Saturday, July 07, 2007

New Intellectual 'U': Update

I've now updated my original post below about Founders College, as some anonymous commenters were claiming that there is "absolutely no connection" between the college and the Ayn Rand Institute. In fact, as my update confirms, at least 50% of the faculty to date are committed Objectivists with obvious ARI orientation. Perhaps our commenters are not aware of this. Or alternatively, the apparently Objectivist orientation of the college (it is the "brainchild" of long-time ARI speaker Gary Hull) is not perhaps considered helpful in the marketing of the college to the wider community (one commentator accused us of trying to "marginalise" the college by exploring this connection).

As Greg Nyquist remarks in comments,"the Objectivist view of education, as expounded by Leonard Peikoff, is actually one of its least objectionable theories. The practical sum of it is little more than the Great Books with the eccentric addition of Rand's reading list," and futher,"given how bad so much American college education actually is, this would be an improvement for most students." I would tend to agree, with the caveat that this would depend on just how, for example, the literary list at Founders is taught - whether it would strongly reflect Rand's particular artistic opinions or not. This is not clear at this stage.

Why anonymous commenters would so strongly seek to deny the college's connection with Objectivism and the ARI, when this is obviously the case, is also not clear.

Update:Neil Parille provides a highly useful link in comments which perhaps begins to explain some of the above. From there we get to this story from News 14 Carolina
"There are other questions about the college. Its license application says Founders College will be operated by The College of Rational Education Inc., a nonprofit corporation in North Carolina. According to papers filed with the North Carolina Secretary of State's office in March 2005, The College of Rational Education "shall be exclusively operated as to provide a reality-based, rationally grounded education, by applying Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand, to all of the Corporation's activities and undertakings."
Hull is quoted as saying that this idea "fell by the wayside." The story also adds that according to Hull, as with anonymous commenters here, that "there is no connection between Founders College and any particular philosophy or outside organization such as the Ayn Rand Institute, for which he has written articles."

However, Hull's claims, which date from almost a year ago, seem contradicted by reality. The fact is that at least 50% of the current faculty of Founders are longstanding Objectivists with some form of ARI connection. Further, while not much is yet clear on the content of Founders courses, what few specifics are evident - for example, the Literature course reading list - is highly suggestive of orthodox Randian influence, and guest lecturers include self-described Objectivists such as psychologist Dr Scott Adams and ARI writer Andrew Bernstein. Much of the Founders site's writing echoes Objectivist rhetoric. Finally, with its $12m campus and "fine dining" facilities it is clear there is some serious money behind it, if not clear exactly whose.

Thus the situation, like so much else in the ever-shifting world of Objectivist politics is murky. Founders seems to have started out with a strong Randian direction, but this has been diluted; possibly in the face of marketing realities, either reluctantly or strategically. The downside of this dilution is what seems to be increasingly strong criticism of the project and Hull personally from some sections of the Objectivist community. Perhaps Hull's decision to leave Rand to fall "by the wayside" - at least in his publicity - has also compromised his standing to some degree with the ARI.

Nonetheless, despite Hull's claims, there remains a strong Objectivist, and indeed ARI flavour to the Founders project. Unless there is another schism in the works - something that is always a possibility - this seems to be the underlying direction the college is taking.

8 comments:

Neil Parille said...

Some of the earlier posts on FC clearly described it as a school based on Rand's ideas. The "founders" seemed to deemphasize it at some point.

Here is an interesting post on the school from one Noumenal Self (apparently a pro-ARI graduate student) who, in spite of his Objectivese, makes some good points.

http://www.noumenalself.com/archives/2006/08/founders_colleg_1.html

I get the impression that not everyone in ARI land likes Gary Hull.

Anonymous said...

