Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The College 4 Ayn Rand Institute Fans

Two new faculty hires at Founders College; predictably both are Objectivists, and A.R.I. fans.

The first is self-styled "rogue psychologist" Scott J Adams, previously touted as a guest speaker at Founders and now a full-time hire. Adams talks about the "brilliance" of Ayn Rand's contributions towards "a rational and objective" psychology. His website contains Objectivist links to only A.R.I.-friendly sites.

The second is Jena Trammell, teaching Literature. Trammell's writing appears in A.R.I. endorsed books such as this, as well as the A.R.I.'s Capitalism Magazine, where she appears reviewing a book by novelist and A.R.I. guest writer Ed Cline.

This now makes a full 2/3rds of the faculty ARI-flavoured Objectivists, up from the previous 50% composition, making it hard to countenance claims that Founders is moving away from the initial idea of being an orthodox Objectivist college towards a more mainstream position. If anything, the reverse seems to be happening. Also notable is the uniformity of Objectivist orientation - there seem to be no Objectivist faculty members affiliated in any way with the A.R.I's arch-rival organisation The Atlas Society/Objectivist Centre. It looks awfully like a policy in action, which raises other issues. For example, if, as is rumoured, Founders offers a minor in Objectivism, will TAS/OC thinkers like David Kelley be included for study?

ARCHNblog is offering excellent odds right now that, in the unlikely event Founders should ever give a direct answer to a question, that answer would be "no."

All this once again flies in the face of recent strong denials of any Objectivist influence from both Founders founder Gary Hull, CEO Tamara Fuller and Dr Robert Garmong, and denials of any A.R.I. link from anonymous commenters.

ARCHNblog has also put some of its Literature related questions to Dean of Faculty Bryan Niblett, and, following Professor Garmong's advice, to Founders' designated PR firm. As yet we've had no reply. We'll keep you posted.

5 comments:

Neil Parille said...

Short of officially declaring themselves a pro-ARI institution, is there anything that Founders hasn't done to make its ARI sympathies clear?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, lots of Founders people have traveled in ARI orbits in the past. Having established that, however, you've done little more than prove that the Founders principals have trouble making friends and business contacts outside of their social clique.

Yes, you've also shown that the curriculum and reading list at Founders is strikingly similar to lists given by famous Objectivists. In doing so you've shown that the curriculum authors are not creative or knowledgeable enough in their field to craft a curriculum first-hand.

So basically, what you have is proof that the founders of Founders have little experience in higher education, and are clumsily applying formulas developed by others to their own little attempt at a cash cow.

You make it sound like the college is a conspiracy by ARI principals to sneak Objectivism into academia. It's just not true. Who needs conspiracies? When ARI supports academic projects, it does so openly.

The better people I know in ARI circles think that the Founders project is laughable, and for obvious reasons. After laughing about it, though, we just leave it alone. Why give them so much attention? If they're destined for failure, let them fail. So why protest so much? What's to be gained?

Then again, I could ask the same question of a site like this re: Objectivism as such. If Objectivism is so misguided as you say it is, why beat this dead horse?! Let it die! Spend your time developing your own philosophy. Tell us about it! There are a half dozen philosophies out there that I don't like, but I don't devote entire blogs to each of them. What a boring thing that would be.

Daniel Barnes said...

Hi Anon,

You write:
>So basically, what you have is proof that the founders of Founders have little experience in higher education, and are clumsily applying formulas developed by others to their own little attempt at a cash cow.

Yep. That's probably the state of it.

>You make it sound like the college is a conspiracy by ARI principals to sneak Objectivism into academia.

Well, of course you may well be right, but it certainly sends that kind of signal to outsiders. Things like the wholesale adherence to Leonard P's Drama course is bound to suggest, even if wrongly, some kind of policy in action. We at ARCHN find it hard to imagine anyone could, of their own free will, be so completely unoriginal. Further, the Ayn Rand Institute is, by policy, the leading producer of completely uncritical and sycophantic Rand-related material. Finally, intra-Objectivist politics can be murky indeed as to who's "in" and who's "out." The founding of Founders by ARI associates, followed by mysterious no-comment defections of the same seems to suggest political pressures at play, mudding the waters still further. With Founders College thus walking like a duck and quacking like a duck, it's far from unreasonable to assume it's an entity of a certain genus, even if some key differentia - such its source of direct funding - are currently still obscure....;-) I suspect you are right - that there is no current, direct ARI involvement.

However it is hard to say much more than that with confidence. Certainly as to which flavour of Objectivism Founders will be teaching however - Classic Coke Leonard Peikoff or New Coke David Kelley - this seems thus far beyond question.

>Then again, I could ask the same question of a site like this...If Objectivism is so misguided as you say it is, why beat this dead horse?! Let it die!

Well, if you applied that argument consistently no-one would ever write any criticism of anything, ever. The fact is that false ideas are often widely propogated, and thus need to be identified and exposed. Ayn Rand herself would agree. Greg and I have a similar philsophical outlook, but no particular philosophy in common to promote. I'm a Popperian Critical Rationalist, Greg describes himself as an extreme naturalist, though he has considerable sympathies with Popper, Santayana, and many more thinkers. In our view Rand's ideas are, for the most part, demonstrably false, and have never been properly criticised. Perhaps as a result they are widely propogated and accessible, at least on the internet. Greg's book is, I think, the most thorough and accessible critique available, and deserves serious examination. Anyhoo, this site is a modest attempt to build on Greg's work, and eventually provide an equally accessible storehouse of counter-arguments to Objectivism. If Objectivism stands up to such arguments in the long run, well so much the better!

Neil Parille said...

Anon,

Dan and Greg can of course speak for themselves, but the interest that I have in Rand is that her philosophy isn't presented as, say, the latest, greatest version of empricism. As Dr. Leonard Peikoff says, "Ayn Rand . . . discovered true ideas on a virtually unprecedented scale." So I think discussing her ideas is worth the effort.

As far as your claim that "In doing so you've shown that the curriculum authors are not creative or knowledgeable enough in their field to craft a curriculum first-hand," I don't think that's correct. I assume these people are bright enough to craft an excellent curriculum. But, as Michael Prescott said, it appears that the Founders faculty is unwilling to develop courses that depart from Rand and Peikoff for fear that students won't know what to think. I mean, let's read Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain instead of Buddenbrooks (the quintissential German novel) because Peikoff definitively opined on the former in The Ominious Parallels but hasn't given the party line on the latter.

Dragonfly said...

Neil: "I mean, let's read Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain instead of Buddenbrooks (the quintissential German novel) because Peikoff definitively opined on the former in The Ominious Parallels but hasn't given the party line on the latter".

And that probably while Rand had read the book and had condemned it. Otherwise Peikoff probably wouldn't have known who Thomas Mann was.