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24.02.14

Editorial Note

Not much when it comes to higher education in social sciences. IAM has written repeatedly about the dominance of the critical, neo-Marxist perspective in some departments of sociology and political science in certain universities, with Ben Gurion University leading the field. The Syllabus Project  of IAM has shown that activist-radical faculty have used their classroom as an extension of their political agenda.  As the following article states, this is a poor return on the taxpayers investment.
 
There has been a robust debate in the West as to how to adjust public higher education to the requirements of the market in the face of shirking budgets.  For instance, both in the United States and Great Britain there is a move to demand that universities equip their social science students with some marketable skills, especially quantitative methods. for which there is an ever increasing demand.  Sociology of organizations - another growing field is also emphasized - to keep up with profound changes to society from the industrial to the information technology age.
 
But in Israel, as the article below states, there has never been a public debate about the subject.  The International Evaluation Committees of both the Department of Politics and Government and the Department of Sociology at Ben Gurion University have offered a scathing critique along these lines.  The absence of quantitative methods is compounded by the dominance of the critical, neo-Marxist perspective in the syllabi - whereby even popular subjects like sociology of organizations are offered by critical scholars who have no training in the field.  As well known, critical scholars consider quantitative methods to be part of "hegemonic narrative" that needs to be uprooted from the social sciences.
 
University authorities are aware of the problem but, after the debacle of the Department of Politics and Government - where virtually a tsunami of protest was organized by the Department - are not likely to take steps, regardless of the recommendation of the Evaluation Committees.
 
  Even though the critical, neo-Marxist faculty considers rational choice theory and other quantitative methods to be "hegemonic narrative," they have been adept at creating a zero-sum game, whereby they are the winners and the taxpayer, and the society at large, are the losers.





Lower education?


By Daniel Doron

February 23, 2014

A top-notch higher education system that promotes critical thinking is a must for an advanced economy and society. It is a prerequisite for advanced scientific research and technological expertise, both of which are crucial for economic growth. But what is a good university? What kind of education should it offer and at what cost?

"Will Dropouts Save America?," asked Michael Ellsberg in a 2011 piece published by The New York Times, a paper that reveres universities and is considered the flagship publication of the American liberal Left.

Ellsberg said most of the high-tech entrepreneurs and the drivers of the Internet economy -- from Bill Gates and Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg -- were college dropouts, having realized that they were wasting their time in class.

"American academia is good at producing writers, literary critics and historians. It is also good at producing professionals with degrees," Ellsberg wrote. "But we don't have a shortage of lawyers and professors. America has a shortage of job creators. And the people who create jobs aren't traditional professionals, but startup entrepreneurs. ... No business in America -- and therefore no job creation -- happens without someone buying something. But most students learn nothing about sales in college; they are more likely to take a course on why sales (and capitalism) are evil."

Things are much worse in Israel. Universities help shape a radical view where entrepreneurship is frowned upon. The ethos they espouse is diametrically opposed to the Zionist vision that touted hard work as the linchpin of a merit-based society. Liberal arts programs focus on "redistributing wealth" rather than on pursuing a successful career, as if wealth just descends from the heavens and simply needs to be distributed "fairly" (whatever that means).

What's worse is that students are told that profit is a product of exploitation and therefore any transaction is a zero-sum game. But that is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Israelis students come out of university determined not to be suckers; they make sure their clients and business partners will forever be at a disadvantage. Human capital is Israel's most important asset. But in academia, the social sciences and humanities are dominated by a group of postmodern neo-Marxist zealots who shun anyone who is not like them, anyone who does not adhere to their radical economic and political principles or subscribe to their anti-capitalist ideology. They have devoided higher education of any critical thought that is grounded in reality. (Remember that dissertation that accused Israeli soldiers of racism because they wouldn't rape Palestinian women?)

Hundreds of thousands of young Israelis enter universities because they want to get a better job, only to be systematically brainwashed on dogmatic principles. They graduate from universities without the proper skills, having been denied useful information or analytical tools for what lies ahead. It is then that they realize that their hard-earned diplomas have no real value on the job market (the accumulated annual expenditure on tuition -- which is state-subsidized in many cases -- amounts to millions of shekels). Their peers might be impressed by their ability to quote Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida and Slavoj Zizek, but that is no way to make a living. The demonstrators who took part in the social justice protests in 2011 lamented that their degrees have led them along an uncertain career path. Their concern is shared by others all over the world and it has had an adverse economic impact on Europe and the U.S.

The lack of real pluralism in Israeli universities poses an existential threat to our economy and society. Wouldn't the massive subsidies that help students obtain useless degrees -- which have no vocational value and create an inflation of hundreds of pseudo-academics -- be better spent on vocational training and real know-how?



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