You are correct, in that some of the individuals associated with Founders College are known Objectivists. Nonetheless, regardless of the implicataions of your assertion that "Anonymous" "strongly" objects, if you are interested in the simple truth, the Ayn Rand Institute has no relationship with FC, whatsoever. Why would you want to imply otherwise? As it happens, the founder of Founders College , Gary Hull, is no longer aassociated with FC. Strange turn of events. But, you don't have to take my word for it. Check it out for yourself. If you're interested in the truth and if that truth doesn't bother you too much. ~A.

gregnyquist said...

It is easy guess what is going on here. There has been a realization, perhaps on the part of those forking out the money for this venture, that an Objectivist college simply well not do. Whose going to hire someone who has attended what is essentially an Ayn Rand college? Parents are of course worried about stuff like this, so it is important that Founders college is not represented as an Ayn Rand college. Hence Gary Hull's statement about the Rand angle falling "by the wayside." No parent, even Objectivist parents, want to fork out huge sums of money to send their children to a college that may not be respected by prospective employers. In such situations, common sense nearly always trumps ideology.

Daniel Barnes said...

Greg:
>It is easy guess what is going on here. There has been a realization, perhaps on the part of those forking out the money for this venture, that an Objectivist college simply well not do.

Yep. This is what I meant by "marketing realities." This results in the predictable awkwardnesses of trying to accomodate a radical ideology into the mainstream ie: even watered down, it will still be perceived as just that bit too weird by mom and pop on the one hand, while it will be viciously attacked on the other from the true-believers. It's a lose-lose. There was another ARI related fellow in at the start, Eric Daniels (http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=media_EricDaniels) but he has dropped out of the project for unspecified reasons. Hull's now in the very difficult position of running an Objectivist College without running an Objectivist College. Looks like a job for the Law of Identity to me...;-) This is going to take some deep pockets.

Daniel Barnes said...

Anon:
>As it happens, the founder of Founders College , Gary Hull, is no longer aassociated with FC. Strange turn of events...

Thanks for the information, Anon. I've checked back at their site and as yet there is no mention of him departing his position as Chief of Educational Research and Development. But I will take it that you've got some inside skinny, and will publish an update once verified. Strange turn of events indeed.

>Ayn Rand Institute has no relationship with FC..

I still find this claim suprising given the involvement of Eric Daniels and Gary Hull in its creation, and composition of the faculty etc. But at any ratel, whatever it did have appears to be diminishing daily...;-)

Anonymous said...

What part of "land deal" got missed here? The new (7/13/07) CHE article mentions the numbers but again doesn't connect the dots. Fuller's got a well-recognized background in this area (Columbia, MD), and the folks in South Boston pretty much fell all over themselves when they assembled that acreage (see Gazette archives). Three legs on this stool: resort, school, planned community.

Friscodog said...

I am the philosopher hired by Founders to teach the introduction to philosophy courses, so I believe I have some standing to comment on this school.

As long as I am at the helm of the Founders philosophy department, students will be educated on the major ideas behind the Western tradition. ALL of the major ideas, not just Objectivism.

Before you assume that my personal aherence to Objectivism will lead Founders to a bias in favor of Objectivist ideas, please do me, and Founders, the honor of checking the readily-available evidence of my fairness as a professor and agrader. There are plenty of sources available out there (e.g., pickaprof.com, ratemyprofessor.com). You might also wish to check my statement of teaching philosophy, as outlined on Founders' site.

Founders College will not hold adherence to Objectivism as its standard of right and wrong, not as long as I am involved with this enterprise. Founders expects its students to be prepared to discuss all of the phliosophical tradition.

Those who want to read Founders as an "Objectivist college" are doing an enormous disservice to our students. That is not our stated goal, nor is it my goal as a professor.

To those who have raised bizarre and irrelevent criticism of Founders, based on nothing but their own bias against Ayn Rand's ideas, I would recommend that you study the fallacy of the Argument from Ignorance.

Constantijn Blondel said...

"and irrelevent criticism of Founders"

Odd typo for a philosophy Prof to make.