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Wednesday, May 7, 2008 - 4:48amSanction this postReply
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I like this kind of a trade-to-mutual-benefit ...

Ed




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Wednesday, May 7, 2008 - 8:36amSanction this postReply
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More like the purifying power of a bribe, Ed?



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Wednesday, May 7, 2008 - 11:58amSanction this postReply
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I agree with Ted that this program amounts to a bribe.

Clearly, these schools see value in the money offered while they see problems in teaching Objectivism - otherwise, they would be doing it on their own initiative. So BB&T dangles the carrot before them. The schools that accept the deal apparently decide that the "good" they can do with the dollars outweighs the "harm" from exposing the students to Rand's ideas. BB&T on the other hand apparently sees that the value of getting new students exposed to Objectivism is worth the price in dollars. So, both parties ultimately see the trade as valuable and it's is a win-win deal as Ed points out.

I personally find it odious to have to stoop to this level to get people exposed to Rand rather than convincing them to do so on their own accord, based upon the intrinsic value of her writings. However, let's face the fact that the enemies of reason have been playing this sort of game for centuries and it may be necessary to adopt some of their tactics in order to win the war. The problem I always have with this approach is that I have observed that adopting the enemies strategies often leads to moral corruption making the initial attempt a self-defeating one. I am not saying that I find this BB&T effort morally reprehensible in itself, but I do have some serious qualms about what essentially amounts to paying people to consider your ideas. I fear that this could ultimately backfire in many ways, not the least of which may be the seriously bad PR that results. For example, in the article above, we have the following quotes:

    "While academia has failed to embrace Rand, calling her philosophy simplistic"

    "Scholars scoff at the Rand bounty, saying her ideas are too shallow to build courses around her"

    "Rand could not write her way out of a paper bag"

    "... an examination of the most important works in Western literature. Rand isn't on the list"

Let's never loose sight of "fair and balanced" reporting.

Regards,
--
Jeff
(Edited by C. Jeffery Small on 5/07, 12:00pm)




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Post 3

Wednesday, May 7, 2008 - 4:16pmSanction this postReply
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This is a thinly disguised and unjust "attack piece".

It's good to protest at the source when one sees this (rather than just gab about it here ineffectually to other Objectivists), so they don't think they are getting away with it and in case there is a comments forum or in case the editors might see it. And as a way of defending your values. I clicked on the button below the Bloomberg article to send Matthew Keenan an email response:

"Dear Mr. Keenan,

I've been following this issue for some time. Your piece on the BB&T funding of Rand in college courses is an unfair and slanted one.

Unfairly Representing the Situation:

Your use of phrases like 'dictate curricula', 'required reading', and 'agreed to teach Rand' might suggest bullying or indoctrination to the unwary reader since you omit some very important elements of context:

1. The curriculum in today's colleges is overwhelming liberal to left-leaning. Arguments against the positions Rand takes are heard in every course and in every department of the humanities and social sciences. So that including one book or one course which simply presents a case for individualism or capitalism would only begin to acquaint students with the fact that a different view can be argued for.

2. The grants, as reported in other newspapers, don't require that Rand's works be taught in every departiment or across the entire curriculum. But simply that something of hers be *included* in at least -one- course. This will be only one part of the curriculum, accompanied obviously by other writers who strongly disagree.

3. Nor does "teach Rand" mean that the professor has to agree or cannot argue against her views or ridicule them or that students will not be free to argue against them.

You didn't mention any of this.

Not Reporting Opposing Arguments:

You give a full paragraph of argument each to three different critics -- one who argues that funded inclusion is inappropriate, one who argues that Rand is too abolutist and that there is no one final answer to things, and one who argues that she can't write her way out of a paper bag.

In two more places you say that "academia" says she’s simplistic & "scholars" say her ideas are shallow. This is a a sweeping generalization. It doesn't acknowledge that some academics and scholars would strongly argue against each of these views.

But you do not allow their responses to be heard.

Was all of this intentional?"





