…from the quill of Antisthenes the Younger
Academia is becoming a subject of scorn, which is sad, but, sadly, entirely justified. Since some of our younger readers may not know, and all our old and cynical ones may have forgotten, the word akademeia has its origin in ancient Greece, allegedly derived the Athenian citizen Akademos, who, if he indeed existed, is must be by now rapidly spinning in his grave. Or perhaps not.
Plutarch says that the Athenian king Theseus (the slayer of the Minotaur) tired of widower-hood at the age of fifty, abducted the beautiful 12-year old Helen. That was long before she married Menealaus, met Paris and caused the Trojan War. (Was she a blonde? It seems she had so much fun.*)
Her twin brothers Castor and Pollux got upset and invaded Attica to liberate their sister, threatening to destroy Athens in the process, as liberators do. Akademos told them where she was hidden, thus saving the city. For this treason at the worst, cowardice at the best, most likely motivated by sexual envy, Akademos was venerated by the Athenians as a saviour.
Helen’s father Tyndareus and Lacedaemonians were grateful; and whenever they invaded Attica, they spared Academus’ land. (Treason sometimes pays) Old (those of loyal citizens were burned down) olive and plane trees made a nice grove, so nice that Academus was buried there, the place was called Hekademeia, and Plato talked there – thus groves of academia.
“By extension Academia has come to mean the cultural accumulation of knowledge, its development and transmission across generations and its practitioners and transmitters. In the 17th century, British and French scholars used the term to describe types of institutions of higher learning.”
That was then. In 2010 Roger Scruton, The Uses of Pessimism and the Danger of False Hope, p.133, wrote: “… it is quite conceivable that one day educational institutions will decline to such a point that the accumulated results of scientific investigation will no longer be passed on.” Not sooner written…
For decades now the so called institutions of higher learning have been infested by academistas, rather intolerant, manipulative Marxist comrades, devoid of original thought. Thus today’s universities make professors out of Flanneries, Lewandulovskis, Manns etc and bestow honorary degrees on Mugabes, Whitlams and such like, with nary a peep from the few remaining serious scholars, who, it has to be said, had never been too courageous, except when their own sinecures were under a challenge. No wonder that a ‘scholar’ is an ironic label.
For those who may think I am too unkind, one recent example of academics’ cowardice may suffice: – Professor Barry Spurr, i.e. one of their own, was suspended by the University of Sydney for allegedly misogynist and racist private e-mails after a short and vicious campaign by PC activistas. A few journalists (probably the best defence came from London) and a comedian came to his defence; but no academics. They have a lot in common with the old Academos.
Intelectually sterile, but morally toxic class just about fulfilled the Boko Haram wildest dreams. Now to those chicken of the title: Donna Leon – By Its Cover / 2014 – [about someone’s academic credentials]
‘No one noticed they were fake?‘ Brunetti shrugged. ‘They believed him to be a member of the community of scholars.’
This was greeted by a wild hoot of derision from Paola, who had apparently diverted her attention from her mother long enough to eavesdrop on their conversation. “Community of scholars”,’ she repeated. ‘It would make the chickens laugh.”
Mildly, her mother said, ‘We sent you to all those famous schools, dear, and now you speak badly about your colleagues. Couldn’t you be a little bit kinder?‘
Paola leaned to the side and put her arm around her mother’s shoulders. She kissed her cheek, then kissed it again. “Mamma, you are the only person on the planet who would consider the riff-raff I’m at university with to be scholars.’
*/ Herodotus: “…for it is obvious that no young woman allows herself to be abducted if she does not wish to be.”
P.S. – More on Australian academia by Jim Allan in Quadrant .