Friday, July 06, 2007

New Intellectual 'U'?

The Ayn Rand Institute looks like its got its very own university, Founders College, kicking off this year.

For a flavour, here's the Novel course's reading list:
Victor Hugo, Dostoevsky, Ayn Rand, Nathaniel Hawthorne (especially The Scarlet Letter), Quo Vadis, Tolstoy (esp. Anna Karenina), Walter Scott (esp. Ivanhoe), Alexander Dumas, H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, O. Henry, Calumet K, Mickey Spillane, Donald Hamilton, Thomas Wolfe, Balzac, John O’Hara, Frederic Brown, Kafka, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Gone With the Wind, Thomas Mann, Theodore Dreiser, Sinclair Lewis.

Hmmm. Looks like pretty much the usual suspects. No doubt Tolstoy and Thomas Wolfe fans are for the high jump, whereas a suitable appreciation of Mickey Spillane will get you an A+. Not that I'm knocking pulp of course. I'm a big Matt Helm fan myself.

Update: A couple of anonymous comments insist that there is "absolutely no connection" between the ARI and Founders. I based my post on the facts that long time ARI supporter and writer Gary Hull, as Anonymous put it "designed the core curriculum and teacher training, a brilliant achievement in rational education" in addition to recently stepping down as CEO and Chairman, and who is, according to Founders website, staying on as "Chief of Educational Research and Development with responsibilities for cultivating the faculty, developing the curriculum and teacher training, and maintaining the highest level of academic standards" - something that seems to clash with Anonymous' claim that Hull "has no involvement with the operations of the college whatsoever."

Further, Founders' Philosophy Professor Robert Garmong is a regular writer for, and presumably a supporter of, the ARI. Some of his work can be found on the ARI site here, here, and here.

Also, Founders Business Professor Steve Gedeon seems to be a member the ARI-supporting Toronto Objectivist Association, an organisation which also carries Founders opening as a news story on its website. We also find that Robert Garmong, and the presumably related Dina Garmong have also contributed articles and "educational lectures and events" here.

Additionally, Founders Art History Professor Lee Sandstead is also described here as an "Objectivist Art Historian", who has written for The Intellectual Activist during its ARI-endorsed period. Interestingly, two reviews of Sandstead's writing are the only on-line articles in the archives of, you guessed it, the Toronto Objectivist Association. Sandstead also seems to have personally maintained a chronology of Ayn Rand's life and works, and speaks at events promoted by ARI supporters.

Thus we find long term Objectivists, and ARI supporters at that, are at least 50% of the faculty thus far announced, in addition to the college itself being reportedly ARI supporter Gary Hull's "brainchild." Given the extremely small size of the Ayn Rand Institute in the scheme of liberal academia, this composition seems unlikely to be coincidental.

We will also leave aside intriguing hints like the makeup of the reading list, and the general tone and rhetoric of the site itself.

Thus our anonymous commentator's claim - "There is absolutely no connection between ARI and Founders College" - seems itself highly questionable. But then perhaps this is just another of Objectivism's famous "contextual" absolutes. Their other claim - that we are "labeling the college as ARI-related" and that this is "unfair, unsupported and only serves to marginalize something you have not bothered to research" is therefore likewise.

However, in the spirit of open-mindedness, I will add a question mark to the post heading, and rephrase the opening line similarly. And if our anonymous commentators would be prepared to step forward and name themselves, then perhaps we might take their comments a little more seriously.

16 comments:

Kelly said...

I thought this was a joke at first. As if being young and starting college isn't bad enough. I'm already sad for the the students.

Mark Plus said...

In fairness to the Randroids, this list doesn't seem any stranger than the alternative canons of the novel taught by mainstream (if politically leftist) literature professors.

Neil Parille said...

This is all rather funny given the brouhaha over John Lewis and Ashland University.

Apparently a Christian university should have to employ athiest professors, but will Founders U. hire professors other than those who take the ARI view of Objectivism?

Incidentally, will someone tell me why it isn't compromise for Lewis to teach at a Brethren associated school of Mayhew to teach at a Roman Catholic school?

Neil Parille said...

Even better is the curriculum at the Objectivist Academic Center. Listen to tapes of Leonard Peikoff that are 20 years old --

http://www.objectivistacademiccenter.org/

Where do I sign up?

Daniel Barnes said...

Actually, I agree with you Mark. I was myself tempted to remark that the list is funky enough to be postmodern.

Daniel Barnes said...

Neil:
>This is all rather funny given the brouhaha over John Lewis and Ashland University.

See my post above, Neil. Hey, maybe Greg should apply for a job at the ARI, see what happens...;-)

Neil Parille said...

Daniel,

Don't you know that ARI Objectivists don't have a problem with honest mistakes. So the OAC would be happy to hire a non-Objectivist such as Greg so long as he is (a) scholarly and (b) honest.

Unfortunately, all non-ARIans just happen to fit into one of the two above categories.

Whereas Ashland U. is engaged in evasion over Lewis, the OAC is simply carrying out the wishes of Ayn Rand.

Anonymous said...

ARI isn't behind Founders College. I didn't read any further after that, so I'm not sure if the rest of the post is accurate.

Daniel Barnes said...

Hi anonymous

Gary Hull, "long time speaker for the ARI" according to the ARI, is the former CEO and Chairman, and stays on as Chief of Educational Research and Development. Robert Garmong, the philosopy head, is an ARI writer. Are you saying there's absolutely no connection?

Anonymous said...

There is absolutely no connection between ARI and Founders College. Founders is a liberal arts and business college. Your labeling the college as ARI-related is unfair, unsupported and only serves to marginalize something you have not bothered to research.