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Post 4

Wednesday, May 7, 2008 - 4:37pmSanction this postReply
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For the record:

I don't agree that this program constitutes moral corruption or a "bribe". That word in most dictionaries normally involves paying someone to get them to do something -wrong-. Not something right.

Nor is the fact that they should have done it already without payment morally relevant.

Nor is it in the slightest degree unsavory or a lowering of standards to do so in any manner whatever.

It is a great program and a highly admirable one.

Allison is to be commended for putting his money where his mouth is -- instead of simply talking a good game as so many wealthy admirers of Ayn Rand do.





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Wednesday, May 7, 2008 - 8:25pmSanction this postReply
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A long-time friend of mine - a philosophy professor who specializes in logic and likes Rand, especially her ethics - mentioned something to me a few years back that was somewhat unsettling.

He said that libertarianism had less academic credibility than it might otherwise because everyone knew that there were huge bucks in grant moneys from corporations going to universities who hired libertarian professors, whether economists or philosophers.  He himself was personally convinced of this, and cited a number of examples of people who would have not have been in the first rank of preference for a professorship who were selected nonetheless, because of a bribe.  I can't recall names, unfortunately.

I note that the final reason that the judge gave for imprisoning Anthony L. Hargis was that Hargis had refused to stop promoting his political ideas on his business website.  How this differs from promoting some corporate agenda - whether we like it or not - is a reasonable question, I think.  When you have these kinds of rules, then it's easy enough to ignore the cases that support "our side" and prosecute those who don't, which is one reason the War on Drugs is so popular.  When you have way more people disobeying the law than you could possibly arrest and prosecute, then you can pick and choose your victims on whatever basis you want.

In any case, I actually heard an interview on NPR with people on various sides of this issue - corporations bribing universities to promote Rand.  It didn't make Rand look that good.  I'm very uncomfortable with the issue of forcing someone to read Rand, which is what it amounts to.  If the universities were all private - and I don't mean psuedo-corporate private - then I would be much more positive about it.  I note that "Atlas Shrugged" was in "required reading for high-schoolers" stack at Barnes & Nobles in the OC a couple years ago.  So, the State Education Institute (as in, State Science Institute) - aka public schools - now are gaining credibility by promoting John Galt?  Like when they put Galt in front of a microphone in the novel, with a gun to his back?




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Wednesday, May 7, 2008 - 10:18pmSanction this postReply
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Rand and Bribes

The corrupted party in a transaction where a bribe is given to overcome an irrational barrier is he who accepts the bribe. Randian heroes are often seen as willing to pay bribes when that is their only recourse. It is like lying to criminals, sleeping with Taganov, or stealing from looters. Of course it would be a better world if there were no looters, criminals, or hypocritical academics. But I characterized this transaction as a purification, not a corruption. The briber is not corrupted. He gets what he is willing to pay for. The bribed is already corrupt, and abandons his corrupt "principles" for the relative cleanliness of cold hard cash.

Of course, it is a dramatization to call these donations bribes. No one accuses Soros of "bribing" people. But the exaggeration makes the issue that much more difficult to sweep under the rug. If these are "bribes" from Randians, then what is the moral status of the money given to the left on a continuous basis?

(Edited by Ted Keer on 5/07, 10:22pm)




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Post 7

Wednesday, May 7, 2008 - 11:48pmSanction this postReply
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> [professor] said that libertarianism had less academic credibility than it might otherwise because everyone knew that there were huge bucks in grant moneys from corporations going to universities who hired libertarian professors [Phil O]

It's just an excuse. They don't utter a peep when the Ford Foundation, the Soros Foundation, the Gates and Packard and so on pour hundreds of millions into mandatory training in environmentalism and other left-wing "good citizenship" stuff.

Utterly dwarfing anything BB&T contributes...and far more well-known and evident to any observers.

Don't get sidetracked. The opponents of Rand, of capitalism, of libertarians are specialists in camouflage and excuse making.

"Bullshit artists" in misleading others about their real reasons for opposition.

