Competition is all the rage. When properly set up it is supposed to channel the passions of self-interest via the mechanism of rivalry into increased performance that benefits everyone. The model was developed in sports and then applied to business (it is the essence of Adam Smith's invisible hand) and has now well and truly arrived in academia. Competition is usually evaluated in terms of efficiency or, if you're lucky, justice, but here I want to focus on the harms that intense competition may do to the ethical character of individuals. In particular, how do the characteristic academic virtues of industriousness, honesty, and curiosity fare under competition?
Tuesday 21 June 2011
Monday 15 November 2010
I previously argued that universities fail at education, partly because academics are so committed to the life of a scholar: they want to learn, not teach (see part I). So perhaps the real contribution universities make to society comes from their research? On the one hand universities do produce a lot of it; on the other hand it is rarely useful to the rest of us. The struggle for real and important knowledge requires - surprise surprise - more than just setting up an academic bureaucracy and giving it money.
Wednesday 23 September 2009
The humanities feel embattled, the world they were designed for swept away while other subjects - especially 'mathandscience' - expand at a phenomenal rate. They resemble a little 19th century house on a 21st century street with immense skyscrapers looming ever higher around and over them. Broadly speaking they have responded by turning outwards or retreating inwards.