Founders features faculty from diverse backgrounds, whose common qualifications are that they know the important ideas in their subject and have a proven track record as great teachers. The fact that a faculty member has a connection with Objectivism is no more relevant than those on faculty who have a connection with Catholicism or leftist liberalism. Founders faculty (unlike those in other schools) are strictly prohibited from using the classroom as a stage to proselytize their own personal ideology, since the goal is to train students to think *independently*.

Both the course content and the personal statements of professors are posted on the website for all to see, so you don't have to wonder about a hidden agenda (as you do with most colleges). Unlike Ashland, Founders would have no reason to punish a great teacher for his/her personal ideology, since under its faculty guidelines, such ideology would never enter the classroom in the first place.

Dr. Gary Hull designed the core curriculum and teacher training, a brilliant achievement in rational education. However, he has no involvement with the operations of the college whatsoever.

Now, given the fact that Founders is committed to providing an education that helps students develop independent, critical thinking skills and communicate clearly, why, exactly, do you feel sad for the students? Which part do you have a problem with, Daniel--quality education, diverse faculty or clear thinking?

Anonymous said...

FYI, Founders College is not associated with the Ayn Rand Institute in any way.

gregnyquist said...

kelly: "I thought this was a joke at first. As if being young and starting college isn't bad enough. I'm already sad for the the students."

Actually, given how bad so much American college education actually is, this would be an improvement for most students. Some of the authors on the reading list are, of course, absurd. Literature courses should not be teaching Spillane, Hamilton, Dumas, Verne, Wells or even Scott. Nor, really, should they be teaching O'Hara, Lewis, or Thomas Wolfe. But the fact that they are willing to teach authors Rand never liked, such as Tolstoy, Balzac, Dreiser, Kafka and Mann, shows that it's not a complete lost cause. And as embarrassing as it may be to have students read Calumet K is better than Derrida or the hideous left-wing trash that is peddled nowadays on American campuses.

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.

Kelly said...

I wasn't commenting on the reading list, I was commenting on the fact that it's an objectivist university. 4 years of sitting around with objectivists, taking history and philosophy courses and getting guest lectures from L.P.....that's what I'm sad for. True the educational theory isn't that bad but when it's all objectivism all the time, that would not be fun.

gregnyquist said...

Anon: "There is absolutely no connection between ARI and Founders College."

Whether there's a connection or not is irrelevant. The real question is (1) Whether the Founder's College will operate on ARI principles; and (2) whether the Founder's College depends, in any significant way, on support, either through endorsements or financial subsidies, on ARI. If either of these are true, then it raises certain very serious issues about the de facto indepedence of the college. It hardly matters, moreover, if any "officially" there is no connection. If Founder's College cannot survive without endorsement from ARI, then there will be certain things they won't be able to do, such as hire TOC objectivists or libertarians.

"Dr. Gary Hull designed the core curriculum and teacher training, a brilliant achievement in rational education."

This is hardly propitious. Hull is intellectual lightweight who once complained about the length of von Mises books. I wouldn't be surprised if it was his idea to include writers like Spillane and Verne in the curriculum.

"The fact that a faculty member has a connection with Objectivism is no more relevant than those on faculty who have a connection with Catholicism or leftist liberalism."

Well, I'm not so sure. Objectivists, particularly ARI Objectivists, have a poor track record when it comes to discussing views they disagree with. This starts with Rand herself and carries on to Peikoff and others. Can these people discuss fairly and honestly philosophers and writers they strongly disagree with? I'm doubtful they can do that, because if they did, they would be undermining their own beliefs. Teach Anna Karenina as a meditation on the human condition, rather than, as Rand would have it, a moralistic story preaching submission to social norms, and you'll begin to undermine the basic simple-minded Objectivist view of things, which seeks to reduce all the difficult issues facing human existence to a series of simple, easily-grasped solutions.

"Founders is committed to providing an education that helps students develop independent, critical thinking skills and communicate clearly."

What scientific evidence do they have that they methods they choose to achieve this end will succeed? And what does it mean to develop critical thinking skills and communicate clearly? That the students will all become Objectivists?

Anonymous said...

Well, then, show us where ARI has endorsed Founders College or funds it.

I am certain that you won't.

It's a nice little bait and switch, however, to go from ARI has kicked off its own college to several faculty members are Objectivists and a couple are fomer members of the ARI speakers burea.

Daniel Barnes said...

Anonymous:
>It's a nice little bait and switch, however, to go from ARI has kicked off its own college to several faculty members are Objectivists and a couple are fomer members of the ARI speakers burea.(sic)

Well, Anonymous, you seem to be doing a little dodging and weaving yourself, going from your previous statement - "There is absolutely no connection between ARI and Founders College" - to your above. In fact, the evidence suggests there is in fact a relationship.

Your other previous comment seems to be quite an understatement too:
Anon:"The fact that a faculty member has a connection with Objectivism is no more relevant than those on faculty who have a connection with Catholicism or leftist liberalism..."

A faculty member? Actually, it's at least 50% of the faculty thus far appointed. And your other comment, that Gary Hull "has no involvement with the operations of the college whatsoever" seems flatly contradicted by the college's own site, as I have noted.

But of course, Anon, you might be more credible if you identified yourself. That way we'd know if you are part of the college, or in a position to have better information than what I have currently. I don't see why you'd need to conceal who you are, do you? It's not exactly an issue of national security, surely...;-)

>why, exactly, do you feel sad for the students? Which part do you have a problem with, Daniel..

You seem to have incorrectly attributed this statement to me.