If arm-twisting or bribing or mandatory courses are for a good cause, given their philosophical positions, they have not the slightest problem with it. The lefties and welfare-statists have been willing to stomach oceans of blood, in fact, if they are needed to get what they advocate.

Squeamish because there is a donation to have a book simply -included- in the curriculum?

"I am shocked, shocked to hear that an alternative is allowed to be presented to the brainwashing we were heretofore shamelessly inflicting on the defenseless minds of the young."

GIMME A FUCKIN' BREAK ! ! !



(Edited by Philip Coates on 5/07, 11:50pm)




Post 8

Thursday, May 8, 2008 - 12:05amSanction this postReply
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I understand Phil Coates' points in post #4 and thought I would try to clarify a few things. First, I want to be clear that in my previous post #2, if you read it carefully, I was neither saying nor implying that the actions of BB&T, in and of themselves, were in any way morally wrong. But Phil's use of the word unsavory gets more to the heart of the matter for me.

Over dinner I was discussing this issue with my wife who thought the BB&T program was a fine idea. As I was attempting to explain my reservations to her, it suddenly became clear what was bothering me; I could not see this being the action of a hero - at least as I experience one. I realized that where you ultimately come down on this issue probably has more to do with your "sense-of-life" than any rigorous application of philosophical principles. When I think of the heroes in Atlas Shrugged, I couldn't imagine any of them engaging in an action of this type as being a worthy expression of their character. As an impressionable onlooker, does the example of BB&T "purchasing" classroom time for Objectivism have anywhere near the impact and make such a clear point as Francisco destroying his mines or Dagny and Rearden constructing the John Galt Line in the face of their opposition? Does this act lift and inspire you, giving you the feeling of being one step closer to living in the type of world you envision as your ideal? It depends upon your sense-of-life, but for me the answer is no.

My point is not to suggest that these literary exercises from Atlas Shrugged are direct models for real-world behavior. I am simply trying to point out that there is something a little sad in the actions of BB&T in their attempt to buy some exposure (and respect?) for Rand from institutions that despise her. I find that somewhat akin to attempting to purchase purchase "love" from a hooker. In neither case are you going to find love or respect. This is not the same thing as Ellis Wyatt standing on a hill, telling the world to go to hell, and setting his wells aflame. Now, there's an action that makes a powerful point without begging for the participation of your enemy or oppressor! And again, the point is not that acts of defiance are what is heroic, it is the powerful expression of integrity and independence that are inspirational and challenge one to emulate them in one's own life.

Yes, running The Fountainhead essay contest and placing Atlas Shrugged in classrooms will touch some people in the future, have an impact upon them and ultimately result in a better world, so these efforts are not without merit and I can acknowledge that and applaud the actions for those reasons. However, I cannot get very excited about the program because I do not think it will have lasting impact. These types of programs are what I would classify as tinkering with the machinery under the hood and I do not believe that, in the long run, they are truly effective. As a real-world example, take Alan Greenspan. As head of the Federal Reserve for 19 years, I am sure that he expended great effort to keep the US economy on as sound a footing as possible while working within the prevailing system; a monumental and probably effective example of adjusting the machinery. But after his long tenure, can anyone make an argument that there are lasting results from those efforts that will continue to benefit us? If there are, I do not see them. We appear to continue to operate under a strongly mixed economy and the regulatory fingers of the government appear to be increasing and more omnipresent then ever. Despite the position of great power, the failure to speak out and inform the public about the true nature of capital markets and government interference in those markets has allowed the decline in the general public's understanding of these issues to continue unabated.

