Monday, August 08, 2005

Academia and Rand

An interesting extracurricular discussion at the graduate seminar was to what extent one should be open about his interest in Rand. While I recognize that there are those in academia that are hostile to Rand and her ideas, I personally have never encountered such hostility. Nor have I ever felt that my interest in Rand was held against me in any way.

My experience has always been that what counted was how well I did my work--not what particular beliefs I hold. This is how it should be. I am sure there are those that fall short of upholding this ideal, but that has never given me enough reason to go 'in the closet' about my interest in Rand. I've always been pretty straightforward about what positions I hold, and I don't know how not to be.

There is outright bias against a thinker--which is inappropriate and irrational. This certainly exists in some quarters against Rand. I am less concerned about this. I'd rather not be in a department with faculty who would hold my particular interests and positions against my like that.

But there are legitimate concerns here about someone with a deep and committed interest in a particular thinker. (1) a concern that the individual will have tunnel vision and thereby not have the proper perspective on the whole field of philosophy. (2) a concern that an individual will treat the classroom as a source of philosophical 'converts'. (3) a concern that an individual will be biased in the teaching (and grading) of philosophy.

Such concerns arise regardless of the thinker, but I believe are heightened with a thinker like Rand who is outside of the mainstream of academic philosophy.

I don't think I fall prey to those three concerns. My goal as a teacher has never been to make more Objectivists. Such a goal is completely out of wack in education. My goal is to teach my students how to think, to open their minds to the world of ideas and reason. With this as my goal, those three concerns are not even issues for me. I hope that any potential employers will look at my record and see that as well.

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