The ultimate reasons to distrust the Exciting New Graduate School

Whatever you think of their awesome “faculty” (i.e., the roster of people who said they’d hypothetically be open to doing guest lectures), it appears that the intellectual habits that the Global Center for Advanced Studies is inculcating in its supporters do not offer an encouraging alternative to current academic norms. In all my interactions with self-identified advocates, the same patterns have repeated themselves, namely:

  • Blind faith: If anyone questions the vast claims that the GCAS makes for its transformative, revolutionary power, advocates simply repeat the propaganda talking points without even engaging with any of the questions about the gap between reality and the propaganda. Sometimes they will gesture toward some level of “constructive criticism” that is hypothetically allowed, but that seems to be a purely virtual point of reference — in practice, no criticism or questions are tolerated.
  • Ad hominem attacks: Critics of the GCAS invariably have an ax to grid in advocates’ minds. They dislike the founders personally and want to undermine them out of pure spite. They are coddled by the current academic system and resent the possibility that the GCAS’s disruptive innovation could challenge their privileges. This follows naturally from the blind faith — since the GCAS is so self-evidently good, the only possible motives for criticizing it are malice or selfishness.

This dynamic resembles nothing so much as Christian heresiology. The fact that such an attitude has sprung up around an institution that does not even exist yet in any meaningful form is alarming and saddening. (The one exception to this dynamic was Patrick Provost-Smith, who is no longer associated with the effort; cf. my original thread on the GCAS.)

As I said the first time I addressed this issue on the blog, the GCAS does not show us a viable way to reform academia. At best, it’s a rehashed European Graduate School, and at worst, it’s a MOOC provider. At a certain point, insisting on the hype in the face of all the obvious counter-evidence is no longer optimism or faith or love — it’s either delusional or dishonest. I don’t know how to reform academia, but I’m pretty sure that buying into insane lies is not the answer.