Rand certainly had it right when she pointed out that the power lies in ideas. But as she also clearly demonstrated in her novels, it is the expression of the ideas through action that grants them their power. The problem I see in our culture and with the ability to spread Objectivism, is the separation of these two components. On one hand, there are many successful people who have no use for abstract ideas while, on the other hand, there are plenty of Objectivist thinkers who live almost exclusively in the realm of ideas. The inspiration of the heroes of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged comes from their ability to perform and to know and articulate the ideas that make that performance possible. Real world examples would be all the more powerful and inspirational. If the best one can do is donate a portion of one's fortune to a program as BB&T has done, then great. But I would much rather see a Mark Cuban or John Allison speak out widely regarding how they have put their philosophical learnings into practice in service of achieving their goals and happiness and I would love for them to take a vocal stand on political/economic issues which affect their business and personal freedoms. If the resources being funneled to non-appreciative academic institutions were instead placed in service of campaigns to demonstrate the connection between the achievements of these and other men and their philosophic ideas, I believe the impact would be far greater, more meaningful and longer lasting.

So to sum up, I have no real ax to grind with the BB&T program, but I am discouraged to see so much in the way of resources being invested in the theoretical realm of ideas rather than in the more heroic expression of the ideas demonstrated in practice. I contend that only when Objectivists, as individual or as organizations, make this the major thrust of their outreach efforts, will we begin to see a substantial acceptance and then adoption of our values and ultimately, practical movement towards the achievements of our ideals.

Regards,
--
Jeff



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Post 9

Thursday, May 8, 2008 - 5:32amSanction this postReply
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Jeff and All,

I think this sort of effort can have a very good effect on the lives of quite a few students. I say that because of two of my own experiences as a student.

About 25 years ago, at age 35, I was finishing engineering school, and one of the last courses was a required course in professional ethics, or maybe it was called professional engineering. The professor was a man who had a PhD, he was a forensic engineer, and he donated his compensation for the course back to the school. In other words, he was just donating his time to teach this course. The assignment for the first two or three weeks was: read The Fountainhead. Everyone did read it, and turned in a short paper on any facet of the book they wished, just to show they had read it. In his lectures, the professor could then refer to various episodes from the book, which was now common background for all of us. These lectures were built around various professional experiences he had had. To call them lectures, though, is something that would bring a smile to his students to this day, I'm sure. He was a thrilling speaker. His lectures had titles like, "Never Work for Anyone Dummer than You" and "A Good Starting Salary Is the Last Thing You Will Get from this Degree." I ran into one of my classmates on the job a few months after we graduated. He was younger, of normal college age, a black man, and we had ended up working for the same company. He reminded me of that book. He told me how seriously important it was for him. We talked about Keating and Roark, elements of those guys in us prior to reading this book, and how we had been helped by this book.

That donation was not at all for theorethical philosophy. In 1966 when I was a freshman  in college, for my first degree (physics, phi minor), I was the beneficiary of a donation that was for mostly theoretical philosophy, but some ethics too. At my school University of Oklahoma, some division of the RC church funded a chair in our Philosophy Department. That professor was mine for a first course in philosophy. He was a Thomist. What a world he opened for us. It was such a large, all-encompassing, and systematic view. For me the most important thing was that for the first time, I was seeing the power of reason, not just for science or math, but for everything. Through the years, I have appreciated not only that, but being introduced to the Thomist view, which would not have been possible at that school without the endowment of that special chair.




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Post 10

Thursday, May 8, 2008 - 7:00amSanction this postReply
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Phil said in post #5:
I'm very uncomfortable with the issue of forcing someone to read Rand, which is what it amounts to.  If the universities were all private - and I don't mean psuedo-corporate private - then I would be much more positive about it.
I don't see the relevance of this.  No one is forcing anyone to do anything.  A course is being offered in which Atlas Shrugged, or some other Rand book, will be required reading.  Well, all courses I've ever taken have had required reading.  No one is forced to take the course.  If the course is required for some major, then no one is forced to be in that major.  If it's required for all majors, then no one is forced to enroll at that university.  Even if we're talking about State universities, no one is forced to attend them.

If a student is opposed to having Rand as required reading, they can always go somewhere else.
Thanks,
Glenn




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Thursday, May 8, 2008 - 8:08pmSanction this postReply
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Glenn:

I appreciate what you're saying, but it isn't all that clear cut. Students don't know beforehand the details what they're going to study — otherwise they'd know it already. If they see a reading list and Atlas Shrugged is on it they don't know the philosophy that it espouses unless they do a lot of research.

