), spas, and don’t-call-us-professional sports.
The number of horror stories of Truth & Reality organizations founded but subsequently co-opted by money or the world are so common as to not need retelling here. Any donor (unless he himself is a scholar) must relinquish all paternity, must forswear any ties. Scholars need support, but they cannot serve both God and mammon. At first, scholars will have to make their own way in the world (some may even write grants at universities!), and see their teaching as a calling. Truly promising students should be financed, but it is better this is done outside the realversity.
Why have a realversity after all? We already have, and have had for several centuries, the largest free realversity ever created, which is the library system (on- and off-line). Students then and now can without official hamper study what they would. And for no or low cost. If somebody wants to become, say, a scholar of ancient Arabic poetry, all the means for doing so already exist. All it requires is a library card, ability, and desire.
The last two qualities are lacking in most. Even the most gifted would-be Arabicist needs guidance if he is not to become isolated and fall into a university trap.
Fields, like physics, which have the closest connection with Reality are in less need of the realversity, while others, like history, are in dire need. We have already seen the social justice warriors are going after mathematics, but since the State has need of the services of some sciences, the inroads made by activists will be limited to a certain extent. However, in the heat of battle it is not always possible to remember where one’s best interest lie (a Maltese Falcon paraphrase).
The realversity is not a jobs program. It’s role is to make interesting men more than well acquainted with Truth & Reality.