Sam




Post 12

Thursday, May 8, 2008 - 11:52pmSanction this postReply
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More, not Less, Please

This is how Universities work, people. Schools either get government grants (the Land grant colleges, such as Rutgers and Cornel, inter alia) or they get endowments from rich benefactors. I was taking classes at Glassboro State in NJ (Kruschev met Johnson there) when, due to a $50 Million endowment it suddenly started offering degrees in Engineering and was rechristened Rowan University. What is unseemly about this?

Of course schools get tuition money. It's often largely underwritten by Government loans and grants. I'd think that the last thing anyone on this list would take exception to would be private money donated to fund useful studies. Rand long complained that businessmen ignored her and supported their own enemies. If this new and promising scenario troubles you, please check your premises.

(Edited by Ted Keer on 5/09, 4:21pm)




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Friday, May 9, 2008 - 6:41amSanction this postReply
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Sam,
I guess I was addressing those students who already know who Rand is and are opposed to reading her.  If a student doesn't know Rand's work and signs up for a class where she is required reading, then they are in the same situation as a student who signs up for any course where they aren't familiar with the authors they are required to read.  You could say they were being forced to read these books, but that argument seems a little "forced".

You could argue that the professor is being forced to adopt a text that he didn't choose for his course.  Perhaps, but that happens a lot.  If the course is taught by more than one faculty member, then they usually use the same book(s) for the course, so the individual professor doesn't get to choose.  Also, for established courses, the text is often one that has been used previously and the professor inherits it.  After all, you want the students to be able to sell back the books as soon as they finish their final exam!
Thanks,
Glenn






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Friday, May 9, 2008 - 6:46amSanction this postReply
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It's just an excuse. They don't utter a peep when the Ford Foundation, the Soros Foundation, the Gates and Packard and so on pour hundreds of millions into mandatory training in environmentalism and other left-wing "good citizenship" stuff.
Very few scholarships are just about grades.  Some want "community service."  Others are based on ethnicity or religion or other arbitrary affiliation.  In most cases, money comes with commitments of some kind.  Chairs are endowed.  Buildings are constructed.  Seldom does anyone give a $40 million blank check to a school so that they can do whatever is in their silly heads at the moment.  It always comes with a purpose.

The schools do not have to accept it.

We play the megalottos.  If we win one, I am endowing a chair for myself so that I can teach whatever I want.  I will consider it a lifetime employment annuity. 




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Post 15

Saturday, May 10, 2008 - 9:23amSanction this postReply
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I see nothing wrong with the BB&T program as such.

The coverage of the program in national news outlets has been appallingly shallow.

There are currently 27 BB&T grantees, one of them at Clemson University.

There is no requirement that an undergraduate course be included with *Atlas Shrugged* as required reading. Some institutions have made that promise to BB&T. Clemson is not currently among them.

I much prefer the BB&T program to the Anthem Foundation program because BB&T has ARIans among its grantees but does not ask Irvine to vet its candidates. Stephen Hicks and Ed Younkins are two prominent Randians without ARI affiliations who are supported in part by BB&T money. John Tommasi of the Political Theory Project at Brown University is a non-Randian who is receiving some BB&T money.

Anthem Foundation money is much more likely to support conferences like the recent one on "Objectivity and the Law" at the University of Texas, where all of the participants were either ARIans or totally outside of Rand-land.

Robert Campbell

PS. Of course, university administrators (most often Business School Deans) may go after BB&T money for reasons unrelated to ideology. They want to enhance their administrative resumes by bringing in more external funding, as was clearly the case with the BB&T grant to UNC-Charlotte. Academic administrators go after government grants, foundation money, and private industry contracts all of the time. Some of the deals they make are, in my opinion, unethical. I don't classify the undergrad course with Rand on the reading list as one of them.
(Edited by Robert Campbell on 5/10, 9:52am)




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